An Interview with
Kirk Windstein

Interview by Ray Van Horn, Jr. - January 2005

Perhaps the older you get, the less time it seems, while the younger you are, time seems to drag forever, but regardless, it's been close to three years since Crowbar was last roaming the scene. While many Crowbar fans have had to patiently get their fix through Kirk Windstein and Rex Brown's side project, Down, the thunder from New Orleans resurfaces in 2005 with a new lineup, a new album, and extensive tour plans. With the advent of a down-tuned underground known in some circles as sludge metal or stoner metal, Crowbar's homecoming couldn't be better-timed. Having been playing for well over a decade, Crowbar is one of the acknowledged founders of the sound, so if this is the first time you're hearing of them, step up and get an education. caught up with Kirk Windstein prior to the release of Crowbar's anticipated new album, "Life's Blood for the Downtrodden," due February 8th.

Rough Edge: How are you, brother?

Kirk Windstein: What's happening, man?

Rough Edge: Nada. Good to have you back, man!

Kirk Windstein: Cool, cool, appreciate it.

Rough Edge: At least with Crowbar, anyway!

Kirk Windstein: Yeah, yeah, exactly!

Rough Edge: So, as far as the new album, "Life's Blood for the Downtrodden," it seems like it's taken an act of Congress getting it out there. It's been like, two-and-a-half, three years since "Sonic Excess in its Purest Form" came out, and I know you've been playing with Down all this time, so tell me about any obstacles you might've faced getting the new album out.

Kirk Windstein: It really wasn't so much obstacles, it was more that I took a year-and-a-half to do the Down thing and then after that was done, I got married and got a baby so I just chilled for a little bit, you know, to get a break. I haven't had a break ever! (laughs)

Rough Edge: (laughs) 

Kirk Windstein: So I took some time off with the baby and everything and I just took my time writing the record and recording it, and then shopping it for a deal, so it wasn't really, you know … I wasn't really in a hurry, I mean, this was the first time I ever took a break, and I didn't want to feel pressured or anything, so myself and Rex (Brown), we self-financed the thing and just took our fucking time shopping the thing around and get something happening.

Rough Edge: No doubt, man. Congratulations on your child! 

Kirk Windstein: Cool, appreciate it.

Rough Edge: How's fatherhood treating you right now?

Kirk Windstein: Pretty damn good.

Rough Edge: Yeah? Cool. I'm likely going to be coming down to New Orleans this summer for the first time, so I'll be looking forward to the food and the jazz, but amidst the Creole atmosphere, you guys are the figureheads of the metal scene down there. So what can I expect of New Orleans from an insider's view, such as yourself?

Kirk Windstein: I hope you like to drink! 

Rough Edge: (laughs) Yeah, absolutely! 

Kirk Windstein: It's a killer town, you know, it's definitely unlike any other town in America, that's for sure. 

Rough Edge: Right.

Kirk Windstein: We're kinda, as far as I can tell, having been every-fucking-where in the country, I don't know … it's kind of the last of … you know, there's still a lot of Mom and Pop operations, there's still a lot of family-owned stuff and everything, it's just its own city and it's got its own character and everything. I mean, obviously the whole industry down here is fucking eating and drinking, which is fine by me! (laughs)

Rough Edge: (laughs) 

Kirk Windstein: Definitely the food's fucking the best, you know, and they pretty much promote drinking. It's like the thing to do. 

Rough Edge: Fine by me, man.

Kirk Windstein: Yeah, exactly.

Rough Edge: So, with the release of "Life's Blood" and another lineup realignment, I read that you view this as a sort of rebirth for Crowbar, so if I could answer my own question, I'd say there's a bit more melody to the sludge, but tell me how you view this as a rebirth.

Kirk Windstein: It's a rebirth basically because there was some time taken off. I mean, I always intended to do something else with Crowbar; I just didn't know when it was going to take place. I think when I went to sit down and write this record it was more of a situation where I just didn't have any fucking rules as to what I was going to do. I just went ahead and went for it. Whatever I wrote is what came out and I didn't … in the past, a lot of times I put up these barriers and walls, I guess you could say, you know, where I was like, 'Oh I can't do that! That's not Crowbar!' or whatever.

