Interview with Kirk Windstein of Down
When speaking to Down guitarist Kirk Windstein via telephone, we learned about the process of the making of OVER THE UNDER, as well as Kirk's busy schedule and how he views his now full-time band Down.
How would you compare OVER THE UNDER to previous Down offerings?
It’s where we’re at today. We kind of went back to our roots, the ones that actually got us to form Down in the first place. I just think it’s a natural progression, and it’s where, where we’re at today.How will you maintain the specialness of Down now that it's a full-time project? It’s five real strong personalities and it’s good chemistry and we’ve known each other so long. Now that we consider it our main band and not a side project, I don’t think there’s anything we’re gonna have to do differently to keep it going, but just allow us to tour more and to make records more often, you know. We’re still gonna do our other projects and whatnot, of course, but I think that it gives us the opportunity to tour as much as possible around the world. And this just gives us the opportunity after that to take a break, do some other projects, and jump right back into Down and let it continue to roll, which is just something special. The songwriting on this album was mostly via Pepper and, and Phil... was that because you were involved with other things? Well what we do is whoever basically comes up with the main riff gets the writing credit. But it doesn’t mean that we’re not all putting in. For instance even though he wasn’t credited, Jimmy (Bower, drummer) came up with a lot of great ideas and whatnot. We’re all putting in. Down wouldn’t be Down if any of us weren’t in the band. How does a Down song normally get written? Do you guys write on the road? Like, what’s the situation? Do you designate certain time frames? As far as writing goes, we still have songs...whole songs that we’ve demo'd and jam tapes of songs that we haven’t even touched. Plus, we’ve got tons of riff songs on tapes and everything we haven’t even gotten to. We just are constantly writing. All of us are. Usually, someone will, will throw the initial idea out on the table, and if everybody digs it then we’ll build on it from there. We kind of sit in a circle for the most part and just beat each over the head with some riffs. And then everybody puts their two cents in, mold it and form it into what you end up hearing as a final track arrangement. Phil has been a more positive force in general lately, heard especially on this album and reflected in the lyrics, mainly. Did you see that transformation go down, and, and can you give us a little insight how it all transpired for him through your eyes? Well, I just think he’s in a different place in his life, you know what I mean. He had his back surgery. He’s kicked his well-reported drug habits, and we all went through the Katrina experience, which was very difficult on everyone. His positive attitude really had a lot to do with us getting back together and making this thing roll for real. And he carries it over, day in and day out on stage. He’s very positive with fans and very humble with everything. He’s really trying to go that extra, that extra mile to do whatever he can to keep a positive spin on this whole progress and the whole thing about it. He’s our bandleader. There’s no doubt about, and the front man obviously. So, with him being positive it makes the rest of us positive as well. What are your favorite songs off of this album and what are some of your favorite songs altogether from Down? Kirk: On this one, “Nothing in Return (Walk Away)” is like my current favorite. Of course, I love ‘em all... as far as other records off Down II, I really like “There’s Something On My Side”, “Stained Glass Cross”, “Beautifully Depressed”...once again, you like ‘em all. When you write songs, pretty much every time it’s my favorite one for a little while. Off NOLA, my favorite couple are probably “Underneath Everything” and “Swan Song”... “Stone the Crow” obviously...just all of them. They’re all, fun to play and they’re all great tunes. With the new record, even when it was completed and I had a finalized copy of it, I continued to change which song was my favorite every week or something or couple of days. It’s natural, you know. I think all bands are like that or all songwriters are like that. We’re demo-ing new stuff. I’m taking everybody’s favorite right away ‘cause it’s fresh and it’s new, you know. You guys are currently working on new songs? We have a crop-load of new stuff. We’re not really working on new stuff. But we’ve got a good bit of stuff already. Some stuff that didn’t make the record that’s already recorded. Some demos we didn’t record. We have a lot of riffs. And as individuals I think we’re very musical and are constantly writing and creating music. Riffs are never a problem with us for anything...it’s just picking which ones we want to use. That’s a good problem to have. Yeah, it’s not a bad problem actually. What would be the main reason why you guys haven’t had an opening act? Well, I think there are a couple of reasons. I mean, the main reason, by having the movie that we have that sets up