New Orleans outfit Crowbar are unparalleled legends of sludge, and an entire generation of metal, whether it be Killswitch Engage or Chimaira or Hatebreed, have taken influence from their mammoth riffs and unrelentingly downtrodden atmospheres. Their first album in six years, Sever The Wicked Hand, will no doubt prove to be a highlight upon its release on Feb. 8, 2011, and in the meantime, their most recent tour will bring them to Championship’s in Trenton on Dec. 4, Santo’s Party House in NYC Dec. 5 and The Barbary Coast in Philly Dec. 6.
It promises to be a late-year highlight, seeing Crowbar. They’ve played a couple shows recently in the South with the likes of fellow Nola dwellers EyeHateGod, and even done a little touring, but it’s the chance to see them in small rooms on this current tour that’s the most exciting, as guitarist, vocalist and band-spearhead Kirk Windstein has only been visible the past four years or so in his other acts, the supergroups Down and Kingdom Of Sorrow.
We spoke before the details of Sever The Wicked Hand were announced, and the passion with which Windstein—completely sober for the first time in the band’s 20-plus-year existence—is approaching this new era of Crowbar was readily apparent. As the principle figure in one of the heaviest bands America has ever produced, it was a pleasure and an honor to speak to him about the album, the tour and going back to what’s long been thought of as his main outfit after so much time away. When he called in, he had just sent in the final artwork proofs for the album…
What’s the artwork for the new record like?
It’s killer. Kind of hard to describe. Mike D. from Killswitch Engage did it. He’s a graphic artist who does all their stuff, and he’s a huge Crowbar fan, so he contacted us about doing it, and he really did a great job. Because he’s a fan, he really put a lot into doing it. He’s a really nice guy, and he really did a great job.
How were the shows you did down south?
All considered, some of them we only had a week to a week-and-a-half to promote, they went really well. On this one, we’re not trying to put the carriage before the horse or anything. We’re playing really small venues and getting back to the roots of it all, which is what Crowbar’s about anyway. I’m just looking forward to doing these shows. We have 23 shows in a row, and that’s the way I like it. I don’t like days off (laughs).
Is it strange for you to be focusing on Crowbar again after doing Down and Kingdom Of Sorrow for so long?
Yeah, it’s a little strange. It’s strange, but also it’s really positive, because I’ve learned so much about everything—the business, about life. I’ve gone through so much since the last Crowbar record came out, and this is the first time that we’re actually on a real label in the history of Crowbar, which is an amazing thing. We’ve been on labels with people who have been nice people and really tried hard, but just didn’t have the resources, the connections, the money, the whole nine yards, to do anything for the band. In this situation, it’s a real label, there’s real bands on it, and it’s a really positive thing.
For me, I’m addicted to work now. It’s unbelievable. My wife’s literally ready to stab me because I’m never not on the phone or the computer (laughs), and it’s great. I’m enjoying it, and it is strange. I’ve been in Down world since 2006. I still am. We had practice Wednesday and last night, we may practice tonight, depending. Me, Pepper [Keenan] and Jimmy [Bower] live here in New Orleans, and Phil [Anselmo] lives across the lake, about an hour and 15 minutes away, and Rex [Brown] is in Dallas, so me, Jimmy and Pepper have been getting together, writing stuff.
During the recording of the Crowbar record, I’d show up at Down practice, jam with those guys for a couple hours, grab my guitar and head straight to the studio for Crowbar. That was weird. Because usually I’m in one band’s world. I’m in Down world, or Kingdom, if we’re doing something with that, or Crowbar or whatever. So having to juggle Down and Crowbar, being creative with both bands in the same day, having to finish up lyrics and do vocals immediately after helping write riffs for Down was kind of strange, but I juggled it and it was cool.
How do you get in the different mindsets for different bands? You have much different roles in Down and Crowbar.
Absolutely. Usually I’m in one band’s world. With Crowbar, obviously 80 percent of the riffs are mine, all the lyrics are mine, I’m the head dude. Everything’s focused around me. Where, Down, Phil is the main focal point, and main arranger. He’s the band leader, for lack of a better term, but everybody equally throws their weight in and really carries themselves with it. But it’s just different. To get into the mindset of any of the bands, I proved it to myself.
As soon as I walk into the room and there’s Jimmy and Pepper, we plug in and start jamming, and I’m not even thinking about Crowbar, and then as soon as I leave there, I’m thinking about nothing but Crowbar, because I’m leaving to go sing that. I’ll literally have a bunch of scribbled down words and I’ll go, “Oh shit, I need to finish up these lyrics, and what the hell melody and phrasing am I going to use on this?” But it was cool.
It did work out well and I’m very pleased with everything with the Crowbar and with what we’re writing right now with Down.
Tell me about recording the album. Where did you do it and how long were you in the studio?
We started Aug. 28, and we recorded it at OCD Recording and Production, which is a relatively new but very nice studio right in Metairie, Louisiana, which is like 15 minutes from where I live, right outside of the city. It’s 10 minutes from downtown, or something. It was a little odd, because I’m used to going, “Okay, I’m in the studio,” which means, every waking moment, I’m in the studio. And with this situation, the head engineer has a day job, a very good day job, and two of the guys in Crowbar at this point still have day gigs, so it was a weekend and a little bit during the week kind of thing, which stretched out until up about the 12th of October.
It was a very relaxed atmosphere, very cool, and I’m really happy with the outcome. Duane [Somoneaux], the engineer, did a great job, and Zeuss mixed and mastered everything as well. He’s a huge Crowbar fan, and he’s done a lot. That was another thing too.
When Zeuss told me, “This record means as much to me as it means to you”—and I’ve been knowing Zeuss since ’05 pretty well because he did the first Kingdom, which was recorded in ’05—when he told me that, because he loves the band so much, I was like, “Well, this is really gonna turn out great.” And it did.
Do you have a timeframe on the new Down?
No. We have a lot of ideas, a lot of ideas, a lot of leftover. We have a ton of stuff for Down. Me, Pep and Jimmy listened last night to riffs we’ve been working on, and we probably have 10 songs’ worth of great ideas sitting right there, not to mention whatever Phil and Rex have, or what we’ve done in the past that hasn’t been used. There’s really no timeframe.
We do realize the clock’s ticking, literally and figuratively (laughs), and we’re not kids anymore, but Down… We toured so much and so extensively. We toured, recorded, and toured, from May of 2006 until end of July, beginning of August of 2010. We’ve built the foundation for Down on basically every corner of the earth, and had a great time doing it, and when the time is right, we’ll be popping some new stuff out.
Sever The Wicked Hand is due out Feb. 8, 2011, on E1 Music. Crowbar will be at Championship Bar And Grill in Trenton on Dec. 4, Santo’s Party House in Manhattan Dec. 5, and The Barbary Coast in Philadelphia Dec. 6. More info at crowbarmusic.com.
JJ Koczan has the full Q&A from this interview up on his blog at theobelisk.net. firstname.lastname@example.org.