Crowbar: thinking about the future with one eye on the present

There are musicians we’re always delighted to meet. Kirk Windstein, the mastermind behind Crowbar and guitarist for Down, is one of those. When we decided to have a word with Windstein during the Motocultor Festival (France), he was accompanied by his bassist, Pat Bruders, who also happens to be new to the Down family since he now fills in for Rex Brown. We already talked about this replacement in a previous article.

We at Radio Metal often joke about the fact that, every time we meet Kirk Windstein, he looks like he just woke up: he has rings under his eyes, his eyes are glazed and he can’t help yawning. It might actually be more than an impression, since he admits: « We’re a bit tired, but we’re good. We play tomorrow in Paris, and then we’re back to New Orleans. We had a long drive yesterday, almost 14 hours. » « We are pretty ragged up because we didn’t have a day off. » adds Bruders. When you’re on tour, travelling conditions are not always easy. The budgets are obviously very different between Down and Crowbar, and the latter have made it all the way to Brittany in a humble van, instead of a real, comfortable bus. « We try to take advantage to sleep where and when we can. It’s hard to sleep nearly sitting up in these van tours. We have no double-deck or nightliner where you can sleep and relax. » explains Bruders.

And yet, the two devils are very pleasant, and despite their tiredness, they’re eager to go up on stage and show the audience what they’re made of. In Windstein’s words: « We’ve done 15 days in a row, but we’re here and ready to rock. The beer is pretty good. » With their ever positive and determined spirit, Crowbar don’t seem to be very demanding (aside from their drummer, who’d rather have a hot meal, please and thanks) or affected: all Windstein and his guys want is to meet the fans and have fun on stage. « Seeing the fans at the signing session and their reaction to our show really pumped us up. » says Bruders.

Once more, we met the stocky, bald guitarist rather early on the festival’s grounds, like we did in 2010 and 2011 during Hellfest. « Last year, when Down played at the Hellfest festival, we had a nightliner » he says. « So with this kind of bus, the driver drives overnight and you arrive at the festival while you’re still sleeping. A lot of the time, you’re there early: it’s not my preference, but I’d rather be there too early, than too late. We did the Brutal Assault festival, in the Czech Republic: we literally got there just 10 minutes before the time we were supposed to be on stage ! We had to cut one song and we played only 25 minutes : it was fucking stressful. » Speaking of which, what do they think of smaller-sized festival like Motocultor, compared to mastodons like Hellfest? Windstein’s answer shows he’s fully aware that even the biggest fish had to start small at some point: « It is small, but it’s cool. All festivals start out somewhere, you know, and get bigger after. For instance, we played at the Bloodstock festival in the UK : they started with 600 or 700 people, and now you have 20 000 people or more. »

Kirk Winstein: « We’re always rehearsing, touring, writing or preparing something. Phil [Anselmo], Pat [Bruders] and I are in three bands, Jimmy in two so we’re very active. You can’t make money sitting on your ass. « 

From a musical point of view, a question has been gnawing at us since February last year. That’s when Windstein confirmed he was intending to re-release the band’s complete discography through Housecore Records, Phil Anselmo’s label. Said project had been announced in 2009. But since then, no release has been made, and no news given on the matter. « We’re dealing with all the legal stuff at the moment », says Windstein to explain the band’s legal trouble, which partly account for the delay. But fear not: « It should come out soon. We hope to release on Phil’s label a live plus two record : ten live songs we recorded two years ago with two new studio songs. » It can be difficult to find the band’s older albums nowadays, except on the secondhand market – or when reissues are released, generally as a limited edition, not allowed by the band, who feels they’re being cheated, as Windstein already mentioned last year. « There are not record stores anymore », says Windstein drily. « You can find some metal underground shit and cool stuff in mom and pop stores on college or university campuses. » Bruders adds that « It’s been 10 years since Tower Records went under. » And Windstein concludes: « Wallmart and BestBuy are the two main record stores now in the USA, and we know that Wallmart, for instance, is not going to sell a Crowbar CD! »

We didn’t forget the guitarist’s concern over this matter in June 2011, which he gave as one of the reasons Down decided to release a series of four EP, rather than a complete album. Is there the same problem within Crowbar? « verybody in bands today understands how the music industry works », he says dejectedly. « Records don’t sell anymore. If you sell 20 000 records today, it’s like selling 100 000 copies twenty years ago. Selling 100 000 records means your record has gone gold, which used to be 500 000 before. That’s just the way the music industry looks at this situation. » In that case, what are Crowbar’s plans for the future? Can we hope for a sequel to Sever The Wicked Hand, which was released last year? Windtsein answers positively and adds: « We’re always rehearsing, touring, writing or preparing something. Phil, Pat and I are in three bands, Jimmy in two so we’re very active. You can’t make money sitting on your ass. »

Speaking of which, Windstein tells us there’s a strong possibility his third album with Kingdom Of Sorrow, the project he shares with Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta, should be released early in 2014. A full tour with Kingdom Of Sorrow and Crowbar could then be envisioned. « It makes sense, after all, we’re all friends », he explains. Would a tour with Crowbar and Down – or with all three bands, even – be a possibility, then? Considering Windstein’s reservations, that doesn’t seem very likely: « I don’t think it’s going to happen. I personally would, but prefer not to : it’s really exhausting. Yesterday, I did a King of Sorrow set with Jamey Jasta after Crowbar played earlier in the day and really, doing two gigs in one day is hard ! Doing this kind of thing in a club venue would be different. »

To conclude, we’ve kept in memory the long and interesting conversation we had in February last year, regarding the guitarist’s recent temperance. We’re therefore very surprised to see him have a drink from a tall beer glass. We take this opportunity to ask him what happened for him to reconsider his healthy resolutions. Windstein explains: « Well, I took a step away from it and looked out at it from the outside, which was very difficult for me, because since I was a kid, I’ve never really played sober. I figured out how I would do it sober. I tried to keep myself under control. Last summer, when I toured for 40 days with Kingdom Of Sorrow, I played, signed and did interviews sober, but I did drink some beers at night. It’s working. As long as I stick to what I decided, it works. It’s a sort of self-regulation. But watching everybody else fucked up while you’re sober is something really weird ! »

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