the show, that's an hour and five minutes, and we’re playing at least two hours, sometimes 2:10, sometimes 2:15. And the movie goes right into the show...so instead of having two opening acts playing 30 minute sets or whatever and having a 30-minute changeover and then we come out, you’re looking at three hours-plus of nonstop music and entertainment or whatever from the video leading right into the two hour plus show. It’s also a situation where we don’t know what bands would be willing...you can’t make all the fans happy. It also makes it so easy on us and on our crew and for the real diehard fans, I would think that they’d, they’d prefer it this way. And to a degree, sooner or later we’re gonna have to hunt out openings for our band kind of like opening for Heaven and Hell or something like that. And we’re gonna probably have to bring out opening acts, too. But right now, what we’re doing really works just fine. Have you ever considered having any of the other band member's other projects open for Down? No, I wouldn’t see that happening just because we’ve got the whole thing of, for me at least, personally is a step-by-step build up until we hit the stage, and have a little routine. And once soundcheck is over, it’s time to kind of get warmed up, go to the bar and have a couple of beers and loosen up. And, I like to go out and watch the first song or two of the movie, get pumped up and go back, jam on with the guitar, get dressed, stretch out. Get ready to jam and come on and do it. And we’re old...I think we’d be exhausted trying to do two shows in one night. And for me personally, I approach it like a football game, you know...I have a routine. You got to warm up, stretch...brief the game, talk or whatever it might be, then's the kickoff. And for me, doing two shows would of put a big monkey wrench in the whole thing. Any timetable for any new Crowbar? I’m actually writing stuff right now with the lineup of me and Steve Gibb on guitar and Tommy Buckley on drums and Pat Bruders on bass. And Kingdom of Sorrow? How’d that come about? Well, I’m ready to get the damn thing out...Crowbar was performing with Hatebreed on a UK tour back maybe ’05 or something. Being that we have a mutual respect for one another, we talked about why don’t we do something together. And we started, I went up to Connecticut, we started messing around with it, playing like May of ’05. We did a session in May, and we did a session in August right before Katrina came. And then after, my family and me had to uproot and evacuate to my grandmother’s house. We ended up there for two week and it took a week or two for Jamey getting in touch with me. So he asked me if I wanted to come up here a couple of weeks. So I went up and that’s when we kind of got most of the bulk of the work done and tracked, and got it knocked out. What exactly are you doing on the album? You doing all, basically all the guitars and singing as well, right? I do some singing, which I wish Jasta didn’t make me do. I didn’t want to, but he made me. I’m doing some, ‘cause I don’t want to do a lot, you know. I do most of the guitar. There are a couple of things Steve Gibb played on, and a few things extra and stuff. But, I do most of the guitars and bass and a little bit of vocals and me and Jamey basically split the guitar riff writing like 50/50...he does the majority of the vocals and he writes all the lyrics. We’re gonna split the guitar riffs right, kind of pretty much down the middle. It’s a great project, man. I think it kicks ass. I’m really excited that it’s finally coming out. What’s the best advice someone ever gave you? As far as being a band? I remember my dad... now I’m 42 years old, and at this point I’ve been doing this like professional since I’m like 18 or whatever as far as getting paid for gigs. So it’s been like 24 years at this point. And, I remember my dad telling me, he listened to like some Dick Clark show or something...this is about a good 20 years ago or something... They were like, “what’s the biggest thing that separates those who actually, can make it in music and those who just don’t make it?” And he said “perseverance, sticking to it and just going and going and going and going and going. And if you’re good, even if you might have a lot of bad breaks along the way, eventually something good will come your way”. I never gave up. How do you feel about the term supergroup actually, by the way? Actually, I liked it in the very beginning when it was a complete side thing that we’d do every once in a blue moon or whatever, but now it’s a full time project. Now, it’s just our band, you know. We’re not a supergroup any more than any other band...not at this point, you know. But I feel very fortunate of the success that we’ve had. We have a really great fan base, a cult fan base basically, and it’s growing. People are coming aboard everyday, and that’s why we want to continue on the road and continue, preaching the whole Down thing. I don’t think of myself as being, and I’ll never think of myself as being a rock star or some big time guy or anything; that’s just my personality. Put it this way, man, there ain’t much I’ve ever set out to do goal-wise