Kirk Windstein Never Felt Tempted to Tinker With Finished Crowbar Album Amid Pandemic Downtime
Zero and Below, out March 4 on MNRK Heavy, is the 12th full length from Crowbar and one the band has been sitting on for quite a while. The record was finished by February of 2020, but the pandemic put the best laid plans to waste, as was the case for just about every band on the planet around that time.
Despite having all this extra time to sit on the album, Windstein never felt compelled to tinker with his work or make any changes. With repeat listens, he found that the material was the best it could be and that there was no need to go back and mess around with the successor to 2016's The Serpent Only Lies.
He also touched on the livestream celebration of Down's 1995 debut, NOLA, and the significance of that release.
Read the full interview below.
Which was more important with this album, maintaining consistency or incorporating something abstract?
A little bit of both. One of the biggest things I think is missing on the last two was just the way we transitioned from one part to another. We used to really hammer it out and figure out something creative to get from one riff to the next. I think we were able to accomplish that on this one.
I wanted to bring in the element of doom a lot more. If you've got doom riffs that are kind of melodic, it helps and it kind of lends itself to more melodic vocals. I think we accomplished that as well.
It's just been tough because this record was completed in February of 2020 and we were all set to go on tour and — boom — everything shut down. So, we've been sitting on this record for two years and we're so excited to get it out. We're really proud of it.
What goes through your mind in terms of considering whether or not to tinker with music that's already complete when it's been done for a while?
During the end of the pandemic where I literally went to the grocery store and that was it, I started listening to the album often. I'd just go sit in the car by myself and crank up the stereo and pop a CD in. I really kind of analyzed it all again and at the end of the day I said, "I love it just the way it is."
We did have the capability of going in and changing things if we didn't like it, but we all felt we accomplished what we set out to do and it's a really strong record. Fortunately, we didn't change anything and even today I just listened to it this morning on headphones andI just love it. There's absolutely nothing I would change.
People associate Crowbar with guitar riffs and the sound of your voice, but lyrics are integral to your music too. As a lyricist, what are your strengths, especially on the new album?
The first single and video, "Chemical Godz," it's kind of obvious by the title alone that you know what that's about.
But, for the most part, a lot of times I just write down thoughts and I write a lot in metaphors. For me, it might mean one thing and it might mean something else to the listener.
At the end of the day, pretty much every gig I play, someone comes up and tells me, "Your music and your lyrics really help me through a rough time in my life." It's very therapeutic for me. The fact that you can be a helping someone else out by something you created is a really cool thing. I think it's really important that they get something positive out of it.
Crowbar, "Chemical Godz" Music Video
There are two sides to being a musician — pursuing it as a career and doing it for fun. What's the most important thing you've learned about coinciding those different perspectives?
Over the course of my career, I do this for a living. This will be my 19th record — 12 with Crowbar, four with Down, two with Kingdom of Sorrow and one solo.
Although times get tough sometimes, I have been lucky enough and blessed enough to be able to make this my job. I just found out early on how cutthroat and how difficult the business is. Lately, it seems things have changed and not for the better as far as people buying records and things like that. The new dawn of vinyl is really helping things out.
Any vinyl that you purchase from Crowbar has a free digital download in it as well, so you can have the actual physical product and still do a digital download for the music. It's a tough business.
People a lot of times ask if I have advice for younger bands starting out in the music industry and the main thing that still stands is you really really, really, really have to want this and you really have got to work as hard as possible because it's a lot tougher than you think once you jump into the fire.
I've never thought of giving up and that's a really important thing, but there were many times when things were at a low and it's scary when it gets like that. Fortunately, things are great right now, so I kind of live in the day and and look toward the future. I don't really think about the past much. It's healthier for me, at least mentally to just be the best I can be and accomplish what I can do today. Then I worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.
The pandemic sidelined any full celebration of the anniversary of the first Down album. Why is it important to eventually commemorate NOLA?
It's just such a classic record. We were able at least to do the livestream, which was a huge success. It's an iconic record and it deserves to be celebrated. It's always been the majority of our set. Even when we were on tour supporting newer records, we'd still incorporate the majority of the NOLA record into it. It's actually certified gold finally, after a million years, but I'll take it.
It seems to be very influential. There's nothing else that really sounded like it then or it sounds like it now you know. Down are a really powerful band and a different experience altogether from everything else that all us dudes do. We feel how important it is to when we get the feedback from fans. We'd love to celebrate the release of that, which was 27 years ago and going on, but there's nothing we can do about that [timeline]. We can still celebrate the music of NOLA and play it live and incorporate some of the other records as well.
Thanks to Kirk Windstein for the interview. Get your copy of Crowbar's new album 'Zero and Below' here and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.