TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
On the actual release date [February 8th, 2005] of Crowbar’s long awaited magnum opus, Lifesblood for the Downtrodden, which features founding guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein again teaming up with ex-Pantera/Down bassist Rex Brown and original Crowbar/current Black Label Society drummer Craig Nunenmacher, Tony Belcher caught up with the Crowbar main man before their Springfield, Virginia concert and discussed everything from current tour mates Entombed to Sade to Impaled Nazarene. That’s right, Sade and Impaled Nazarene were included in the same thought. Carry on, faithful reader….
[Boarding the Entombed/Crowbar tour bus] I appreciate it, Kirk.
Hey, no problem, Tony.
Knowing Crowbar’s history with record labels, how has Candlelight been thus far?
So far really good. I mean they’re doin’ a good job in America, and well, overseas also, and y’know, we took our time choosin’ what label we thought would be good.
Right, I remember reading all of the updates and you guys were done with the record for quite a while.
Yeah, it’s been done for a long time. I just felt that they gave us the best opportunity to go to the next level and they’ve been real enthusiastic about it, which was the big, the important thing, y’know. So far so good, y’know?
Keep my fingers crossed, say my prayers, and it seems cool.
Has it just been miles ahead of Pavement and Spitfire?
Oh, yeah. It’s way better than that. Y’know, that pretty much sucked.
Was that the root of the problem on the Brothers of Brewtality tour [in 2000]? ‘Cause when I got to the venue I saw BLS but Crowbar and Sixty Watt Shaman were nowhere to be found and there was no mention of this absence beforehand. Was Spitfire to blame?
No, what had happened is, basically, the booking agent for Zakk basically, for BLS at the time, was just booking us into these really stupid places and just cuttin’ back [the money]. I mean, he would look at the list and it’d be five or six days… It’s like next week there’s not even anything booked.
Because the money we would get was so little, when we did pass through New Orleans I called the guy from Spitfire and I just said, “Look, dude. We’re wastin’ too much money and the shows are suckin’ because the guy is bookin’ the shit fuckin’ two weeks out instead of fuckin’ eight weeks out.”
So no real press or promo…
Right. It was nothing. It’s just not -- ultimately it’s my money, but at the time it was still [Spitfire’s] money. [I said to Spitfire:] “And I really think since we’re already home, the best thing to do is just drop it, there’s only a week left or whatever, let’s just fuckin’ cut our losses where we’re at,” y’know?
Right on. Let’s get back to the new record…. How long did writing and recording Lifesblood for the Downtrodden take?
Uh, the writing was only about two months, maybe, and recording -- we went in the last day of July, I think, or right around the very last day of July of ’03 and we got out around the first of September. It was about a month to record. And writing, like I say, it took about two months, so it was like a three month pretty much non-stop process.
How was that working with Rex and Craig? Old buddies of yours….
It sucked! Nah, just kidding. Haha. It was great. Y’know, both of ‘em have been friends of mine for quite some time. Y’know, since the Down thing, me and Rex really became like best friends, pretty much, and he’s one of my best friends on earth, so I talked to him [a lot] at the time, especially. I was talkin’ to him, like we’d call each other up three or four times a day [and say] “What’s up mother fucker? Whatcha doin’ today?” Y’know, so, it was [another] situation where, uh, I happened to be talkin’ to Craig one day and he said “Well, whatcha up to bro? What’s been goin’ on?”
And he was hangin’ out in New Orleans?
Yeah, ‘cause Zakk was out doin’ the Ozzy gig. [Craig] said “I’m back in New Orleans” – he doesn’t live there any more he’s got a baby and lives up in Kentucky with his wife, and…
Oh, yeah. Hahaha. He said “Man, I’m in New Orleans. What’s been goin’ on?” I said “Ah, nothin’ man, I’m gettin’ ready to work on some riffs for a new Crowbar [record]. What are you doin’?” He said “Well, who’s playin’ drums?” And I said “Nobody.” And he said…
Sign me up?
Yeah, he said “Well, how’s about me come on in?” And I said “Fuckin’ sure!” Same thing with Rex, man. He said “What’s up, old man?” And I said “Nothin’ much there, Ray-hoss.” And I said “I’m workin’ on this new Crowbar [record] and Craig’s playin’ drums for me and we’re gonna do this new Crowbar record.” [Rex said] “Well why don’t you boys make me a fuckin’ demo and send it down?” So we did that, sent it down to him, and he jumped in his truck and cranked it up and about three or four songs into it he stopped it, came and called up and said “It kicks ass.” He said “I’d love to do it.”
