Athena Kottak: Tommy Lee’s Little Sister Drummin’ to a…
We all know and love that bad boy of rock, Tommy Lee, the drummer of 80’s heavy metal sensation Motley Crue (and notorious cohort of buxumous bombshell Pamela Anderson), but did you know he has a younger sister who is a talented drummer, surgical nurse, and actress in her own right? Athena Kottak has a lot to be proud of, especially as she qualifies as a true Greek American girl. In this exclusive interview with www.greekamericangirl.com, Athena reminisces about her Greek upbringing, her love of music and her career.
We expected Athena to fit the typical bad girl image perpetrated by other girl rockers who stick the middle finger in your face and project strings of spit off the stage, but it turns out she was the opposite—very gracious, polite, sweet and sooo very nice.
And even more surprising is how attached she is to her Hellenic heritage. Turns out Tommy Lee’s little sister has a lot going for her.
Born to David Lee Thomas Bass, an American army sergeant, and Vassilikki “Voula” Papadimitriou, Miss Greece (for the 1960 Miss World event), the family moved to Los Angeles when Athena was two years old. The most influential people in her life are her parents and brother. She started her music career as a member of the punk group Butt Trumpet before joining forces with the all-girl band Hardly Dangerous. Krunk, a rock band she founded with her rocker husband James Kottak, former hard-core drummer of The Scorpions (a band that was particularly loved by Greek youth in its heyday). She has gained many accolades for her musical talents including “Best Female Drummer” at the “Rock City – Rockies” and “Best Drummer” (males and females category) in the 7th Annual L.A Music Awards. In fact, Athena was the first female ever nominated in the history of the L.A. Music Awards. She is currently the drummer in Femme Fatale with Lorraine Lewis. Parallel to her music career, she pursued a degree in nursing, qualifying and serving as a surgical nurse for several years.
Aside from her musical career Athena has also been a celebrity guest commentator on VH-1’s Behind the Music and E! True Hollywood Story. After her much publicized divorce from James Kottak, Athena was chosen along with three other rock ex-wives to star in the reality show “Ex-Wives of Rock .” In fact, “Ex-Wives of Rock” airs Tuesday, August 27th on Slice TV Canada following soon after on Fuse TV U.S.A .
As for her family and personal life, Athena and James Kottak have three children; Tobi (a girl) born 1991, Miles born 1993 and Matthew 1997. In 2002 the couple baptized sons, Matthew James and Miles David at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Church in Pasadena, California. Athena has had a battle with breast cancer but since 1999 has been in remission.
How connected do you feel to your Greek roots?
I feel extremely connected to my Greek roots. My mother (who passed away last March) was born and raised in Athens. My parents met, fell in love, and married in Athens and my older brother was born there.
Although I was born in the US, I spent a lot of time there as a child. At one point our family planned to permanently move there, but we ended up staying in the U.S.
I’ve been back several times and have a lot of family that I love there! I hope to be back very soon for a visit and to spread the rest of my Mom and Dad’s ashes since that is where their live together began
Greece is my favorite and most romantic place on this earth to be. Maybe someday I will have a home on the beach there..who knows? But I think about it A LOT!
We know your mom was Miss Athens. What did you learn about the Greek culture, history, family from your mother? Do you have any childhood experiences of your culture (ex. spending vacation in Greece?) How do you feel about being Greek?
I learned so much about Greece from my mom and her older sister who also moved to the US. They spoke Greek all the time and taught us. I understand a lot of Greek but don’t really speak it at all anymore One of my wishes is to re-learn the language! I could talk forever about all the fun and memories I have from there but that would take days! ha!
I still feel connected ( I have family there ) but with both my mom and her sister dead I don’t really have that connection in my daily life anymore. If anyone is on my Facebook page, they probably notice I post pictures of Greece all the time to remind myself and show others how beautiful it is there.
How did your parents meet exactly? How did you wind up in California?
My parents met in Athens at a friend’s wedding. My Dad saw my mom, fell in love at first site, asked her brother (her father was dead) for her hand in marriage, they married in Athens, had my brother then moved to the US for my dad’s work. There I was born. They didn’t even know how to speak to each other for the first few years. They spoke through dictionary.
Were there any differences in the way you were brought up as a girl compared to your brother? Was he more encouraged to be a drummer rather than his little sister?
You can’t deny that the boys are most definitely favored in Greek families. (They can do no wrong) but it was what it was and all worked out fine!
Can you describe how you got involved in music? What influenced you to take the course you did?
I taught myself to play because there were drums in the house, and I used to watch videos and copy them to learn.
Although a talented drummer in your own right, your brother Tommy tends to get more attention? How do you deal with this?
It’s funny that people ask does it bother me for my brother to get more attention for drumming. It has never even been an issue and never will be. He’s a great drummer!
Is it true you were also a surgical nurse?
Yes, I actually was a surgical nurse and loved it. It just didn’t work out. Our kids were too little and the hours were crazy. Maybe again someday I’ll do it again…who knows?
Congrats on your new series. It seems as if you and the other rock ex-wives have really bonded? Describe your life after a divorce to a rocker? Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Thank you! The show is a lot of fun and has been great therapy for me. The girls are and will always be my friends. I will always be there for them no matter what! As for where I will be in 5 years? Who knows…..As long as I’m happy!
What advice would you give aspiring young female musicians in the heavy metal/hard rock industry?
The music industry is different now than when I started out. It’s not so odd for girls to play anymore so the only advice I would have is just like anything else. If you REALLY want it and that’s what makes you happy–DO IT!!!! If you can make a living doing what you love, you already have success no matter where you go with it!
Keep on rockin’ you Greek American girl!
A few times in the beginning of this article Athena is referred to as “Angela”. Typo?