An Interview with
that took place at The Corporation, Sheffield
on Friday 21st September, 2007.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.
Find out what Kip has to say about Alice Cooper, hanging with Cinderalla, Gigs, Country Music, Winger, Solo Projects and much more !!
Glenn: So how was the gig in London the other night?
Kip: Really good. Not a Rock club but really cool. Playing there the sound system was amazing and the crowd was great. I had some technical difficulties at the beginning but it was so funny because some guy thought it was planned but it wasn’t.
Glenn: That was funny when I was up there taking photos and you stopped the song – it was cracking that.
Kip: The whole idea of an acoustic show is to have a good rapport with the crowd. It’s a whole different thing than playing with a big band and 2000 people or whatever.
Glenn: Because it’s just you and the guitar and you gotta put it over well. I saw you a few years ago – I think it was at Wigan.
Kip: Oh right. That was a good one.
Glenn: What shows are you looking forward to on the tour in the UK and elsewhere?
Kip: On this – this is a short run for me – I started in Greece – that was a really cool gig because I played with a string section. Did a bunch of my solo stuff with strings which is kind of rare as it’s so expensive to do. We played in this theatre that was a replica of an old greek theatre – it was really cool so that was a highlight. I always like to play England because the people sing all the sh*t. Anywhere in England is good. Up north is a little warmer crowd but London was pretty cool this time.
Glenn: Do you find that they are a bit quieter in the States?
Kip: They are a lot more shy.
Kip: You have to really work to get ‘em going.
Glenn: It’s surprising because I go down to Florida quite a bit and the people are always pretty loud.
Kip: Yeah as people. Yeah Americans are very loud as people. But meet ‘em at a show they are like…
Glenn: Strange isn’t it?
Glenn: Do you have plans to bring Winger to the UK?
Kip: Yeah, I mean the Firefest thing last year was a kind of a weird gig. Gotthard played so long that we had to cut our set short which is fine because people like them and they are a good band - but the reason that we didn’t do more gigs is because the Firefest thing was such a special event that we committed to only do that gig in the UK. That was fun and when we come back we are gonna do probably four, five, six gigs and we’re planning it now but we don’t know exactly when.
Glenn: Do you think you’ll come down to Sheffield again?
Glenn: You went down so well.
Kip: You mean tonight?
Glenn: Yeah. So how did it come about working and doing some gigs with Toby Jepson?
Kip: The guy that was booking my gigs booked the gig man. I’d heard of them though. It’s like when you do a tour, you’ll get offered a gig – it wasn’t particularly planned or anything.
Glenn: What songs do you enjoy performing most and why? Is it the songs you did tonight or do you do some songs because you know the crowd will love them?
Kip: You know I’ve got no problem doing old songs or new songs – people obviously wanna hear the hits and I play a lot of my solo stuff. Normally I play 75 minutes so this was a 45 minute set so I just picked all the popular stuff. But then when I do my longer set I throw in a lot of stuff that people don’t know – mostly from my solo sh*t.
Glenn: What do you like most – do you have a preference to electric or acoustic guitar?
Kip: Well I’m not really an electric guitar player, I play some guitar in the studio but mostly I’m an acoustic guitar player or bass player mostly. I started out on bass but I studied classical guitar so I have that whole kind of element in my playing but I couldn’t play a solo to f*ck*n’ save my life dude.
Glenn: You mean just play the chords and sing over that and keep it together?
Kip: Yeah I’m more of a rhythm guy because I was a bass player, I played with a drummer my whole life.
Glenn: Would you say it’s different for you working solo, playing solo than with a band because you’ve got more chance to do what you want – you’re not trying to please people?
Kip: Well the sound of Winger is me and Reb writing songs and his guitar playing and my voice – that’s the sound. So you have to stick to that because that’s what people (expect). It’s like when you buy a box of coco-pops, you want like round balls that are chocolate – so within that framework we make music. On my solo records I can do whatever I want so in a way it’s more difficult to do the solo thing because ‘what’s the limit?’. I have a certain thing that I do with my solo stuff too that I stick too but it’s always harder to know where that line is drawn.
