INTERVIEW WITH KIRK WINDSTEIN BY KELLEY SIMMS
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JIMMY HUBBARD
Crowbar and Down guitarist Kirk Windstein steps outside of his wheelhouse on his debut solo album Dream in Motion. Handling every instrument except drums, its 10 tracks are a fantastic affair, including a riveting cover version of 70 rock icons Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung.”
In the meantime, Windstein is currently in the studio recording the new Crowbar album, which is planned for released around the end of May. Before heading to the studio to track the new Crowbar album, Windstein took some time out to talk to us about his new solo album, why he’s a huge Jethro Tull fan, and his upcoming plans with Crowbar.
It’s easy to hear that you put everything you had into Dream in Motion. What made you want to do a solo album?
I’ve thought about it for a long time, and people have asked me, “Have you ever thought of doing a solo record?” So, I got in touch with Duane Simoneaux, who produced and was the engineer of our last three Crowbar records. It took about two years. We started in June of 2017, we finished in June of 2019, and that’s how busy I am. It was something where we’d just pump out a song here and there, and then it’d be months, then we’d get together and do another tune. It was just very relaxing. The whole vibe was great. It was only me and Duane in the studio the entire time. There was no pressure, no deadline or any of that kind of shit—just make music, have fun doing it, take your time, and do it right. I couldn’t be happier with the way it came out.
“JUST MAKE MUSIC, HAVE FUN DOING IT, TAKE YOUR TIME, AND DO IT RIGHT.”
Were the songs on Dream in Motion, minus the Jethro Tull cover, constructed specifically for this writing process or was it done by piecemeal spread out over years?
Nothing was written before the idea of doing the record. In fact, the first song written was “Necropolis,” and I think I wrote it in about 20 minutes one day. I told Duane, “Buddy, I’m available Wednesday,” or whatever it was. I said, “I’ll be there.” We always meet at 3:30. So, we went into the studio and laid down some tracks, and that was the beginning of it. Every song was written individually at different times. So, it wasn’t like I had this material lying around and I made a record. It was probably the opposite, really. It was, “I got to go to Duane’s tomorrow, so I’m going to work on the song tonight, tomorrow morning, and I’ll be ready for that 3:30 time to track.” But a lot of times I came in with one simple riff and just wrote it on the spot, and Duane put in his two cents. He had great ideas on everything, and it was just super laid back.
Since you and Duane have worked together before, what was the camaraderie or chemistry like between the two of you?
He’s one of my really tight friends now. I mean, we’ve been friends. I started working with him about nine and a half years ago, and he was really nice. We had so much time in the studio working together, we really became tight friends. So, now we’re in the studio with Crowbar as well. He’s been a big part our lives recently, for the last few years. Working with him, especially on vocals, he’s got good ideas with me, and it gets easier every time we work together, which is great. That’s the way it should be—you don’t overthink anything. Each day is different when you’re a writer. I’m sure it’s the same thing if you’re an artist that paints or whatever it might be. Some days you pick up the guitar and I have absolutely nothing worth a shit creative-wise. And then some days I’ll pick up the guitar and it just flows out of you. And I’m like, “This is the day to work,” because I’m feeling good, I’m feeling it today.
“IT’S A SONG ABOUT MY LIFE, WANTING TO PLAY MUSIC, WRITE MUSIC, RECORD, PERFORM AND TOUR THE WORLD”
What were some of the lyrical inspirations or moods that you wanted to capture?
Lyrically, for the most part, “Dream in Motion” is pretty much biographical. It’s a song about my life, wanting to play music, write music, record, perform and tour the world and all this stuff since I was a teenager. That’s the whole premise behind that. My life is literally a “Dream in Motion.” It’s still happening. I’m talking about it right now and I’m getting ready to go to the studio and record something else in a little bit. Most of the lyrics, I write in metaphors a lot. I write a lot of what I call thoughts. I write down phrases and ideas and thoughts that I have and I turn it into songs, where a lot of times certain songs don’t mean anything, but they have their own ability to mean something completely different to different people. It depends on how you take it. After the first few Crowbar records, I started falling into that lyrically where it’s very simple for me to take one or two lines or just a couple of words and write it on the spot in a matter of 15 minutes and have it thankfully come out to where I’m happy with it.
What made you want to cover “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull? It may have seemed strange at first, but it came out so great.