Sweet. Today’s your official release date [February 8, 2005] so I’ve only gotten to listen to a couple of songs online -- “Angels Wings” and “Dead Sun” -- but they’ve got that traditional Crowbar sound. You can’t deny that groove. Do you use a specific tuning or setup to get that groove?
The groove? The groove, the feel is from the heart, y’know, of course. I mean, it’s like, tones and everything, I’ve been using the same rig, which I’m usin’ tonight, that I have for…
Yeah. There’s no tricks, it ain’t no effects, it ain’t no shit. It’s just [that] I got my own tone. That’s been it.
That “Kirk sound”?
Yeah. And it’s kind of the Crowbar signature tone, y’know.
I mean, you put on a record, y’know, and anybody knows it’s Crowbar.
Right. As soon as you start. [They might say] “I don’t know what the fuck they’re doin’” [to get that sound but] they pretty much know it’s Crowbar, so….
The one thing that sounded different on those two songs I did hear was that Rex -- to me it sounded like, y’know, it’s got that holdover vibe from Down II…
Just that massive bass tone.
Oh, yeah. And the thing is, he didn’t even really learn the songs before we recorded ‘em. It was more or less like, I went ahead and did -- y’know, I did a scratch track for Craig to do the drums and I did all the guitars except for harmonies and stuff, and then Rex kinda went “Okay, let’s hear this song. This one here, let’s check it out….”
Yeah, I showed him what I was doin’ and he kinda just went for it. So, it’s cool because he’s not just following the guitar, y’know?
He’s doin’ bass lines for the songs which is kind of a first for Crowbar, really. So it’s cool. It adds a lot to it, y’know?
Right on. Well, I got a bit of a lineup question for you. Obviously you’ve got your buddies on the new record, and have had a lot of different Sons of N’awlins on previous Crowbar records. Is it just cool in New Orleans? I mean, is everybody down with everybody else, like friends or brothers?
Yeah, totally. Totally.
Currently you’ve got Steve…
Formerly of Black Label [Society] and Pat [Bruders] from…
And then your boy from Soilent [Green], Tommy [Buckley]…
Yeah, yeah. Y’see, I’ve been knowin’ ‘em all for years and it’s like, when Pat doesn’t play in Goatwhore anymore and Steve doesn’t have anything else goin’ on, and I’ve been workin’ at the studio, y’know, so it’s like me, him and Pat, this is our only focus. And we got Tommy, of course, y’know, splittin’ it with Soilent Green which is his thing, big time, too…
But everybody is a dedicated 100% member of the band now, and uh, we just try to juggle the schedules with Soilent [Green] and I don’t think that’ll be too difficult to just juggle schedules with one other band.
In the past I’ve had like, three other bands and y’know, it’s been fuckin’ ridiculous at times!
Absolutely. Now I’ve got a question about how Crowbar are able tour with everyone from Suffocation to Type O [Negative] to Hatebreed to White Zombie -- I mean, you pretty mention Metal and you guys can run the gamut. Is that just a testament to Crowbar’s crossover appeal?
I mean, yeah, most of the tours we’ve gotten is through from being friends with people. I mean we would like to consider ourselves to be pretty nice guys….
Or whatever and we get along with everybody. I think it’s good that we… have our own sound, which is Crowbar. We don’t fit into, like a genre, y’know? We’re not Black Metal, Death Metal, Doom Metal, whatever. We’re a little Hardcore, we’re a little bit of everything…
Right. A good mix to have.
Yeah, I think we’re able to, y’know cross into being able to tour on packages and stuff, and bein’ able to tour with bands that are different, y’know, than we are…
But are still Metal.
Yeah, we kind of run the gamut of being able to fit in with everything, I think.
Somewhat related to that, I’ve been to plenty of Death Metal shows and I’ve seen that the fans aren’t exactly friendly [to bands that aren’t Death Metal]. How has that been, is it cool?
Yeah, I mean, some of ‘em are sittin’ there like dicks because we’re not Death Metal but for the most part it’s cool, y’know? I mean, [seeing guys that aren’t into what we do,] it makes me want to work that much harder to fuckin’ show ‘em that we do smoke and kick ass, y’know? I mean, it’s been cool. It has not been a problem to cross into playin’ with different styles of music. It’s been very cool.
Well how has it been touring with Entombed and Pro-Pain so far?
We know both of those bands. We’ve toured with Entombed…
Weren’t you in Europe with them before?
Yeah, we did some festivals, like eastern [European] festivals, maybe 10 shows with them, so we knew ‘em, y’know. And we decided to share a bus with them because we know the band, they know our band, and plus they’re really cool guys. And actually, you know, they’ve kind of changed a little bit over the years…
So it kind of fits, more similar to what we do now, instead of the older, more Death Metal type thing.