Glenn: I suppose at times it can get a little self indulgent – you please yourself.
Glenn: So you get people saying I like that, I like that one, I don’t like that one..
Kip: The most important thing is not to put sh*tty songs on it or anything I do. I don’t dig filler man. Like, “It’s alright, that’s a good one, let’s throw that on side 2”, well I say side 2 but nowadays we have CD’s so it’s, “Let’s make that the 8th track” or whatever. I don’t do that – every song has a reason to be there or else I don’t put the record out. That’s why it takes me so f*ck*n’ long in between records because I don’t care who you are – you write sh*tty songs and then you come up with a good one. There’s no-one that writes 100% good songs – I don’t give a f*ck if you are Sting, if you are Peter Gabriel or whoever -There’s always those crappy ideas and you have to write all those crappy ideas to get to the good ones.
Kip: If you’re a painter, a writer, a songwriter, a composer, a film writer, anything – a photographer, anything – you gotta get through the sh*t and then the hardest thing is to self edit yourself – a lot of people think that everything they do is great and that’s the biggest mistake of most people – the energy and…
Glenn: The ego takes over…
Glenn: And it goes down and down and they don’t realise it until someone says “that’s sh*t, hang on, - I haven’t sold any copies of this ?’
Kip: There’s a lot of bands that are getting known for that – that were big in the old days and are now like … I’ll not mention any names.
Glenn: I understand you studied ballet.
Kip: I studied ballet when I was 16 for about 20 years. It introduced me to classical music and I started studying classical music after that because of that. Actually I am writing for a well known choreographer right now – I am writing a 20 minute orchestra piece with 3 movements called ‘Ghosts’ and it’s for string orchestra, piano and harp. I’m really happy with it and it’s the 1st piece of classical music that I’ve written that I can play for anybody and really be proud of it because I’ve written classical ideas for a long time and it’s the same thing – it’s like Ok but I am trying to get it so it doesn’t sound like sh*t. It’s taken me… you know what it’s taken me 20 years because I didn’t go to music school like where you’d come out after 6 years or whatever and have all those chops together. I studied privately in and out of my rock career so it took time 4 times as long but I am happy with the result because my classical music rocks! And a lot of classical music doesn’t rock. I’m very happy with it.
Glenn: Some of the best ones studied Classical such as guitarists like Yngwie J. Malmsteen.
Kip: Oh absolutely. He’s a f*ck*n’ good guitar player. Everybody say’s he’s got a real out-there personality but god he’s a good guitar player.
Glenn: What warmed you to getting the job with Alice Cooper? Was it his music or was it the fact that his future wife was a ballerina?
Kip: No, No, Dude I was a major Alice Cooper fan – all the early stuff, I mean just listen to those records…
Glenn: Like ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’?
Kip: Even before that.
Glenn: Like the 1st 2 albums ‘Pretties for you’ and ‘Easy Action’.
Kip: Yeah and ‘Killer’. I think ‘Killer’ is the best one and ‘Billion Dollar Babies’, Oh my god – just the music was unbelievable. I was really into the band, I didn’t know who he was with, I mean he married Cheryl many years later. She was like a dancer for the ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ Tour for a while but I got into the band, I’d been hired by a guy for me to play bass on four songs on the ‘Constrictor’ album and I was in the studio and I went (to Alice), ‘Man, if you go out on tour take me with you’, and they did – I was lucky. And they f*ck*n’ spelled my name wrong – WRINGER.
Glenn: So I guess it was a dream come true to work with Alice?
Glenn: What’s he like to work with?
Kip: Totally pro. Before that I was doing gigs. I was living in New York, I’d been in a band with my brothers for 12 years that I started when I was 8, so I waiting tables (at the time). I got this gig and 6 months later I was in the band touring the world and I was really young. Back then I didn’t realise how young I was. I was 24/25 – I was really young.
