Crowbar just released their latest album The Serpent Only Lies. As they recently came through the area with a strong tour, putting on a killer show, I caught up with Kirk Windstein to discuss the latest album. He shatters some of the myths of traditional metal musicians with his close ties to home.
Author Marisa Williams: You have been in a number of side projects over the years, from Valume Knob to Down, teaming up with amazing musicians. What is your writing process like, and how does it change when going from project to project?
|Photo by Marisa Williams|
Kirk Windstein of Crowbar: I guess you kinda get into a certain frame of mind, when you’re working in a project with different people. The normal is process the same, but in a group like Down, every member plays the guitar, so we all write riffs; we all bounce off each other. Off Crowbar, there’s mad riffs. We work together, piece it together. I’m lucky enough to work with a bunch of great guys.
Marisa: It has been said that you were trying to get back to your mindset from 20 years ago when creating your latest album. Do you think you were successful in capturing that earlier sound of Crowbar, and how do you think you have matured as a band from when you first started?
Kirk: I think we succeeded in doing what we set out to do. It’s not going to sound like it did 20 years ago. I went back and listened to them, and I was pleasantly surprised. We had a lot of great stuff going on back then, but I wanted a more mature version of what we were doing back then. As far as a band itself maturing when playing an instrument so long, it’s only natural to get better. Where we are at this point, with the group of guys we got, it’s musically the best we’ve been.
Marisa: You’ve had some lineup changes in the band. After replacing Pat Bruders with Jeff Golden, now Todd Strange your original bassist has returned. How does this lineup compare with previous band lineups, did it help with attempting to capture that earlier Crowbar sound, and how did this particular version come about?
Kirk: The situation wasn’t working out with Jeff. We saw it coming for a while. Really, Todd coming back in, the album was written before he joined, so he didn’t write much with this album. But Tommy has been in band 12 years, Matt 10 years, I’ve been in since the beginning, and this is the strongest lineup we’ve had. With founding members, camaraderie wise and as far as us clicking while playing, we’re playing in the pocket; it’s the best lineup we’ve ever had.
Marisa: You are now releasing your 11th album, The Serpent Only Lies. When you started, did you foresee the band lasting this long, and to what do you credit the longevity?
Kirk: I credit longevity to never giving up. Persevere. Never taking no for an answer. There were times when I was the only member, and thoughts of breaking it up never did exist. In a way, I hoped. I always wanted Crowbar to be what it is, a band that puts out killer music. I never dreamed of being a rock star or anything like that.
Marisa: The Serpent Only Lies almost seems to have a religious connotation in the name, yet it is being released for Halloween. How did you decide on the name?
Kirk: There is a Biblical type meaning. I’m a real spiritual person, not so much with organized religion. It started as a song title a while back, and we all loved it. It became the title for the record. It is more spiritual. Obviously, the serpent is Satan, but it can be a metaphor for anything evil or bad in life.
Marisa: People trace the origins of Crowbar back to Shell Shock, which is a band you did with Jimmy Bowers as your drummer. Since that beginning, you have continued to play with Jimmy in other projects, but do you think he will ever return to the Crowbar stage, or any other, with you?
Kirk: Personally, I’m married with children, so I don’t see the time. We always joked about it when younger, then we got old. I never say never. I just don’t see any time in the foreseeable future, but we have been jamming since 1987 together.
Marisa: I believe it was at the Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans that I had a conversation with you and Jimmy regarding the image of metal and how most people would assume musicians in metal worship the devil, but this is in sharp contrast to some people’s beliefs. Can you comment of how images are not always what they appear in entertainment?
Kirk: I think it is just one of those things. Images are interlocked with the devil stuff. As a spiritual person myself, I believe in God. All the stuff does look cool, like the fire, blood, and fangs. It all fits itself to the sound of metal, but with Crowbar, it’s just us. We don’t go for that. It doesn’t apply for Crowbar, but some goes hand in hand - the imagery with the music - but we don’t.
Marisa: How do you balance your stage persona with your personal life?
