In a new interview with Revolver, Kirk Windstein has confirmed he will reunite with Stoner Metal supergroup Down for the bands’ upcoming 2020 shows to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of their debut album NOLA. Kirk stepped down from the band in 2013 to focus on Crowbar and his family life. He also has his debut solo album coming in 2020. He was replaced by Bobby Landgraf, DOWN’s former guitar tech who was previously in Gahdzilla Motor Company, a 1990s outfit also featuring Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys, Watchtower), and Honky.Continue reading
Since 1995 Down has been the leading lights of metal. When the super-group released their debut NOLA (Elektra) it was an amalgam of the best of the best members of Southern influenced metal. Despite the great names among their ranks, they were almost an underground band, with little fanfare, that did a few short tours and then little else, at first. However, their fanbase grew over time, almost willing the band into full-time existence. Ever since 2001, the band has been regularly putting out fine releases, and passing on the torch to a new generation of other bands. With the release of the throwback feeling Down IV- Part II (Down Records) the band continues to cement their legend. Senior Editor Keith Chachkes chatted with the ever humble Jimmy Bower (EyeHateGod) about the evolution of the group.
We started off our chat with Jimmy by immediately addressing the departure of founding member Kirk Windstein from the group last fall. Whenever Down has lost a member in the past, it seemed to always be from within the Down extended family, and this has held true with Bobby Landgraf being chosen as the new guitarist:
“Kirk left the band last year. He wanted to concentrate on Crowbar full time. So on this EP, we introduced Bobby. He was our stage manager for five years. It was really cool and made sense to get Bobby into the band. The first Down EP had a couple of songs left over from our other records. This EP was all new stuff. This was one of the smoothest records we have ever made. Like you touched on, it kind of gets back to the basics of Down.”
“If you really think about it, you have to spend 24 hours a day with this person. You have to have the same influences. You have to know Down well enough, to know how to write a song with us. With Bobby, he’s been our stage manager for five years. He understands the Down sound and how we work. He is like family. He is family. We really like and respect his guitar style. He comes from the band Honky, which is really like a ZZ Top-style, Texas rock band that we dig. Like I said, you have to be able to live with this person. It was a really easy decision for us.”
Since this series of releases has been in the works for quite some time, we asked Bower if there were going to be any leftover songs from the Kirk era on future releases.
“Kirk wanted to do Crowbar full-time. We completely respected that. But the cool thing about this EP as well, is all these songs are brand new. I don’t think any old riffs of Kirk’s or anything like that are going to be used or anything, just out of respect. Because he might want to use some of those riffs in Crowbar someday. Besides, riffs are too easy to write! (Laughs)”
Although some eyebrows were raised at the time two years ago, the decision by the band to release a series of shorter releases instead of just a couple of full-length albums has proved to be an inspired choice. Jimmy went into detail about the concept, and how it evolved once Landgraf came into the fold.
“The whole idea behind the EPs was that each EP should reflect a different style and sound that Down does. We’ve got heavy stuff, mellow stuff, trippy stuff. Since Kirk left the band, we decided on this EP to just write a record with Bobby, you know? Just to have a fresh start. I’m sure the next EP will definitely reflect a different style. For this one, it just made sense with Bobby just getting in the band, you know, “let’s just write a good Down EP”. All the songs are brand new. It was one of the easiest records Down has ever made. All the riffs are brand new. Bobby came in with some riffs, everybody wrote riffs for this one and contributed. It’s great and it feels like a fresh start.
Several members of the band have long floated the notion that they band would make a mellow, acoustic album at some point in the future. Will this come to fruition soon? Bower reveals this as the possible direction for the next EP:
“It will be more reflective of songs like ‘Jail’ on Nola and, like Down II. You know, Down II was really kind of an experimental record for us with a bunch of different styles. We’ve already started talking about that actually, and everything like that. That was the whole point of these EPs, to represent all the different styles of the band. We are back on track with that.”
Down is currently out on the Revolver Golden Gods Tour with Black Label Society, Devil You Know, and Butcher Babies. We asked about the challenges of not being the headline band for a change:
“We are going out with Black Label. The only mis-fortunate thing about that tour is, we are only getting an opening slot. So I don’t think we are getting more than an hour. With that said, the plan is to definitely play songs off the new EP on the tour. At least three of `em. We’ve been practicing, and we’ve got three and have `em down pretty good. We’re just looking forward to people hearing the new stuff too. We’re really excited about it man. Again, the new material sounds really fresh to us, so of course we will be playing some of it live.”
