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KIRK WINDSTEIN Talks CROWBAR's Zero And Below, New DOWN, New Solo Music & Uncrowned NOLA Metal Heroes

The dark lord of the southern riff rises!

CROWBAR 3 by Justin Reich
Photo by Justin Reich

Kirk Windstein, the dark lord of the southern riff, has quite the résumé across his three-plus decades of shepherding the downtrodden. Most notable in Windstein's career are his roles as frontman of Louisiana's Crowbar, once-again-member of the timeless supergroup Down, and now solo artist under his own name.

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Windstein sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into the new Crowbar record Zero And Below, his desire for more solo material, a potential covers EP with Down, marking anniversary milestones, the unsung heroes of New Orleans metal, and much more!

Man, it's cool that we're finally seeing this record come to fruition. It's been about six years since the last Crowbar record The Serpent Only Lies, right?

Yeah. November 1, 2016. Of course, our intention was to put Zero And Below out by the end of summer 2020. We're running almost two years behind, but I'm really glad that we decided to not force it and get it out there. [My manager said] "dude, don't put your record out if you can't get on tour and support it." He said "I know you're excited about it. It's a great record and all that shit. But sit on it and just write and keep yourself occupied or whatever. Do not put it out there and waste it. If you can't get behind it, it's going to get forgotten." And unfortunately, a lot of really good records were put out during the pandemic that I'm hoping bands can kind of relaunch. There's no reason not to.

KIRK WINDSTEIN Talks CROWBAR's Zero And Below, New DOWN, New Solo Music & Uncrowned NOLA Metal Heroes

We were leaving to go on tour with Sepultura and Sacred Reich, the same tour that we're about to embark on, and that day I got 23 boxes of merchandise delivered to our house, which is not a big house. Our whole den and eating area and everything was full of merchandise boxes waiting on the bandwagon bus to come back from Indianapolis, and we get the call that the country's pretty much gone into lockdown and there ain't no fucking way tours are happening.

For us, it's been… I wouldn't say hard, but it's been weird because including this record I'll have 19 albums out between Crowbar, Down, Kingdom Of Sorrow, and my one solo record. I put out my first record 31 years ago, which was Crowbar's Obedience Thru Suffering. So in 31 years of putting out records we've never had anything remotely close to this where it's like, "okay the record is done! Now we're going to wait two years." Fuck man, it's been crazy.

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If Zero And Below did hypothetically come out in 2020, that would have been four years between records. Was that gap because you guys were trying to get everything down and solidify your bassist situation? Because that's still a longer span of time for Crowbar between albums.

What happened was we kept getting really good tour offers, because we were submitted for every tour going out. "Hey guys, we got support for Carcass, we got support for Overkill on Metal Alliance, we got support for Suicidal Tendencies." And it's like, all these great tours just kept happening. I got to talking with Pepper Keenan and we did two tours with Corrosion Of Conformity, and both of those were 35-to-40 days long. Then we went to Europe with Crowbar in the summer of 2019 and did some festivals and shit, and then did another 35-40 day thing with Corrosion Of Conformity toward the end of the summer going into September 2019.

So after that, we took a week off or something and we started writing. But yeah, great tour offers just kept happening. We like to think we're a really good live band and we love playing live. That's really where the money is, performing and selling your merchandise. Of course we were itching to get writing because one of my biggest passions is writing riffs and writing songs, you know? But it was one of those things where the tour offers kept coming, so we kept doing it.

Comparing Zero And Below with your solo record from 2020 called Dream In Motion, this obviously had to have been a different beast in the recording process. A lot more back and forth and collaboration, as opposed to something that's solely your baby. 

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Yeah, the solo thing was me and Duane Simoneaux, who's Crowbar's producer and engineer. We just have a little built-in thing that works perfect. Duane's become one of my best friends. All of us are really tight with him. He's an awesome dude.

The solo thing, I want to keep doing it. I'm working on a second one right now and I'm, I'd say, 80-percent done with it. It's a situation where it's too much fun and it's too easy to do. There's no time schedule or a deadline or anything. It's like, "Duane, you busy next week?" and he's like "Oh, I got Wednesday and Thursday." "All right, I'll take it." And I'll write a song or something and we'll go in and track that, and I'll lay bass down on one of the other ones and whatnot. So we kind of have a built-in little thing that works. It's totally stress free. It's just me and him in the studio. There's no party, no drinking or anything.

I go in, we shoot the shit for 30 minutes or whatever while I'm tuning up. Then I show him my riffs and we kind of roll from there. Zero And Below is the fourth Crowbar record we've done with him, plus I did my first solo record with him, and now I'm doing the second solo record with him. So this is the sixth record that I'm doing with Duane. Our working relationship and the way we do things, it almost does it itself. You know, it's so simple. It's just fun. It's stress free and there's no reason not to do it. I love writing and making music.

I was going to ask if doing a solo record was just something you had to get out of your system, but clearly it's a project you're having fun with and enjoying doing.

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The initial like, "I've got to get this out of my system" was done with Dream In Motion. The solo project is something that if I'm not doing anything and Duane's not doing anything, instead of watching fucking TV, why don't I go create music, you know? I prefer to do that.