More straight up Death Metal?
Yeah. So it’s cool.
So you’re hittin’ Europe after the U.S. tour – with Hatebreed, right?
Yeah, Hatebreed in England for 10 or 11 shows and then we’re doin’ some headlining stuff, y’know, which should be cool.
You got any ideal bands you might want to tour with? I mean, Corrosion [of Conformity] is supposed to come out with something new in, what, a couple of months?
Yeah, I talked with Pep [Pepper Keenan] the other day so, hopefully we might be able to sneak in and do some COC shows.
He doesn’t like to tour with anything too heavy, really, but at the same time I’ve talked to him about it. I’m like, y’know, Crowbar is not just a regular type of band. There’s a lot more to it…
Right. You’ve got melody, you’ve got harmonies…
Yeah, especially when you hear the whole new record, you’ll see it’s really a big progression forward, a big step forward, and he likes the new record -- a lot. He’s really not been a [big Crowbar fan], he’s been more like “It’s cool for what it is” I mean, but he’s really been into [the new one], so, y’know, man I’d love to go and do somethin’. So hopefully we can fuckin’ do somethin’.
Cool. [Switchin’ gears a bit], got any skeletons in the closet as far as bands you listen to? I mean, sometimes on the bus you hear stories…. Like one of the guys from Immolation says he listens to Linkin Park, for cryin’ out loud!
I don’t listen to any of that kind of shit…
But I am a big fan of shit like Seal and Sade, and uh…
A good song is a good song.
Exactly. And like I tell people, you know, I try to improve my vocals and everything, and you don’t learn how to sing by listening to Impaled Nazarene….
…Even though I’m a fan of them, you know?
You need to listen to fuckin’ Seal or Sade. Fuckin’ brilliant productions, brilliant musicianship. And it’s got that, y’know, that just, breathy aura about the whole thing that’s really cool. I mean, those are two of my favorites. I also listen to a lot of, uh, I’m like a closet 70s soft rock [fan].
Uh-oh! Like AOR? [Note: AOR stands for Album Oriented Rock, which originated on the radio in the 70s where a hit single was not the only song that got played off a record; (AOR has also been taken to mean Album Oriented Radio). Today this type of music gets called Classic Rock or Arena Rock.]
Yeah! Not only am I, like, a fan, I’m like the expert. On the Down tours we would do…
You got your UFO right there [pointing to Kirk’s UFO shirt].
Oh, yeah. But I’m talkin’ about, like, y’know, fuckin’ [Kirk breaks into high pitched singing voice]: “She’s just sixteen years old…” [Note: these are lyrics to “Into the Night,” a song Benny Mardones released in 1980.] and that kind of song. I mean, I like all the 70s soft rock shit, and pretty much everybody’ll… we’d have contests, like, “Can anybody stump the old man with this song?” [Note: “old man” was said in reference to himself.]
So we had a thing where’d we put it on some, like, classic 70s soft rock, satellite station and Pepper’d put duct tape across the bottom of the screen so we couldn’t see the artist…
But you knew all the songs?
I had to turn my back to it and I’d listen to it and they’d bet money on if I could guess who it was or not. I mean, I love that shit. It’s good songs. I just like music, man.
Y’know, if it’s fuckin’ good music, I love it.
A good song is a good song.
Well, you got any influences besides the obvious? I mean we all worship at the altar of Black Sabbath, but beyond that…
Yeah, I mean, y’know besides Sabbath, [Saint] Vitus and [The] Obsessessed, I mean, you got Wino [Scott Weinrich], and then, uh, I mean early Carnivore, early Melvins, uh…
[Tour manager/sound guy?]: Rose Tattoo?
Rose Tattoo… but in another way. It’s an influence but not so much in Crowbar.
For Crowbar’s sound, I think that, in the beginning the two most important bands that influenced me, other than Sabbath, were probably, like, The Melvins and Carnivore at the time, the Retaliation record because it was a good blend of crossin’ over slow, sick-ass parts with the Hardcore stuff and that was kinda like…
Still kinda new at that point…
Exactly -- big time, you know. So that’s kinda what we say were like our two biggest, early influences, I believe.
That’s cool. Well, do you have a favorite record? A favorite Crowbar record, I should say -- besides the new one? Everybody always picks the new one….
No, they do, but I’ll say this in my defense. I have had a year and a half to listen to the new one.
Y’know, it’s not like we just recorded it and it just came out, and I’m like [in annoying, promo-guy voice]: “Yeah, I like the new one!” I’m not tryin’ to [just] promote it, I mean I’ve had a chance to analyze this mother fucker, upside down, inside out, backwards, whatever. And I think it’s -- when you hear the whole thing, I think it’s the best piece of work that I’ve done.
