Although Kirk Windstein achieved most success in Down, there's no doubt that Crowbar is Kirk and Kirk is Crowbar. Despite whatever lineup changes have detoured the band, Crowbar never dies. Although dormant since 2001, Crowbar is back with an all-star studio lineup and a fresh batch of metal veterans for the stage. Lifesblood for the Downtrodden marks a rejuvenated band ready to redefine the meaning of heavy once again. Metal Update had a chat with Kirk about Crowbar's lengthy hiatus, Kirk's thoughts on the Dimebag situation and the New Orleans party ethic.
Interview with Kirk Windstein on 1/20/05.
METAL UPDATE: It's been a while since we've had a new Crowbar record. How does it feel to be back?
KIRK WINDSTEIN: Pretty damn good.
MU: Describe the chain of events from the last record until now.
KW: Basically, after we finished touring for Sonic Excess, the last studio record, we had already planned and everything was scheduled to do the Down thing. So basically, Down took up more than a year and a half of my time since then. After we had finally done the touring with that thing, I took a break for a while. I was married. My wife had a baby and everything, so I kind of just chilled out. I busted ass doing that and finally made some fucking cash, so it was nice to be able to take a little break and kind of relax. I just kind of cleared my head, pondered what the fuck I should do about the future and everything, and decided fuck, this is what I do so I'm going for it. I kinda got down to writing the new one. Without a label or anything, it was a no pressure situation. I took my time and did it as I felt it, as it should be done. That's basically why I took so long, but now I have that fire under my fat ass again and I'm ready to get out there and do some shit.
MU: What led to you picking Rex Brown and Warren Riker as producers?
KW: Basically, we had worked together, of course with the Down II record, and me and Rex became really good friends during that and I pretty much talk to him every fucking day and the same thing with Warren. We all stayed in touch and are really good friends. When I told them I was doing the Crowbar, they both said they wanted to get involved in some capacity and it ended up getting really involved with Rex playing all the bass on the thing and co-producing with Warren. We had a great time making it. It was a really cool atmosphere. No pressure. We had a good time. We lived at the studio basically for like a month. It had an apartment upstairs, so it made it convenient. Warren would come up, "Ya'll come down and hear this." Whatever. It just made it convenient that we were there the whole time. So we just kept the place stocked up with food and booze and had a good time.
MU: Who wrote the songs on the new one? Was that all you?
KW: I wrote everything except the music to "Lifesblood" actually. The acoustic thing is Rex's piece. I wrote the lyrics to it, but the music is his. Everything else musically, I wrote all the riffs.
MU: As far as playing on the album, it was you, Rex and Craig?
KW: Yes, correct.
MU: Could you introduce your new lineup?
KW: Yeah, I've got Tommy Buckley on drums. He also plays in Soilent Green. I've got Pat Bruders on bass, who had played with Goatwhore since the beginning. He's not with them anymore. And I have Steve Gibb on guitar who had played bass with Black Label for a while. That's how I met him, when we toured with Black Label 4 or 5 years ago, whatever it was. It's a killer lineup. They are all really good players. It's kinda cool, because they've all been around the block a few times, which is what I wanted. They know the reality of how it really is and what to expect and everything. Plus, we went and did the 2-week run in Europe, when we played with Shadows Fall at the festival and all. We had such a good time. It's fun. We're all older dudes. We've been doing it a long fucking time. We toned it down a little bit as far as the partying and everything, and just had a great time. We got along great and we're all dedicated to it, so it's a killer lineup. I'm really hoping this one stays forever.
MU: What was your intent musically this time around? Same ol' deal or any new plan of attack?
KW: Basically, when I started writing it, I threw the Crowbar rulebook out the window and just did what I felt. Before, in the past, I built walls up or whatever. I'd write certain things and say, "That's not Crowbar enough." On this thing, I just expanded. It was kind of a total rebirth thing. It felt good. I had no pressure or anything. I had money in the bank. I was able to just take my time. There was no label or anything. It was just me. There wasn't even a band. It was a situation where I could just lay back and take my time and just write what I felt. I think it ended up helping the album by doing it that way. There's more diversity from song to song and more dynamics than we've had in the past, and I think it was a positive step.
MU: What exactly happened to the line-up you had on the previous album?