It’s actually a song I’ve loved since I was a young kid. I had the album early on when I was young. I’ve always been a Jethro Tull fan, and that’s probably Tull’s biggest hit. It was a staple on AOR rock radio stations down in New Orleans that I used to listen to when I was young up until maybe in the last 10 or 15 years. All through the 70s and 80s and even into the 90s, you’d hear it here and there. But back in the 70s when I was younger, they would play it every fucking day. It was pretty much played on the album station that I listened to. It was just a song I’ve always loved. I always loved the guitar solo. I loved the structure of it, the feel of it, the vibe of it. It’s a song that’s always been around for me. So, I figured, I’m going to give it a shot and if it comes out really good and I’m completely happy with it, then I’ll definitely put it on the record, because I wanted to close the record with it. But if I don’t nail it and don’t do it justice, then I’m not putting it on. I don’t want to put a half ass version of a song that iconic, to me at least. Everybody I hear so far has been loving it. So, you can’t complain about that.
“IT WAS JUST A SONG I’VE ALWAYS LOVED. I ALWAYS LOVED THE GUITAR SOLO. I LOVED THE STRUCTURE OF IT, THE FEEL OF IT, THE VIBE OF IT.”
Speaking of the guitar solo, Martin Barre has a unique style. How did you approach the solo? Did you try to emulate it note for note or did you improvise a little bit?
It’s a very difficult solo to pick out, number one because it’s so long. I may be incorrect, but I believe I read in a guitar magazine or something years ago where I think he did it in one take. It’s kind of abstract in a way. The way I did it, we just took it one piece at a time. I tried to do it not absolutely note for note, but it’s within 90 percent I think. If I did that version live, I think people would think it was close enough to the original solo. But it came out great.
You mentioned the song “Necropolis,” which has those high piano accents. Going into this album, did you feel like you wanted to think outside the box and try something that people wouldn’t expect you to do?
Yeah, it was something I’ve been wanting to do for a long, long time. I had always planned on Crowbar doing it [“Aqualung”]. But I’m really glad that I saved it for my solo thing, because it would have been so much different with Crowbar. It would’ve been cool, but I think this is much closer to the original. And it is one of those things where people are like, “What the fuck?” I’m just giving it a comparison. Believe me, I’m not saying my version of “Aqualung” is as good as Pantera’s version of [Black Sabbath’s] “Planet Caravan,” but it’s a similar thing. That’s the whole idea, because people don’t expect you to do it. Younger fans, they’ve never even heard of “Aqualung,” so if somebody didn’t tell them it was a cover, they’d probably think it was a weird original song on the album.
You’ve always had that sludgy, bluesy, doomy Black Sabbath feel in your playing style. Has Black Sabbath always been built into your DNA and still one of your biggest influences?
Yeah. On a previous interview, I can’t remember if I used the word “subliminal” or not, but yeah, it’s one of those things where I’ve listened to so much Sabbath. And the thing is, of course, I listened to them in the 70s when they were popular, but I’m actually a fan of the Dio era of Sabbath. I really got into Sabbath big time around the late 80s and early 90s when Crowbar was of being formed. I’d listen to the whole catalog every day. So, it’s something that’s definitely as you said, in my DNA, without even thinking about it. I try to do my best Tony Iommi here and there, even with all the clean guitar stuff on the record, and the majority of it is clean guitar. There was a lot of clean guitar on Sabbath stuff as well. I think it’s one of those things that I do. I have my own writing style, which I try to improve upon every time I write a song. I think a lot of it, without even trying, is automatically influenced by Sabbath.
Any news from your other bands like Kingdom of Sorrow with Jamey Jasta or Down with Phil Anselmo?
Down’s scheduled to do some shows this year for the 25th anniversary of NOLA. Hopefully, it all comes to fruition and we’re able to do it because that would be a blast. As far as new music from Down? No, I haven’t heard anything at all. And I don’t think there’s any talk about anything in the future at least. Same thing with Kingdom of Sorrow. Jasta’s so busy, wrapping up the new Hatebreed now. In fact, they’re about to unleash that and they’ve got some big tour plans coming up for the next few years, same thing with Crowbar. For Kingdom, I’d like to do at least one more record. And I think Jamey would too, if we had the time would be the whole thing. But really, the second Kingdom album, I flew up to Connecticut and stayed with Jasta for about two weeks, we worked every single day, and boom, the record was done and I flew home.
“THE WHOLE REACTION TO THE RECORD FROM THE RECORD LABEL AND FROM EVERYONE WHO’S HEARD IT HAS BEEN SO MUCH MORE POSITIVE THAN I EVEN HOPED FOR.”
What’s your upcoming plans, including touring for Crowbar and/or solo dates?
For the solo stuff, there’s talk about something later in the year. But really, I don’t have a band. Of course, I can put one together. It was just none of the material was actually written to be performed live. The whole reaction to the record from the record label and from everyone who’s heard it has been so much more positive than I even hoped for. Now everybody’s asking about, “Can you do it live?” And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s definitely possible.” My main focus now is the new Crowbar record. We go out with Sepultura and Sacred Reich. They’re friends from years ago, so it should be a blast. That’s at least a five week tour across the whole US and I think a few Canadian dates. I’m looking very forward to getting on tour with all those guys.