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InterviewsThe Karma and Ghosts of Kip Winger

Posted on Saturday, January 09 2010 @ 14:52:59 CST by Duncan Glenday
Progressive Rock Not content with releasing one killer album filled with classy, intelligent rock songs, Kip Winger has in the last couple of months put his considerable skills to two albums! Winger, the band, released their fifth and possibly finest album Karma, and along with his brother Nate and his school friend, Peter Fletcher, Kip has also put out the debut self titled album from Blackwood Creek, who the three initially formed way back in 1969. Add to that premiering a classical piece expanded from a song from Kip's latest solo album From The Moon To The Sun and you may quite rightly get the impression that 2009 has been an extremely busy and fruitful year for Kip Winger. Sea of Tranquility staff writer Steven Reid recently had the pleasure of finding out more.

Sea Of Tranquility - Steven Reid: Hi Kip, thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions. I'd like to start by asking you about the fantastic new Winger album Karma. You and the band must be extremely pleased by how positive the reaction to it has been?

Kip Winger - Blackwood Creek, Winger: Yes, we're very stoked about it. It's nice to know that people are still listening to and liking what we do.

SoT: Considering the music you and Reb had been involved in since Winger's initial split, with the likes of The Mob, X-Carnation along with solo albums from yourself and Reb, I thought Winger's previous release IV was a natural progression from the fantastic Pull album. Were you surprised at the, wrongly in my opinion, lukewarm reception IV received?

KW: Yes actually. However after I spoke to a lot of people out on the road, the general consensus is that "musicians" really loved it.

SoT: How did you approach the writing for IV after the band being out of action for so long?

KW: To be honest I was really in a progressive mind set, with IV I was experimenting with a lot of different things, Karma. However is very straight forward.


SoT: Did the reaction to IV have any bearing on the marvellous melodic, yet rocking nature of Karma, which seems to marry the melody rich sound of the albums Winger and In The Heart Of The Young with Pull's more "mature" outlook?

KW: Not really, we always start fresh with every record. I knew I wanted fast songs for Karma that would play well live. I set out to do a cross between Winger 1 and Pull, focusing on the riffs and melodies rather than huge arrangements.

SoT: Both yourself and guitarist Reb Beach were involved in the writing of every song on Karma, did you guys sit down together, of was it a case of bringing ideas to each other and working them out from there?

KW: Every record we do is exactly the same, Reb and I sit down with a drum machine, a 12 pack of Coors Light and start writing riffs. When we get something we like, we begin to write sections, then sketch out melodies and it all develops from there. We wrote a song a day and we were finished in ten days!

SoT: Ten Days, for the whole album!?

KW: Not quite! The ten days was for the basic song ideas, it took longer to write the lyrics and arrange the songs.

SoT: John Roth (guitars) also had a hand in one track, how did that fit into the writing sessions?

KW: On the tenth day I woke up and remembered a riff John had sent me and I thought "WHEW! What a relief! We can work on that today!!" (laughs) The best thing about the song is that Winger had never done a blues song, so it was a double plus for us.

SoT: Could you pick out some highlights from the album?

KW: I don't really know as I think it works well as a record, however the fast guitar riff on "Pull Me Under" I really like, all of "Stone Cold Killer", that's my favourite track....the solo on "Witness", or the vibe "Come A Little Closer". As I said I like how it works as a record more than individual pieces.

SoT: One of the aspects that always really stands out to me on any album you are involved with is the outstanding vocal arrangements. Is this an area that you place special focus on?

KW: Arrangements in general is a focus for me, I'm really a classical composer in disguise. The arrangement of the music is extremely important regarding placing all the sonorities where the ear can hear them and doing that in a way that will feel different to the listener.

SoT: What makes the vocals even stronger to me is that over the years reading your lyrics has been an interesting and at times moving journey, do you feel it's a necessary part of writing your songs to convey your emotions, both positive and negative in the words?

KW: I became a lyricist by default and have come to realise that lyrics are everything if you are talking about song writing. Not jamming, or prog rock or anything like that, but the lyric is what makes the difference to the longevity of the song itself.

SoT: It's great to see that the band are touring to promote Karma, I'm especially pleased to see you are playing Scotland, I already have my ticket for the Glasgow show. How long will you guys be on the road and which countries will the tour take in?