Our plan with Crowbar is, and we're keeping our fingers crossed, that when we return from the tour with Sepultura and Sacred Reich, we're going to start writing the next Crowbar record. We haven't written Crowbar in two years. We're itching to write new shit even though the new record's not out yet. It's a strange kind of mess. But you know what? It's all working out. It really is. I'll use Mr. Anselmo's song titles; I live by the idea that "yesterday don't mean shit." And I tell my wife that all the time. Look, you cannot press a button and go back and change what happened yesterday or last week or whatever. So I can't change this whole thing. All I can do is try to be positive and say, "you know, maybe we needed a break."

KIRK WINDSTEIN Talks CROWBAR's Zero And Below, New DOWN, New Solo Music & Uncrowned NOLA Metal Heroes
Justin Reich Photo

You mentioned Down before. I saw somewhere that you were discussing the idea of maybe doing a cover EP. Are there any designs on doing something like? Where it's a little more fun than going through the rigors of a full-length album?

Yeah and that's what we intend on doing. At one point for a good number of years, 2006 through 2013 for me, Down was my priority. And then when we parted ways I started doing Crowbar full time. They kept doing a little bit with Down, but then it kind of came to a halt. But yeah, doing a covers EP makes the most sense because there's no stress. We can pick some obscure tunes that we can turn into our own and we'll technically be putting out Down music without having to bang our heads against the wall.

And I mean, it's a difficult process writing and recording a Down record just because everyone writes. It's not like you got a main guy or whoever that does it. Everybody can write shit. A lot of times we have too many ideas and we don't know what the fuck to do, really. So I think the cover song EP thing is like a happy meeting point halfway. It's a happy medium of us being able to put out new music without the stress and everything of having to go into the studio and write and record it.

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I know you guys were prepping to do 25 years of NOLA and then there was 30 years of Crowbar. Has that kind of made you reminisce a bit? Or is it a case where there's so much stuff happening that you don't really have time to stop and smell the roses. 

I would say the latter. I don't really have time to stop and smell the roses. I don't even realize it and then somebody will post that this record came out 25 years ago and I'm like, "Jesus!" Last year was the 30th anniversary of Obedience Thru Suffering. And then coming up next year is the 30th anniversary of the self-titled. That would actually be pretty cool. We played, with one lineup or another over the years, everything off of the self-titled record, with the exception of the song "Holding Nothing," which was kind of a last minute addition. But I really like that song.

So you know it's possible, although I'm not the biggest fan of going and doing the whole so-and-so record live. The record is not that long. I mean, if we play an hour and 15 minutes set, we would have to play three or four songs, the whole fucking self-titled, and then another five songs or some shit. I don't want to tour with it like that, you know? I mean, I love the record and it's classic, and it put us on the map for sure.

Now we did do a lot of shit off of Broken Glass for the 20th anniversary. But it's fun. You know, with the addition of [bassist Shane Wesley] and doing live streams stuff and all, I think we're up to like twenty-seven songs that we can do with Crowbar. I won't say at any given time because we don't reference all of them that much, but we know them. They've been done either live or during a livestream, which is pretty cool. So we've added some new stuff into the setlist. Well not new, it's old. Stuff we haven't done in forever. It adds a little excitement to the list, you know?

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From your perspective of being there from the really early days of the New Orleans metal scene, is there a ground zero band that everyone looks at as a sorta Black Sabbath? Or maybe a band that doesn't get the recognition that scene that inspired others?

Oh, I would say the forgotten band – and I'm not talking about the version that put ou a record or two – but the forgotten band would probably be Graveyard Rodeo. Pepper Keenan actually used to be in it prior to joining Corrosion Of Conformity and doing the Blind record and all. But they were before any of us, and they were the first one to kind of bring in the the dark element, that quote "New Orleans sound." So yeah, I would say Graveyard Rodeo with the original lineup with Pepper are probably the forgotten band of the whole thing. But it wasn't the same at all. Before that they were probably the first band to kind of have a bit of the "New Orleans sound."

*Crowbar's Zero And Below drops March 4 via MNRK Heavy. Pre-orders are available here. The bands' tour with Sepultura, Sacred Reich, and Art Of Shock kicks off this March!

3/4 Ace Of Spades – Sacramento, CA
3/5 The Depot – Salt Lake City, UT*
3/6 Oriental Theater – Denver, CO*
3/8 Wildwood – Iowa City, IA
3/9 Varsity Theater – Minneapolis, MN
3/10 The Rave – Milwaukee, WI
3/11 Harpo's – Detroit, MI
3/12 The Forge – Joliet, IL*
3/13 Thunderbird Music Hall – Pittsburgh, PA*
3/15 Irving Plaza – New York, NY
3/16 Opera House – Toronto, ON
3/17 Corona Theater – Montreal, QC
3/18 Big Night Live – Boston, MA
3/19 Theatre Of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA
3/20 Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
3/21 House of Blues – Cleveland, OH
3/23 Blind Tiger – Greensboro, NC*
3/24 Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
3/25 Culture Room – Ft Lauderdale, FL
3/26 The Orpheum – Tampa, FL*
3/28 Southport Music Hall – New Orleans, LA*
3/29 Come and Take It Live – Austin, TX*
3/31 Diamond Ballroom – Oklahoma City, OK
4/1 Warehouse Live – Houston, TX
4/2 GMBG – Dallas, TX*
4/3 Rockhouse – El Paso, TX
4/5 The Nile Theater – Phoenix, AZ*
4/6 House of Blues – San Diego, CA
4/8 Belasco Theater – Los Angeles, CA
4/9 The UC Theatre – Berkeley, CA

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