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.
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?
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
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
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
SoT: Ten Days, for the whole album!?
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
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
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?
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
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?
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
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
KW: They are all new with the exception of "Love
Inspector", although there are some older ideas incorporated into some of the
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
SoT: Kip I really appreciate you taking the time to
answer these questions, is there anything else you like to add?
Nope, thank you!
Photos by permission of Frontiers USA
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