Former DOWN guitarist and current CROWBAR frontman Kirk Windstein was interviewed for the latest installment of the “Devil Horns” podcast (web site). You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below. (Note: The Windstein interview begins around the 27:52 mark.) A couple of excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On his decision to leave DOWN:
Kirk: “The easiest way to put it, really is… My life’s changed a lot in the last year. With being married, I wanna concentrate a lot more on my family first and foremost. And DOWN, with us getting older and Philip‘s [Anselmo, DOWN singer] voice and now DOWN has to take a fairly amount of days off in order for Phil to rest his voice properly, which is totally, absolutely understandable and well respected. It’s just, for me, I like to go out 15 shows in a row and get it done. With DOWN, a lot of the [touring], especially internationally, is fly dates and things like that and there’s so many days off. And really, for me, to be blunt, on those off days, man… I mean, show days are great, I have a responsibility, of course I love every second being on stage, but on those off days, I have absolutely nothing to do and it just ends up turning into drinking too goddamn much and wanting to not be there. It’s like, I wanna be at the gig every day, but I don’t wanna sit in a hotel room in Europe 34 times now — and I feel very blessed to have done that with CROWBAR and with DOWN as well. I feel blessed to have done that, but for me personally, I’m an in-out kind of guy — give me 15, 18 shows and I’m fine. But I wanna do ‘em and get home and get back to the other half of my life. That’s just being honest. The guys could see I was kind of not really getting into it, they could see me on the off days hitting the sauce harder than I should have been — no doubt about it. On show days, it’s fine, like I said — I have a responsibility and I love being on stage and playing and I love playing with my friends; there’s no doubt about that. It was just, with the 25th anniversary of CROWBAR coming up and with the way my life has changed, it just seemed like the obvious decision for me. It was kind of a mutual thing — no hard feelings or anything whatsoever like that. There’s absolutely zero drama, zero gossip that I know of, at least from my side. I doubt there’s any from their side. I’ve spoken to the guys. In fact, Bobby Landgraf from HONKY, that’s taking my spot, is a very good friend of mine; he teched for me for awhile and he’s been teching for Pepper [Keenan, DOWN guitarist]. I spoke to him the other day and he can use my rig that I used with DOWN for [DOWN's appearance at the Housecore Horror Film Festival] coming up, and he’s actually gonna come and me and him are gonna jam a little bit on some tunes. He’s got a few questions. He’s an amazing guitar player, but it’s hard to get every little lick down of somebody else’s stuff, so he asked me if I could pop by and jam with him a bit. I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Anything I could do to help out would be great.”
“It’s just kind of one of those things… I’ll be 49 years old in April, and for whatever reason, it seems like CROWBAR is bigger than it’s ever been, even though we don’t do anything. It’s kind of those things, man, where if I don’t give it a full-on 200 percent everything I’ve got promoting it, writing the heaviest, best damn riffs I can possibly write and just really giving it my all as far as touring properly, touring extensively — not long periods of time, but a lot of short tours and just hitting all the countries we can hit and stuff like that. If I don’t do that, I’m never gonna forgive myself, because I’ve never given CROWBAR a proper chance. Since 2001, which is 12, going 13 years ago, my main priority has been DOWN. I’ve had to put a lot of things on hold, which it totally understandable — putting CROWBAR on hold. Even KINGDOM OF SORROW, which I still do with [HATEBREED's] Jamey Jasta, and when we get a chance, we will do another record eventually and do somet touring with that as well. But Jamey is very involved with CROWBAR‘s business — kind of helping manage and things like that — so he understands my position with CROWBAR being my first and main, and basically only priority, just like HATEBREED is with him. And when we get a chance to do KINGDOM, we’ll do that as well. But it just works out better for everybody. They have that new spark in DOWN, which is wonderful feeling. We have the new spark in CROWBAR, which is wonderful feeling. It’s our 25th anniversary in 2014 with CROWBAR and I feel like I can finally, while that window of opportunity is still open, I feel like I can finally give CROWBAR my undivided attention. Of course, I’ll be feeling proud of what I accomplished with DOWN, what we accomplished together, all the great times that we had — those things are wonderful. And I look forward to getting to hang out with the guys again when we all have some time to chill and getting over there and working with Phil on the [upcoming] CROWBAR live [album] as well for [Philip's record label] Housecore.”