KW: Basically what happened is I had committed to doing the Down thing. I told all the other guys who had side projects anyway. I said, "Look, I'm gonna be busy with this thing for a long fucking time, so Crowbar is basically on hold right now." Sammy went back to Goatwhore and that became his priority of course. The 2 other guys, Tony and Okie, Tony had lived in Pennsylvania at the time and had moved down here. He's from Flint, Michigan, so both of them ended up moving back and getting it going with their friends up there, with some of their old buds or whatever. They had kinda moved down here for Crowbar, which when we did it, we did it for a while. Once the Down thing came up, it was like everything got put on hold. "Feel free to do whatever you have to do" or whatever.
MU: I get the feeling your lyrics generally deal with personal issues you have. Is that the truth?
KW: Yeah, pretty much they do. Basically, when I write my lyrics, I don't write any of them until all the music's done and recorded. I usually just say, "OK, song number 3, I'm gonna sing that one first." And I'll just take a CD, I'll listen to it and sit in a room by myself and write it and go down and sing it. It's kind of off the cuff. Just whatever I'm feeling at that point, I just write down and that's the song. It lends a different vibe to it, because it's like whatever my thoughts are that day ends up being the song.
MU: How did the label hunt go?
KW: We didn't even start really trying to shop it until 2004. We tried to pass it along to bigger labels, like maybe something may bite. It didn't and in hindsight it's probably the best thing for a band like us. You don't want to be sounding like we sound and playing the shit we play and all that. It wouldn't last anyway. You'd get a chunk of change up front or something, but it wouldn't be a good home for the band. So we talked to a lot of indies, and I just liked the vibe I got from the people at Candlelight. They were really cool and really seemed to want to make the band a priority, which would be a switch and would be something cool for a change. I just had the best feeling. Talking to them people, I just got the best feeling out of the bunch that we were talking to.
MU: Was your contract up with Spitfire?
KW: Basically, they dropped us, thank god.
MU: Oh wow. Not a good time?
KW: What happened is, when the label first started, it was actually pretty cool. They just had so many people turning over and coming in and fucking things up basically, that by the time we got out of there it was fucking pathetic. So, we were really happy to be free. I'd hate to waste this record on that label.
MU: What prompted the formation of Crowbar and what factors have contributed to your longevity?
KW: Basically the whole vision is something I came up with at the end of 1988. At the time, all the local bands that were doing good were playing thrash type stuff, speed metal, and whatever. I just wanted to do the opposite. I love all that shit and still do, but in order to get noticed and stick out or whatever, I just decided, "Everybody's playing 300 miles per hour." I'm like, "Fuck this, I'm gonna tune the guitar as low as it can go without the strings falling off and play the slowest, sludgiest shit I can do." I just had a vision to do something different. As far as the longevity, I'm the only original dude. Crowbar is such a huge part of my life, so it's something that I want to do forever. I might be getting older and everything, but I'm still excited as I was when I toyed with the ideas and shit back in '88.
MU: Is Crowbar your baby?
KW: Pretty much. I'm not like a fucking taskmaster, dictator or that shit. I'm pretty laid back with all the other guys. I'd love 'em to have input. It definitely is my baby, I guess. Crowbar is me and I'm Crowbar.
MU: Is Valume Knob a full-time band?
KW: Yes and no. It's full time in the sense that we jam quite a bit and we play a lot of weekend stuff around the Southeast down here. But, with the situation that we're in, as far as some of the guys have killer jobs that they've been at for a long time and shit like that. We can't really tour. It's pretty non-commercial stuff. It's nothing that's going to break big or anything. Playing the kind of music we play, it's pretty much we do it for the love of doing it. It's full-time in the sense that we talk all the time and keep in touch and jam a lot and everything. But it's not full-time in the sense of...right now, Crowbar is my main focus. With Valume Knob, we're not in a situation where we can really tour. But it's killer. I love playing it. It's fun.
MU: What's it sound like? I haven't heard it yet.
KW: It's super fast. Even with almost like blast beats and shit at certain points. It's like a punk/hardcore/metal hybrid sort of thing. Some of the shit is old school punk stuff, and some of the shit is metal, and most of it is off time, a lot of weird time signatures. It's riffed up. It keeps my chops up quite a bit. I play bass in it. I don't play guitar. That's another cool thing. On my down time with Crowbar, it's pretty badass.