KW: We were just in Europe, we played all over. When we come to the UK, it will just be Denmark, the UK and Germany this time.

SoT: If I can, I'd like to move onto the Blackwood Creek album, what is the history of this band?

KW: It was my first band. We grew up in Denver and formed when I was just seven years old. We played together for about 12 years. It was all the 70's stuff that we played. Grand Funk, James Gang, Zeppelin, all that kind of stuff.

SoT: How did you guys get back together after such a long time apart?

KW: Well Nate is my brother, so we've always hung out together and we just decided to jam and the chemistry was still there.

Winger's Striking Cover Art

SoT: Are the songs taken from your first time together, or are they all new compositions?

KW: They are all new with the exception of "Love Inspector", although there are some older ideas incorporated into some of the new songs.

SoT: In ways the sound on the Blackwood Creek is a little rougher and edgier than we would normally expect from something you are involved in. Was this something that Nate and Peter bring to the band, or does it come from being a three piece that first got down and dirty together playing all those shows that gave you your chops?

KW: I'm not sure really, although being a three piece probably has something to do with it. Also the songs are not as intricate in terms of the riffs, so that could lead to it sounding "beefier" in some ways.

SoT: At what point did Frontiers get involved with Blackwood Creek, or were they just a natural fit after their handling of the last two Winger albums?

KW: I have a great relationship with them, so it was the first place I took it.

SoT: Are there plans for any future activities from Blackwood Creek, such as touring or a follow up album?

KW: Not sure yet, maybe we'll get something done in the summer.

Blackwood Creek

SoT: Your excellent solo album released last year From The Moon To The Sun, contained a short classical piece, "Ghosts", that to me had a "film noir" fee to it. Since then you have expanded upon that piece and it's now been premiered with a full orchestra and I believe that there's a ballet being choreographed to work alongside "Ghosts". It's not an obvious outlet for someone who is mainly viewed as a "rocker", how did it come about and has it been a long held ambition?

KW: I've been a long time advocate of classical music. It's been the only thing I really listen to for years now. Mostly music from 1900 to 1950, although some modern composers as well. I've continued to study classical for 15 years and am now getting some performances. Tucson Symphony was the first to perform "Ghosts" and San Francisco Ballet will be the first to perform it to the great choreography of your fellow countryman Christopher Wheeldon. It's been a lifelong goal of mine, so I'm very excited!

SoT: You mentioned earlier that you are really a classical composer in disguise, do you have more classical music that you'd like to work on?

KW: Yes, unfortunately for the rock fans, it's mostly classical on the way from me.

SoT: To go back to Winger, when the band split up, it must have been quite daunting to suddenly be out on your own, however with the benefit of hindsight; do you think you would have achieved the artistic freedom you have enjoyed over the years, if that split had never happened?

KW: I intentionally did that, although I didn't foresee the "Karma" of Winger being the fall band of 80's rock. In hindsight it turned out to be the right circumstances for me to actually relearn how to compose music from an orchestral point of view.

SoT: Musically all your projects are very different from each other. Do you write specifically for each project, or do you stock pile songs and categorise them depending on their sound and feel?

KW: I write for a project, I don't "save up" songs. If you told me to write a tango record right now, I'd research it and do it, then move on

SoT: What are the different challenges in terms of song writing from project to project?

KW: Honesty. That is the key to all of this stuff. If you are just in it to "sell the t-shirt" and the "brand", people will hear that in the music. I think the public is instinctively much smarter than most artists give them credit for

SoT: So once all the touring is complete, what's next, do you have any collaborations lined up, or will we be treated to more solo music?

KW: No I'm narrowing down my focus to fewer projects of higher quality.

SoT: Much though I enjoy all your music I have to say that I have a particular soft spot for your solo material. I saw you many years ago play a solo acoustic show in a small venue in Glasgow when you supported Bob Catley of Magnum. Will we get another chance to see you doing these types of shows?

KW: Yes, I love touring the solo thing. Most people assume that I was "made" by other people, so I love to perform alone. It's always fun to convert sceptics!

SoT: Kip I really appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions, is there anything else you like to add?

KW: Nope, thank you!

Photos by permission of Frontiers USA

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