Crowbar – Comfortable Below ZeroSunday, 6th March 2022
Epitomizing a slower, heavier form of metal since the early 1990’s, Crowbar continue to be unyielding in their quest for satisfying their legions of followers record after record. Their newest platter Zero and Below completed and on hold for a few years – finally coming out as we return to a semi-normalcy of live entertainment opportunities. Always combining aspects of doom, traditional metal, southern rock, and more – guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein and his compatriots never waver to deliver high quality material each time they step into the studio or on the stage.
We reached out to Kirk to catch up more on his thoughts about the new record, work with longtime producer Duane Simoneaux, band chemistry, the surprising positive response to his solo record, and future plans including the possibility of a documentary or book in the cards.
Dead Rhetoric: Zero and Below is the latest Crowbar record – one you’ve been sitting on for a couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What are your thoughts on the recording and songwriting sessions – and where do you see this record sitting in the catalog of Crowbar discography?
Kirk Windstein: Honestly, the record we have been sitting on it for two years. We are just excited to get it out. We love it, having two years to listen to it, on and off from time to time, I’ve listened to it in its entirety forty to fifty times during this lockdown. For all the guys in the band, it’s a bold statement and a positive thing. We are thrilled with it, we really are.
We always try to bring in a few different elements. This one we made a conscious effort to go back and bring some more doom stuff into the sound a bit. It shows in a lot of the riffs, in a lot of the songs. I was happy with that. To me, they are all a logical step. Sometimes you branch out a little bit more. We brought in a few new things, like track ten is very different, “Zero and Below” the title track. Songs like “Denial of the Truth” are straight up doom, we haven’t had that in forever. It was a conscious thing, but I think this is a natural progression for where the band is at right now.
Dead Rhetoric: And where did you want to come across lyrically for this record?
Windstein: I always tell people; I write down thoughts. A lot of metaphors, certain songs you can read it and know this is about this. I want our songs to have a lot of one-liners, thoughts that people can take in their way. I write them down, make them rhyme, and that’s it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you enjoy about working with Duane Simoneaux over the years at OCD Recording and Production in Metairie, Louisiana – are there specific key aspects or insights that those extra set of ears and experience provide to ensure the record sounds as best as it possibly can?
Windstein: He’s fantastic as far as his engineering and production skills. That’s a great thing of course. He’s become a really close friend with everybody in the band. We run into him a couple of days a week, we are in constant contact. In the studio he’s almost like the fifth member of Crowbar. He plays pretty much every instrument, he can’t sing though, I will say that. He ends up with a lot of great ideas and we are all ears, we all listen. Let’s try that, it’s usually something that we all like and works out. Now, we are going on twelve years of working with Duane, he’s a very, very important part in what we do.
Dead Rhetoric: “Chemical Godz” as the first single/video, was this an obvious choice to set the tone for what fans could expect off the album? And what can you tell us about the video shoot with the intertwining of narrative sequences and special effects that appear with the skeleton versions of your guys as musicians – as it’s got a unique flair for a metal video?
Windstein: Thanks. Really, we felt like “Chemical Godz” was a happy medium. This song sounds like Crowbar, we could have released a track that brought in newer elements but some of the fans might not understand. A lot of times, the fans are very judgmental, and they have a right to be as they are fans. The first and second release, once they get their hands on the full album, they get the vibe we are trying to go with for the whole record. With the first song or two that they hear, it’s got to be something that hits them, it’s Crowbar.
It was a relatively simple shoot. The director came up with the narrative sequences about drug addiction, he came up with those prior to our video. I’m not sure what band it was, but their record label said it was too dark, the storyline. Come to find out, a couple of days later you had to sign into YouTube to watch it, the content was considered a bit much for kids. It looks great, we are very happy with the video. We are ready to get the next video out soon.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the current lineup within Crowbar as far as musicians and as people – what are the main characteristics that matter the most to you for band chemistry and productivity?
Windstein: Everybody is top notch as a player. Aside from myself, Tommy, Matt, and Shane – Shane is a great musician, a very well-rounded. He has a jazz degree from Southern Miss University. Matt is a great player; Tommy is a monster drummer. It’s a great lineup. We feed off one another really well. The whole writing experience to being on stage, the chemistry with the four band members, it’s fantastic.
Dead Rhetoric: You have a North American tour set up for March and April with Sacred Reich, Sepultura, and Art of Shock. How do you believe this tour will go, as it seems like a killer package for all metal fans to enjoy – and do you expect heightened levels of excitement from audiences considering the lack of shows/touring over the past couple of years due to the pandemic?
Windstein: Yeah, I really do. I think the tour is going to be great, all the bands are great. We’ve toured with Sacred Reich and Sepultura in the past, we know all the guys. That makes things easier from the start. If you have a successful tour with a band, you get along with them fine, it takes away a lot of what sometimes ends up being drama. I think everything will run smooth; the fans will be stoked to see the shows.
We’ve been able to have a few shows around here in the New Orleans area, it’s continuing to grow. More and more shows going on. We’ve been able for a while to experience live music, but a lot of places we will be playing really haven’t. I expect in those areas and those markets the fans are really going to be stoked.
Dead Rhetoric: Would you say your audience and following has grown with the band over the years – now approaching a second and almost third generation of Crowbar fanatics? How do you handle the balance between stoking your own creative/musical wishes and meeting the expectations of the fans?