Rough Edge: Right.

Kirk Windstein: So this time a lot of the shit I just said 'Fuck it, let me just go for it!' and just write what I feel, and I figured it shows a lot of maturity in the songwriting and a lot of growth. I feel it's a natural progression from where we started up to today. I mean, I hate bands that change too much, but at the same time I'm trying to keep it true to Crowbar, of course, but at the same time move forward, grow and move ahead. 

Rough Edge: Definitely. Now, the drumming situation; Tommy Buckley, is he still in the band or is he obligated to Soilent Green still? 

Kirk Windstein: He's obligated to both. He's still a hundred percent in Soilent Green, but he's also a hundred percent in Crowbar. He's the only other band member that's got anything else going on, so it shouldn't be too difficult to juggle his schedule with ours. 

Rough Edge: So where does Craig Nunenmacher fit into the puzzle these days?

Kirk Windstein: Well, he's Zakk Wylde's ,you know, Black Label Society's drummer.

Rough Edge: Exactly. 

Kirk Windstein: It was just a situation with the record; there was never any intention of him joining the band or anything. It was just a situation where he wasn't doing anything at the time, you know?

Rough Edge: Right. 

Kirk Windstein: We went to him, which was killer, I mean, me and him are really good friends, so it worked out great. He's a killer drummer.

Rough Edge: Definitely. Well, let's talk about the title of the album, "Life's Blood for the Downtrodden." It sounds like a championing of the underground, the streets, if you will, like a little uplifting for the poor, whether it's in the pocket or in the soul, maybe?

Kirk Windstein: Exactly.

Rough Edge: Cool.

Kirk Windstein: More or less for the soul, but it kind of is what it is. Obviously I've had so many kids over the years come up to me at shows and now they'll email me and almost every day I get an email from kids who tell me how much the music means to them and how it's helped them through tough times, whatever they're going through: their old lady left them, a friend died, or they were having a drug problem or whatever it might be, so many of them say how much Crowbar's music helped them get through tough times, and that's basically what the title means.

Rough Edge: That's very cool, because we all have certain bands that get us through tough times. For me, it was the Ramones, you know? 

Kirk Windstein: Yeah.

Rough Edge: Now, "life's blood" definitely applies to the new songs; they have new life to them, as far as I'm concerned. You take, for instance, "New Dawn" or "Slave No More" or "Fall Back to Zero," which is my favorite song on the album …

Kirk Windstein: Yeah, it's pretty badass.

Rough Edge: For sure. And of course, the epic, acoustic-driven "Life's Blood" itself, so it seems like you put a little extra spice to the mix. Again saying there's a little extra melody, was that deliberate?

Kirk Windstein: Yeah, totally. Like I'm saying, there weren't any rules this time. I just felt it was time to move forward in some senses, you know, and this is what I came up with. So I'm totally happy with it, I think it came out killer.

Rough Edge: Right on, definitely. Now, since Crowbar was last seen, in such quick fashion the sludge and stoner underground has really gained steam. I guess you could say that Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age kind of led the way lately, but bands like Jumbo's Killcrane, Totimoshi, Bongzilla, The Hidden Hand, Beaten Back to Pure, Ramesses, Weedeater, there's so many bands who have encapsulated this down-tuned sound and made a scene of it now. So Crowbar is coming back at the right time, wouldn't you say?

Kirk Windstein: Yeah, I think so. It's a cool time for it. It's kind of cool to see a lot of bands doing that kind of thing and getting some fucking notoriety from it now, you know?

Rough Edge: Yeah.

Kirk Windstein: I definitely feel we have a good opportunity to get to the next level, so hopefully we're going to bust ass touring and try to fucking make that happen!

