"Pretty good for an old guy." That's how Crowbar mastermind and lifelong New Orleans resident Kirk Windstein responds when Revolver asks him how he's doing. "I just woke up about 10 minutes ago."
OK, so it's 2:30 p.m. New Orleans time. So what? Windstein has been a busy guy lately. He's currently in the studio working on Crowbar's 12th album, which he hopes to have out by late spring or early summer. He recently contributed vocals to "Spilled Blood Never Dries," a song on Jamey Jasta's star-studded The Lost Chapters, Vol. 2. And he's about to drop his first-ever solo album, Dream in Motion.
Oh, and then there's the 25th anniversary of NOLA, the debut album from Down, the New Orleans sludge supergroup featuring former Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo, Corrosion of Conformity guitarist-vocalist Pepper Keenan and Eyehategod polymath Jimmy Bower. After co-founding the group and playing on the bulk of their discography — including NOLA — Windstein left Down in 2013 to focus on Crowbar. But as he recently told Revolver, he's officially back in the band and will be joining them onstage for next year's anniversary gigs.
In our full in-depth chat, we discussed all of the above and more.
YOU'VE BEEN PLAYING IN BANDS FOR OVER 30 YEARS NOW. WHY DID YOU WAIT SO LONG TO DO YOUR FIRST SOLO RECORD?
KIRK WINDSTEIN I was just so busy touring with Crowbar and everything. But I've been wanting to do this for a while, and it actually took a little over two years, just going in and out of the studio, basically doing one song at a time, since June of 2017. To me, it's another side of my personality. It's obviously much lighter than Crowbar, as far as heaviness and whatnot. I listen to so many styles of music and I'm such a music fan in general. I rarely even listen to anything heavier than Thin Lizzy these days. But it's just something I felt I needed to do.
A FEW OF THE SONGS WOULDN'T FEEL OUT OF PLACE ON A CROWBAR RECORD, THOUGH. WHY DID YOU DECIDE THEY SHOULD BE ON DREAM IN MOTION INSTEAD?
Well, I wrote them all individually, one at a time. It wasn't like I had songs and said, 'Oh, this one should be Crowbar; that one should be solo.' In the studio it was just me and the producer, Duane [Simoneaux], and he was saying, 'Dude, one or two of these could be on a Crowbar record, but not the whole lot.' We couldn't just put this out as the new Crowbar record. Except for the title track, "Toxic" and the Jethro Tull cover, the rest of the songs are all in a clean guitar tone. It's not weird for me to put one song that's lighter on a Crowbar record, but a whole album of that wouldn't work.
A LOT OF THE LYRICS ON THIS RECORD SEEM PRETTY PERSONAL. AM I RIGHT ABOUT THAT?
Yeah, but with me as a lyricist, I just write down thoughts. I rarely tell a story. My wife Robin actually helps me — she's helped on the last few records. I did an interview with a German guy last week who said the song "Toxic" sounds pretty personal, but I didn't write those lyrics. My wife did. And it is about a particular person who will remain unspoken for, but it's a story. My lyrical style is much more thoughts, emotions, metaphors. But "Dream in Motion" is the first song I've written that is a story — it's the story of my life, of me wanting to play music. I don't know if you've seen the video, but it's me throughout the years. This is what I've dreamt of doing since I was young.
I KNOW YOU'RE NOT GOING TO NAME THE PERSON THAT "TOXIC" IS DIRECTED AT, BUT DID YOUR WIFE WRITE THE LYRICS ABOUT SOMEONE SHE'S PISSED AT, OR THAT YOU'RE PISSED AT?
Both. And what she wrote fits the person perfectly. [Laughs] But her first stab at lyrics was on the Symmetry in Black album. She wrote a few on that one, and a couple on The Serpent Only Lies, but "Toxic" is straight ahead. I'll fall asleep and she'll stay up, and then I'll wake up the next morning and there'll be a notebook with lyrics in it. That's what happened with "Symmetry in White," which are the first Crowbar lyrics she wrote. But she's written lyrics and poetry since she was a teenager.
SO YOU DON'T REALLY WORK TOGETHER ON LYRICS, THEN?
Not really. I mean, I don't wanna say I've run out of ideas or anything, but it's the 12th Crowbar record coming up. That's 120 or 130-something songs full of lyrics, you know? But she doesn't necessarily write to the song, so sometimes I'll take her lyrics and make some little changes to make them work.
YOU SPECIFICALLY MADE A POINT OF NOT DOING AN ACOUSTIC RECORD FOR YOUR FIRST SOLO ALBUM. WHY DID YOU WANT TO AVOID THAT?
Yeah, there's not one strum of an acoustic on the whole thing. Originally the idea was to do an acoustic record, but I was talking to the guys at the record label — most of them are Crowbar fans, anyway — and one guy said, 'I don't hear Kirk Windstein writing something without drums behind him.' And I thought, 'You know what? You're right.' So none of it was ever written acoustic. But I did write the whole thing with no amp. I don't think I ever plugged in.
