DOWN - Strength Of Defiance

October 10, 2012, 5 years ago

By Aaron Small

down feature

Talk about multi-tasking, DOWN guitarist Kirk Windstein, who also plays in CROWBAR and KINGDOM OF SORROW, chose to get inked while being interviewed by “I’m here in Philly getting tattooed as we speak,” revealed the bearded six-stringer.” I’m getting the band TROUBLE, the T from their logo, on my right knee; I’ve got the SAINT VITUS V on my left knee – it’s looking good.”

Down released their new EP, IV Part I on September 18th and it promptly debuted at #35 on the Billboard album chart. Looking at this EP, the first thing noticed is the absence of the Down name/logo from the cover. “That was intentional. Pepper (Keenan, guitarist) came up with that idea; I think it adds a little mystery to it. Kinda like Zeppelin IV, there was a sticker on there that said LED ZEPPELIN featuring ‘Stairway To Heaven’. It doesn’t say Led Zeppelin anywhere.” Have many people noticed the Grim Reaper hiding in the bottom left corner of the cover? “To be honest, I didn’t even notice it for a while ‘cause I didn’t have my damn glasses on and I can’t see without ‘em. But no one’s really commented on it yet, of course it’s only been out a week.”

IV Part I has been subtitled The Purple EP, apparently because of the purple hue to the sky on the cover. “Actually, that’s not really the name; it doesn’t have a title,” asserts Kirk. “It’s just called Down IV, I. You know, our management team and other people were referring to it as The Purple EP, and we kind of called it that a little bit as well. You can call it The Black Cross, whatever.”

The phrase, “It’s Everything That’s Right For Us That’s Wrong” is printed twice inside the EP; once on the underside of the cover, and once on the last page of the booklet. Why is that so important to Down? “That would actually be a question for Pepper. I don’t know? He does all the artwork; he’s really creative and really good at it. He does the t-shirts, everything. Basically he did it, Phil (Anselmo, vocalist) okayed it, and we all thought it looked great. But I don’t know why he put it on there twice. Once again, anything to pique people’s interest – why’s it on there twice, or why’s it called The Purple EP, why isn’t the name on the cover? We just tricked it up a little bit, having fun basically.”

People’s interest was definitely piqued by the announcement that this is the first in a series of four EPs. Although everyone’s excited to have six killer new songs, they want to know when they’ll be able to get the other 18. “Well, we’re doing a thing right now called ‘Riff Of The Day’, where all five of us – we’ve got a little mini-studio set up on a computer in the dressing room, and every day each one of us takes a little time and has to write a riff. So, we’re at 11 days on this tour, if everybody does their bit each day, at the end of this little tour, we’ll have 55 new riffs to start fucking with. So hopefully not long (until the next EP comes out). We’ve already discussed that, we want to get to work asap. Obviously we’ve got some touring to do before we even do that (ten shows in Europe and The UK in October). We don’t want this thing to drag out forever, ‘cause we do have three more of these to do – and we’re not getting any younger. I’m 47, I’ll be 48 this April; I can’t be 75 by the time EP IV comes around. We’ll continue to do our other bands and projects – Phil’s got a solo thing coming out, I’ve got Crowbar to do, Jimmy (Bower, drummer) has a new EYEHATEGOD, but we want to keep the Down thing flowing as well. It’s going very good right now, there’s a lot of excitement about the record, and the tour’s going fantastic. We’re really at the top of our game live, so we want to keep the ball rolling.”

The sound on The Purple EP is intentionally raw and unpolished, harkening back to the NOLA era in ’95. That result was achieved by working at the band’s own Nodferatu’s Lair, as opposed to OCD Recording - a professional facility where the last Crowbar album was made. According to Kirk, “for Down, doing it at the Lair just feels right. That’s where we did Down II; we rented a bunch of gear. Now Phil’s got most of the gear we need there. We wrote this whole record there basically; it’s comfortable and natural, it feels like home to be at the Lair. On the last record (Down III) we tried three different studios in LA, and that’s just not the kind of band we are. We like to cook out and grill out, drink some beer and jam out in the woods. Cell phones don’t even work out there, you’re away from everything. There’s no distractions, you get in that mindset and you can just roll. It’s not like the big swanky studio thing by any means. We’re in a barn that’s been converted into a studio, and we love it.”

Grammy Award winning producer Warren Riker (SANTANA, MICHAEL JACKSON) worked on Down II and III, but he’s not involved in Down IV. “We love Warren, we just saw him in Tampa back in June. He’s a good buddy of ours; we love what we did with him. We had met Mike Thompson (SKID ROW) who co-produced the EP; he’s a real good buddy with Snake Sabo our manager. We got to talking about using him and doing it at the Lair, he was all about it. He had a lot of experience working at The Hit Factory in New York City for 12, 13 years. We got together and it just clicked; he’s doing live sound for us right now. He’s a great guy. Warren’s a great guy too, but we kind of lost touch a little bit over the last few years, and just wanted to try something different.”

Another big notable is the change in the lineup. Rex Brown (ex-PANTERA) is no longer on bass, having been replaced by Patrick Bruders, (ex-GOATWHORE). Kirk explains the difference between the two bass players and how that’s changed Down as a band. “As far as their playing style, they’re similar in a way. Pat’s maybe a little more aggressive, he plays with his fingers (as opposed to Rex who played with a pick) which gives a different tone to everything. He’s very old school, really it’s like six of one, half dozen of the other. Rex wanted to do his thing and we all support him. In fact, he came out to the Dallas show (September 18th), got up and jammed two songs with us. There’s no animosity whatsoever. He just wanted to move on and do something else. Pat was the obvious choice; I already play with him in Crowbar. He’s good friends with everybody; he lives five minutes from Jimmy. Like Pepper said, ‘he’s got a van, he lives down the street, he’s got the gig.’ We didn’t even try anyone out. We gave him a disc of songs, he learned them, stepped in and kicked ass. It stated on a trial basis, and most of the riffs were written before he was really in the band. But Pat performed so well in the studio, we all just looked at each other and said, fuck this, he’s in. He’s not a hired gun, he’s in the band. It’s great man.”

Down recently released a video for ‘Witchtripper’ in which Phil is dressed like Aleister Crowley, and it features a cameo appearance by Mike Williams of Eyehategod. “Just watch and enjoy, that’s all I can say. Let’s just put it this way, Phil came up with a concept, and we all loved it. We had an absolute blast; it was a whole lot of fun to make. It’s brilliant and it’s hilarious.” Check it out below:

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