Glenn: And you went from a little club to playing like 12,000…
Kip: 1st night it was 20,000 live on MTV. It was weird – It was like I was instantly famous – not really famous but I was instantly “In the Game’ and then, I never ever realised that until… because years and years went by before Winger got really big and when the grunge thing hit that year was finished I went back up into the woods. Man, I hung out smokin’ weed for 9 years, re-creating my music and I just never realised I was famous – it never sunk in. It was kinda like last year where I went, ‘F*ck, I’ve been really well known for a long time’ because I don’t think like that. I’m not like Sting or someone that’s really well known.
(Kip plays bass on here !!)
Glenn: You don’t consider you’re a guy in the limelight?
Glenn: You do what you do.
Kip: It always shocks me when people know (who I am) – well not at a gig but the name is really a well-known name – it’s weird and strange. It’s like if you have a name like that your persona is out there but it is not necessarily who you are, so I was living with this weird duality, like if you wanna wear that set of clothing say… metaphorically speaking, step into the Kip Winger of that certain thing or just be who I’ve always been which is what I’ve really always done because you can never go back – you should never really try that. I mean I’m 46, I wouldn’t wanna go back there.
Glenn: Going back to all that big hair..
Kip: It was a lot of fun at the time but it was cool and it was hapnin’ and now it’s… I don’t live in the past for 1 day, not even for an hour, I’m just wondering what’s next. I love playing this acoustic sh*t like this with a crowd like right there where I can talk to them and my real personality can come out. Because of course it would be great to play for 5000 people and make all the money, so I’m not denying that – that would be great – and I have done that, but it’s not the reason that I do it – it’s just not.
Glenn: You do it because you like doing it?
Kip: Yeah. I’m really interested in music.
Glenn: What were your first gigs like for you personally, when you get in front of like 20 people just like that? What goes through your head?
Kip: (laughs) Holy Sh*t!
Glenn: Those exact words.
Kip: With Alice Cooper it was cool because it wasn’t my show – I did my part and tried to do it as good as I could – the whole wasn’t made to break on me but when Winger started it was all of a sudden like it was either live or die, well especially me because the name of the band was (Winger). We were not a band that grew up together so it takes a while to really get the gel thing happening where it was – you know really gelling and we sucked at first. We opened for the Scorpions – it was our first big tour and I think it was like 10 or 12 shows before we’d start to go, ‘What is this?’ and then 30 or 40 shows to really get it down. I mean we wound up playing for a whole while so it wasn’t like we weren’t gonna get it but definitely it was like shakey ground at first. The Scorpions wanted us off the tour the 1st night they saw us. ‘I mean no man, give us a chance’ and all of a sudden we started sellin’ a lot of records and pulling a lot of people into their tour so they were diggin’ that.
Glenn: I read that you worked with Beau Hill, what was he like to work with?
Kip: Well I grew up with him. I was 16 in Denver when I met him so we’ve got a lot of stuff together.
Glenn: I read that you slept on his floor for about a year.
Kip: Yeah – he gave me a shot at the Alice Cooper thing. I did a lot of stuff for him so it was a quit-pro-quo kind of and I haven’t talked to him for a long time but he gave me a shot in the beginning. The real guy was Mike Shipley on the 3rd record, I mean that m*th*rf*ck*r – that’s when I learnt how to really write and record a record. He’s worked for Mutt Lange for like 15 years and he was really… I mean if you listen to ‘Pull’ and if you listen to the 1st 2 records, I’d like to hear the material on the 1st 2 records done like that but, you know, we did well on those 1st 2 records.
Glenn: Do you think you’ll ever re-record some of the stuff from those 2 albums ('In the Heart Of the Young' and 'Winger' (Sahara))?
Kip: We’ve talked about it.
Glenn: To make them better sounding?
Kip: Well I’d like to remix ‘em. I don’t think I’d ever re-record them or anything like that. It’s a waste of time – artistically it’s an absolute waste of time. If you do it for the money, then OK then…
Glenn: It’s like when I found out that a certain band re-recorded their material just for the money, I’m like what …. ?
