» Kirk Windstein - Crowbar
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Interview conducted April 7 2023
Interview published July 29 2023

Metal Covenant talked to American sludge metallers Crowbar's frontman Kirk Windstein in Stockholm as the band was out celebrating the 30th anniversary of the self-titled 1993 record. As Crowbar is currently kind of between two studio records we pretty much stuck to talking about touring activities, songwriting and record making overall and just by chance all of a sudden we got to know that his second solo album is ready to be put out during this coming fall.

And while we were at it Mr. Windstein got proposed some questions about his brand-new constellation Eye Am, the long-running unit Down, and because of the frontmen's partnership in Down also some stuff around the ongoing celebration of Pantera.

Tobbe: From your first record up until now, besides maybe a different sonic appearance, in what way do you see the band's records changing from one to another?

Kirk: Well, I like my vocal style a lot better now, with the more modern Crowbar stuff. I was coming from a hardcore band, a punk band, thrash bands, and stuff like that, when myself and Jimmy Bower kind of said, "You know what? Let's do something totally fucking different.", 'cause he was drumming with me at the time.

So it took a few albums. That's why the first record is Obedience Thru Suffering and the second record is just called Crowbar, like, "What do you wanna call this?" - "Let's just call it Crowbar.". Because I really think we found our sound on the second record. The first record was still a transition and trying to find where we wanted to go with it.

Tobbe: It's been over a year now since your last record Zero And Below was out. Does that one still feel like a new record to you personally?

Kirk: Yeah, it does. I mean, on this tour we've been playing three songs off of it live because we really love the record. We took a lot of time. It's the first record with Shane (Wesley) on bass, and Shane involved with the band, and really being a part and member of the band. I mean, we're very proud of the record. We love the songs, we love the production, and the new stuff is really fun to play live, and it has been going down great live, which is a good feeling.

We don't wanna just be a band that just sticks in one new for a little while and then just go back to all the classics that everybody likes. Like, we even switch up the oldest songs a lot. And now it's the 30th anniversary of the self titled, so we switch up the setlist a lot and have more songs off of the self titled on it on this tour, and really for this year, for the 30th anniversary.

Tobbe: I checked out a setlist from the other day. It was six songs from the self titled record on it, including No Quarter. But it could have been more; it could have been less, right?

Kirk: At Milwaukee Metal Fest we're gonna do the whole record from front to back. I think that's three that we haven't done. We haven't done Negative Pollution and Holding Nothing. We know Will That Never Dies, but we just didn't get around to putting it in in the list on this one, but on the next tour we need to really rehearse those, because when we go home we have three or four days home and then we fly to Milwaukee, do the Metal Fest, fly home, have two or three days off and then we're back here again.

So we need to really get those worked in. Like, we worked in Fixation and No Quarter. And Self-Inflicted, that we had played briefly when Shane first joined the band. And I mean, he has been in the band five years already; it's crazy. But when he first joined we played it briefly, but we kind of had to relearn that one. So that's in the list. But we love playing them live, really.

Tobbe: But I also saw in that setlist, like you said three new songs, but then actually it was only one more song from the last 22 years. So it seems like classics come first, right?

Kirk: I mean, yeah in a way, but, you know, normally we'll do Walk With Knowledge Wisely off of Symmetry In Black. Sometimes we'll do I Am The Storm off The Serpent Only Lies. We do The Cemetery Angels off Sever The Wicked Hand, so that's a newer record. That's 2011, I think.

The classics are, you know, what people want, but we're determined. Like, we picked up It's Always Worth The Gain off of Zero And Below and we've been playing it every night. We love the song. It's different for Crowbar, but it really is a great live song. We love the way it sounds. It sounds live and we're determined to just keep playing it until people fucking accept it, 'cause it's a great song that's fun to play live.

Tobbe: It was five and a half years between The Serpent Only Lies and Zero And Below. Will the fans have to wait until 2027, or 2028 even, to see new Crowbar music out?

Kirk: No. Some people know and a lot of people don't. The record was actually completed. I mean, mixed, mastered, artwork, turned into the label, publishing and everything. All turned in, prior to Covid. So it was gonna come out in 2020, and it couldn't, you know. I mean, it could have, but to me we would have wasted a great record. So we just waited to 2022.

So really, it would have been out two years earlier. But I mean, we really haven't done a whole shitload of touring for this record, so I'm in no hurry to do another one, but I would think by the end of the year, or going into early next year, we're gonna start writing, and we'll see what comes up touring-wise as well, because, I mean, with Covid, that fucked everything up for two years.

So those two years really don't exist. Zero And Below came out March 4th of 2022. Only a little over a year that it has been out, and we did a six-week tour with Sepultura and Sacred Reich in the US, we did a seven-week headlining tour in the US and then we came over here with Sepultura and Sacred Reich in October and November. That was it for 2022's touring.

Now this spring and summer we're very busy, but all over here, with the exception of Milwaukee Metal Fest. I mean, there's still a lot of, we say, meat on the bone, as far as markets to play and with this record. It's a great record so we wanna continue to tour a little more with it. We're hitting a lot of festivals this summer. We're doing Berlin Desertfest, we're doing London Desertfest, we're doing a Polish Metal Hammer fest with Pantera and Hatebreed; that's gonna be great. We're doing Graspop, we're doing Hellfest, we're doing Brutal Assault, we're doing Bloodstock in the UK.

You know, when you do them you got to give them a break for a couple of years. And there's a lot of other festivals too, and maybe even some different territory. A lot of people are playing, like, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia. It might be cool to try that and even though it's not maybe profitable it'd be great just to experience it.

Tobbe: Someone got to start touring different countries and not only the US and Europe.

Kirk: Yeah, it's a big world. The thing with the US, like the headlining tour we did was basically only the eastern half of the country. It was seven weeks long. It was 40 something shows, so. But everything was really on the eastern half of the country, which is easier to tour because there's so many more cities close to one another.

When you get out West there's nothing. It's fucking mountains and desert. I mean, you're driving forever to get to each gig and with the fuel cost and shit it's very expensive to tour. If you live out West it's easy, but when you're living in the Southeast, we're considered so, it's easier to concentrate in the US on the eastern half of the country.

Tobbe: As you said, songwriting is gonna start around the end of the year or something, and do you sometimes look back and pick up old tracks, old riffs and stuff, and use for a new record?

Kirk: I don't have any old riffs. If a riff doesn't make a record, then in my opinion it wasn't good enough, so. I mean, I really can't think of anything. I remember a few, but I don't have, like, a stockpile of old riffs. Right now we have zero Crowbar ideas.

Tobbe: What kind of effort does it take for you personally to get a new Crowbar record out?

Kirk: I mean, it's a lot of work. You know, the older I get… I mean, I still enjoy playing live as much as ever. The traveling does get old, but it's worth it. It's always worth the gain, and that's the truth, and that's kind of what that song is about; just being in the music industry in general. It's worth it, but to me, the older I get, the more I enjoy the creative process of writing and recording.

I mean, I just completed my second solo record. It's a lot different than the first one. I really love it. I think it's a great, really strong record, so I'll be concentrating on trying to get that out in the fall. But it depends. If nothing comes up touring-wise in the fall, that is really a big tour that we can jump on and earn something, and that's a profitable thing, then we might as well just get to writing, so.

Tobbe: How come you do a solo record when you have Crowbar and other stuff going on?

Kirk: Did you hear the first solo record?

Tobbe: Yeah, I heard it, but still.

Kirk: And even this one is a lot of heavier, I call it. Not Crowbar heavy. It doesn't sound like Crowbar. It's just another side of my writing personality really. I've never been the kind of guy that sits in the bedroom and practice. I mean, when I was a teenager, yeah. When I was young, and you have a shitty day job, and you're rehearsing five nights a week, and you have no family… I mean, you have your family, but you're not married, no children, no anything. No responsibilities basically. Living at home. You know, then you can do that.

I don't have time to do that now. I have to live life, which includes going to the grocery store, and cleaning up, paying bills, and this and that. But I like to spend the time that I do have writing music as opposed to that. And everybody is different too. A lot of people get a big thrill out of picking out other people's solos, and learning a riff, and see how fast they can play. It's certainly nothing wrong with it, but it's just not me. I'm more of a writer, you know.

Tobbe: Tell me all there is to say about your new band, Eye Am.

Kirk: Well, so far, there's not a whole lot really. We have one song. But it came out really great. I think it's a lot different than what people expect. Obviously I know Todd Strange (bass) from Crowbar. I know Kenny (Hickey, guitars and vocals) and Johnny (Kelly, drums) from Type O. I'm a huge Type O fan. I'm tattooed and the whole nine yards.

A friend of mine, Andrew Spaulding, has an independent record label called Corpse Paint Records. He used to do merchandise for Type O Negative years ago. So he kind of came up with the idea of putting us together. And we were all just kind of like, "Okay, we know each other, and we've hung out and partied, and this and that, but how is it gonna be creating together?". And it really worked great. It clicked. Kenny sent me two riffs, that I liked. I wrote a riff to go along with it. And we got together one afternoon.

The next day we rehearsed in a bunch and Johnny laid down the drums. Then he had to leave. So he flew out, and then we did guitars and bass and vocals. And Kenny is the singer, 'cause his voice is much better than mine. But we do some trading off and I do, like, the lower harmonies and shit with him. But it really came out great. You know, we figured that the worst thing that can happen is we tried, we had some fun, and that's that. But it's something that can really turn into a side project or something for everyone.

Tobbe: What's the status of Down at the moment, now that Phil (Anselmo) is out as Pantera?

Kirk: Well, that thing is at hold. I mean, Down will never break up. It's there forever. When Phil is done with the Pantera thing I'm sure he wants a little break. This is something he has been working on for quite a while to make this happen, and making sure that the timing was right, and that they were gonna do it right and do it justice to pay tribute. I can't wait to play with them in Poland. It'll be great.

Tobbe: Let's just face it. With him doing Pantera again, we're not even in the same ballpark when we talk about economy between Down, Pantera and stuff. I would have done it too in the end, but also for the right reason.

Kirk: Right, right. Of course. For many reasons. And he's doing it for the right reasons; it just happens to be a lot of money involved as well. You know, it's really something that can set him up, and Rex (Brown, bass) for that matter, for the rest of their life really with this. It's a lot of money. And we of course support them to a 100 percent. He said, "I can't wait.". I'm such a fan of the band and I love Zakk (Wylde, guitars) and I love Charlie (Benante, drums) as well, and I think they got the only two guys that could do this with Rex and Phil. So, it should be great.

Tobbe: But still, there are sort of two original members in the band, and there are a lot of bands touring with just one original member.

Kirk: Yeah, and some have none. I mean, Phil is not the original singer, but Rex is their original bass player. He went to high school with Vinnie (Paul, drums) and Dime (Darrell, guitars). I mean, they put out their more glamish, poppish metal records with Terry (Terrence Lee) on vocals, but they wouldn't be what they are if Phil had never joined the band.

Tobbe: For me the first record from the band is Cowboys From Hell.

Kirk: Yeah, and pretty much to everybody. Even though I love Power Metal. It has got some good shit on it, but that was kind of them making a transition as well. Yeah, the first real record for Pantera is Cowboys From Hell. And I mean, there's bands out there where the guys are still alive and there's two versions of the band, and shit like that, and they're arguing over it. I mean, this is not a situation like that.

Unfortunately, Dime and Vinnie are gone, and that's sad. From everything that I know, I don't think they're gonna try to do anything for a long period of time, or create anything new or anything. They're just trying to celebrate the legacy of it. 2001, in Australia, was the last tour Pantera did.

And there's a whole new generation, even like Shane, our bass player, he is 34 years old, so I mean, he was too fucking young to go see them. So there's a whole new generation of people his age on down to teenagers and shit that love Pantera, so this is the closest thing they're gonna get.

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