Kingdom Of Sorrow's Kirk Windstein on beer, music and housework

Happy wife. Happy life...

Kirk Windstein, one half of Kingdom of Sorrow’s guitar attack, is swigging Coopers Pale Ale after a blistering set at the Brisbane Soundwave. He’s looking a bit roughed up (playing a set in the middle of the day will do that to you) but he’s first concern is for me: “Y’all got any beer?”

Sadly not, Kirk. Sadly not. Holding back the tears, I push on with the interview.

Kirk’s got the best voice; it sounds like he’s been gargling broken glass and nails. So you’re enjoying that frosty cold Coopers that I want to steal from you?  “They’re fuckin’ good…better than some of the crap we get in the US…it’s my third time in Australia and I’ve never had a bad beer yet.”

With everyone in KoS also working with different bands, is it difficult to meet up, write and organise tours? “Not really. We’ve all slowed down a little bit as we’ve gotten older and we’re all family guys now. Jamey (Jasta, vocals) asked me to commit to this maybe six months ago so I said I’d check with all the Down guys and they said ‘Yeah. Cool. Cool. Cool.’ So it wasn’t hard – we make it work.”
The last Kingdom of Sorrow album was Behind The Blackest Tears (2010), and Kirk’s quite relaxed about any future releases. He says “We might do one at the end of the year or early next year. We’re not laying it to rest by any means; we enjoy it, y’know? It’s fun, all the guys are great. I’m a musician – I’m not the greatest – but I enjoy playin’ with good musicians; different guys with different styles; it makes me a better player all round so we’re definitely not laying it to rest and we’re definitely gonna do something else.”

While I was researching I found out that Jamey has been the poster-boy for PETA, do you ever feel like getting involved with charity work. His eyebrows go up and there’s surprise in his gravelly voice. “Charity work?! Actually after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I kinda did some work – I was getting paid so it wasn’t exactly charity work – I was guttin’ houses and doin’ construction; stuff I never did before. I did get paid but it felt like charity work because it was very rewarding to help these people out. It was hard fuckin’ work! We were doin’ 15 hours a day, seven days a week for months; dawn to dark; I wake up – it’s dark; I go to work – it’s dark; I go home – it’s dark…”

Although he doesn’t have to hold down a ‘regular’ job, Kirk is a renowned family man, happily running off the names and ages of his extended family including his wife, step-children, and grand-daughter. He still seems mind-blown by this turn of events (“I’m a grand-father!”) but with his long greying beard, I can definitely picture him bouncing a baby on his knee like some evil Santa-type figure.  Being a responsible adult, he tells me there’s no drinking at home before correcting himself “Only on the weekends; Friday and Saturday nights we get tanked,” adding that, because he wife works all day “I do the house-work, y’know? She comes in, the house is spick and span, and that’s the way I like it.” This is one down to earth man and house-work is a recurring theme in our conversation.

So you go mental on tour: “Mental? Yeah!” I suspect he thinks I mean stressed as he runs through his travel itinerary to get to Brisbane. It’s a mish-mash of flights and no wonder the poor bastard is feeling a bit frazzled; how’s the jet lag? “It’s kinda kickin’ us – this is my fourth beer but it feels like I’ve had thirty! I’m just tryin’ to keep it rollin’.” And how was it playing in this heat? “I tell you what; I’m used to the heat, man, coming from New Orleans but we’ve been having a cold spell,” Kirk tells me it’s been cold enough to freeze a juju priest’s bone-bag, however he adds “but we get here and everything’s beautiful and then I got on stage and was like…” he sighs a big sigh of relief “feels like New Orleans; hot – and I like sweatin’…” So you’ll be reasonably restrained on tour? “I’ll be forty eight years old in April and I used to go fuckin’ crazy – we all did! But as we get older, we become family men – and women, for the ladies in the business – but for me, it’s a great job and I wouldn’t trade it – but it’s still work, y’know? Other than my time on stage, I wanna be at home. All the craziness, all that shit; it’s long gone.”

He speaks of his deep respect for Anthrax and Slayer, which is handy seeing as Kingdom are doing some Sidewave dates with them “They’re two of our favourite metal bands ever so it’s an honour. Down and Anthrax cross paths a lot and we’re good friends with the Anthrax guys but I’ve only ever seen Kerry (King) once or twice, and he’s a really cool guy and I’m looking forward to playing with ‘em.”