On whether there was any way that he could have worked things out with DOWN so that he could continue doing both DOWN and CROWBAR:
Kirk: “I’m sure we could have… If my heart was really in it 100 percent, there’s no doubt we could have… We’ve been through a lot in 22 years as bandmates, friends and people, period. In my mind, there’s no doubt we could have worked something out and made it work. And it was an extremely tough decision. A lot of people probably think that I’m an idiot for doing what I’m doing. But you know what?! I’m a simple kind of guy — not simple-minded, just simple in what I need in life. And I just need to be happy. And that was one of the things that Philip told me. He just said, ‘Kirk, I love you to death.’ I said, ‘I love you too.’ And he said, ‘I just want you to be happy.’ And I thought about that. He went on and did the PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS tour, and I didn’t talk to him for a bit. And I just really thought about everything. The second I just kind of said, you know what?! This is my opportunity to do CROWBAR, which is my baby, my creation — I’m the chief songwriter, I write all the lyrics, I get to sing, I’m the boss… It’s not about being a control freak; it’s totally an equal band… It’s just I no longer have to… I look at the upside of me doing CROWBAR: it’s my thing, I don’t have to miss any more of my daughter’s birthdays, I don’t have to miss any family stuff, which has really become extremely important to me. I mean, my daughter is ten years old and I probably missed five of her birthdays. And that’s part of being in this business, and I understand that. But I’m almost… closing in on 50 years old, and I just feel as though I’ve earned the right to do what I wanna do. And I sent [Phil] a long e-mail and everything and said, ‘Look, man…’ Basically, he’s earned the right to do what he wants to do. If he wants to do a solo project, he can do it. By god, we all know he’s earned his right to do what the hell he wants a thousand times over. I mean, he is Phil Anselmo and he’s built a legacy through hard work and great music that’ll always be there in the whole heavy metal community. For me, it’s just that this is my opportunity to kind of shine on my own and do it by my own rules, with the comfort of making my own touring schedule. I now get to tour as long or as short as I want, I get to decide where I wanna tour, when I wanna tour, how long it is… the whole nine yards. And kind of being in charge is a good feeling. Like I said, not in a control-freak type of position, but just being in charge of my life is a good feeling.”
On the negative feedback he has gotten from people on the Internet after it was announced that he was no longer a member of DOWN:
Kirk: “People think that we’re machines; I mean, they’re really do. I’ve seen people going, ‘I just can’t undertand it. There’s plenty of time for him to do CROWBAR and DOWN. I don’t see why Pepper can’t go sing for C.O.C. And there’s plenty of time for that. There’s plenty of time for this.’ It’s, like, dude, I’m a human being. I have a wife, I have a daughter, I have two stepchildren and I have a step grandchild. And my family is my priority. And my music is where my livelihood is, it’s where my heart is. And that’s the truth. As the back of the Housecore Records shirts say, ‘We owe you nothing.’ I don’t owe anybody anything, man. I do it because I love it, and I do as much as I possibly can. All of us do — all of us in every band. Every band you can think of. You have no idea how hard we work. But I cannot spend 365 days a year — which I’ve done before — going from band to band to band to band to band and just blowing off the rest of my life. Any negativity I’ve gotten, I can totally understand people being disappointed. Actually, that makes me feel good that a lot of fans will miss me being a part of DOWN; I’ll miss being a part of DOWN, to be honest, of course… I cannot be giving 100 percent to one band while I’m writing songs for another, and vice versa. I cannot be giving 100 percent to one band while I’m preparing to go on tour with another band the second I get home from this one tour. It doesn’t work that way. Your mind has to focus on one project at a time, and going in and out of the different… I call it, like, I’m in ‘CROWBAR world,’ I’m in ‘DOWN world,’ I’m in ‘KINGDOM OF SORROW world,’ whatever it might be. Your focus, your mindset, everything has to be completely different for each group of friends that you’re jamming with in each one of the damn bands and also for the style of the music and the whole nine yards. And it wore me out. That’s the whole thing. And this gives me a fresh start and it gives me the break I need mentally, physically — and as a musician — to just roll with it. I feel 20 years old again, man. It’s a wonderful feeling to wake up happy and stress-free every day. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that my priorities are where they should be — with my family and with the band that I created. And that’s how I feel about it.”