Y’know, from song one to song eleven and each track [in between] stands out on its own. Other than that, my favorite record is probably Odd Fellows Rest.
Well, aside from Odd Fellows Rest, mine is probably the self-titled [debut record].
Of course that one’s always gonna be special….
In particular, “I Have Failed” helped me through some pretty tough times over a decade or so ago.
Cool, man, cool.
Well, do you have a favorite place to tour?
Uh, Europe -- probably Germany in particular.
Is it partially the beer country that draws you? Hahaha.
Ah, the beer is good. Haha. It’s like, the cool thing is, though, in Europe, and especially in Germany, you know, the fans, if they liked you back on the self-titled or whatnot, they still like ya, y’know? In America, it’s…
Yeah. And they’re not like that over there. I mean, it’s like you could still -- y’know, it’s the second biggest market in the world and there’s bands like Saxon and shit like that that still fuckin’ do good over there…
Denim and Leather.
Yeah! And they couldn’t draw flies over here, you know, and they still do good over there. So it’s not only the recordings.… [Kirk’s cell phone rings.] Private number. Excuse me one second.
Are there any new bands out there that float your boat, anything you see that’s….
Actually, I like [current tour openers] The Mighty Nimbus quite a bit, man, from what I’ve heard. [Note: I pulled Kirk away from watching TMN to do this interview, though I doubt this was a jab directed at me.]
Your boy’s got on that Vitus cap, you know… [Note: One of the guitarists from TMN was wearing a cap bearing the very recognizable St. Vitus logo.]
Oh, yeah. [Kirk pulls up his sleeve proudly displaying his tattoo of the St. Vitus logo.]
Yeah. You can hear it in their sound.
Yeah, if you’re into the Vitus, you’re cool. But no, I mean, y’know, for a new band, this is their first record, I believe, so, I think this is probably my favorite thing right now for a brand new band with their first record….
They’re also on Candlelight Records, right?
Yeah. It’s a package tour.
Cool. I have a question about Metal in general. Got any broad stroke statements about strengths and weaknesses of the genre and how your band stays to the strengths?
You know, I mean, we just always do our own thing. There’s like, a new wave of American Metal, or whatever, that’s comin’ out, which I like a lot of the bands, a lot of ‘em are really cool. But we’re just always, Crowbar, and that’s that. Don’t change, you know? We’re in our own genre and we probably always will be in our own genre….
Nothin’ wrong with that.
That can be a positive thing from an artistic side of things, but it can be a negative thing, from, like, the popularity side of things, because, you know, if we sounded like all the other, whatever… I mean we’ve made it through -- survived through…
Yeah, like every trend. Y’know, when we first started, it was, like, Thrash, and then you had Death, and then you had Black Metal, and you had Nü-Metal, and you had Stoner or whatever, and now you’ve got this new….
New Wave of American Heavy Metal [NWOAHM]….
Yeah, which is basically Power Metal type stuff, which is cool, a lot of the bands are very good, but we’ve been able to survive that, or it looks like we’ll be able to survive that…
So, y’know, we just wanna be Crowbar. That’s all we want to do.
Cool. I gotta ask about that 800 pound gorilla.... I read somethin’ where you said you were working on a Dime tattoo. You got that thing done yet?
Nah, I ain’t got that one. I got one, but this is just a little joke tat. “Get Bombed,” I dunno, haha.
A silhouette of Dime drinkin’ back a Coors Light, got on a guitar -- y’know, which is just like a friendship tattoo, or whatever. But uh, I might get somethin’ in memory of Boss. Not yet, but, uh, [sometime]….
Cool. Well, that’s it for the interview. I’ve been waitin’ to see you guys live for quite a while and I’m definitely lookin’ forward to it.
I appreciate it, Kirk.
Very nice to meet you, Tony.
During the concert that night, and undoubtedly others on this tour, Kirk dedicated “All I Had I Gave” to Dimebag. \m/ Check out Crowbar’s new record, Lifesblood for the Downtrodden, and see ‘em on tour if you can. This is one band that is in it for the long haul.
Special thanks go to the official Crowbar forum/website manager Brandon Shock who really bailed me out on this interview. When Kirk walked into the venue to check out The Mighty Nimbus, I walked up to him, put my hand on his shoulder and showed him a piece of paper (since hearing would be difficult) that read "Interview -- got time? Brandon said to find you and you'd know who I was.” It worked out and the rest is history….
Links of interest:
Candlelight Records USA
Manic Music Online