Those TV Executive types used Envision The Divide on CSI Miami; how weird was that? He laughs. “Yeah! I actually didn’t see it! Jamey told me. It’s cool, it’s all cool. I appreciate everything I’ve ever done. I’ve been blessed to have the success I’ve had – I have to play in three bands to make ends meet, that’s why I don’t do a day job - but I’m as happy as can be, just living my life with my wife, my daughter, my step-kids, my grand-baby…that’s me, y’know? I’m always telling my wife – and I mean it – my greatest two accomplishments are, aside everything I’ve done musically, and I’ve done a lot, the birth of my daughter and marrying my wife. That means more to me than anything.”

He’s one grounded man, that’s what he is. So what’s the plan after Soundwave? Any tour plans for Kingdom?  “Not with Kingdom; I go home for five weeks then Down’s gonna do South America for a couple of festivals and then just work on new Down material. Our drummer Jimmy (Bower), his wife’s due for a baby in late March so he’s a nervous wreck. It’s gonna be good; I’m gonna hang out at home for those five weeks.” Even rehearsals are a low-key affair. No drugs. No booze. “Now we go at noon…” With some herbal tea? “Literally! I get a water and a diet coke and we sit down and rehearse then I’m ready to get the fuck out.”

Jamey takes responsibility for Kingdom’s set-list and Kirk’s just stoked to being playing with the rest of the band ”Whatever he feels comfortable with, I have no problem with because it started out with just me and Jamey, and then we’ve had a lot of guys in and out, but now it’s more of a ‘band’, y’know? With Charlie (Bellmore) the other guitarist, he’s a great writer and a brilliant guitar player; much better than I am – and his brother Nick, he’s on drums. He’s a fabulous drummer and we’ve got Chris (Chris who? I’ve got Matthew Brunson in my notes?) on bass - sometimes we switch up the bass players – but so far, it’s all good. It feels more like a band. I don’t like it as me and Jamey and an apartment full of guys; I wanna know the guys that I wanna play with, and everybody does.”

Regarding the tour so far, he tells me “My first time travelling abroad was 1992, so that’s 21 years [of travelling]. I’ve been here 3 times; there’s nothing more for me to see, nothing more for me to do. I’m old, fat, and I just try to eat healthy, sleep, and keep my health. I enjoy my beers and I enjoy seeing those Anthrax fellows. I saw them last night at the Metallica barbeque, watch a closed set and enjoy a couple o’ beers; and that’s it, y’know?”

And returning to the theme of down to earth, normality, he explains that when he’s not recording or touring, he’s mad for the house-work. “I clean the house. Do the laundry and do the groceries.” That sounds terribly domesticated! “It does! But you know what? That’s what I like! You know what makes me happy? When my wife walks in the door and I got candles lit, I got flowers out and it smells wonderful, and it’s clean – that makes me happy. I mean, gettin’ on stage and jammin’ my fuckin’ balls off every night; that makes me happy too but if I could just zap myself home every night; I’d play every fuckin’ night of the year. I love being on stage but I can’t stand the touring; the travelling, the missing the family…”

What’s the writing process for Kingdom? “We write a song a day and record it the exact same day. We call it off the cuff; Jamey might have an idea, I might have an idea, it doesn’t matter who has the idea.” He tells me that the other band-members come to him with an idea and ask him to ‘Kirkify it’; “And I do. I twist it around with my bends and my slides and my style…’it’s cool, it’s cool, it’s cool’ and then we lay down some guitars, a bit of bass. We’re sober. It’s business. Go home at three in the morning.” So is it easier with the advance of technology and file-sharing? I’m kind of surprised by his answer; “We only do it face to face.” apparently he goes up to Jamey’s studio, and ‘Every day we write a song; play it and record it.” No fucking about then…

We touched on plans for the next album already but can you give us any details? “I think we’ve at least got another one or two in us. We enjoy it. We like it, y’know? I really like to do it – if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it.”
Kirk Windstein. Metal-head. Family guy. Genuinely nice dude.