THE ALBUM CLOSES WITH YOUR COVER OF JETHRO TULL'S "AQUALUNG." WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT PARTICULAR SONG?
It's a song I've always loved. Believe it or not, Crowbar used to do a short, crazy version of it here and there. I'm a big Jethro Tull fan, and I think they actually recorded it in the key of E, but I remember talking to Jethro Tull's guitarist, Martin Barre, about the song and he said when they played it live it would depend on [Jethro Tull vocalist] Ian Anderson's voice. Some nights they played it a half step down, other nights a full step down — so they learned it in three different keys. Can you imagine? And the guitar solo on that song is one of my favorites. It's just classic. But it was important for me to feel like I did the song justice. If I didn't, I wouldn't have put it on the record. I would have just written another original.
ARE YOU PLANNING A SOLO TOUR?
It's possible. I don't have an actual band — it was just me and Duane in the studio — but we've been talking about doing a short tour. Maybe even opening for Crowbar or doing something with Jamey Jasta — like me and him using the same backing band and then Crowbar coming out and doing an hour set. We'll see.
YOU DID SOME VOCALS FOR A SONG ON JAMEY JASTA'S NEW ALBUM, THE LOST CHAPTERS, VOL. 2. IS THAT A TEASER FOR A POSSIBLE NEW KINGDOM OF SORROW ALBUM OR WHAT?
I'm going to pull a Jamey Jasta here and say you need to ask him. [Laughs]
WELL, I TALKED TO HIM LAST WEEK — AND HE SAYS HE'S HOPING THE SONG WILL GENERATE INTEREST FOR A NEW KINGDOM OF SORROW ALBUM.
Good! [Laughs] That's news to me, but it's good news. You know, he actually manages Crowbar, for the most part. I know Hatebreed is in the studio right now, and Crowbar is in the studio, so it ain't gonna happen real soon, but I know we'd both like to do at least one more Kingdom of Sorrow before we call it a day.
WHAT'S THE STATUS OF THE NEW CROWBAR ALBUM?
We were in the studio last weekend, and Tommy [Buckley] knocked out three songs on drums. So it's happening, and I'm really excited about it. It's like old Crowbar but with better vocals, maybe — I do think I'm a better singer than I was back in the day. But riff-wise, it's a lot doomier and sludgier than we've done in quite a while. We've got nine songs done, and we're working on song 10. I'm hoping we'll have it out around May.
THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRST DOWN RECORD IS COMING UP, AND I KNOW THE BAND IS DOING SHOWS NEXT YEAR TO CELEBRATE. WILL YOU BE PARTICIPATING?
I'm in, 100 percent.
THAT'S GREAT NEWS.
The quote from Pepper was, "If you ain't doing it, I ain't doing it." So I said, "OK, man — let's do it. Let's have some fun." So we're gonna do some festivals in Europe and Psycho Las Vegas and of course a New Orleans show.
DID YOU HAVE TO BE TALKED INTO IT?
No. Phil, Pepper and Jimmy are three of my oldest, closest friends, so it was a no-brainer for me. But it's been six and a half years since I've jammed with those guys, so I'm excited. It's gonna be fun.
DOES THAT MEAN YOU'RE OFFICIALLY BACK IN THE BAND?
As far as I know, I'm back in the band. Bobby Landgraf did a fantastic job, and he's a very good friend of mine. But once again, Down is back to what it started out as, which is a 100 percent complete side project. Everyone's other bands are the priority and that's that. I had a great talk with Phil the other day — he doesn't even have a cell phone — but I talked with him for about 45 minutes or an hour, and we both agree that it's a side band. But as far as I know, anything Down does, I'm included.
WHAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK BACK ON THE NOLA RECORD AFTER ALL THESE YEARS?
How old I am. [Laughs] But that record wrote itself, and that's the truth. The first day, in a matter of six hours, we had "Bury Me in Smoke," "Temptation's Wings" and "Losing All." I remember it was a Saturday. We picked up Phil at the airport. We picked up Pepper at the airport. We grabbed a whole bunch of booze and went to a friend's garage with a couple of half-stacks of whatever. We demoed it on Saturday, did a kind of half-ass Sunday and then brought Phil back to the airport so he could go back to Pantera world. Then we did "Lifer" and another one — I can't remember — on another demo, and then wrote the rest in the studio kind of last minute. I remember "Rehab" was called "ZZ Top" at first because Phil had no lyrics. It was a lot of fun.
IT SEEMS LIKE TAKING A BREAK FROM DOWN WAS GOOD FOR YOU, THOUGH.
When we did Down full-time, it became a bit too much. Pepper was right when he pointed out that when you've got me, Phil, Pepper and Jimmy, you've got four really strong personalities that are leaders of their own bands. When you put guys like that in a room together, it can be beautiful or it can be ugly. There's not just one guy in charge. I mean, at one point the band was half of Pantera, plus me, Pepper and Jimmy. There was a lot of clashing. But in the end, all that matters is that you make a good body of work. So I'm happy for that. If nothing happens ever again with that, I'm still extremely happy with my input and being part of an iconic band like that.