Rough Edge: Right. Now forgive me if this is redundant, but you guys, along with The Obsessed and COC—it kind of seems proper since you play with Pepper (Keenan) in Down—but you guys have led the sludge attack well before your peers, you know, and of course there was Saint Vitus before you, so do you feel like you have an opportunity to kind of show the scene that 'Hey, this is our place in the scene,' not arrogantly, you know what I mean?

Kirk Windstein: Yeah, to a degree. I mean, I'm not patting myself on the back or anything, but there's no doubt in my mind Crowbar is responsible for a lot of this fucking drop-tuned fucking shit that's been going on. Even this drop-tuned nu-metal crap, which I'm not a fan of, but I've been tuning to B since fucking '88, so other than Cathedral, Winter and Carnivore, whatever, I never knew of anybody tuning that low and we kind of made it a point to fucking play everything in the first three or four frets, so it was super fucking low all the time, you know, and we kind of created our own sound at the time. I mean, I'm not going to say we made everybody go tune the guitar low, but it was definitely a fucking influence on a lot of people, I think, and kids are always talking about seven strings and all. I mean, they didn't even have that shit back then for me! They're like, 'Dude, why don't you play a seven string?' and I'm like, 'Because I don't need it!' (laughs)

Rough Edge: (laughs)

Kirk Windstein: Been tuning to B with a six string and that's fine. I'm just old-school about it. 

Rough Edge: Yeah, man, excellent! Now, of course, Crowbar's been an entity for over a decade and most fans remember you for "All I Had (I Gave)" from the self-titled Crowbar album, but if you could sum up the difference between the Crowbar of then and the Crowbar of 2005, how would you do it?

Kirk Windstein: I would say the biggest difference to me is the songwriting. You know, dynamics, diversity. From song-to-song I think on the new record all eleven tracks stand out as their own piece of work. 

Rough Edge: Right.

Kirk Windstein: Where, in the past, a lot of the tunes ended up sounding like one big song almost. Some of the albums to me, like the first two records really, even though I'm proud of them and I like them, but at the time, there was nothing to really break up things from song-to-song. It was almost like one big song. I think I've taken a big step forward from back then, as far as the songwriting and everything goes with the new record. There's so much more dynamics like in songs like "Fall Back to Zero," for instance, that we've never touched upon before. 

Rough Edge: Definitely. That's why I think it stands out.

Kirk Windstein: Yeah.

Rough Edge: Now here's a side question, man. What made you cover Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver" on Equilibrium? (laughs) That was so crazy!

Kirk Windstein: Actually, me and Bower (Jim) used to fuck around with that and a bunch of other seventies FM radio tunes, whatever, and we used to fuck around with them and make them heavy, like at soundcheck …

Rough Edge: Yeah!

Kirk Windstein: It was like, three in the morning or something. 

Rough Edge: (laughs)

Kirk Windstein: And Sid Montz was drumming on that record with us, me and him were kind of fucking around and we were just doing it to mess around, when the guy, Keith, our producer, said, 'Dude, why don't you try and work up a version of "Dream Weaver,"' so basically I just kind of threw it together, kind of rewrote the chorus, because the rest of the song is so major key and uppity. 

Rough Edge: Yeah.

Kirk Windstein: I wanted it to be heavy, so I kind of rewrote it and shit, counted off four fucking clicks, the dude got us through it in basically one time … to try and remember all the fucking lyrics, and I sang them bombed out of my mind … I don't even really remember it!

Rough Edge: (laughs) 

Kirk Windstein: It just came, so it was more or less just for fun, you know? 

Rough Edge: Yeah, definitely. When I think of Wright's version, I think of "The People vs. Larry Flynt." When I think of Crowbar's version, I can't help but think of an anal sex flick! (laughs) Hopefully you'd take that as a compliment!

Kirk Windstein: It's all good.

Rough Edge: It was cool, it was neat, just way out there.

Kirk Windstein: Oh, yeah.

Rough Edge: So, you're gearing up for a tour and soon you'll be hooking up with Hatebreed, right? 