Windstein: Yeah. I definitely think it’s grown, and it’s great to see the second and even third generation of fans. When we see families, dads and moms with their kids, and the kids are wearing the Crowbar merch. It’s a great feeling. We set out to do one thing: we wanted to sound original and be original writing new music. And we’ve been able to succeed with that. That’s what is most important to us. Putting out quality music album from album, continue forward with that goal.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering the metal genre is over fifty years old, is it harder for newer musicians to be more original compared to when Crowbar started?
Windstein: Yes and no. It’s kind of like… there are only so many things you can do. Younger people that pick up the guitar, being in a heavy metal band and write original music, a lot of the problem is just my opinion but… thrash has made a big comeback in this new generation, which I think is great – I grew up on thrash in the beginning. I will always love that style, and it’s not what I chose to play but I think it’s great. I think a lot of younger thrash bands kind of sound like the older thrash bands and makes it more difficult to bring originality into it. Overall, there is nothing wrong with that – all the good bands will find their own sound, so to speak, within the thrash genre. If you know what you are doing, originality shines through in your own band.
Dead Rhetoric: Having released your first solo album Dream in Motion back in 2020, will there be a follow-up down the line, and do you believe it gained the respect and appreciation you hoped for beyond your normal following?
Windstein: Yes, I have been working on the second solo album. In all honesty, I was pleasantly surprised with the reaction to the record because I didn’t know what to expect from the fans. I was trying to push it as a solo record, this is not Crowbar, if you don’t get it, I understand, thanks for giving it a listen. In general, the overall reviews and the way the fans accepted it was great. I couldn’t be happier because of those things.
Dead Rhetoric: What concerns you most about the world that we live in today? What do you believe the leaders and governments of the world need to concentrate on for the greater good of all?
Windstein: That’s a good question. It’s so hard to answer, everything is so messed up. There is so much division between… when I was a kid, and I’m almost 57 years old, in my opinion I didn’t see division between political parties like we have now. I’d like to think that the racial thing is getting better, I hope the Black Lives Matter movement allowed black people to say what they needed to say and make everyone else shut up. I’d like to think that let them get a lot off their chest and tighten that gap with the racial divide. I’m trying to be optimistic. I’m not a political person, and I don’t know what the leaders of the world should really do to make this world a better place. I live by a rule to treat people with respect, I am a pretty simple, down to earth guy when it comes to that.
Dead Rhetoric: You recently learned about the degeneration in the discs of your neck from a recent visit to your chiropractor – a direct result of 35 plus years of headbanging. How have you been handling your recovery, and what measures (if any) will you take to keep your health in tip top shape?
Windstein: I’ve really noticed it is making a difference. The treatments, it’s one of those things for the first time I’ve tried to be conscious of not just bending my neck all the time. When I am looking at the phone, stuff like that- I’m pretty much laying down straight talking to you on the phone. I told my wife, when I left to go to the chiropractor, she asked if I was nervous – I said no. I have been having neck and shoulder pain for decades. It just kept getting worse and worse, let me see what I can do about this. I notice the more treatment I get, the more benefits I get from this. The mobility is a bit better.
Dead Rhetoric: What albums as of late have been pumping you up over the last few months? Do you continue to look to the past for inspiration and energy, or are there new albums from veteran bands that excite you?
Windstein: Honestly, I look to the past more often. I don’t even know; I’m so far removed with what’s going on in the metal music scene these days. I’ll hear about bands, and they could be huge, and I have never heard of that. That’s the problem, I love my life, but family is first. I don’t have time, when my wife and I have time to relax we just like to watch Netflix, and just chill. We don’t go out to shows much unless it’s an older band. For me, I tend to rediscover all the classic bands that got me into this love of music for the first place.
Dead Rhetoric: In New Orleans, you just lost your football coach for the Saints. Are you hopefully for a strong future for the team?
Windstein: Of course, I am a long-time Saints fan, and I always will be. I get it with Sean Payton leaving. Once Drew Brees retired, they were really tight. To me, we need a franchise quarterback. Guys like Joe Burrow, we need a young quarterback that can come in and maybe have a year or two, getting banged around and making mistakes. I don’t think the guys we have now are the future. That’s just my opinion. I’m always hopeful that we have success coming soon. Dennis Allen who is our coach now, he’s a great coach. He was on a lot of lists to be a coach before Sean Payton retired, for a head coaching job under the Bears or a couple of other teams. It was time for Payton to move along.
If you really pay attention, we had an NFL record by starting 57 different players last year due to injury or COVID. You only can have 53 on your active roster. We had a lot of practice guys, kicker issues, he couldn’t do anymore than he did. We did fairly well, this season says a lot about how good of a coach Payton is.
Dead Rhetoric: What can we expect over the next year or two from Crowbar and any other musical activities in the Kirk Windstein camp? Would you ever consider developing a book on your life as a musician and the many stories you could tell?
Windstein: Yeah, I would. I have talked about that to a few people and thought about it. I want to more so do a documentary, more than a book. I want it to be about my love of music, my life in music, my upbringing. A lot of these books, when you read autobiographies, all they talk about is using women, drugs and alcohol, and that’s not what I want people to get – I want to get a lot deeper than that. My journey to get here, and people don’t have a clue how hard you work to get to where you are over the years. I would like it to be more like that.
The game plan is touring. I want to finish up my second solo record. We are ready to start writing new Crowbar stuff. We haven’t written in over two years, it’s time. We wouldn’t probably put the next record out until the fall of 2023, you know – that’s what we would like to do. We’ll see.