New Orleans heavyweights CROWBAR have just completed the first leg of their European tour to support newest release The Serpent Only Lies. Mark Freebase got time to sit chat back-stage with founder members Kirk Windstein and Todd Strange.
Interview by Mark Freebase
MM: This is a big run for you guys, a lot of shows, and back to back…
KW: Yes. We had just finished the tour with Suicidal Tendencies in the U.S. and we only had like a day and a half off, and then we flew straight out to here. It’s twenty-eight shows, pretty much a straight run also. We have come from mainland UK, London, and then over to Dublin, then here in Belfast, and tomorrow we have to be up at 5am to get back to Reading for our next British gig. It can be kind of tiring!
MM: It’s your first time here in Belfast, but second Irish show. What’s your impression of this country?
KW: I have been here three times before with Down, and about five times in total, and I really like it. I was thinking the next time we do a UK run; please put us in some Irish stuff. There is a lot of tradition here, and the bars are like proper pubs. Checking out the culture, strolling along the streets; it’s cool.
MM: The reaction to The Serpent Only Lies has been great, from all angles. Why do you think this is?
KW: It has been overwhelmingly positive, which is a great feeling of course. You and I were talking about Armored Saint earlier… and take Saxon for example; those guys have put out real good albums lately. The last Motorhead record was fuckin’ amazing, and I want to be like that. We tried to reach out and be our best. Crowbar has never, and will never be a household name, but there’s no reason for us not to excel, as we get older. We continue to work to be a better band. Eleven records in, that’s not an easy task [laughter]. People are telling us it has an old school Crowbar feel to it as well, which is a cool compliment. Things dwindle a little, but this feels like we are back in a very good place. Maybe it’s because I was distracted with Down a little, and this time I’m focused solely on Crowbar. Crowbar was always put on a back burner to be honest, and I think when the decision to split with Down came I was able to concentrate 100%, I mean Crowbar has always been my concern, and we can now get back and tour heavily which is how it was in the early days. I really think all of these happenings have helped elevate and bring new interest in everything.
MM: So to walk away from Down… you must have been secure with that, and earning some good money surely? What made you decide it was time to split?
KW: Oh yeah. It was, but in all honesty there was a combination of things and getting married to my wife Robin. I have been married before, and I have had girlfriends but before I was always like “God I can’t wait to get the fuck on tour” [laughs] but with Robin I was really different. I had also had plenty of talks with Phil [Anselmo] and even a couple of years before we’d been talking, and his advice to me was “whore yourself out, and make a name for yourself” he wanted me to spread as he said “You know how I am, and I change my mind on certain things… I might be in one project for a year, and then I might want to do something completely different”. The Down tours were getting a lot shorter, some only two weeks, which meant less money obviously. Last year in 2016 for example, we only played one show. It’s kind of on the back burner for all the guys actually I think because Pep [Pepper Keenan] is back with C.O.C. as well. Jimmy’s in Superjoint, Phil has got so much going on with the label etc., and for me, my thing is I need to be on the road. I need to be working all the time. People always say don’t throw all your eggs into one basket, but you know what… this time I’m just going’ for it with Crowbar. The four of us just dedicate ourselves to Crowbar, bust ass, and work hard every night.
MM: How did the whole situation with Todd evolve?
KW: He snuck his way back in. Well I started hanging out with him regularly again; probably a little over a year before he got back in the band. And he had started playing bass again… It kind of went back to the old days. Every weekend me and Robin were like “What you doing this weekend?” and we just literally started spending time together. “I want to go drink beer this weekend” [laughs]. He was playing again, we were drinking again, the hanging out was cool, and Todd was “I really want to play”. On top of that things started to fall apart with Jeff… I was kind of drunk one night and the wife was “Do you think Todd would want to come back?”
Todd: But he left something out… We got up on stage, and we were really drunk and we did a Robin Trower song, at a benefit show and that’s the first time we’d been onstage since December 23rd 1999.
KW: There was never any discussion with anyone else, we just thought; if Todd can do it, let’s just go with it. Robin and I went on vacation, had a great time, lying by the pool drinking beers feeling the breeze. There was no business, no kids, no decisions to be made, but I called up Tommy and said when we get home we are going to sort this. The very first jam we did, I think it was No Quarter and it was just like WOW! No disrespect to Jeff but it just clicked, I had forgotten how good Todd really was. I was that magic in the room thing.
Todd: Jesus… Tommy is a metronome. He is on it every night, and we lock in like crazy man.
KW: I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I believe he stepped away for a reason, and I believe now he is back it is for a reason.