Kirk Windstein: Yeah, we'll do the American tour first and then we're going to the UK with Hatebreed and then we're doing some headlining stuff on our own in the rest of Europe.

Rough Edge: Right. You're doing the Candlelight Records tour first with Entombed, Pro Pain and The Mighty Nimbus.

Kirk Windstein: Exactly.

Rough Edge: And for anyone who hasn't heard Nimbus, as far as I'm concerned, they should! That's a really good band!

Kirk Windstein: That's what I hear. I haven't even heard it yet; I'm still waiting for the CD to get here. 

Rough Edge: Oh yeah, they're great. Still, what a bang for your buck with that lineup!

Kirk Windstein: Oh, totally. I think it's going to be a really killer lineup.

Rough Edge: Just you and Pro Pain alone, then Entombed …

Kirk Windstein: Yeah, it should be killer, man. We're excited. We can't wait to get out there and get it rolling. 

Rough Edge: Sounds cool. Now, I want to talk about Dime for a second because I know you knew him a good bit. So give me one of your better memories of you guys together, if I'm not being too personal.

Kirk Windstein: No, not that it's too personal, I mean, there's so many funny … every time I think of the dude, it just makes me laugh because he's the funniest fucking dude I've ever met! Really. I mean, there's really not one thing in particular that stands out, but with him, nothing was ever boring. He'd come up with these crazy games, and you could just be sitting anywhere, even a grocery store or something, and you'll have a kick in the ass because he'd always come up with crazy shit. 

Rough Edge: Right.

Kirk Windstein: Everything was a game. He was just a funny dude. I mean, he was never bored! There was no such thing as him ever being bored. He'd come up with the stupidest funny shit off the cuff, you know, just to entertain everybody. So this was a situation where, you know, I have so many stories. We toured with him a bunch and every time we'd go to Dallas, he'd come out to the shows and we'd go back to his house and jam, get loaded, whatever, so I've got tons of great memories, you know?

Rough Edge: Yeah. It's probably going to take some time for all of us to get over it, man, but it's nice to hear the positive side to it, you know?

Kirk Windstein: Yeah, totally. It's all I'm trying to think about now, you know?

Rough Edge: Without a doubt. Now, I know the focus is going to be all on Crowbar right now, which is as it should be, but what's next for Down? Is that on temporary hiatus, extended break or anything?

Kirk Windstein: I don't know. It's kind of a situation where with that band, you know, nothing's ever planned. It's just like everybody will call each other up or something like, 'Dude, do you want to get together?' So it's not like it's forever broken up, but it's also not like we're getting ready to do a new record. It's kind of there.

Rough Edge: It's spontaneous, then.

Kirk Windstein: It hasn't gone away, it's just nothing's happening, you know?

Rough Edge: Yeah, that's cool. Okay, my last question for you is, as Crowbar begins 2005, what would you like to say to everyone who's missed you guys all this time?

Kirk Windstein: It's about time to get out there and check us out! Come out to the fucking shows, get the CD, especially for all the kids who haven't seen us before. It's kinda cool now because there are a lot of bands that are up-and-coming, but we've been around for so long and a lot of them listen to us as an influence, which is a big compliment. So hopefully that'll make a lot of these kids go find out where we came from, or where some of these bands got a lot of their influence. I'm hoping the timing's right with this whole thing.

Rough Edge: Right on, man. I think your timing's perfect. You've got enough of an underground following that's starting to grow, and you know, metal's getting big again. I think people are going to want to seek out the roots of it, you know?

Kirk Windstein: Right, exactly. That's what I'm banking on, you know? (laughs)

Rough Edge: Yeah. All right, man, I truly appreciate your time!

Kirk Windstein: Hey, man, no problem. I appreciate it.

Rough Edge: I'll come find you on tour somewhere.

Kirk Windstein: You got it, man. Thanks.

Rough Edge: All right, brother. 

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Copyright © 2005 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 31 Jul 2018 23:38:09 -0400