Kip Winger's entree into the big leagues of the Rock business happened when he placed a song on Kix's album "Midnite Dynamite". That was in 1984. The following year, 1985, he joined Alice Cooper's band. He recorded two albums with Alice and left in 1987 to start his own band, Winger. Winger, the band enjoyed success with three studio albums, "Winger", "In The Heart Of The Young" and "Pull". We spoke with Kip Winter about his past and what he's up to these days.
Q - Kip, you're not in New York. You're not in Los Angeles. You're in Nashville. Why Nashville? Why did you select that city to base yourself out of?
A - Because there's more talent in the smaller circumference than anywhere in the world, with better recording studios, all different kinds of music. The orchestra is incredible. If you haven't heard, it's all the rage. (laughs) I've been here for fifteen years, though as of late, everybody's moved here.
Q - What I hear about about Nashville is all the songwriters are there.
A - Yeah. Well, not only that, but a lot of people have moved here.
Q - I guess it would be fair to say you're an accomplished musician. So, when you see another musician or singer attain great popularity and fame who really isn't that accomplished, what goes through your mind?
A - Oh man, I'm not prejudiced about any of that stuff. If you happen to make it on any level, God bless you because it's hard to do anything in this world. So if you can do it, more power to you!
Q - I see you recorded a Classical CD. What can you do with something like that?
A - Well, first of all, I don't do art just to figure out where to market it. My goal was always to do Classical music, so that's what I did. I set out to do it as good as I could do it and happened to do very well at it. I do what I love to do and I don't do my music for anyone else other than myself. If people dig it then that's awesome. (laughs) It's basically that. I'm not looking for an economic solution to art. I'm looking for art, for art's sake.
Q - Did you have to go on the road to promote the CD?
A - Well, no. I don't play the music. It's played by an orchestra. The goal was to have orchestras play it.
Q - Do you then have to get it in the hands of someone who has an affiliation with an orchestra? Does that require some sort of promotion?
A - No, man. The Classical music world revolves around conductors. If conductors like your music then they'll program it, and then you'll get performances. It's very difficult. The stakes are much higher because in Classical music you have to know your shit. You can't fake it. I think I get a little bit of attention because I'm an anomaly. There's no Rock guys with Platinum albums that go into Classical music and do it with authority from an authentic point of view, having studied for as many years as I have. I'm not just faking it. But to know me is to know that I just do music for music. I don't care if it sells. I don't care if people show up to my shows. I just don't care about any of that shit. That poisons the well of great art. I'd rather work at McDonald's then let my art suffer from the need to be famous.
Q - When you started out, you dropped out of high school because you wanted a record deal, didn't you?
A - I started in a band with my brothers. Yeah, I wanted to be a Rock star when I was a kid. I wanted to be David Lee Roth and Paul Stanley, and then I evolved.
Q - When you finally got that record deal, what would you expect it to be? Was it all you expected it to be?
A - I never expected anything. I figured I'd just get completely ripped off, which I did, (laughs) and hope for the best.
Q - You got ripped off?
A - Well, not like I'm going to take somebody to court. You sign the shitiest deal. You get taken advantage of. It's the same thing with The Rolling Stones. They were broke when "Satisfaction" was number one. It's a class paradigm of artists, musicians who don't know what the fuck they're doing when they're trying to get record deals when they're young kids. The Beatles signed away all their publishing and came to America and gave away their merchandising for ten per cent.
Q - Your first big break came when you got a song placed on a Kix album?
A - Yeah, that's my first cut as a cover on an album. A producer named Beau Hill was a friend of mine. He produced a lot of stuff and he helped me a lot in my early stages.
Q - You played bass on records Beau Hill produced?
A - Yeah, but I met him when I was 16. I was the first band he ever produced. So, I knew him way before he ever made it as a producer. I used to play on all of his solo stuff. So, we'd make trades. When Alice Cooper came along, he called me to do some songs on Alice Cooper.
Q - What did you learn from the time you spent with Alice Cooper?
A - Oh, way too much to describe in one interview. Touring on a big level, how to handle interviews. Just what it means to put on a show. Showmanship. Celebrity. All the stuff he's great at. The mechanics of how it all works. He was a great mentor. You couldn't be in anybody else's band and have a better experience.
Q - When you decided to go solo, you wanted to name your band Sahara and Alice said, "Go with Winger."
A - Yeah, he did.
Q - Winger enjoyed a good deal of success. You believe that Beavis and Butt-Head and Metallica had a hand in stopping the success of Winger along with the beginnings of Grunge. Probably Grunge more than anything put an end to the '80s bands, wouldn't you say?
A - Well, if you go back and you time line it and you look for the first episode of Beavis and Butt-Head, you'll see that Beavis and Butt-Head and Grunge were ushered in at the same time. I guarantee you, you would never have heard of bands like White Zombie had Beavis and Butt-Head never gone, "Those guys are amazing." That was the most powerful show on MTV's history to this day.