Kirk: It’s really the same. I’m really the same person on stage. I might be a little aggressive on stage, but for me, I’m being the guy on tour, on stage, and the same guy at home. Normally, I hang out with the guys and my wife take pictures. I don’t want to be one of those guys who hides on the bus, and just goes on stage. I like to meet the fans, see what they have to say, be accessible to them, so to speak. The guy on stage is the same as I always am, not a character. I just love jamming Crowbar music.
|Photo by Marisa Williams|
Marisa: Shortly after Rex Brown left Down, replaced by Pat, you also left Down. Was that to focus more on Crowbar?
Kirk: Big picture, yes. Down started to work less, because Phil had so many things going on. I had recently gotten married, so my life changed. In Crowbar and with projects, I wanted to focus to work with me. It’s hard on relationships being on the road.
Marisa: Do you have any other projects that you are currently working on or plan to be involved with?
Kirk: No, I think right now, I’m plenty busy enough, and as a father, stepfather, I hang out with my friends… There’s plenty enough keeping me busy. My time at home is family time, which is extremely important to me.
Marisa: Your latest single is an oxymoron, Falling While Rising. Was that an intentional play on words, and can you walk us through anything unexpected that happened while creating the album?
Kirk: Yea, was intentional play on words. I like doing that a lot. There was nothing out of the ordinary. It went very nicely. I’m very blessed.
Marisa: What was your first concert that you attended, and how did that compare to the first concert that you played?
Kirk: I will start with first concert I played, which was at a school fair, on the back of a flatbed truck. First concert I attended would have to be Van Halen.
Marisa: What is something that people might not expect about you?
Kirk: People might not expect to see me when I am at home cuddled up with my granddaughter, watching Disney or My Little Pony, but my family is important to me, and that is part of my reality.
“Probably the most special to me was Down and Metallica ending the leg of the tour in New Orleans, a hometown show for us, playing in front of friends and family.” Windstein recalled playing the New Orleans arena, where he used work. “Here I am on stage, playing next to my idol in front of friends and family. That was a very special moment.”
When playing with Down, the song “Bury Me In Smoke” was the last song every show. “We have had all kinds of guests, from Mike Gordon to Ozzy playing on drums, to Jason Newsted on bass and James Hetfield,” Windstein said.
Back in 2000, Windstein had toured with Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society (BLS), and in 2002, the bands played Ozzfest together when Robert Trujillo was playing bass for BLS. “I knew Robert before he played with Metallica, a great dude.”
When Windstein was going through a divorce, he stayed with Stephen Gibb in Miami. When Windstein remarried, he took a break from Down to focus on Crowbar. Revisiting albums he had created 20 years prior, he aimed to create a more mature sound inspired by his earlier music for Crowbar’s latest release “The Serpent Only Lies.”
Starting his musical skills at age 8, Windstein learned piano, hoping to be like Elton John. “KISS Alive made me want to play guitar. There was no more piano, and I started guitar lessons.”
While some may find it ironic that this metal guru’s first album was Elton John’s Greatest Hits, and may not picture the metal icon doing typical things like curling up with his granddaughter watching Disney, Windstein has a vast appreciation of music. “I have diverse tastes in music,” he said, “I don’t just listen to metal. Most well rounded musicians do listen to different genres.”
As an internationally acclaimed musician who has played 43 countries, he said the scariest part of being on the road is taking a wrong turn in a foreign country and getting lost, especially in countries that are not very Westernized.
“Some countries are not really as developed. There’s third world country stuff. It's scary, but in a good way, we like bringing music, because they appreciate it. There's the positive side of it,” he explained.
As much success as Windstein has seen throughout his career, he claims he never set out to be a rock star, tries to not have a rockstar attitude, be accessible to his fans, and he rembers a key piece of advice. “My mother told me when I was young, those who are humble are exalted; those who exalt themselves are humbled.”
For those interested in becoming a musician, Windstein advises to not give up. “Don't take no for an answer, and treat people right.”
For more on Crowbar, visit www.facebook.com/crowbarmusic, www.crowbarnola.com, www.myspace.com/crowbar and www.twitter.com/crowbarmusic. The author of more than 100 books, Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University; for more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz and www.twitter.com/booksnbling.