The band WINGER have always been criticized, unfairly, I think, for being a no-talented, cheesy hair metal band. Kip Winger, who is classicaly trained, along with John Roth, Reb Beach and Rod Morgenstein, are indeed, great musicians and songwriters. Composition and melody is the key to any WINGER song, whether it’s a soulful ballad or an all-out rocker. Ok, to some, maybe they did travel down the cheese highway slightly on the obligatory ballads that bands in the hair metal genre put out at that time, but one listen to the musicianship, and you will be convinced that Kip and the crew know how to rock and write good songs. Kip also, as you’ll read below, stands behind everything he’s done and makes no bones about it. Some might think that he comes off as cocky, but it’s actually his confidence as a musician. The longevity of the band proves that he’s still around in 2010 for a reason.
On their new album Karma, the band come out of the gate swinging. Chocked full of rockin’ riffs, great vocals and that solid rhythm section, Karma will surprise quite a few of the WINGER non-believers.
Speaking from his home in Nashville, the honest and outspoken WINGER the man, talked about WINGER the band, ALICE COOPER and his undying love for creating music.
On Karma, you sound like you’re truly enjoying yourself again, and it shows, it boasts some great rockin’ tunes. What was your mindset while writing and recording Karma?
What do you mean again? I’ve always enjoyed myself! (laughs) We really tried to write something with a great vibe and something that translates really well, and that’s probably what you’re seeing.
I really like the fact that the first four songs just rip. Was it your intention to come out swinging right away on this one?
Absolutely. Definitely the first four songs rock, and then the next song after that is a mellow one, but that was our intention, to rock your face off.
Rod has always been one of my favorite drummers. And I remember an interview on MTV when he just joined the band, and you were ecstatic that you just snagged Rod Morgenstein. Do you still feel that way and what does Rod and the other awesome musicians in the band bring to the table?
Well, I mean he’s one of the best drummers in the world, and ever since then we’ve become great friends. Probably the reason I do this is because we love each other so much in terms of just good friendship and we just love to jam with each other, so that’s really the essence of the band. The focus is, we’re just having a good time and playing the best music we can. I take the records extremely seriously, and I’m trying to get the best out of everybody. I think you’d never even know who the band is until you see the band live.
Do you think that you’ve always gotten a bad rap by being lumped into the hair metal genre and unfairly hated for some reason?
Well, life isn’t fair, man, I mean shit happens, a lot of heavy shit happened to me and that’s just the way it is. But when the smoke clears, it’s all about the music, so anybody can check out my records and find out.
Do you think your confidence as a musician and your honesty is taken the wrong way by fans or other musicians?
My honesty? In terms of what?
Just that you’re upfront and outspoken. Just like you were saying, the music does the talking?
Yeah, I mean, there it is. What are people gonna say to that. It’s like … You know, you can hide behind a death skull logo, but let’s hear it (the music). There’s a lot of great bands out there, and then there’s a lot of shitty bands out there. To be honest with you, I don’t listen to bands anymore, I’m not into it, I rather listen to Classical and mostly orchestral music, maybe it puts people off, if not, to me, then that’s fine. I don’t know what you heard … if you heard that, then …
I never heard anything like that. I didn’t want to bring up the whole Beavis and Butthead thing, but how do you feel about all of that?
I don’t. I don’t even think about it. I mean, look, they all took the first punch dude. I mean what are you gonna do? It’s like if someone put a gun to your head and pulls the trigger. I didn’t start any of that shit, I mean, everybody should go ask them. Go ask Lars about that thing (Lars Ulrich of Metallica is shown in their “Nothing Else Matters” video throwing a dart at a poster of Kip), or go ask Mike Judge (Mike Judge always made fun of Winger in Beavis and Butthead episodes), they’ll probably tell you some bullshit thing. Really, the bottom line is the music. I’ll put my records up against anyone. That’s kind of where it’s at … Music, music, music, baby! (laughing).
Do you feel that Karma is a statement toward the naysayers that you can still rock and come up with some great tunes?
I’m not trying to make a statement, I’m just trying to make great songs. I think probably to the people that like the record maybe they think it is, but that’s not what I try to do. What I do is to try and write the best music that I can, so there’s no, like, prime positioning that I’m trying to do, there’s no public addressing. I’m just there for the people that dig my music. I’m committed to making the best music I can, and knowing that when you buy something with my name on it, that it’s going to whoop ass.
In your heydey in the late ’80s-early ’90s, you were known to be a bit of a partier and quite the ladies man. How’s married life again?
Well, when you’re at a smorgasbord, then you have to fill up your plate, you know (laughing). It’s fine, it’s totally fine, I mean, life goes on, those were great times and these are great times, you just have to roll with the punches.
Getting your start with Alice Cooper, after three albums and tours, did you feel the need to break on your own? And what was it like recording and touring with the original shock rocker?
It was awesome, incredible. It was a big learning experience for me to work with him and I was a fan. Six months before that I was waiting tables and then I was an instantaneous rock star, so, then I wanted to go solo, and he was cool. I was totally grateful for the experience.
After emceeing Rocklahoma 2009, is there a chance you’ll play as a band this year? Any exclusive word you can give me, since the lineup hasn’t been announced yet?
If they ask us, we’ll go. I enjoyed Rocklahoma the first time we played it and last year co-hosted with Eddy Trunk, we played only the very first time. I love the people that run it and I don’t know what they’re gonna do, so if they ask me, you know, for sure (we’d play).
How does it feel to finally put out the Blackwood Creek album with your brother after all these years. And why now?
It actually was finished awhile ago and decided to wait until after the Winger record. It was incredible, we worked on a bunch of new songs and the chemistry was there and the songs were coming out good. I think it’s very unique and it gives me a different angle on my bass playing. It gives me a lot more freedom as a bass player, and that’s where I am because of the music. It’s ’70s music, where the bass player was stepping out. It was fun to do it, it was a long time coming. We were a good band back in the day, but we never really did anything, even though we were together for 12 years, I mean, I got my start in that band when I was seven years old, so I definitely owe that band a lot. I think it’s a good representation of the band, I dig it.
What do you hope happens with Winger and the release of Karma? What are your goals for 2010?
I’m writing a couple of more orchestra pieces, a lot of touring and gigs. We’re putting together a U.S. gig and … just work, work, work. As much as we can to promote this album and just try and move forward with writing, I’ve got some other offers to do different types of projects that I’m considering. I do a lot of teaching too, so I’m really busy.
Any last words for our fans and readers?
Well, I just always want to thank the fans for supporting the band. We’ve had a long ride, with ups and downs, and it’s been great. We’re grateful that we’re still around, and for the people that have been listening to the music. We’ve gotten great feedback on this new record, and we’re really happy.
By Kelley Simms
Band Website: www.wingertheband.com