Terrorizer Speak To Crowbar Ahead Of European Tour

By on 12 June 2014

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With Crowbar travelling across Europe in support of their new album, ‘Symmetry In Black’, (including a little visit to Hellfest next weekend, and Bloodstock this August), we sent Joy Shannon to ask frontman Kirk Windstein a few questions…

With ‘Symmetry In Black’, just released at the end of May, American sludge masters Crowbar continue their twenty-five year legacy of pioneering a distinctive sound that melds doom and hardcore riffs. Crowbar singer and guitarist Kirk Windstein has been an icon of the metal community for over half his life, also playing in the metal supergroup Down (who originally formed in 1991 with vocalist Phil Anselmo of Pantera, guitarist Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, drummer Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod and bassist Todd Strange, also from Crowbar).

‘Symmetry In Black’is Crowbar’s first album since Windstein made the decision in 2013 to part ways with Down, in order to focus solely on Crowbar. The move has musically paid off, as Crowbar delivers what Windstein aptly calls their “most diverse but most cohesive record”, varied in tempo and texture and richly produced to showcase a warmth in the heavy guitars, powerful drums and Windstein’s weathered vocals.

Over the past couple of weeks, the album has been consistently well-received across the metal community – often being hailed as one of their best – and, rightfully so. The album sounds like a triumph after a long, weary and determined battle, which songwriter Windstein said “kind of captures everything” he’s wanted musically up to this point. Even deeper than this, the album feels like it may also capture some profound personal triumphs for Windstein, alongside showcasing further mastery of what he has been working on as a songwriter, lyricist and guitarist for “over half” his life.

Terrorizer caught up with Windstein at the Scion Fest in Pomona, California, prior to the band’s departure for their current tour of European festivals including Hellfest in France, Resurrection Fest in Spain and the UK’s own Bloodstock Festival. Windstein spoke with us about the recording of the new album, his departure from Down and the resulting profound shift in his life.

WORDS: Joy Shannon

IMG_8017What was the primary reason behind your decision to part with Down and focus solely on Crowbar?
Kirk: “Basically for me, I just kind of simplified my life. I had so much going on with Crowbar and with Down, mainly, and – whenever I could – with Kingdom of Sorrow, and it just got to be too much with family as well. Now, my wife works with us and I can travel with her. Now I am in control of my own life. I can book and decide when we’re going to play, where we’re going to play, and how long we’re going to play. Basically, I am in control of my life, when before I was spinning out of control. I just took on too much for one guy to handle, really, with trying to have a family at home as well. So this works out great for all of us. Crowbar is my baby anyway. For me, I am glad to be focusing just on that.”

Can you tell us a bit about your new album?
Kirk: “The new record comes out on May 27 on E1 Records here (in the US) and Century Media in the rest of the world. It’s called ‘Symmetry in Black’ and it’s basically Crowbar, 25 years later. I just tell people, it’s what you expect out of Crowbar, it’s just a little more diverse. It has some of our slowest songs, our fastest songs, our most melodic stuff and even has an acoustic song. It’s our most diverse but most cohesive record, really. It’s 12 tracks and we are really excited and proud of it and we can’t wait for it to come out.”

Is there a concept behind it lyrically or musically?
Kirk: “For me lyrically, I just start writing whatever is on my mind and then I fine tune it from there. So I didn’t really approach lyrics any different than how I did in the past. This is the 10th full-length record, so… we just knew it had to be killer, because there’s only Crowbar now. So I told our engineer and the other guys in the band, “Good is not acceptable, everything has to be great.” So we were really, really pushing ourselves to get our best performances and the best production.”

In the studio, how do you know when it is your best performance?
Kirk: “We’re old school guys, so we don’t want it to be a machine, we want it to be human. So we’re not striving for perfection, but if it feels right, it is right. And that’s kind of how we’ve always done it with Crowbar. Nowadays, it’s so easy with Protools and technology to make it sound perfect, but we try to avoid that and we try to do real takes and just overdub or punch in when we have to. We want it to be organic in the sense that, even though we’re using modern technology, we still play what you hear.”

Was it a goal to capture the energy of your live shows on this album?
Kirk: “The studio is such a different monster. We wanted the energy of the live feel and the playing of the studio. Everyone makes mistakes live but that’s part of (playing) live… You’re aggressive, you’re getting into it, you’re jamming, you know. So we did try to approach everything aggressively, with a lot of vibe and feel and emotion, but at the same time we kept in mind that we were in the studio. The good thing in the studio is, if you do go for something and you fuck up, you can fix it… where live, it’s done, it’s too late. We went for the energy and emotion of the live show.”

You’ve been putting music out for about 25 years…
“Over half my life.”

Do you feel like this album captures anything that you’ve been seeking to capture musically since you started writing?
Kirk: “It kind of captures everything. I started Crowbar 25 years ago and I am 49 now, so that’s a little more than half my life. It captures everything that I’ve wanted to do, but really everything I’ve ever done does. It was my dream and I was determined when I was a teenager that I was going to have success – no matter how fucking hard it is, no matter how long it takes – in the music industry… somehow, come hell or high water. There’s been plenty of ups and plenty of downs. But I’m lucky that I am here where I am today. I am very blessed.”

Well you have a lot of fans who are very happy you made the choice to do your music. Is there anything you wished that you knew when you were young that you know now?
Kirk: “I could say there’s a ton. I am kind of the no regrets kind of guy. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I wouldn’t have learned through the mistakes that I made. Sure, if I had a chance to do things differently, I am sure I would. But in reality I have no regrets, I survived it by the grace of God and I am here and happy about that.”

Do you have any advice for any younger musicians?
Kirk: “Just make sure that you really want to do this, because the record industry is a really tough, cut-throat business. It’s so much different today than when I started out. There’s so much competition – there really is. It’s difficult, but if you have enough perseverance and you’re good at what you do, sooner or later, it’ll come your way. I mean, it took me 25 years to get to where I am today. That’s a long time.”

What really impresses me about where you’re at today is how grounded you are with your family as your priority. Some musicians don’t have that and they can get lost and into drugs or self-destructive because of that.
Kirk: “Yeah, and that happened to me a little bit. I had to quit drinking for a while. Really, a lot of my decision with parting with Down… because it was a mutual thing… I mean, they could see it coming, I could see it coming… It was really just so I could have control of my life and have the best of both worlds. I feel like I have worked long enough and hard enough, where I deserve to have my family and be with them. At home, I’m husband, I’m dad, I’m step-dad, I’m grandpa… all the nine-yards. So it’s great, I get to do that and when I am on the road, I get to be Kirk, the singer and guitar-riff guy from Crowbar.”

Crowbar play the following European dates:

05.04.2014 München – Backstage, Germany
06.04.2014 Roma – Traffic Live Club, Italy
07.04.2014 Milano – Lo Fi Club, Italy
08.04.2014 Aarau -Kiff, Switzerland
09.04.2014 Weinheim – Café Central, Germany
10.04.2014 Tilburg – Roadburn Festival, Netherlands
11.04.2014 Cambrai – Betizfestival, France
12.04.2014 Durbuy – Durbuy Rock Festival, Belgium
13.04.2014 Köln -Underground, Germany
22.06.2014 Clisson – Hellfest, France
31.07.2014 Vivero – Resurrection Fest
06.08.2014 Jaroměř-Josefov – Brutal Assault, Czech Republic
07.08.2014 Catton – Bloodstock Festival, UK

You can find Crowbar on Facebook.

About Kez Whelan

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