in music that I haven’t been able to do, and I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to be in that position. There’s not much I hadn’t seen or done. It took a long time, but it’s a pretty good thing. Is it difficult to write a set list out for the live shows? Oh, yeah. It’s very difficult. First, of course it has to flow. We want to include songs from each record and we change it up a little bit every night. Not much, but a little bit. And you also have to take into consideration, Phil's voice, you know. We have a good bit of dynamics in our music that we have to take into consideration...okay, we’ve just done two or three hard hitters in a row, let’s be a little more mellow and bring down the mood a bit and not sit there too long before you take it back up. And it’s got to be if there’s three or four in a row that are really hard-sell singing, high up in the register, then you don’t want to put those back to back. So there’s a lot of things that you wouldn’t think that really go into making the set list. But it’s difficult because we’ve got so many songs and there’s so many, we’re doing like, shit, I don’t know, 17 or something like that right now. Eighteen, 19 some nights. There’s another five or more that we use, that we’ve done live in the past that we grab. We could play three hours, really. But, two hours plus gives you what you need. The Pantera DVDs are legendary and of course, you have your staple performance on it. Yes, I do. Yes, you do. Do you have any Down footage? Do you think a DVD is gonna surface anytime soon? Have you guys been filming stuff, impromptu or concert-wise? Well, we’ve got a lot of impromptu and fan concert stuff. The main thing we did, which I think is gonna be our DVD is we’re gonna try to shy away from the whole feel of what the Pantera thing was about, which was pretty much just partying and backstage, cutting up and pulling gags on one another and just having a good time. We filmed the entire 2006 European tour, which is like 20-21 shows. We filmed the whole thing and that was before, during, and after every show, offstage, traveling, everything on real film. We had a two-man camera crew come out and do it. There’s so much footage it’s ridiculous... a 100 hours that we need to cut down into like a two hour thing. We’re in the process of doing that. It’s gonna be a long process. What we want to do is present, instead of the typical home video type thing, make an actual Down movie of that tour...do it more in the feel of like an AC/DC LET THERE BE ROCK or a Zeppelin SONG. Not just one concert, but different spots all around Europe that we played, blending it in with life on the road with Down. Us on stage, hanging out in pubs in England and Ireland and Germany and whatever. We really took our time doing it right. We’re making an actual movie as opposed to a backstage video of chicks flashing tits. That’s all great.... it’s just Pantera’s already done that. You can’t take that to the next degree, so there’s no use trying to Obviously this is a question you guys can’t escape all the time...I know Dimebag lives on in your music and this is a really sad and touchy subject for you guys. Well, it is, of course. All of us really...I feel from the bottom of my heart I had a great friendship with Dimebag for many years, I mean, since first joining Pantera. He was kind of like my old drinking buddy. I mean, he and I kind of hit it off right away and had a lot in common, not just that we both played guitar. I’ll never play as good as he did. But not just that. We would jam on guitar a lot, just kind of cutting up and, joking around, just hanging out and drinking and whatnot. I really feel that I had a great friendship with him, and so it is real sad, and it’s still unbelievable and fresh in your mind. Definitely a dark, dark day. The guy had lived ten lives in the time that he was alive, and was able to make some of the best music ever and one of the best guitar players ever, and, you got to just think about the positive side and be thankful that you were able to know the guy, and that his music’s out there forever, you know. Has this tragedy affected the way in which you guys kind of do your live shows? From a security standpoint most definitely, especially because of Phil and Rex being in the band. Security with us is, is pretty damn tight, and it kind of has to be that way. You just never know, man. Who ever thought that would’ve happened, you know. Even with Crowbar, shit, we’re a little underground heavy band. We went on tour about five or six weeks after Dime got murdered, and I’ll never forget the first time some kid jumped on stage. I caught him out the corner of my eye...I quit singing, and I freaked out for a second. Usually you don’t get any shit, maybe a mike in your teeth and you keep on jamming. It just took awhile to get used to it. But it affected a lot of people. It’s changed, everything as far as the way that the shows go, especially for us security-wise and all. I mean you have to be. Sometimes you might get lackadaisical and think it’s a bit much the way security is and all that, but think, wow, that’s in the back of your mind because you just never know.