2015 will mark the 20th anniversary of the NOLA album, and almost 25 years since the band was formed. Jimmy mused about the spark of friendship that helped created the band, and what his feelings are today about the group:
I remember when Down first got together, I thought the idea was amazing. We were all friends and it was a very influential time. We’d always hang out and listen to anything from Soundgarden to Sabbath to (Saint) Vitus or Witchfinder (General). It felt good for us as friends to get together. We’d all hang out, get drunk and listen to Vitus, Sabbath or whatever. It just made sense that Down was created. I am just honored to still be in it. We always told ourselves when we started Down, that this was the kind of band we could all grow old in and jam. I say this all the time that Down is really one of the biggest opportunities I’ve ever had as a musician, and it’s just a really cool thing to be involved in. And for it to still be going on, like you said, next year will be 20 years. It makes me feel old, man! (laughs)
KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES
Releasing the second in their series of four EP s, Down is back with a vengeance on Down IV Part Two (Down Records). However, with the departure of founding member Kirk Windstein last fall, the wheels could have very easily have come off another super-group. Lucky for us, the resiliency of this band, even one with the legacy members that is has, cannot be questioned. They have added their tour manager and long-time friend Bobby Landgraf (Honky) to take Kirk’s place, and these kings of the super-group rolled on to their next release. In fact, they discarded the material they wrote with Kirk, let him take his many riffs with him, and re-wrote the entire new EP more or less from scratch with Landgraf. That takes a lot of balls for any band, but especially when the bar is set as high as it is for this one. Not only is there zero drop-off from the first EP, this release exemplifies everything rewarding as a fan of this band, and heavy music as a whole.
The opener ‘Steeple’ starts with a crushing slab of doom with all the epic, slow Sabbath-ian thunder they have always championed. When the thrashy, up-tempo main riff kicks in, you cannot help but smile. As per usual, a Down release packs in the quality riffs. Within the first two minutes of the track at least five distinctly different parts can heard; each more awesome than the last. The best part is, they all work together, and make sense in the context of the song. Phil Anselmo, is once again in fine voice, relying mostly on his mid-high range, which always has a sense of urgency to it. The repeating line of ‘steeple will fall…’ in the ending coda just entrances you. Who knew this band could be so kvlt? The song is a crusher and begins what feels like a real throwback to the first two Down albums. Coming up next, the single ‘We Knew Him Well’, has the signature sound you expect: grinding riffs, classic beats, and a catchy refrain sung by Anselmo. There are no signs slipping of the guitar sound from Landgraf and Pepper Keenan who trade hot licks, and swap solos seamlessly.
As much as the songwriting on this the EP sounds welcome and familiar, that doesn’t mean the band is resting on their laurels. Not one bit. ‘Hogshead Dogshead’ shows a growth, melding the hard hitting chops and incorporating inventive time signatures, stop/start timing parts, and classic-rock/blues vamping. Drummer Jimmy Bower and bassist Pat Bruders are just locked in tight and nasty on the low end rhythms. There are also some sick solos for you guitar freaks to get sweaty over. ‘Hogshead Dogshead’ has a what I like to call the “happy summer-time vibe” to it; just a feelgood rock song that is not cheesy, along the lines of Queen, Thin Lizzy, and Deep Purple. What a rager! On the other hand, the molasses-drenched in hellfire riffitude of ‘Conjure’, begins a weeded-out dream groove. Halfway through, the track lifts off into some NWOBHM and thrash movements, with a few more surprises added in, before bringing it back around again. If ‘Bury Me In Smoke’ is Down’s very own ‘Sweet Leaf’, then this is their ‘Electric Funeral’. Like most of his recent work, we are also treated to some of the most memorable lyrics from Phil in his entire career. Emotionally crushing, and timeless too. This quite possibly the best song on the album and the best song of the collective Down IV series so far.
‘Sufferer’s Years’ is another slick cut full of Keenan’s signature chopping chord play. Once again, we hear a plethora of inventive changes in this song. Phil again kills with some neat double-tracked lines, accentuating his words with a wisp of delay effects trailing off at the end of phrases. Closing things out with another jammin track, the aptly titled ‘Bacchanalia’ just simmers with badassery until the last note. This song is so heavy, and so much fun that I can’t wait to hear it live. To top it off there is a stunning coda to the song that is not musically unlike classics ‘Jail’ and ‘Pray For The Locust’. One gets the feeling Down writes with all these little twists and turns as a gift to the listener and themselves too. When we look back on this part of their career, we will likely understand that these are less like regular EPs that other bands release, and much more like a mini-opus, in pieces. Down clearly realizes their collective vision, no matter who is in the lineup, every time.
KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES