Brian Sweeney of Blistering.com recently conducted an interview with DOWN guitarist Kirk Windstein. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
Blistering.com: What direction did DOWN go with “Down III: Over The Under”?
Kirk Windstein: We really didn't have anything in mind, it just kind of came out. In general I think we kind of just – we're the type of band that's not really afraid to go backwards. We like to move forward of course, too, but in some ways we gathered together and decided to put DOWN back together and make it a real band and not a side project and stay focused and give 100% dedication to this band. We went back and started listening to a lot of the stuff that influenced DOWN to form as a band in the first place. Bands like TROUBLE, BLACK SABBATH and a lot of Southern rock – SKYNYRD, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS, stuff like that. All of the old stuff that really inspired us to form as a band way back when. We all played in heavy bands, for lack of a better word, and we kind of wanted to do something different. On this one we did make a conscious effort to go back and listen to the stuff that influenced us the first time around.
Blistering.com: I heard some rumors that there are a slew of acoustic songs that you didn't put on the record. Is there any substance to those rumors?
Windstein: We have acoustic songs written. The way this album was coming out, we just kind of looked at each other and said, “Let's make a hard-hitting, straight-ahead classic rock'n'roll record.” We do have some dynamics on some of the songs, of course. We try to make everything a little different: songs written in a different key, different tempos; there is mellow stuff, just hard-hitting, heavy stuff – everything. The acoustic thing, we talked about incorporating it into the record. The way it was coming out and the way it was flowing we felt it was best to go with a classic rock'n'roll record. We do have some acoustic stuff done. We have songs that we recorded that didn't make the record that are killer songs that could be used somewhere down the line. We have songs that were written that we demoed that we didn't even record in the studio that are killer, so we have an abundance of material and I'm sure that we're going to do something with the acoustic stuff and some of these other tracks sometime soon.
Blistering.com: When you're writing music, do you get together with everybody and sit around a table and just jam, or do you think of stuff on your own and bring it to the group?
Windstein: A little bit of everything. Everybody wrote stuff at their own house or whatever, to bring to practice; a lot of it was written at practice. Phil spent countless hours going through the riff tapes. In fact, the tune “On March The Saints” was something that he found on a riff tape from like '97, '98 or something like that, and I remembered it, so I was like, “Dude, I remember that,” so we kind of worked that up, and of course it's a lot different than the original thing. But we had hours and hours of jam sessions from way back when, and we went through those – Phil basically did – and made notes of the ones that he felt were worth listening to. And some of those things were taken and rewritten with everyone else's input. It depends. A lot of time [guitarist] Pepper [Keenan] will come up with his stuff right there on the spot. A lot of times we'll get to the rehearsal room and he'll be in the “lair,” we call it, where we jam, and he'll come up with a good idea. He'll come over about an hour or two later, and he's got a really good idea and we'll work on that. Everyone definitely adds in their own two cents, but that's kind of how the writing process goes. It's a little bit of everything. The riffs that I brought in were written and demoed and presented to the band, and everyone would put their own twist on them.
Blistering.com: The band is pretty much synonymous with New Orleans, but you recorded the album in Los Angeles. Was that change of scenery difficult to adapt to, just being away from New Orleans?
Windstein: Well, I think the one positive is that there are no outside distractions when you do something like that. I have a house, I have a wife, I have a little girl – not that that's a distraction – but when you're isolated, whether it be in the woods at Phil's where we did the last record when we lived there for a damn month and didn't even leave, or if you're isolated in a hotel and being shuttled straight between the hotel and the studio day in and day out not even seeing the sun, you only have one focus, and that one focus is the record, is creating the best record you can create. Performing the best that you can perform. And I think if we were to do it in the studio in the city here and be going home every night some of our “regular-life responsibilities” would come into play a little bit more. For me personally, I enjoyed getting away and just being isolated and focused in on nothing but the record. Some of us are able to do it at home, some of us aren't, but I think it was a good, positive thing. The change of scenery was good. We always write in New Orleans just to get that vibe, you know. But recording out in L.A. was nice. The problem with New Orleans is that the majority of the really good studios here were destroyed in the hurricane and aren't even back up and running, if they're ever even going to come back. So it was a pretty limited selection as to where we could record. Our producer lives out in L.A. so he was able to get everything coordinated and it worked out great. On DOWN I, “NOLA” was basically a straight-ahead disc that had a few little segue pieces, and we intentionally did a lot of the stuff that we did on “Down II” with acoustic stuff and just kind of broadened our whole spectrum. We feel as though we can do whatever we want to do. If we want to make a damn acoustic record, we'll make it. If we want to make a hard-hitting heavy record, we'll make it. If we want to make a combination of the two, we'll make it. We don't feel we're backed into any corner, you know? We feel like we're free to express ourselves and write what we feel as individuals and collectively as the five guys in DOWN.
Read the entire interview at Blistering.com.