Interview: Crowbar Frontman Kirk Windstein Talks New Album, Symmetry in Black
This May is a special month for fans of the Nola metal scene as Down, Crowbar, and Eyehategod are all releasing material within the span of two weeks. To celebrate the occasion, Revolver caught up with each of the bands' vocalists for the reviews section of the June/July 2014 issue (on newsstands June 3). Here, Crowbar vocalist/guitarist, Kirk Windstein (pictured third from left), talks about the songs on the band's new album, Symmetry in Black, as well as the legacy of Type O Negative's Peter Steele and his relationship with the rest of the Nola bands.
REVOLVER Can you tell us about the first single from the new Crowbar album, “Walk With Knowledge Wisely?”
KIRK WINDSTEIN I’m 49 years old now. So it’s about there is truth to the older you get, the wiser you are. You do realize God I shouldn’t have done that 20 years ago. It’s just about life, what you do in life and the lessons you learn. Cherish those things and walk through life—it’s a metaphor of course. Go through life with what you have learned but be wise about it. Like I got a cassette tape [tattooed on his wrist], which means play the tape back. Like if you do this, rewind the tape and play it and see what it’s going to be. Take the knowledge you get as you get older in life--how to stay away from the bad things, go toward the good things, be smart about what you do and try not to make the same mistakes over and over again basically.
Is there a particular incident you can point to, regarding this? When I interviewed Phil Anselmo, he said some of the same things...
It’s no one particular incident. You realize you’re not a kid anymore. A lot of us have families. It was just like, wow, I’ve fucked up so many times in my life and I’ve made a lot of changes in the last year and a half of my life that have helped me to become a better person, a better father and husband. When you’re really down on your luck and have trials and tribulations—it’s just about never giving up and learning. I don’t wanna fuck up again, but we’re gonna. We’re all human beings. Philip [Anselmo, Down vocalist] does a lot of the same things with his lyrics. It’s therapeutic for me and if it can help somebody else out, a lot of kids say that Crowbar’s lyrics helped them out through a tough time in their life, and I think that’s a great thing.
I remember reading that “Symbolic Suicide” was about Peter Steele. Is that true?
Inspired by Pete Steele. Carnivore, his pre-Type O band, [their second and final album] Retaliation came out in '87 and was a huge inspiration on forming Crowbar. We formed in the beginning of '89. I started writing it and thought, This sounds like Carnivore to me. So did some of the lyrics. If you’re familiar with early Type O records, it sounded like it could be on Slow, Deep and Hard minus the keyboards. Now he’s unfortunately no longer with us, and I don’t want to say it’s dedicated to or about him, but it’s about his legacy, which I put in the liner notes. He was such an influence on me and Crowbar.
What story comes to mind when you think about Peter Steele?
This will tell you the kind guy he was. I first time I met him was right when Bloody Kisses was about to take off and Type O were actually going on before Crowbar. It was already booked that way and Boom!, it’s all over MTV and Pete’s a sex symbol. I’m thinking, We have to go on after these motherfuckers. We had a van and we were in Detroit in this dilapidated, smelly, old, shithole venue. I’m sitting there before soundcheck and see Pete. He introduced himself and asked if I wanted to get a bite to eat because catering is upstairs. He said, “Kirk, I know you have the van. The crew guys are working all day, so we have empty bunks in the bus so if anybody needs to take a nap, make yourself at home. Not a problem.” It just shows you the kind heart he had. That was my first time meeting him and, wow, what an impression from someone you looked up to.
Going back to the record, why did you name it Symmetry in Black?
This is our 10th album, our 25th anniversary. I said, "Jesus, it’s Crowbar and we’ve never had a black fucking album cover. A simple, black album cover." We’ve never had that. So I wanted something black and with a simple cover and I happened to be glancing at that “Symmetry in White” shit going, why not Symmetry in Black? It’s kinda a play on words.
How do you feel about the album?
When you’re first creating it, I never listen to any of my music except when I’m in the studio and right when I get out of the studio because you’re analyzing things. But when that disk was in my car for two weeks, I found myself listening to the front half a lot and then one day I was listening to the second half riding around and I thought, Jesus, the whole thing kicks ass! I didn’t realize it. I think it’s a great example of bringing all the different elements of Crowbar we have into one record. It’s the most diverse record we’ve ever done, but it’s also the most cohesive from point A to point Z. As one body of work in 12 songs, we accomplished everything we set out to do.
You left Down to focus on this Crowbar record.
It’s easier for me now because it is my only focus. I call it separating from Down. It was a mutual thing, the guys could see I wasn’t really into it so much or whatever. It was really that time in my life. Phil was like, “I just want you to be happy.” I stepped back and thought about it.I thought if I put all my efforts and if I don’t overload my brain and blow out the circuit, because I had too much going on in my life, and simplify my life and put all my focus into one thing, it would make things easier. With my attention being divided a lot, it’s hard to give everything a 100 percent. With undivided attention, it’s perfect and feels great. It feels fresh and it feels new. I feel young again.
It’s crazy that three of the big Nola metal bands—Crowbar, Down, and Eyehategod—are releasing records at the same time.
It’s crazy! It’s very ironic but great. Me and Mike [Williams, EyeHateGod vocalist] were talking—it’s never going to be a competition. It’s three bands all from New Orleans, we’re all friends, we’ve all known each other since we were fucking kids. To me, it’s a win, win, win for the fans. I know money is tight but I think for fans of the Nola scene, what more could you ask than for Down, Crowbar, and Eyehategod to have brand new records out within a two-week period? That’s pretty fucking incredible.
It’s a family, really.
Yeah. Definitely. I chat with Phil on email—he’s not much of a phone guy. [Laughs] I run into Pat [Bruders, Down bassist] here and there. When you get older, you love everybody but everyone’s doing their own thing. Jimmy [Bower, Down drummer and Eyehategod guitarist] has got a family. When I ran into Mike, I hadn’t seen Mike in forever. You may not see or talk to all these guys but we bump into each other somewhere and you pick up right where you left off. No matter where you’re at in life and no matter how much things have changed, it’s still always going to be the same. There’s nothing but love and respect.