KIRK WINDSTEIN On New DOWN Music: 'We're Not Overthinking It' Or 'Trying To Make Things Too Complex'

April 17, 2024

In a new interview with Concrete Spew, DOWN guitarist Kirk Windstein spoke about the musical direction of the material he and his bandmates have been working on for their next release. The long-running heavy metal supergroup hasn't issued anything since the arrival of the "Down IV – Part Two" EP in May 2014.

"It just sounds like DOWN," Kirk said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). "I mean, it sounds refreshing because we haven't done it in so long, gotten together with me and the guys and done it in — fuck — 12 years or something. So it sounds like DOWN, I think, to me, it sounds more old-school DOWN. And the reason I say that is I think we got to a point where… Like, the 'NOLA' record is so simple, and it just wrote itself; it was so simple. And that's how this is coming about, which is great. We're not overthinking it. We're not trying to make things too complex. Phillip's [Anselmo, DOWN singer] not trying to write so many lyrics and things. We just kind of got away — I hate to say 'got away', 'cause anything we do is DOWN, but, to me, we kind of got a little bit… We needed to go back and look at each other and just go, 'Let's just get in a room and do it like we did from the beginning.' And that's what it feels like to me. It's very magical. The ideas and the working together, just bounce off of one another, it's a natural thing."

Windstein went on to say that DOWN has "seven songs" written "right now," but he noted that he hadn't heard them with lead vocals yet "because I was on tour with CROWBAR in the U.K. and Ireland. And so Phil and [his wife] Kate had [a get-together] over at the house and on the property where the studio is and all while we were on tour. And everybody got to hear it with vocals, except me, and I haven't heard it. So I guess I'm gonna have to try to make a trip over there. But Pepper [Keenan, DOWN guitarist] also built kind of a home studio thing in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. He's got like a beach house out there — well, really two that are next door to one another. And I talked to him about that right before we left. So we wanna do guitar solos, at least demo 'em or whatever, have ideas, and what we call sweetie tracks, which is little licks and things between vocal lines. So in order to do that, we're gonna have to get have the vocals, 'cause nobody's got the tracks with Phil's vocals except Phil."

Last month, DOWN drummer Jimmy Bower told Shawn Ratches of Laughingmonkeymusic about the progress of the songwriting sessions for the band's new release: "We got together about a month or two ago, and we were practicing with just me, Pat [Bruders, bass], Kirk and Pepper. Phil lives on the other side of the lake [in Louisiana]. We got together over at his house for a weekend, and we have seven songs, man. We're supposed to get together again in April, and then talk about recording, trying to get this thing out."

Asked whether Anselmo, who has spent most of the past year and a half touring with the reformed PANTERA, comes in with a book of lyrical ideas when they are working on music, Bower said: "He's got notebooks and stuff that he definitely writes and keeps stuff for, but he's generally a writes-for-the-song kind of thing.

"Phil's amazing to write with because he's really good with arranging, and he's just really witty with his arrangements and bridges and stuff like that, that, I'd be, like, 'Damn, I would have never thought of that.' And that's the beautiful thing about DOWN — it's a room filled with dudes that are witty with their songwriting and stuff like that. We can write all day without Phil, but when he's there, it's that much better. It really is. 'Cause he'd be, like, 'Do this four times. Go into the bridge, then go back to the verse, and then we'll do a pre-chorus, and next thing you know, you've got a killer song."

Jimmy went on to praise Philip's skills as a composer, saying: "He's such a songwriter, it's ridiculous. And he's super, super fucking talented. Sometimes I read comments about people's misconceptions, and I just hold my tongue. 'Cause I know the truth. The dude can jam his ass off. It's just really fun to write with Phil. He's always in a killer mood, especially when we're being creative. We've been in so many bands together."

Last October, Windstein, who also plays guitar and sings in CROWBAR, told Scott Penfold of Loaded Radio about the DOWN songwriting process: "When you have five guys — well, Phil, of course, will be kind of out of the picture for now but me, Pepper, Jimmy and Pat — in a room together, when you've got all these guys writing riffs off of each other… And that's the way I like to write — I like to write spontaneously off the cuff. I don't like to [go], 'Okay, this is my new song. Boom. Here y'all go,' or whatever. I like to write off the cuff, on the spot. I feel what the other guys are giving me vibe-wise and whatnot. And that, to me, is a winning formula. It really is."

Regarding how long he thinks DOWN can keep going, Kirk said: "When we got DOWN together in 1991, that was the first demo tape. We wrote 'Bury Me In Smoke', 'Temptation's Wings' and 'Losing All' in a day. We recorded it. Phil sang. We mixed it off on a four-track or some shit, and that was it. Phil flew back to Texas and Pepper flew back to North Carolina with C.O.C. So when we got together, we always joked, but it's no longer a joke that this is the kind of band we can grow old with. It doesn't matter what we look like. We can be fat. We can be bald. We're not attracting 18-year-old girls. If they wanna be a fan of the music, great. If you're a [Taylor Swift] fan, hey, more power to you. It's all good. Whatever. But that was not our intention. And it's kind of ironic or whatever that it's kind of come full circle where we see ourselves going, 'Hey, guys, we're closing in on mid-50s to 60s. This is a band that we can actually do and kill it and then retire with it maybe.'"

DOWN made a handful of rare live appearances in the spring and summer of 2022. The band launched a three-date U.S. run of shows in May 2022 at the Welcome To Rockville festival in Daytona Beach, Florida. After playing in Atlanta and Dallas immediately after Rockville, DOWN took a three-week break before regrouping for three European festival appearances in June. An appearance at that year's Blue Ridge Rock Festival followed in September 2022 in Alton, Virginia.

In August 2021, DOWN took part in a very special in-person live and virtual experience. "NOLA Town Throwdown" was held at the Fillmore in New Orleans, Louisiana and featured fans attending the show in person as well as watching it in real time from the comfort of their living room.

In August 2020, DOWN celebrated the 25th anniversary of "NOLA" with a special livestreamed event. Dubbed "The Quarter Century Throwdown", the high-production, multi-camera event took place using cutting-edge streaming technology to create a one-of-a-kind virtual concert experience.

A founding member of DOWN, Windstein left the band in 2013 in order to focus on CROWBAR and his family life. 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.

Windstein announced his return to DOWN in 2019, with the band confirming a number of festival appearances for 2020 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of "NOLA", all of which were later canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic which swept the globe.

Prior to the August 2020 livestream, DOWN's last live appearance took place in August 2016 at the Psycho Las Vegas festival in Las Vegas.

"Down IV – Part Two" sold around 10,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release in May 2014 to debut at position No. 23 on The Billboard 200 chart.

The band's previous EP, "Down IV Part I – The Purple EP", opened with around 12,000 units in September 2012 to land at No. 35.

"Down IV – Part Two" was recorded at Nodferatu's LairAnselmo's home studio — and produced by Michael Thompson. It was released via Down Records/ADA Music.

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