Kip: But you see I struggle with this everyday because I really am an artist to the core. I don’t wanna waste my time on stupid sh*t. I’d like to keep writing better music. If I could get a sh*tload of money I would consider it but who’s gonna do that? The music isn’t relevant enough for somebody to come up with a crapload of cash. Although we got paid a lot of money to make that 4th one – and it sold so that’s cool.
Glenn: Nice One. You do stuff you wanna be proud of, you release your stuff – your new album and you wanna be proud of it. You don’t wanna just bung it out because you got paid X amount of money..
Glenn: … You wanna show your kids or your grandkids in years to come, ‘Look this is what I did’.
Kip: Right. You see that’s a big thing for me.
Glenn: What would you say you’ve most enjoyed working with either in the studio, supported or live onstage as well?
Kip: Cinderella – that was the most fun tour. We were out with them for about 8 months. This tour was sold out – that was the peak. Then the Scorpions tour – they were really cool. They were the best gigs. Kiss was cool although. Yeah, I love Alice Cooper – Cinderella was f*ck*n’ awesome – they are the ones we had the most rapport with I would say. A lot of the bands you tour with you never even see.
Glenn: Separate dressing rooms, separate hotels?
Kip: Everything yeah. When we played with Poison, Bobby Dall was like, “Don’t let ‘em have any…” this and that.. what the hell? Bret Michaels was cool. A real nice guy. See the irony for me is like, I study Shostakovich (sic), Bartok, Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy and music they make – I mean, anyone can go (sings a sleazy rock riff) – that music is not hard to do – it’s not! I don’t give a f*ck – it’s hard to write good songs and try to do some things in life – but come on Rock Music is a thing – to personify Rock Music – it’s like punk where it was really just the people who wanted to grab a guitar and rebel against society man. It’s not like this grand thing where you pick up your instrument and you are ordained by the gods to become the greatest – I mean, F*ck*n’ A Dude. I don’t know where these guys get off. Well I’m a musician and the specialty about rock music is the songs and the sound the band can create. It’s not no one individual player can mean anything in rock music because you need a band. Even Jimi Hendrix needed a bassist and drummer. So the ego is like ‘tack it to the door’.
Glenn: What piece of music are you most proud of that you have written?
Kip: The Ghost piece. That’s probably the one I’m most proud of but I think we wrote some good songs like ‘Headed for a heartbreak’; ‘Who’s the One’ 'Blind Revolution Mad ’; ‘Rainbow in the Rose’, 'Resurrection’ on my solo record & ‘Monster’. There’s some songs – I could make a record of my favourite but when you’re a songwriter its hard to choose favourites although some are clearly better than others.
Glenn: You get any good tour stories?
Kip: It was always.. Everynight was just f*ck*n’ madness in the day – it was just chicks everywhere. I never really was into drugs but it was such a f*ck*n’ chickfest, money – it was fun. It was cool to be that. It’s like all of a sudden you are having that 15 minutes where you are just massive – it’s really cool. Not everybody can be U2 where you stay that way for your whole career but ….
Glenn: There’s pits and troughs and hills and mountains.
Kip: Well that’s just a career. I don’t really wanna… you know we were always kinda a boring band because we were always more musically orientated. We were never really into drugs and stuff. A lot of funny sh*t goes down. Stuff happens and it’s funny. I’ve seen it all. The Alice Cooper days were really funny – I had like 8 chicks in my room – that was fun. I had a sign on my door that was like ‘You can only enter if you take your clothes off’ and it was a joke – but the thing was, is that it worked.
Glenn: Nice One.
Kip: That was an infamous story. Dude I should write ‘em all down.
Glenn: You’ve been all over parts of the USA – what would you say your favourites are?
Kip: New Mexico – hands down.
Glenn: Why do you say that?
Kip: It’s just there’s a thing in the air, there the land is magical. It’s sacred ground man, I don’t know what it is. I like California except its kinda marketed but the weather is a amazing. I like the south west – that’s my thing although I live in Tenessee but I lived in the South West for years. I’m not a big fan of the South but I like New York – it’s cool. But as me with my soul with my brakes, correctly I would have to be in the South West – Arizona, New Mexico. I kinda like that whole deserty vibe.
Glenn: I guess you find a place like Miami a bit hot?
Kip: I lived in Miami for a while.
Glenn: Did you?
Kip: Yeah. I bought this wicked house for like half a million (US dollars) in ’91 and it’s worth like 5 million bucks now. I mean it’s the coolest house – not big, not huge but just like wicked in like right on the water.
Glenn: Yeah, that’s the difference isn’t it?
Kip: And it was right near South Beach and it was cool. I like Miami. Too humid though.
Glenn: What is the next thing that you are going to be involved with or doing right now?
Kip: I am mixing a new solo album right now with maybe 12 or 13 songs on it. It’s finished and I’m finishing ‘Ghosts’ and I’m gonna record that with an orchestra in Nashville and then I am working on this 3-piece power trio that was the 1st band I was in with my brother and this other dude (called) Blackwood Creek and you hear one of those tunes at myspace.com/blackwoodcreek – that’s a cool band – a very simple 3 piece, you k now there’s one song up there but now we’ve got 11 songs worth finished and my goal is to have all of that done by the end of the year – it might be tough but then after that I’m gonna work on my wifes album. I’m always writing, I got a commission to do a piece for four cellos from a guy at North Western University and possibly a new Winger record. I mean ‘Winger 4’, I was really happy with that because we wrote some really intense riffs on that album. ‘Right Up Ahead’ is just really kinda bizarre riff and some of that album is kinda misunderstood because it’s so harmonically deep – it’s not your average Heavy Metal – anyway, I’m happy.
Glenn: I mean, you’re not a heavy Metal Guy, you are Kip Winger who does what works for Kip Winger.
Glenn: You’ve got so manythings you could write down – have you ever considered writing an autobiography?
Kip: People have asked me to do it.
Kip: And I do have an interesting story I think now, but what seems like what’ll be something more like what I’m 10 years from now to see how this all kinda pans out because in the classical world I have a chance to make it all over again. Now none of these people (the rock fans) will ever hear about it unless they’re somehow into that. I’m like right on the edge of possibly making it on a whole other thing which would be … I’ll write a f*ck*n’ drum concerto and send it to Lars. But so musically, I would consider that but I think I would need to wait until the end, you know, to find out what the ending is.
Glenn: It’s like some people try to cross over but have not got to that extent.
Kip: Crossing over where is the question?
Kip: I mean, I’ve had people approach me to go country and Bon Jovi’s gonna go country now and for me it’s not musically interesting – it’s a a bald faced attempt at trying to stay in the record selling selling market.
Kip: The thing for me that’s incredibly important is to stick to where you came from. I came from rock classical. I’ve been doing it my whole life and I can’t just switch to call myself ‘Kippy Lee Winger’.
Glenn: The fans are gonna be like ???
Kip: And to me it’s just fake. You can hear that it’s fake.
Glenn: Yeah, they all sound the same – they stick a cowboy hat on and they think they are from the Wild West.
Kip: But when a rock guy goes country it’s even more like ‘NO’. And then, or go the Michael Bolton way where I could have done cover tunes and been like a David Hasselhoff – a kinda real poppy crooner guy. You see I’m a music writer – that’s the main thing is writing music and soon enough I wont be performing it because, you know, I ain’t Mick Jagger dude. So I feel that it’s very important to stick to your roots. I encourage people to try things but I don’t think that you can fake it because I think now especially with all this sh*t – the whole worlds become real – reality shows and then you can’t fake sh*t anymore – people know. People can smell it and it doesn’t smell good man.
Glenn: Were you approached to go ‘Country’ because you were living in Tennessee?
Kip: Well I live in the country capital of the world but written a few songs, co-written a few songs with one guy who’s a very famous country writer who is a fan of Winger who asked me to write with him. Writing songs – that’s cool. I study with this awesome classical composer called Michael Kurik and he teaches at the University in Nashville. So I’m still doing my thing. Nashville’s good for studios – the greatest studios in the world and the musicians are amazing. Classical musicians too. It’s scary. He can write a song tonight, take it to the studio tomorrow and have it sell a f*ck*n’ record in an hour. It’s a great learning experience. I would recommend going to Nashville to anybody who is interested in writing songs in the music business. The work ethic is so high - it’s just kick-ass. I’m not into country music but…
Glenn: If you ever wrote your autobiography what would you decide to call it and what would you have on the cover, any ideas?
Kip: F*ck*n’ ‘ell – I don’t know, I don’t know the answer to that. That’s kinda like asking what you would like on your gravestone. I guess it would be something like ‘Sticks ‘n Stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me’ (laughs), you know or ‘I get knocked down but I get up again’ – Man, I’ve taken a lot of sh*t.
Glenn: Yeah, the Beavis and Butthead thing.
Kip: That was f*ck*n’ brutal. Then Metallica … Like why, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t even know these guys and the thing is, is that Metallica’s become what they were hating everybody for. I can’t say that I dig their music much now. ‘Master Of Puppets’ was like their pinnacle and ‘Enter Sandman’ is a cool radio song but they started to becoming like dressing up and big cigar things, then the ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ thing. It’s like woah dudes, you taking it like way too seriously. I have had a lot of sh*t and some don’t get it that I’m a good musician – this is what I do.
Glenn: And you don’t have an ego or anything.
Kip: It’s like, ‘how can I have an ego when I listen to the Beatles – it’s like sorry they did it and Led Zeppelin’ – I mean, take your pick. Ego I mean, come one!
Kip: You just do your best and hopefully reach somebody. Thankfully I’ve reached, I’ve gotten.. some people dig it and I don’t have to wait tables anymore – Thankyou. And I’ll keep doing it. I don’t mean to be like ‘Mr. Humble’ like I’m a buddist monk – I don’t mean that. I’d love to be rich – are you kiddin’ me? – it’d be amazing but hey, it didn’t work. I’m not poor but I’m not rich.
Glenn: You are just trying to get by?
Kip: As a student. Always a student.
Glenn: There’s always something more to learn no matter who you are?
Kip: That would pretty much be the name of my book, ‘There’s always something else to learn’. Something like that as I’m really interested. I mean my wife thinks I’m kinda boring because I’m really only interested in music and some other things but not much. But I’m so interested that I want to keep very vital.
Right, I must stop talking. One thing about doing this singing is the way I sing, I can’t drink or smoke – well I drink but not on tour.
Glenn: As it f*cks your throat up.
Kip: Yep. It totally fucks your throat up. So (I drink) bottled water. Try not to talk too much – I hit all the notes so when people come to see me, they say ‘wow, he can still hit the notes’. That’s why. I don’t party too much.
Glenn: It’s a quality voice though and you gotta keep that quality, especially… I don’t wanna say, ‘when you get older’, but you know what I mean?
Kip: Yeah. I don’t like showing up to a gig where people are saying, “He can’t do it anymore”. Bullsh*t. I’ll do it ‘til I quit performing. When I can’t do it anymore I’ll stop performing. See I’ve seen too many heroes that get up on stage and they can’t sing anymore – it’s f*ck*ng brutal.
Glenn: Is there anyone you’d like to sing with?
Kip: I’d sing with Alan Parsons – that’s a cool gig. He’s a blue blood rocker to me – I grew up singing his sh*t. He’s a great singer actually. I wrote (to) Alan Parsons when I was 15 – I sent him my demo and he wrote back. I still got the letter and when I got the chance to sing for him I took the letter to check it out.
Glenn: You’ve still got it. Wow!
Kip: It was really something else. That was really for me, like ‘wow, I really did make it’. Singing his songs – I mean, he had so many f*ck*n’ huge hits – poppy but he’s a sweetheart. There’s a classic example of a guy who’s sold 40 million records, he’s had umpteen hits and he’s the most down to earth cool dude, no problem and then like…
Glenn: Well he’s got nothing to prove has he?
Kip: No man.
Glenn: Right, I'll let you get off to preserve your voice for the next few shows.Thanks Mate.
Nice One Kip, here's to Winger coming back to the UK soon !