To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of their now-iconic debut album NOLA (Elektra Records), the band Down originally planned a tour at select venues worldwide before a global pandemic shut down the normal cadence of life as any of us ever knew it for the foreseeable future. Not to be silenced on such a momentous occasion, the guys took to the stage at a private location instead to stream The Quarter Century Throwdown as a global virtual concert. Featuring vocalist Phil Anselmo, guitarists Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein, drummer Jimmy Bower and Pat Bruders on bass, the event aired live with two encore performances in the days following the livestream for ticket holders.
Down is streaming their new video for “Conjure” here. The haunting and twisted ode to 70’s horror films was directed by JM Stelly and Chris Trainor at Lab Productions. Stelly previously worked with Corrosion of Conformity and Suicide Girls, while Trainor has collaborated with GWAR, Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, EYEHATEGOD, and is the producer of Housecore TV. The track is featured on Down’s latest EP Down IV – Part Two.
Down bassist Pat Bruders says, “We had a lot of fun working with Stelly and Trainor to make something we think is special. Hope everyone likes it!”
Down IV – Part Two was released in May 2014 via Down Records/ADA and was the band’s highest charting release to-date (#1 on iTunes’ Rock Albums chart; #23 on Billboard’s Top 200).
25 years is a milestone for any musical venture, and with Crowbar, they have crafted their own style around a slowed down tempo, riff oriented metallic rock sound that is often emulated but rarely topped.
You may recall some of their music videos appeared on a then popular MTV show called Beavis & Butthead, where viewers got a taste of two moronic animated youths cackling along and giving oddly scripted critiques to music videos of the time. They were chosen as one of those bands.
“We sent Mike Judge a package with a video, a t-shirt….’hey, here’s a couple videos of our band Crowbar. Have fun…make fun of us.’ Sure enough…we’re on Beavis and Butthead! What?! We thought it was great.”
“Occasionally…ok maybe once a year, somebody will say something and we’ll watch it. It’s great and it’s an honor to be on the program. It’s a great show,” recalls Crowbar frontman and guitarist Kirk Windstein, about those early years and the exposure they got from the iconic television series.
They released their tenth album earlier in 2014 titled Symmetry In Black (eOne), which reaches a new milestone in the band’s career. Sticking to a sound that they as much as their hardcore fans know very well, they created a record that hits as hard as they sound.
They began writing the record following Windstein’s departure from Down, the iconic riff rock outfit he was part of until 2013. From that point he made his focal point to be Crowbar and it began with the writing of the new album.
“I didn’t even start writing until September ,” explained Windstein. “We entered the studio in December. It was pretty close. Our mindset was good is not acceptable. It has to be great. I told that to the engineer. I produced. I think we accomplished our goals and everything else we set out for the record.
“I co-produced with Duane Simoneaux. He’s an engineer, but he adds a lot. He helps me with guitar harmonies and rhythms like guitar, piano, bass, drums, whatever. He’s a jack of all trades. He understands everything. He did so much work on this one that it’s co produced.”
One of the changes that came with his departure from Down was parting ways with bassist Pat Bruders, who until recently was doing double duty with both bands. Having to make a choice, Bruders stuck with Down and Windstein having to replace him with former Thy Will Be Done bassist Jeff Golden.
“I kind of gave him an ultimatum. I said I’m only doing Crowbar. If you want to stay in Down I understand that. But I said you can’t be in both. I’m happy and that’s all that counts. We have Jeff [Golden]. He’s a great guy and he’s one of my best friends now and he rocks with the band with us now.”
Making that decision did not always sit well with his peers as well as critics alike, but Windstein was never one to do things but his own way. “You have some people who said I should have stuck around with Down. People think I’m nuts, but I’m not. I believe in Crowbar. Even though Down’s a bigger band…you know who our crew is? My wife. She works for free. As much money as I made with Down…I work a lot harder. I carry my own guitars and set up my own shit. I don’t give a fuck. That’s the way I started out and that’s the way I am. It’s humbling.”
Windstein spoke about reaching this golden moment in his career, and whether it comes with any real surprise that he reached it at all.
“Yes and no. I mean the young dude in me was determined to do it. But to think the band has ten records and 25 years in, while a lot of bands have one or two records and fall off the face of the Earth. To be doing the same band 25 years in, it’s pretty amazing.”
He is proud of the sound he helped shape, but is a modest guy who appears more about the music than anything else. He became part of a musical movement within New Orleans who loved heavy music with a distinctive sound that sounded like no other. What came after that took a life of its own.
“I’m not surprised that it did and I’m not surprised because we did something that nobody else had heard or a genre to put us in. They made a genre called sludge. To me it’s just heavy music. They made it for bands like Crowbar and Eyehategod. Ok it’s close enough! Sounds good…”
“We didn’t know what to make of it. The public didn’t know what to make of it. To me it’s the highest honor to hear all these great bands call us an influence. We appreciate that very much.”
Crowbar has had a history of members coming and going, and some returning at various times. But despite their shuffling of lineups, Windstein has maintained good relations with many of them over the years.
“I keep in touch on and off with Craig Nunenbacher, obviously Jimmy Bower, Todd Strange a little bit, Matt Thomas emailed me out of the blue. I haven’t talked to him in years. It’s kind of weird. The guys who played on the records pretty much. I see Sammy [Duet] around New Orleans all the time.”
“Me and him [Jimmy Bower] kind of started it together, to be honest. ‘I wanna play guitar in a band’ – so he started Eyehategod. I would teach him stuff over the telephone on guitar – fret five, do this…back then we had nothing to do. It was cool. We kind of started around the same time as Eyehategod. It was our vision to do what Crowbar does”.
One thing that is undeniable is how Crowbar’s sound has grown over the years with their ‘less is more’ approach, and crafting a powerful sound that fans have grown to love.
“It’s because WE get better. The odd thing is, I’m 49 years old but I’m still the 13 year old kid with the tennis racket playing air guitar to KISS. The passion is stronger than ever. It’s stronger than it’s ever been to do Crowbar. It’s 25 years. I spent half my life doing it.”
As for Crowbar’s impact on music, he says he has not changed much but experience has groomed him into what he is today. “I’m the same guy I was but it’s me. I’m the same man, kid, punk mother fucker, but at 49 years of age. I did my time on stage and that’s where I belong and I do my thing. I do it stronger and harder and my heart is in it.”
Interview: Rei Nishimoto