kirk windsteinKirk Windstein is one of metal’s busiest men; between his three bands — Crowbar, Down and Kingdom of Sorrow — dude’s got his hands full churning out down-tuned, gut-rumbling bad-assery constantly, and according to him that’s just the way he likes it. Unfortunately for Kirk his alcohol abuse problem forced him to take a break this summer as he sat out Kingdom of Sorrow’s 7-date Ozzfest tour to get healthy and sober.

Kirk’s recovery was the first topic we tackled in my phone interview with him last week; it turns out that Kirk did not enter rehab as reported but decided to lay off the booze on his own volition with the help of AA meetings and the assistance of his many bandmembers that’ve been through the process already. As of the day we chatted he was 48 days sober, sounding optimistic and energized about the prospect of turning himself around. We also chatted about all three of his bands, naturally: Kingdom of Sorrow are working on putting together a U.K. tour; Kirk was on his way to jam with Pepper Keenan on new material later that same day, and the band’s DVD chronicling their 2006 reunion run will finally see the light of day tomorrow; and last but certainly not least, Crowbar have a brand new record coming out soon through E1, and a live CD to follow closely after on Phil Anselmo’s Housecore label. Kirk also shed a little light (I said “a little”) on the reasons behind the Down DVD’s many delays, and shared his thoughts on the pride he feels when Crowbar are cited as an influence by today’s young metal bands.

Read the interview after the hop and skip.

I guess first thing’s first, man: how are you? I know you’ve been to rehab recently. Is that something that you’re still involved in?

It’s actually not rehab. I’m in AA and attending meetings. Today is the 48th day, so I’m feeling good, man.

Congratulations. That’s great. Was this something that you were coming to terms with for awhile?

Thank you. It’s all good. Yeah, totally, it’s been difficult. It’s one of those things when I’m at home I’m fine. I play in three bands, and this past summer was overkill. I went to Europe four times between the beginning of April and the end of July: twice with Crowbar and twice with Down. I had other problems in the past — cocaine and whatever. That hasn’t been an issue for over a year, thank god. Little by little, when I’m at home everything is fine. I might drink some beer at night, but I don’t get drunk or anything. I go to the gym, workout, I’m on a schedule and everything’s cool. If I don’t have the responsibility of a gig everyday, I end up (out of boredom and loneliness) drinking to pass the boredom basically. It got to be too much, man. This has got to stop. You know?

kirk windsteinWas that [a decision] that you came to on your own?

It’s been coming for awhile. People around me over the years have either gotten their shit together or died. I didn’t want to be on the latter group of the two.


I always tell myself “if I drove a forklift at Home Depot, I’d be fine.” But being surrounded by it 24/7 basically, it’s a difficult thing. It just didn’t work for me health wise, performance wise. It just got to be too much, man. My health and my performance (whether I’m on tour or in the studio or whatever) definitely take precedence over drinking.

Are you concerned at all about what’s going to happen when you go back on the road or are you pretty resolute in your sobriety?

No, well it’s difficult because I’m off of the “pink cloud” as they call it in AA. It’ll be 7 weeks tomorrow since I’ve had a drink. I’m looking forward to touring again really. Things will be different. I’ve talked to enough friends who are sober (and a lot of them have been for a long time). It’s just a matter of changing your routine. It’s something that you don’t set out to do. I set out to drink beer and have fun and play music, and it ends up that if you don’t watch it — over the course of years of doing it — it ends up to where you find yourself being physically addicted to it where you need a fucking drink to stop from shaking so you can play the guitar.

I’m looking forward to getting back to it. It didn’t start out this way. It started out for the love of music, and that’s the way, thinking with a clear head, it’s kind of gone back to that. That’s how I’m thinking right now. Will I ever drink again? I don’t even think about that. That’s at least one main thing that I’ve learned from going to meetings. It’s why they take it one day at a time: you don’t worry about tomorrow or next month or when the next tour begins or whatever. You worry about getting through today. Fortunately for me, I have a busy day with Crowbar in the studio tonight doing more guitar stuff. That’ll keep me busy all night. I’ll be all good for another day. [Laughs]

Obviously throughout your three bands you’ve got good friends and band mates that I’m sure have gone through this. Is that something that you’ve talked with them about at all?

Yeah, totally. I’ve talked to Rex [Brown, Down bassist] about it because he’s dealt with a lot of problems himself. There’s not a person in any of my bands that hasn’t experienced it from time to time with the exception of Nicky and Charlie from Kingdom of Sorrow (the drummer and guitar player); they’ve never had a drink or tried a drug in their life. Everyone else in my bands, in Down and Jamey from Kingdom and the guys in Crowbar, have all at times had issues with stuff. Every person is different, and it’s a matter of keeping yourself healthy and not letting it get out of control. For me, it got out of control. Would I be a fool and a liar to sit here and say that I don’t think about it? It’s a normal thing to always think that you can control it. That’s what the battle of it is. It’s like “okay, I’m home. I’m detoxed. I get it. I’m in the right headspace. I’m physically and mentally in the right place and headed in the right direction.” It’s a matter of you realizing that you doing what you need to do is basically what it comes down to.

kirk windsteinWell, congratulations.

Cool, man. Thank you. Don’t congratulate me too soon. You can fall off every day. I found that out through meetings. Seriously, though, it’s one of them things, man. There are people who go 10 years sober and then they go use whatever drug or alcohol or whatever it is for a couple of years and come back and get another 5 or 6 years sober. There was an older lady the other day that was sober for 36 years and started taking pain pills for an operation and started drinking and was back to square one after 36 years of sobriety. It’s not easy. It’s why people go multiple times to rehab and whatnot. Right now, thank god, I’m on the right road and that’s all good, bro. I’m all about making music and rocking.

Let’s talk about the music for a minute. Was it a difficult decision to have to pull out of the Ozzfest tour with Kingdom of Sorrow?

Yeah, totally, because the bottom line is that I take on more than I can handle sometimes by being in three bands. I do it because I love the music, and I also do it because as we get older, with a band like Down, for instance, we were busy for a long time. There are long periods of time where everyone is just taking a break. I, financially, have to make music — and mentally and spiritually I have to make music — financially it also helps out. I like being busy, it keeps me focused. That’s what I do. As far as being in three bands, man, that’s the way I like it. I like to be busy.

It seems like that tour worked out well for Kingdom of Sorrow anyway.

No, no, it totally did. It was short. The only thing that sucked was Down supported Metallica in the States. We had gone to Australia and Japan and then supported Metallica in the States on the first leg of the last record. Kenny [Hickey, Type O Negative] had filled in for me then too for awhile. So some of the fans were kind of like “meh. This is bullshit.” It is what it is. Kingdom of Sorrow is a side project. I write with Jamey. I play in the studio and sing in the studio and write and whatever. Put it this way: at the time I wanted to do it. I talked to Jamey this morning about it; I really wanted to do it. It really kind of pissed me off, but at the same time, Jamey had spoken to Phil and was like “dude, you have got to get your life in order. It’s a lot more important than going to Ozzfest shows and a couple of other one-offs or whatever. Do what’s best for you. That’s what’s important.” It kind of sucked not doing it, but there’ll be other shit coming up.

I’m looking forward to that. The way I’m wired mentally, I’m [pretty good at] leaving the past behind and moving forward with stuff. I don’t dwell on stuff as far as the past — good and bad. That’s all great, but I’m cool with keeping busy with all three bands and being healthier and a better player and in a better mental state.

It seems like you’ll be quite busy for several months with Down and Crowbar, and we’ll get to that in a moment. For the time being, are there any more tours on the horizon for Kingdom of Sorrow that fans might be able to see you at?

We’re discussing a U.K. tour possibly. There are discussions of a few things, but nothing that’s booked.

And Down, I’m getting together with Pep and Jim probably Thursday and/or Friday to work on some new Down stuff [I started] with Jim before the last run we did over in Europe. We had some good ideas and whatnot. Just taking it step by step with that. We kind of just . . . with Down, it’s kind of one of those things that when everybody’s ready — mainly Phil — when he’s ready and has that fire lit, it moves like a rocket. It’s like you’re totally engrossed in it. You live it and breathe it 24/7. He’s got a lot of other things going on as well with his label and doing some other music like he always does. So we just keep writing and keep it rolling along. I’m ready to record that shit and get back to touring, man.

