Interview: Kirk Windstein – Crowbar

This spring saw Louisiana sludge outfit, Crowbar, release their twelfth full-length album, Zero and Below. TMW contributor and interviewer extraordinaire, Peter K (Trendcrusher), spoke with main man Kirk Windstein during the band’s Riff Beast Tour over the summer. As is always the case with our friend Peter, this is a fantastic and wide-ranging conversation. Translated below by TMW. Enjoy!

Peter K (PK): I’m joined by Kirk Windstein Welcome to The Metal Wanderlust. How are you doing today?

Kirk Windstein (KW): Oh, doing good man. We’re going to show in Miami, Florida tonight. So we’re on the way to the venue right now but the tour has been going great. So uh, I’m feeling pretty good. We’re a little over the tour.

PK: It’s really cool for those [reading]. I mean, Crowbar is currently in the midst of their US headlining tour which is kind of, if I could say, named after you, right? The “Riff Beast Tour,” and you’re touring with Spirit Adrift.  What [have] been the highlights of the tour so far? I know you’ve been on the road earlier this year.

KW: We had a lot of really good shows. Really just having Spirit Adrift along [as] the direct support band was a great choice. We love the band and they’re great guys. So we’re getting along really good.

PK: I’m a huge fan of Spirit Adrift and the kind of stuff that they do.

KW: Yeah.

PK: And I think it’s a great pairing also. Crowbar and Spirit Adrift.  How did it all come together? If you could just quickly tell us about that the whole tour.

KW: Our booking agent kind of works with Spirit Adrift’s booking agent and he mentioned Spirit Adrift. I had heard of the name but I didn’t know much about the band, so I looked them up and started listening to the stuff and I was like, “this is great! Let’s make it happen!” We’re glad that we chose them and we’re glad that they wanted to come join us on tour.

PK: Yeah. And this tour is actually also in support of your album which was recently released. Zero and Below which came out in March. It’s been a few months, but how does it feel like just going through the feedback and the reviews and stuff like that for the album? Do you read reviews at all at this stage?

KW: I read as much as I can. I mean, the record label and publishers and everything sends emails to me and the other guys all about all the reviews on the record. So, I mean we’ve been extremely happy with the reviews, and the overall feedback has been great. People seem to love the record. We love the record. We do a couple of the songs live every night. They go over really well. So, it’s really a great record and a great feeling to read all the positive reviews.

PK: It’s also like, when you think about it in 2022, what do you expect from a Crowbar record? It kind of just hits all the right spots. That’s the way at least I felt when I was listening to the album. But a lot of people… might think that since it’s released it’s been released in 2022, that it was recorded or written during the last couple of years. But it was actually finished in February 2020. So, what was it like sitting on the album for almost two years?

KW: It was tough because we knew the one good thing was we got a chance to really analyze and overanalyze even the record. I listened to it 100 times, probably in that two-year period with nothing going on. I just got to sit in my car and crank it up and listen to the whole [album]. And it was tough to wait to put it out. We made the right decision waiting to put it out until we got to tour for it. Let us listen and analyze. Because in all reality, if we wanted to go in and change things, we really could have. I mean, even though it was mixed and mastered, we still had access to get into the recording of it. And if we wanted to change things, and I talked to all the guys, and everybody said, “No, I think it’s great just like it is.” I said “So do I. So let’s just stand behind it and get out there and just go kick ass every night.”

PK: Yeah. And when I think about it, it’s really hard when you’ve got all of this recorded and ready, you’re very tempted also, at some points, to kind of change it. But, I want to go back to something I just came across recently, which is actually, that you record spontaneously, the lyrics for, your music. Did I get that correct?

KW: Yeah. I mean, a lot of times, I don’t even have lyrics. I only have one or two lines. And I just kind of write as I’m singing, just kind of right on the spot. And I like doing it that way.

PK: Which brings me to my question. Looking back and listening, did you at that point want to change anything? Or were you like, “You know what? It’s done.“?

KW: The thing is, when I do it that way, occasionally I’ll go and listen on my way home from the studio. I’ll wake up the next day and listen to it. I don’t like the way I sang that line, or I don’t really care for that lyric. So, I’ll go in and fix like one or two things. But I mean, 99% of it is done. Whatever I do stays as the final lyrics and final vocal tracks on the songs and I just like doing it that way. It keeps it fresh.

PK: Okay. It’s kind of different when I think about it. So, that’s why I definitely had to touch upon it. But one of the cool things is, again with an artist like yours that has kind of had the album ready for a while, is what was it like working with Dwayne [Simoneaux]? You worked with him in Louisiana. What is that process when you look back, recording it with him?

KW: We’ve been working since Sever the Wicked Hand [2011], so he really became like a really close friend and I worked with him on my solo record as well [Dream in Motion, 2020]. Uh, we had done four Crowbar records and I did the solo record with him. And occasionally I do little projects. People ask me, “Can you sing on one of my songs?” Or something like that. So, I always go to Dwayne to do that. We’re really good friends and [he is] really a very important part of our sound. We work together very quickly and very easily. It’s great chemistry, so it’s great working. with Dwayne.

PK: While a lot of musicians took time off in the last couple of years, you kind of doubled down in a way. Not only did you record the Crowbar album and had that ready, but you also did your solo album. What was that experience like? I mean, going back to back recording the Crowbar album and then recording your first solo album.

KW: Dream In Motion was actually finished before we started the Crowbar, but pretty much I finished Dream in  Motion. We went back on another tour supporting COC and as soon as we got back from that we started writing Crowbar’s. Now I’m working on my second solo record and it’s the same type of process. I’ve got about ten tracks written, uh, it’s about 75% complete. But it’s two totally different things because when I do the solo stuff, it’s just me and Dwayne in the studio, that’s all. That’s no other musicians. With Crowbar, obviously, it’s a band so it’s a much different process. But I love doing the solo stuff because I’ll come up [with] a lot of that. Musically, it’s very spontaneous. I’ll come up with one simple little idea and then when I get to the studio, I mess around with it. Dwayne kind of helps me along, puts his input in, and boom. An hour and a half, two hours later we have a song complete and the basic tracks already laid down. So, it’s a very spontaneous thing as well. But that’s the way I like to work.

PK: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of cool, and it also became very conscious, the way I was listening to it when I heard you describe your solo album as a slower Crowbar.

KW: Yeah, it’s still a dark record, and I love the vibe of it. It’s, um, just stuff that wouldn’t fit Crowbar. It’s another side of my writing personality, maybe. So, I was nervous at first on how fans would react to it, but it was overwhelmingly positive. And people tell me every day at the shows that they love the solo record, and I tell them I’m doing a second one, and they’re excited. For me, the fact that it was well received and the fans love it is very important.

PK: I was watching [a video] where you described Crowbar. You said that you dislike the term “sludge” because Crowbar kind of came out way before that term came in. And when I was thinking about it, also going back to the talk [about] Spirit Adrift, right. I mean, Spirit Adrift has also kind of evolved into this heavy metal act, like when you’re thinking about references in there. Because it’s that entire sludge sound that Crowbar kind of gets pulled into, whether it’s unconsciously or not. But for somebody who’s probably never heard Crowbar and has no idea, what would you recommend as a starting point in the band’s discography?

KW: I would start with a new record and work backwards. When I was a kid and I would discover a band that had been around for a long time, I would buy, like, the newest record and then go backwards and check out the rest of the catalog. That way, instead of starting from the front, I think it gives you a good insight as to where we’re at today. But if you go backwards, you can see why we’re where we’re at today and why we sound like we do today.

PK: I think that’s a very interesting approach. Because while a lot of bands will say, “this is our heaviest, most brutal track or album,” there is a certain amount of evolution that you would definitely see. Which kind of brings me to the next point. You’ve been really active over the last few decades. I’m very curious to know, for someone like you who’s constantly working on music, do you have the time or the mind space to discover new acts? Or do you still sometimes prefer the music that you can grew up listening to and your favorites?

KW: It’s a good question. Honestly, I don’t have time, really, to discover new stuff. I don’t even have time to listen to much music. I mean, when I’m at home, it’s just family life at home. If I’m driving around in the car, running errands, or whatever, I listen to classic rock radio or 80s pop stuff, whatever. I listen mainly to older stuff. But to me, even though the band has been around for a while, Spirit Drift is a new band. So to me, it’s like, wow, that’s my favorite new band. Even though they’ve been around for a while, because I wasn’t familiar with them until right before this tour. But, yeah… I see bands on tour, we play with bands that I’m impressed with. But I don’t really have the time to go research and investigate new bands and try to find stuff. I’m just too busy in my personal life when I’m at home and on tour. I mean, I’m 57 years old, so it’s like trying to rest my voice and rest as much as possible. And when we get to the venue, we load in, we do our sound check. You got a little time to relax, drink a few beers, and then we are on stage and back up and do it all again the next day.

PK: Yeah. So, our website, The Metal Wanderlust… [our] editor actually saw you on tour a few months back. And, I’m not sure if it’s a direct quote of something that you said on stage, but you kind of alluded to something saying like “I gave my hearing to metal.” Is that true?

KW: Yeah. My hearing is pretty shot, which, I mean… you pay for it. But then again, my whole body is beat up. My knees are bad, my ankles are bad, my back is bad. I have severe degeneration in the discs in my upper third of my spine that goes into my neck. It’s just from headbanging and bending it over and carrying gear and just performing. I played my first show 41 years ago, so I was a 16-year-old kid pretty much. It’s kind of like an athlete. [A] football player or something, that as they get older, it’s like, wow! You start feeling the aches and pains of everything you’ve done for so many years. I’ll jokingly say that, but thank God… my hearing is far from good, but it’s not terrible. Uh, yeah, it’s kind of half joking, but it’s also serious.

PK: I had no idea! Just a couple of things to add [to that]. You very aptly put that it’s like an athlete, right? Because when you think about it, playing heavy metal or playing heavy music, it’s a performance. And it’s no different than any athlete performing. Especially when you’re doing it as a touring musician. But another thing that you mentioned earlier was when you’re at home taking care of your voice – and one of the distinct aspects of Crowbar is your voice – so I have very nicely tagged you as a road warrior, because I’m sure, like you said, you’ve played for the last 41 years. What are some kind of the secrets or pearls of wisdom that you would like to share with bands who just starting out?

KW: Just trying to take it easy. It’s too easy to get… When you’re young, you can recover from partying and all that kind of craziness. But as you get older, it’s a lot harder to do. So you really have to cut down on all that.

I like drinking beer, and I don’t even do it at home anymore. I only do it on tour. It kind of helps relax me, loosen me up, get me fired up to go jam. And really, it helps numb all the pain in my body. So, for me, it works. But you have to watch and keep it under control. Like, when I feel like, “Okay, that’s enough. I’m starting to get a little drunk,” or something like that. I just go to bed. It’s time to go to my bunk. That’s enough. Such a night where, when I was younger, I would stay up all night. No matter what, every night, with all my party and sleep all day type thing. As you get older, you just realize you can’t do that.

PK: Yeah, I can totally imagine. You’ve mentioned a couple of times your second solo album. And considering the Crowbar album was written a couple of years ago, I can imagine there would be some [new] Crowbar material also. Probably in the works in there? What can you share about that?

KW: Well, I think I’m going to finish up the solo record in probably early next year, and then we’re going to begin writing for the next Crowbar, because we haven’t written anything since early 2020. So, we’re ready. We were talking about it last night, in fact. So, we’re definitely excited and ready to write Crowbar material.

PK: Awesome. That’s very exciting for fans [reading]. But before I let you go, Kirk and I want to be mindful [of your time], because you are on tour at the moment. I read in an old interview that you said, “the first time [the] ‘All I Had (I Gave)‘ video was shown, on MTV when Headbangers Ball was still around, was a rock star moment.” And I have to ask, because it’s been 30 years and you’ve done 19 records, which kind of blows my mind! Twelve with Crowbar, four with Down, two with Kingdom of Sorrow, and one solo. What’s next? Is there, like, a mission or a kind of plan that you have? How do you top that, right?

KW: Keep doing [it]. Our attitude has always been like Motörhead. You just keep doing what you’re doing. I mean, this business is crazy. It’s changing all the time. But there’s peaks and valleys. There are times when the records are selling more, attendance at the concerts is more, and there’s times when it’s slower. You just have to take the good with the bad. It’s just an up-and-down, peak and valley type business. Our attitude has been slow and steady wins the race. Just keep doing what we’ve been doing this long, and it’s working. So, let’s just keep on putting up great music and kicking ass on stage every night.

PK: Awesome. And I think that’s a great way to end our chat. Just keep kicking ass, like you said. And I think Motörhead is a great, great example. Because you always had them [being] consistent. Always. So thanks so much, Kirk. I really appreciate this chat.

KW: Awesome, man. I appreciate it.

PK: And I wish you all the best for the rest of the tour.

KW: Great. Thanks so much, man. Have a good one.

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