Q - A cartoon show? That's hard to believe.
A - Biggest, most powerful show in the whole run of MTV, so don't kid yourself. Those guys were like, "This is cool," and people were like, "This is cool." White Zombie goes to three million. We suck. We go to zero. So, they had every influence on popular Rock culture at the time. I mean, you can ask anybody, anybody, anybody in the industry will tell you that Beavis and Butt-Head shot down not only my band, but all the '80s style bands that were doing the kind of stuff we were doing.
Q - They could've shot down Bon Jovi and Cinderella too then.
A - They did shoot down Bon Jovi. The difference was Bon Jovi in relative percentage sold 20,000 a night and went from 20,000 a night to selling 5,000 a night, which still seems huge. My band that sold 1,000 a night went to selling 50 tickets. So, I talked to Jon about it at the time and he was just saying it's fucking brutal out there. It's fucking incredible. So now, having said that, I'm not bitter about it. It's just a fact. It's when Elvis was popular and The Beatles came in, Elvis was no longer popular. I'm not comparing myself to Elvis, so don't misinterpret what I'm saying. Having said that, Kurt Cobain was a fucking genius then. That shit was good! It wasn't like Grunge music came in and it was so shitty and we were so great. It wasn't like that. It was like this: Def Leppard was the one running the show in the '80s. Bon Jovi was cool too, but not as cool as Def Leppard, probably bigger. Def Leppard was really the band everyone was following. They were the huge band. Then we were all bands that kind of followed the coat tails of Def Leppard and Whitesnake. We were like the second tier band that kind of rode the tide into the sand. By the time we got up on our surf board we like hit the sand. It was over. So, we were all too late. That's just a fact of show biz. There's no right or wrong about it. Then here comes Grunge. Keep in mind, how many great bands came out of the '80s, man? And how many great bands came out of the Grunge era? Like three, tops.
Q - When I think of Grunge I only think of one, Nirvana.
A - Well, Soundgarden. Soundgarden was amazing. Queen Of The Stoneage. Nirvana, Sound Garden, Queen Of The Stoneage and Pearl Jam.
Q - And then you had bands from the '70s that carried over into the '80s like Judas Priest.
A - Judas Priest. Scorpions. Whitesnake. They were all outside of the '80s, even though Coverdale really hit in the '80s. They were all pre-'80s bands and they could survive beyond because their legacy was way further beyond. Ours was end of an era. That's what you have to remember. End of era band that got killed by Beavis and Butt-Head. It didn't help that Metallica through darts at my poster. What band goes out and publicly slams another fellow musician? Like, who does that? It's beyond immature. For me personally it's all about the art. I don't want to repeat myself. I don't want to make the same album again and again and again. Same with Bon Jovi. They (Metallica) have made the same record over and over and over. It's a brand. I do it now with Winger. I make a Winger record, it's a brand. As an artist doing my solo music and my Classical music, I make a point to not do that because it would be like Van Gogh painting the same painting over and over again. It's not interesting. I don't knock them (Metallica) for doing it 'cause there's so much money in it. It's got to be fantastic to be that rich, absolutely awesome, but it's not my thing.
Q - If you think about it, there's only one band in the whole history of Rock 'n' Roll that's been able to change their music and look, and that's The Beatles.
A - Yeah, well there you go. That's my perspective. Bon Jovi does great. He's got great songs. Fuckin' Metallica's got great shit. Everybody's got something. I'm not into knocking other bands. That part I never got, especially when musically, pound for pound, we just slay Metallica. They can't play what we do. It's funny to watch them 'cause they're more like a garage band really. They're huge. They make billions of money and they influenced tons of people, so more power to 'em. That's great. I'm on a whole other mission. My whole thing is something else. I'm not in the business of slagging other musicians to try and further myself. My thing is just art, art, art for art's sake. If you want to know what makes me tick, that's what it is.
Q - You participated in these Rock Fantasy Camps. Did anyone who came into that camp go on to have any kind of success in music?
A - Not really. It's not really about that. It's really more about just having fun, which is a blast. People love it.
Q - The Jackson Guitar Co. made a Kip Winger Signature Bass. What an honor that must have been for you.
A - Yeah. That was cool. Everybody does that when you're big. They all want to endorse you and make stuff for you. Yeah, that was awesome. I don't think about any of that stuff to be honest with you. It doesn't affect the way I think one way or the other.
Q - What are you doing today as we speak?
A - I'm getting ready to go to Denver to do three Winger shows in a row. Project wise I've got an ongoing musical I've written called Get Jack. You can check it out on Get Jack Musical Facebook or www.GetJack.com. It's a two hour, full sung through, orchestrated, orchestra Rock thing. Kind of like an opera but more of Rock. It's fully orchestral. I'm working on my Symphony Number One and that's pretty much it. Between those two things, doing a musical is a fucking heavy lift, man. It's very difficult to get up and running. So, I'm doing that and right now I'm literally editing vocals for eight singers for the last month and a half.
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