MU: Did you start the band with them?
KW: Actually no, the drummer, I've known him since we were 15. He was in my first band. So, it's a guy I've known for a long time. The guitar player was my guitar tech for a long time. So they had a band and couldn't get the bass player to work out really. I was out at the bar one night. Me and Rex were out at that bar. He was down in town. And they came up to me and said, "We need a bass player. You interested?" And I said, "Fuck yeah, I'll do it." That was that.
MU: You must have known Dime pretty well, huh?
KW: Yeah, really good. I've known him since '87, so he was kinda, even though Phil was my friend from New Orleans. When we'd go on tour with Pantera or anything like that, I'd go out with them for a couple shows or whatever it might be, that was the dude I pretty much hung out with and partied with because he was so much fun.
MU: Tragic situation.
KW: Totally fucking horrible.
MU: Do you have a classic Dime story you'd like to share?
KW: To be honest, and not to sound like a cliché answer, but there's really too many. The main thing with that dude is nothing was ever boring. You could be sitting in an airport for 4 hours or something, and just have the most fun. He'd come up with some crazy game to keep everything interesting. He never stopped going. He was just a traveling circus on his own, 24/7. He was the funnest dude to hang out with. Of course, he drank like a fish. All of us had a good buzz on and had a good time hangin'.
MU: Do you think that event might have marked the end of Down?
KW: It's possible.
MU: Phil seems up in the air.
KW: With Phil's situation, I've actually been talking to him more since Dime's death than I had in the past 2 years. He's just trying to cope with everything, you know? From what I can get from him right now, he doesn't want to do anything. He just wants to kick back and start his own label, which he's been talking about doing for quite some time and he'll work on some side projects that he's got, some different stuff. But as far as touring and playing and everything, from what I can gather from him, right now he really doesn't have any plans to do anything like that.
MU: Word has it that you New Orleans guys know how to party. Now, why is that? Is there whiskey in the water down there?
KW: (Laughs) Might as well be. To be completely honest, New Orleans is a tourist town. It's known for partying and all that kind of shit. They literally promote drinking down here. It's our industry. It is. Everything is 24/7. 365. You can buy whiskey at 4 or 5 in the morning on Easter Sunday. There's no laws of anything. There's no laws for bars to have to stay closed or anything. During the holidays, they hand out shots of booze at the grocery store. Like, "try this new liquor" or some shit. You just kind of grow up around it. Drinking and eating is the whole industry of the city. That's what you grow up around. That's all we know, really.
MU: Sounds like a good time. What is your alcohol and music of choice these days?
KW: Alcohol, I'm pretty much a Coors Light guy. As far as music, I've been getting into different shit. I've been into getting DVDs, because instead of just listening, you can watch the shit too, so it's killer. I've been getting a lot of older shit, and Steve, my other guitar player brought in this Gary Moore thing, that was just unfuckingbelieveable. I've been checking that out quite a bit. I recently got the Who DVD, which is badass. I got back into Maiden big time, The Early Years or whatever DVD that just came out. I'm pretty much into the older shit. I'm kind of going through my youth again, where music is concerned. I'm back to being excited about Judas Priest and all this kind of shit that I grew up on. There's not that many new bands that come out that I'm into, because I haven't heard it that much. With a wife and a kid and everything else, the only time I get to jam on it is late at night. I'll pop on a DVD, slam some beers and watch it or whatever. But I've been pretty much been getting into the older metal shit, 70's shit, U.F.O. and shit like that. Something different. All heavy all the time gets boring, so I listen to a little bit of everything.
MU: What are some future plans for the band?
KW: Basically, doing this tour coming up. The first show we play here on the 2nd of February so it's coming up right around the corner. And we're doing it with Entombed, Pro Pain and the Mighty Nimbus. Doing that, then we have a few days off, then we go to straight to England to meet up with Hatebreed. Tour with them for a few weeks over there, then we're going to do some headlining shit in Europe. We'll be gone for about 2 months off the bat there. Beyond that, there's nothing booked yet. We're going to try to keep as busy as possible, get back to Europe sometime in the summer and play some festivals and do some more headlining shit and get on another package at the end of the summer. We'll try to keep busy. We've been out of the picture for a while, so it's time to get back and get busy.
MU: Metal seems to be on the upswing these days.
KW: Fucking killer.
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