Crowbar has an amazing career spanning nearly three decades. The sludge metal titans recently released their 11th studio album, The Serpent Only Lies, and are currently on the road with fellow NOLA natives, Goatwhore. We were lucky enough to catch guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein to talk about their current tour, the music industry, and their impressive history.
IMS: Your tour with Goatwhore and Lillake starts off today in Florida. What is something that you’re looking forward to this go around?
Kirk Windstein: We’ve known the Goatwhore guys forever. Especially Sammy who was in Crowbar 19 years ago. So we would like to go out with each other, hang out, catch up. Its three great bands so we’re just expecting fun times. It’s always a blessing and a fucking amazing thing to get up on stage and jam. So, that’s all good.
IMS: At this point, you’ve had quite a career: eleven full-lengths in 25 years with Crowbar, not to mention the great music you made with Down and Kingdom of Sorrow. Did you ever imagine that you’d still be making music with Crowbar at this point in your life?
KW: Yes and no. The quick answer would be no but my goal when I started playing music and especially when I started getting into underground music was never to get rich and famous or be a rock star or any of that kind of shit. I just wanted longevity. I wanted to do what I loved and make a living doing it. I’ve been able to do that. Who can ask for more than that? I would never trade my career for someone who has two or three hit records and are pretty much done now. For us it’s just been about the music. It’s not about the image obviously. It’s about the music and being down to earth and real. That’s the way I’ve always wanted my career to be and it’s exactly the way it is. I wouldn’t mind a little more money but I don’t need anything else. My wife is the tour manager so I’m able to travel the world with her and three of my great friends and play killer heavy music. So, no complaints on my part.
IMS: What do you think you’d be doing if Crowbar hadn’t found an audience? Did you have a backup plan if music didn’t pan out?
KW: Never had a backup plan. I think having a backup plan can lead you to throwing in the towel so to speak. When I decided not to go to college that was it. I was registered twice at New Orleans. Just as general studies. I thought about it. You can always go back to school at any time you want. But after high school I started working and buying gear. That’s when I really started getting into playing guitar. And I was like you know what, there is no backup plan. That way quitting is not an option.
IMS: Do you pay any attention to the New Orleans metal scene these days? Are there any young bands that are worth keeping an ear open for?
KW: Honestly, I’m not familiar with many of the newer bands out here even some of the local bands. We have good friends in Intrepid Bastards, Cain Resurrection and some other bands. If my wife and I go out its usually to a hole in the wall bar or go out in the afternoon and get home early. At least we try to anyways and so I don’t even get to see that many shows. I’m on tour half of my life so the last thing, unless it’s a band that I absolutely love, I want to do is go to a show. The thing in New Orleans is there are no laws on when you have to close up a venue. A lot of times a headlining band doesn’t go on until 12 or 1 in the morning. Especially in little clubs and jazz clubs the guys are paying ‘til sun up. Unfortunately I’m not really able to keep up with the newer, younger bands.
IMS: You haven’t been able to keep up with the younger bands but have you realized the metal scene changing at all? If so, what would you tell newer bands who want to be in the position that Crowbar is in?
KW: I don’t want to say its tougher these days to find success than it was when we were young because believe me, when we were young we didn’t have the advantages that a lot of bands today do with the technology, the Internet and social media. But for us it was like, you save up money, you make a demo and you hand it out to who ever you could possibly hand it out to and hope and pray for the best. And normally if your band was good enough you were still able to get at least an indie deal. Back in the late 80s and early 90s when Crowbar got signed to our first record deal, if it was a label with legitimate distribution throughout the United States and North America and had a license to distribute over in Europe and all over the world, a small indie label was still a good label. Nowadays because of the way things are with the record industry is completely different. Like I said, I don’t want to say it’s harder or tougher or easier these days but I just think the whole music industry in general is completely over saturated. Everybody has got a CD, everybody has a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, their own record label. I get CDs every night from a lot of bands. Some of them really good, some of them not so good. But you know, it is what it is. The one problem with the music scene is that it’s completely over saturated and maybe I’m old but when we were in their position we were so appreciative to be supporting a band. Even if it was a local band or even a regional act that wasn’t signed to a label we were still happy and still appreciative to be able to support the band and play for their crowd. But I mean nowadays local bands think the whole show is theirs. And it’s not their fault to have that attitude. 99 percent of them are like that. I just think it’s a problem with society today and the music industry in particular. It seems like our approach to everything back then was just a lot different. We really respected and appreciated the opportunity. I’m not saying they’re all like that and aren’t excited to play but some of them take advantage of the headlining bands or touring package. Bands that tour around the world should have a little more respect. That’s just my opinion and it’s no disrespect to any one band in particular and it’s really not everybody.
-Michael Mctarsney: How do you explain your longevity in a form of music that gets no attention from popular media and what is it like to get to play with Down as well as Crowbar?
KW: To me it’s a blessing in disguise. We do what we do. We’ve been putting out records for 25 years. Most people that listen to heavy music have at least heard our name but we just continue to tour, we continue to put out records and our philosophy has always been slow and steady wins the race. You know, a band like Motörhead is a perfect example. They stuck it out from 1975 until Lemmy passed away last year. You can definitely argue that Motörhead were bigger at the end than they’ve ever been in their whole career. Lemmy is an absolute icon in the history of rock n roll. And as far as being in Crowbar and Down, I haven’t been in Down since 2013 but I was in the band for 22 years so you know it was a fantastic experience of course. Then I got to taste a little bit more of the next level. Having Phil in the band and Rex for a good while as well. Which back then was an experience, no doubt about it. But now my life is Crowbar and I’m thrilled to be able to do what we do and make a living doing it.
-Criss Gordon: Is the Crowbar documentary/home video ever going to see the light of day?
KW: It’s possible. But if we do some kind of documentary I want it to be done differently. I don’t want to glorify partying because that’s not what its about. I mean if we were doing a documentary on Crowbar I want it to be a historical piece in a way. I’m such a music fan and I’ve read so many books by different artists over the years who have put out books. Some of them just like to glorify sex, drugs, rock n roll and the gossipy stuff. Its been done, we get it. I’m more interested in the real history of the band musically, what inspired you as a person, a young man or woman, to get into to music. But it’s definitely not out of the question to do some kind of documentary.
-Mike Vinson: In the current age of male beard care, how do you care for your legendary beard?
KW: I really don’t do anything. When I shower I shampoo it and that’s about it. Actually it’s all grey so I use Just For Men to put streaks in it. I used to dye it black and my wife was like, leave some grey in it, you’re 51 years old now. My quote about myself is, I cant grow hair on my head but I can surely grow it on my face. But I enjoy it. I can never really see myself without a beard. I started growing it in 2001. Of course I kept it short for a really long while and then in like 2008 ill just let it roll. I’ve got no hair so why not.
Want to check out Crowbar?:
Crowbar’s next Indy show will be tonight at the 5th Quarter. Cant make it to Indy? They will also be playing Wednesday, December 6 in Ft. Wayne at The Hub.
Indy show starts at 7 p.m.