MM: Was there a re-visitation of older sounds or influences in any way before the creation of this record?
KW: There are not that many new bands that I get into. I do try, but it’s a reality. A lot of bands all sound alike, and they all sound like somebody else. There was a conscious thing to go back and listen to old Crowbar, cos I hadn’t listened to it in a long while. I also started to listen again to a lot of Trouble, and Saint Vitus, Carnivore and Type O Negative, and the Melvins. These were all bands that influenced Crowbar in the beginning. Like when we go out to the pub or whatever, we play a lot of that on the duke box. With all that I thought, “Now I know where my head was at”.
MM: Did you try to consciously evolve over the years after Time Heals Nothing or Broken Glass? Not to fit in… but for change?
KW: Not really. For me, we are our only genre. We don’t sound like anybody else, and nobody sounds like us. It is what it is. Love it or hate it we sound like Crowbar. We still even dress the same way we did twenty-five years ago… fuckin’ cargos, metal T shirts whatever, but it’s the same fuckin’ thing. On that same note, I remember being with Kingdom Of Sorrow [band with Jami Jasta – Hatebreed] and we were playing the Soundwave festival in Australia which had Metallica, and Slayer playing, and the day off before the last show we were in Perth, and I went across the street from our hotel, had a couple of beers, and there was a football match on etc. Gary Holt was there and we were chatting, he had the Vans / Converse on, cargo shorts, chain wallet, Venom shirt ‘n all, we were chillin’ and we joked about how we looked. But that’s what we do. We fuckin’ live it and feel it.
MM: We never get old, we just get older… would our parents ever of considered doing what we do? Travelling the world, listening to loud music?
KW: Fuck no! I’m over 50. My wife is the same. She dresses like she dresses. We have responsibilities with kids etc., but like you said we are getting older, and I do feel it sometimes, but the mindset is where it’s at. Running into Aaron from Paradise Lost the other night, and thinking Wow it’s been twenty five years since… BUT we are the same people, we do the same thing. If you’re a lifer, you’re in!
Todd: I did the straight guy normal thing for long enough when I left first time, but I got sick of it.
KW: It’s our age group. If Ozzy, Stephen Tyler, the Stones can still do it, then so can we! We toured with Soulfly, and I was talking with Max etc., and he was saying in Germany he had an off day and ZZ TOP were playing and he saw them bustin’ it out and he thought “man I can do this for at least another twenty years!”. In the states you have Saxon and UFO on tour together and they kill it still. They are in their mid-sixties, but it’s a great show. They are more sensible than some of us guys, sometimes, but they still sound killer. You learn, you have to slow down, but you can still deliver. For me, I still drink a lot of beer, I won’t lie. I quit hard liquor about two years ago. Cocaine used to be my main thing. Beer only now, and that works. That will have to slow down I’m sure. Some days I feel it, some days I don’t. You learn either slow down and get it together, or you’re not around.
MM: What brings you the most pleasure about doing Crowbar these days?
KW: Well I think, knockin’ on wood here, I think that since Todd has been back in the band I don’t think we have done one show that hasn’t kicked ass! So that in itself is very satisfying. Yesterday was a perfect day for me, packed house, we did tons of merch, kick ass gig, some great photos, and everybody was very happy, and that’s how I like it. Friends will ask how it is on tour, and you know, it’s the same things but it is different.
Todd: In the states a bad day is when you walk in and there is only one wedge! And then the guy doesn’t even know how to fuckin’ work the PA!
KW: I don’t pay some body 750 to 1000 dollars a week to guitar tech for me, I do my own shit. But we did have a couple of bad shows with shitty sound, and after that we said we will get a front of house guy, so in the States now we have our own sound guy. Over here we don’t need it. The guys seem to know what they are doing, the production is better. The gear is better also. We are trying to do it ourselves as much as possible, because we enjoy it, and we have to make some money. The PAs are so good over here, and the monitors are great, we have done plenty of festivals with half stacks. People can hear it. In the States we have to use a lot more gear! An honest hard day’s work is what I want.
MM: Where do you put The Serpent Only Lies with regard to your back catalogue of releases then?
KW: I hold it against any of them. We were keen not to drag it out and have to feel pressure to do thirteen or fourteen songs that could include fillers etc. This record has ten solid heavy hitters. It’s stacked from start to finish. With vinyl coming back in its five songs a side, you can play it from start to finish. Attention spans are shortening and there is no need to drag it out if quality is good. It’s something old school fans can dig, but also new comers can get into this record.
The Serpent Only Lies is out now on Steamhammer/SPV