By Rose Riot
I chat almost daily with my friend and rock aficionado Don creator of, The Great Southern Brainfart blog. He and I met while shooting at a concert in the summer and in a recent conversation he asked if I was going to cover Crowbar.
I had heard of them, but didn't know their music. Don proceeds to rattle of an impressive list of adjectives to describe them. While he was still listing Crowbar’s attributes, I managed to find and listen to them (thank you technology). Within minutes, I knew that Don was a genius and I wanted to cover them.
I met up with Don at the Drunken Unicorn, a small club located [in Atlanta] sort of under a parking lot with no signage to indicate its existence. The huge tour bus in front was a dead give away that I was in the right place. My comrade and I went inside, bellied up to the stage and got ready to feast on Crowbar. Kirk Windstein and his boys came out and lit into the song "Burn Your World." They shoveled sludgy-metal goodness into our faces.
To describe sludge metal I say this, imagine you are a soldier fighting in the jungle –there is gunfire and explosions going on all around you. You find yourself stuck in a quicksand swamp. The chaos is going on all around you and you use all of your strength to pull each foot to the next step with an unrelenting desire to make it out alive.
Crowbar has been leading the sludge troops for 20-plus years and they are not even close to waving the white flag. Their next album Sever The Wicked Hand is scheduled to come out in February. Crowbar proved to me that they are still ready for war. The Crowbar minions that filled the Drunken Unicorn were mostly big beefy guys that looked like they could kick your ass or change your transmission –either way. The crowd chanted every word to every song and battled their way through a serious pit.
The show delivered me from my daily stresses. I forgot about the people who I owe money and explanations. I got lost in the music, I got lost in the sludge.
When the show ended I waited over by the merch area, and as I had hoped, I was able to meet Kirk. He graciously accepted my offer for a phone interview. It went a little something like this:
Rose Riot: Sever the Wicked Hand is about to come out, it sounds like you have been very thoughtful with its production, tell me about this.
Kirk Windstein: This album is extremely important to me. It's extremely important to Crowbar. We put 100 percent into it. I do that with anything I'm involved with.
You've called this album a "journey." What is the journey and what do you hope people take from it?
When I say "journey" I mean it should make you escape. It's very therapeutic to play and perform it. I want people to be able to escape the hassles of life.
A lot of people listen to uplifting feel-good music when they are down. I prefer heavy stuff, it makes me smile. What do you listen to when you are down?
I love the heavy stuff. I'm old-school. I'm 45 years old, haven't advanced too much into the modern stuff –Judas Priest, the bands that I grew up on, anything that will bring me back to a time when life was simple.
Ha-ha, no Karen Carpenter?
Ha-ha, uh no.
So you talk about music from when you were a kid, who was the turning-point band for you? You know, the band that made you go from being a normal kid, playing with toys to Kirk, future front man?
I always loved music. My first album was Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume I. I started playing piano; I wanted to learn Elton John. I was too young to realize I needed to keep playing… I got disinterested and started playing guitar. About ‘75 I heard KISS –that was it! That is when I decided I want to play music.
You play in three bands all together, Crowbar, Down and Kingdom of Sorrow. When you are done with the Crowbar tour, how long 'til you jump into something with one of your other bands?
I go to the UK with Crowbar for some shows in January then it looks like I might do a tour with Down starting in March. From there the possibilities are endless for summer. I'm gonna keep working hard and promoting my bands.
It sounds like you aren't really taking time off between bands.
Not much, Time off costs you money. Time off is a nice luxury, working is a necessity.
Why three bands?
The love of music, because I love different styles of music. Each band expresses a different part of my personality, they all satisfy me in a different way. I'd love to be in an electric blues band as well. I just don't have the time.
What are your thoughts on social networking as it applies to the music industry i.e. more outlets to reach people but more bands to compete with?
The problem is, it is so easy to social network, you gotta be creative and on top of your game. It ain't like it used to be. You gotta use every outlet possible –talking to the fans, meeting with the fans, chatting with them online.
Let's put it this way, when I was younger you had a demo, you got it out. Now days every single local band has a website a Facebook, a Twitter, a Myspace, a home recording thing, they have their own CDs and their own labels. Unfortunately, most of these bands aren't that good or original. It is important for Crowbar to keep shoveling it in your face!
If you could work with anyone, who would it be?
An incredible vocalist. Obviously, it would be impossible to work with Ronnie James Dio. So like a Dio or a [Rob] Halford or a David Coverdale even. It would be a dream to work with one of those once-in-a-generation voices. I do have the pleasure of working with Phil Anselmo in Down.
If you could go back in time and see any performance in history, what would you go see?
The Thin Lizzy Jailbreak Tour!
What do you think you would be doing in you weren't involved in music?
Something sports related. I mean, I'm never gonna be a pro athlete but maybe own a sports bar and grill. Anything I can do to work with people. Maybe even be a high school football coach.
I shoot a lot of indie wrestling; I could totally get you on the circuit!
Ha-ha, I can barely get out of bed in the morning!
It goes without saying that you have an amazing collection of rock tattoos. How many different bands are you representing?
Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, Down, Kiss, Iron Maiden. I like a lot of bands’ artwork. I don't regret any of them. Each one of the represents a time in my life.
When did you get your first one?
Who did it?
Fernie, a guy in New Orleans.
What was it?
A Motorhead thing. It has the saying, “Born To Lose.”
I've got kind of a weird one. I have the VH1 "That Metal Show" Logo on my chest. I had it done on the show by Paul Booth. You know, he won't do a logo or stencil work. He just did it right there on the show, it took 7 hours. Hurt like hell! I woke up the next day and was like, "Jesus Christ!"
What was your last piece?
Eddie from Iron Maiden, The Killers album cover, on my leg.
Who did it?
Do you have plans for more?
Absolutely! I've got some shitty ones on my upper shoulders. I'll probably get those covered up. My friend Ty does most of my stuff. My friend AJ (Haigh Keenan), who's a girl from the UK, she's done a couple of things on me. She’s really good. She's got that special ladies touch for certain things but she can also nail the hard stuff. I'm not sure what I want to get. When I figure that out, I'll work something out with either AJ or Ty.
Kirk and I could have talked about tattoos much longer. We made an agreement that he would send me some pictures of his chest and I would do a follow up with him when Sever The Wicked Hand comes out.
I used his imagery of being transported from reality when reviewing the show. No doubt in my mind that this upcoming album will do the same thing, just as he's intended.
(Rose Riot is a photographer in Atlanta and contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine)