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Winger – Kip Winger

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

When music has been your focus in life since the time most of us are learning our colors, shapes, how to put words together and simple addition, you end up creating amazing hit songs. Singer/Bassist/Songwriter Kip Winger started his venture in the music world at a very young age and by the time he was in his twenties, he co-founded Winger which immediately hit the rock music scene with two platinum albums, their debut self-titled LP released in 1988 and IN THE HEART OF THE YOUNG released in 1990. Now, thirty-five years later, Winger is still going strong and are releasing their latest album SEVEN on May 5th. Fans can see this extraordinarily talented musician and his original bandmates Lead Guitarist Reb Beach, Drummer Rod Morgenstein, Guitarist/Keyboardist Paul Taylor and Guitarist John Roth on tour this summer.

Catching up with Winger just prior to the album release and upcoming tour, he revealed a bit about the new record, some insight about the new singles, his writing process then and now and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: I just saw the brand-new video that came out today, “It All Comes Back Around”. Where was this video shot?
Kip Winger: That was shot in downtown Nashville at this amphitheater that’s actually close to where I live.

SFL Music: What inspired the song?
Winger: That’s a good question actually. I was hoping nobody would ask me that because I don’t have a great answer for it. It was inspired by a phone call I had with a person who used to be in one place and now they’re in another and I thought wow, it all comes back around. I was working on the track actually. It was just like this timing, like ok. That’s what this song is. It all comes back around. I drew some inspiration from a couple different scenarios that I’ve known in my life about people where your actions always catch up to you. It’s a song about karma basically.

SFL Music: And “PROUD DESPERADO” (the first single release)? What would you say inspired that because the video almost looked like its maybe about war?
Winger: It’s really about people holding out faith and then finally losing faith. It’s really about losing faith. There’s a lot to that song. There’s a lot of scenarios in the world that that song could be about. Being sold a bag of goods by your leaders and having ‘em sell you out at the end, or people that have gone through life holding out on scenarios that they believe in with all their heart and then they end up getting let down by people that are you know, not who they say they are. So, there’s a lot of angles you could understand that song from.

SFL Music: When I’ve interviewed you previously you talked about New Mexico and spirituality or faiths. Would you say that’s something that you connect with when you are writing lyrics, or do they just come to mind? What would you say inspires your writing?
Winger: It’s really interesting. I always wonder about that myself because I get inspired by certain ideas that I think of throughout the day. It could be anything. Then on the other hand, I’ll draw on these archetypal people in my life that I can somehow seem to write about non-stop. Like there’s this one dude that I’ve written so many assuages about because I was so affected by his influence on me and not in a great way, that I learned so many lessons from that, that I’ll continue to draw you know, kind of off of that experience and interject those life lessons in my stuff. Generally, I try to speak from personal experience, but also include what I would consider to be the life lessons that I learned in those situations or the common takeaways. I never considered myself to be a good lyricist at all. I had to learn lyrics by default and I think I’ve written some good lyrics and others not so great. I think nowadays I can pretty much do a lyric and get my point across. Taken me forty years.

SFL Music: I’ve been there since the beginning. I think you’ve done well all along. This album SEVEN is the first one written since Better Days Comin’ (released in 2014). What would you say inspired it? Some of the songs “RESURRECT ME”, “TEARS OF BLOOD”, “BROKEN GLASS”. Is there a theme?
Winger: There’s no theme. It’s just a collection of songs. There’s personal experience and there’s personal experience with other people. I wrote “DO OR DIE” about a friend of mine. And there’s like I say, what I consider to be my life lessons in there, karma, things that have affected me in certain ways. There’s no running theme. I mean, the only running theme is that I wrote most of the stuff, but some of them, they’re a lot harder than others, let’s put it that way. There’s more pain in some of them than the others. “RESURRECT ME” is really just about wanting to come back to life and having new blood breathe into you like old car, new engine kind of vibe. “IT’S OKAY” is a song about basically that life is an illusion and what you see on the surface is not really what’s happening.

SFL Music: The songs are very strong and your voice is still amazing, your range, vibrato. How do you take care if it?
Winger: Man, I’m classically trained, so I just do this standard warm up, warm down. I was talking to Robert Mason about this. He’s classically trained too. So, we just do the things that don’t screw your voice up. I have a lot of bad nights. I mean, I’m not afraid to admit it that I’ll sometimes sound like Ethel Merman, but in general I can still hit all the stuff. Like I say, I mean, singing some of these songs is terrifying, but you know, being the singer in general is a bummer because you can’t just tune your guitar and go dir, dir dir dir (he sang upscale). You know, lets rock this shit. It’s like, what’s gonna happen tonight? I was just freaking out on that last night thinking that I’ve got to start practicing now for the whole summer.

SFL Music: Yeah, you have some great tours. You mentioned you’re classically trained. Are you doing some work with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra?
Winger: Yeah, I was saying that I was classically trained in voice. I’m classically trained in composition too, but these are all separate. It’s weird. I kind of approach my whole life like I wanted to learn things properly, so I was very disciplined on my time spent learning things and I’m really hard on myself. So yeah, to answer your question, I’m working with Nashville Symphony now to do an album of my music. They premiered my first symphony in March and now I’m writing a violin concerto for them that hopefully they’re gonna do next year, and that record will come out probably end of next year or ’25.

SFL Music: I know you trained yourself. Basically, you taught yourself a lot, but things like phrasing and accents, crescendos, fortes. How did you learn all that? Just digging in?
Winger: Yeah, yeah. I dig into the books. I read all the music theory books. I did basically what you would do if you went to university. I just did it with private instruction. I mean, it really is like learning a foreign language. If you want to learn French, just start studying French and you have to start speaking it. So, it’s very similar to that. You just learn kind of how to speak in their language and it was very important to me to learn how to speak in their language in the classical world so I could show that I respected their world. It wasn’t like, oh hey man, I’m a successful rock musician. I’m gonna come in here and do this thing. I wanted to speak completely on their terms out of respect.

SFL Music: That would roll into other genres, right?
Winger: Well, the influence of the knowledge definitely does. If you listen to this new song, the guitar solo in the middle, the modulation is just something that wouldn’t normally come out of a rock song. That came completely out of studying classical composition how I twisted that over, on its side and then came back. The arrangement of the new single. So, one really feeds the other. The energy of the rock music helps me write in classical and the knowledge of the classical helps me keep the rock music really fresh.

SFL Music: How did you know you wanted to become a professional musician? What would you say inspired you to do this?
Winger: It wasn’t about being a professional musician. It was just about being a musician, and that was very early. I was five or six years old and there was never any other choice. I grew up in a band with my two older brothers and they played instruments and we joined a band. I played my first gig when I was eight years old, so there was never any question about that. I just always knew it. I mean, whether I was going to be able to survive doing it, that was a scary thing.

SFL Music: You have definitely, and I know a lot of it was you and Reb meeting years ago and you still do the same type of writing style I understand, right?
Winger: With Reb?

SFL Music: Yes.
Winger: Reb and I sit down with a drum machine. I got some riffs and it all goes from there. It’s the same as it was from day one. I never changed the approach. I don’t think we’re different than other rock bands either. I mean, I think musicians should go ok, let’s write a song. Ok you got a riff? It’s just Reb and I. I was always really into programming drums and those were our tools, especially back in the day. I had a drum machine. Ok, let’s do this, and he’d play me a riff and build from there. Now it’s the same. I mean, the technologies better now, but it’s the same.

SFL Music: You did produce this album and you can hear that strong musicianship. What would you say is maybe the secret to the success of Winger? You have all the original members with Paul, Rod, you and Reb. John joined in 1992. What would you say is the secret to keeping that and getting better and better?
Winger: Well, we’re good friends. I mean, we’ve always been friends through all the things that have changed in the business. Through everybody playing in different bands. We’ve always been friends. That’s the first and foremost thing. I admire each guy’s musicianship and the one thing I’m good at is going, oh you do that. That would go good here and if you did that, that would go good here. So, I’m good at putting the puzzle pieces together and I’m really fortunate to have a bunch of guys that they’re all the real deal, basically. I mean, Paul is somewhat in the shadows, but Paul is a phenomenal musician and unbelievably talented. Great writer. He’s a great lead guitar player. I gave him a solo on “BROKEN GLASS”. That’s Paul playing guitar solo which he’s never done on a Winger album, and every single band member is playing on every single song. So, this is the most pure Winger album there is by virtual fact that we’re all playing on every single track and the ingredients that make up the Winger recipe are all there on every single song. So, really what you’re getting is kind of like the ultimate Winger album. Whether you like it or not, I can’t speak to that, but it really is kind of like the final.

SFL Music: Is that why you went back to the original logo?
Winger: Yeah, I wanted to because it was like bring Paul back. Everybody’s on the thing. The number seven is like this whole full circle, very mystical number and there’s a return to the beginning. I felt that the old logo that we used from PULL (released in 1993) up until Better Days Comin’, it was like the end of an era. It was like bring everybody back into this thing, and then you know, bring back the logo. Kind of wanted to recreate the energy of the first album with all the depth that came after that.

SFL Music: I can hear that in the song “IT ALL COMES BACK AROUND” with the keyboards and Reb’s solo. Isn’t it also the thirtieth anniversary of the third album beside the thirty-fifth anniversary of the first?
Winger: Yes.

SFL Music: What would you recommend to an up and coming, new musician?
Winger: Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of anyone. Learn how to write songs. Learn your instrument better than everybody else, like stack the deck as much as you can. If you play guitar, find the guitar teacher that’s gonna help you. Find mentors. Mentors in all the categories that you want to be good at. Somebody who’s better than you to lead you to the place that you want to be. And you grow out of mentors too by the way. So, you get one and you get to a place, and then you find another and you keep going. Learn the electronic process, the digital work stations that suit you best. Learn them inside and out so you can free your mind and free your skills to be able to kind of channel the universe, basically.

SFL Music: That’s good advice. Are there any new singles that are coming out?
Winger: Yeah, I’ve got four videos after this so we’re gonna keep going.

SFL Music: Is there a sequence to how they were done?
Winger: no, its random. I’m struggling with what to put out next, actually.

SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with the new show? In June you’re going to be in the States with Tom Keifer.
Winger: It’s tough because we have to play all our hits and sometimes when we’re opening, we only have a limited amount of time. So, we’ll definitely be playing some new songs and all the old stuff and you know, doing our best to keep it fresh. We’re not one of these bands that’s got tons of money for big production, so I can’t tell you there’s going to be like fire and dragons and any of that stuff onstage (he laughed).

SFL Music: That’s ok. I think people just want to see you guys play.
Winger: Well, that we will be doing.

SFL Music: Is there anything particular you take on tour with you? Any particular guitars or gear. Musicians post about their new equipment.
Winger: That’s an excellent question. I’m not a gear guy. A couple of my guys, like Reb would be the guy to ask that question to. I do have a really cool bass that I won’t let out of my sight. If you see it online, it’s this amazing bass that I just could never stop playing ‘cause it’s awesome. I take my vitamins. I take a big thing of vitamins onstage and my work out gloves ‘cause I hit the gym every morning.

SFL Music: Is that what you would recommend to keep the stamina of the tour?
Winger: Absolutely! I mean, I go to the gym every single morning when I can. Like I rarely miss.

SFL Music: Do you have a certain workout routine?
Winger: I do. It’s a combination of all the things I’ve done in my past and stuff. It’s not as much time as I would like. I’ve grown to really love hanging out in the gym because I make my business phone calls while I’m working out. It’s very difficult on the road because not every hotel has a great gym, but you know, Bobby Rock, Lita Ford’s drummer, he does it too. He’s on the road, we saw him one time, it was pouring rain and there was no gym in the hotel and he was out in the pouring rain doing his jog man.

SFL Music: Was there anything else coming up for fans to be looking for?
Winger: We just appreciate as many pre-orders. if you feel like you can spare the change man, pre-order the album or the vinyl or just keep cranking the video. We appreciate everybody being with us all this time. It’s kind of amazing that we’re still doing it and strong as ever.

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