That’s great. So new Down in 2011 maybe?

Uh, 2011 I would say. Yeah. Something for sure. We’re not even there yet, so I think that’s totally feasible. Obviously not this year because it would have to be signed, sealed, delivered and done already. It’s not there by any means. It’s always going to happen and Down is always going to be there. So that’s a good thing.

But in the meantime, you guys have a DVD coming out. It seems like that DVD has been talked about forever. It’s been delayed so many times. You guys filmed it back in what? 2008?


06? Then it was going to come out and then it didn’t. Then it was going to come out again, and it was going to be on E1, and then that got shelved.


down - diary of a madbandWhy is this project so cursed?

Well, I wouldn’t say that it was necessarily cursed, but it was a situation of getting it filmed and trying to get all that organized. By the time we got back, Jim Van Bebber (who was in control of filming all this stuff) had so much footage that he didn’t really know where to even begin. We were so busy doing the Down Over the Under record and touring for that — repeatedly touring for that from September 2007 . . . shit, we just finished touring for it basically. It was a situation of finding the time to do it and when we thought we had it all figured it out; Pepper busted his ass. He was mainly in charge of doing the editing and putting most of it together. Phil, of course, had a big hand in it too. We felt it was signed, sealed, delivered and ready to go through E1 and literally at the 11th hour there was a legal problem and it had to be, not necessarily shelved, but postponed until they worked all that out with Warner. Thankfully it’s finally going to see the light of day.

So it was a legal issue with Warner having to do with, I’m guessing, Down being previously signed to Warner? Is that right?

Right, from what I understand. When it’s Crowbar, I’m very involved with the business obviously because it’s mainly my band. With Down, as far as the business stuff goes, I’m more just playing the guitar and helping writing riffs and having a good time. From what I understand, there was an issue because Warner was our record label that they had apparently had the right to do the DVD release, especially with the audio CD as well. They would have the first right. I think in the beginning, I don’t know, something didn’t work and we were under the impression that we were legally free to do it through E1 and went in that direction. Obviously it got postponed for legal stuff. That’s the way I understand it.

So now you guys are basically self-releasing it though.

I have no idea. I don’t know what’s going on.


Seriously. I just ask Snake [Sabo, of Skid Row! -Ed.], our manager, “okay, when’s it coming out?” “Alright, it’s coming out in October.” “Okay, great.” I’m glad it’s finally coming out. I don’t understand, I care about it because I’m a member of the band, but the fact that it’s coming out is what I really care about.

Right. I was just confused. I was hoping you might be able to tell me.

You probably know as much as me, and that’s no fault of anybody. Personally, if there’s one thing about this business that sucks it’s the politics. It’s the business side of it. Why can’t we just make music? That’s my thing. Unfortunately, that’s not what it is. It’s all attorneys and accountants and whatnot that end up taking a lot of the fun out of it.


It’s a necessary evil, and it’s not necessarily always evil. It’s a good thing when the ball is in your court or when things go your way right. It’s just something that I’m really not interested in. When I get the thumbs up that everything is okay, then that’s good with me.

Right. That’s cool. It’s coming out, so it’s all good now. You are working on a new Crowbar record as well. That is with E1.

Yes it is.

kirk windsteinThat being your baby, how did you come to be hooked up with the E1 cats? How did that all come together and what’s the progress on the record?

Basically Steve Ross who manages Kingdom of Sorrow, Hatebreed and does the Jasta stuff, him and Jamey had Hatebreed put their DVD out through E1. Steve was “helping out” Crowbar, let’s put it that way, quite a bit with the two European tours that we did. He was kind of like an acting manager to a degree. That’s where the connection comes in. As far as where we’re at with the recording of the record, I should be finishing guitars tonight. I’m going there with the intention of them being finished on the 12 tracks. There is one mellow, instrumental segue piece that I’ll probably finish up maybe this weekend. I started vocals and have a lot of lyrics written already. There is one more thing to be done on bass. The drums have been complete [for a while]. So we’re really moving along well. It’s just a matter of finishing everything up. Zeuss is going to mix it for us. He mixed the last Kingdom and also tracked and mixed the first Kingdom. He’s done quite a bit of stuff for Hatebreed and a lot of other bands. I’m looking forward to getting it out and getting on the road. With that said, with the new Crowbar record we’re also going to have a 10 song live CD with 2 unreleased studio bonus tracks — brand new bonus stuff that’ll be released through Housecore which is Phil’s label. There are some re-releases in the back coming out through him as well. So I’m looking forward to that too. There’s a lot going on with Crowbar right now, which is good. I like to keep all three bands busy, man.

Is that going to happen at the same time as the new album?

Probably very close, yeah. To be honest, I don’t know. That’s up to Phil and Kate with Housecore as to when they want to release it. We’ll have the live thing mixed and the new tracks done for them relatively soon. We have a show coming up October 1st, and I want to get on top of the mixing on it and finish up the writing right after that show on these other tracks. [I want to] have that all done for them to get mastered, mixed and packaged up to hit the streets with.

What’s this new Crowbar album going to sound like compared to older albums… or compared to anything?

Basically, just Crowbar in the year 2010 is basically what it is. It encompasses every influence and every style that Crowbar has ever done through the course of the previous eight studio records — over the course of the last 20 years. Some of the stuff sounds very similar to our very early stuff and some of it is stuff that we’ve never done before. It’s just Crowbar. It’s heavy. It’s aggressive. It’s dark. It’s fast at times. It’s very melodic and super doom metal at times. It’s a real thunderous collection of tunes. I’m very excited about it.

Nice. I can’t wait to hear it. Are there any touring plans for Crowbar?

I appreciate it. Most definitely; nothing is solid, so I don’t want to put anything out there yet. We’re totally going to do as much as we can to push this thing. There seems to be, after the two European tours that we did, a really good buzz. I think we’ve been around so long that a lot of younger, bigger bands are talking about Crowbar as being a big influence on them and on their sound. It really draws a lot of attention to Crowbar. The tour we did, we were the main support for Sepultura over in Europe for almost four weeks for the month of April. We did quite a few headlining shows and festivals throughout Europe over the summer. The response was bigger and better than it’s ever been which was a really great feeling and a really positive thing. I think doing it through E1 is really going to be a good thing and I’m looking forward to getting it out there and jamming live, man.

KIRK WINDSTEIN: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEWI think this is going to be a really big record for you guys. Like you said, you’re starting to feel that you guys have kind of moved up the ranks in terms of legendary band status. You guys have really influenced not just bigger bands across all metal, but tons of young bands that are coming up today that would cite Crowbar as one of their top influences.

It’s amazing. I’m glad that you would see that as well and that I’m not just imagining things or that I’m not just listening to what people are telling me. From what I’ve seen, sometimes it works that way. When we did come on the scene back in ’91 or whatever it was when Obedience Thru Suffering was released; there wasn’t really a genre for it. It didn’t really sound like anything else. With the exception of the Melvins and Carnivore and probably Cathedral, I don’t know anybody else that tuned that low and it was kind of like the whole 7 string drop-tuned thing came into play. A lot of bands got really popular — I’m not saying that we influenced them or whatnot — but it just kind of got where . . . I don’t know.

I think without changing our sound but with the music that has been made and with what people are used to hearing now over the course of the last 20 plus years that Crowbar has been in existence, I think that what we’re doing — without having to change our sound one bit, will now be able to be a lot more commercially accepted. With a band like Slipknot, for instance, we couldn’t be anything further from sounding like one another but the fact that they can be as big as they are with a sound that brutal and chaotic on certain things (like when they first came out especially), things have opened up a lot over the course of the years. With bands being able — not radio hit commercially successful — but to sell records or pack bigger venues by being heavy. That was the problem with Crowbar in the beginning. I think it was kind of a turnoff to people or was an underground-only thing. I think we now have an opportunity to be a lot bigger than we’ve ever been because heavy music is now widely accepted. It’s nothing new. It actually works in a positive way for us.

For sure. Thank you so much for taking the time, Kirk. I really appreciate it.

Cool, man. I appreciate it. No problem.


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