Winger – Kip Winger

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

The good thing about having go to music is that it’s there when you need some time to simply listen to a song that takes you away from any troubles in your day. Now, Winger fans of all ages have the opportunity to hear their favorite world renown hits in Winger’s most authentic form. As of November 17th, this extraordinarily talented hard rock band released a box set CHAPTER ONE: ATLANTIC YEARS 1988-1993. This compilation on CD and Vinyl is comprised of songs that enabled Winger to originally make their mark in the music industry. After earning platinum status with their self-titled debut album released in 1988 and their second LP IN THE HEART OF THE YOUNG released in 1990, they continued to display their talents with their third album PULL which spawned fan favorites like “Down Incognito”. The fourth disc Demo Anthology which is also included, contains demo versions of a combination of their biggest hits.

Now, off the heels of their latest studio record SEVEN, they are continuing to tour and showing no signs of slowing down. South Florida fans can experience Winger’s span of amazing tunes on January 17th at ROKISLAND Fest 2024 at the Key West Amphitheater in Key West.

Catching up with Lead Vocalist/Bassist/Songwriter Kip Winger just prior to the release of their box set and in between tour dates, he revealed some details about the box set (featuring the original line-up of Winger, Lead Guitarist Reb Beach, Guitarist/Keyboardist Paul Taylor and Drummer Rod Morgenstein), the additional disc, the making of their music in those early days, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: What prompted you guys to release this box set, the Atlantic Years?
Kip Winger: They’ve been asking for a while, and my buddy Larry Mazer who is a manager, we were talking one day and he was basically just saying, “hey, you should do a box set.” Well, if I can control it yeah, that would be great! They put out several remasters and stuff like that, that I was never involved in. So, this is really the first remaster that I was actually in the studio with Ted Jensen who mastered the first three records, mastered all of these. I went into storage and found a bunch of old photos and we got original artwork from kind of the metamorphoses of how the first albums created by the original artists. So, there’s a lot of things people haven’t seen in there, and it’s the only audio remastering that I ever approved. So, I mean, it really is like I put this together myself and it was really the way I heard the albums. I left off the bonus cuts because in my mind, bonus cuts were never supposed to make it to the album. They were just marketing tools for the record company. So, I chose kind of the whole package. It’s the first box set that I really was involved in from top to bottom.

SFL Music: What was your goal in overseeing everything?
Winger: Because I’m sick of listening to people remaster the record and not liking the way it sounds.

SFL Music: You put those demos in?
Winger: Yeah, I put the demos in just as an interesting thing. They’ve been released before on the demo anthology, but never on vinyl. So, I thought it was kind of a cool extra thing just to add in there for fans that might be interested in that, and a lot of people haven’t heard them.

SFL Music: You have produced many of your other albums. The first two Winger albums, the debut and In The Heart Of The Young were both produced by Beau Hill. What would you say you took away from those experiences of working with Beau?
Winger: The main thing I got from Beau was before the albums, actually. I met Beaux when I was sixteen. He produced a band that I was in with my brothers. I learned quite a bit of stuff from Beau between the time I was about sixteen through twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, prior to the Alice Cooper gig, but by the time I got to the first album, and you can hear this on the demos, there really wasn’t much change from the demos. We just re-recorded the demos basically. So, there wasn’t a huge takeaway from the first and second records with regards to production. I really had a hand in how those albums went. He was engineering them as well, and he was a good engineer. Beau is a very talented guy and to his credit, he gave me a lot of leeway to kind of present the music in the way I felt was the best way to do it. He did have some really good suggestions. For example, if you hear “Madalaine” on the demo disc, it’s very slow and it was his idea to speed it up. It was quite the collaboration, and by the time we got to PULL, Mike Shipley is credited for the production and I’m credited for the co-production, but if you listen again to the demos, there really wasn’t much different. I learned probably more from Mike Shipley than anybody in the studio about how to record an album. Mike was the most talented engineer, mixing engineer that probably ever walked the face of the earth in my opinion.

SFL Music: How so?
Winger: He was like a genius. He could mix a song and just make it sound better than anybody. Spatially and all the imaging and the EQ, and learning how the signal chain went from Mike, and just how to cut tracks and stuff like that.

SFL Music: The last time we spoke, you talked about how you and Reb use drum tracks to write music, but also in a past interview, Reb spoke about the early days of splicing tapes and stuff back then verses today’s technology. Do you have a specific memory that stands out to you about those studio days?
Winger: Well, probably the most famous one is when Rod Morgenstein came in to cut the drums. We didn’t know that he would be in the band yet. He came in to cut the drums and we hired him because he was more of a prog guy. We wanted more technical creative drumming on the record just for something different. Rod came in and basically tried to play super rock, AC/DC drums and we’re like, come on, where’s the Rod Morgenstein? On “Seventeen”, we were like, do something weird here like turn the beat around or something. That’s the famous place where he turned the beat around in “Seventeen”. That really came out of us going, come on, be Rod Morgenstein because he was in there totally playing it straight. I would say that Beau Hill is a very funny guy. We had a lot of laughs. Reb is extraordinarily funny. So, it was really funny to be in the studio. It was fun. As was PULL, but PULL was a more serious record. We were driven to really bring it up a level in the actual technical aspect of recording the record.

SFL Music: So that was your goal when you guys went in to record PULL?
Winger: Well, if you remember, we were up against all the onslaught of the grunge and Beavis and Butt-Head and all that stuff. So, we had a lot to prove and that fueled the quality of the material and the quality of the recording, and I think it holds up. I mean, if you listen to it, you can hear it.

SFL Music: Yes, definitely! All of these songs are still go to tunes. You all are also touring and in January, Winger is playing in Florida at the Rokisland Fest. What can fans look forward to with that show?
Winger: Well, it’s not only that. We’re consistently playing every month and we have a lot of tour dates. We’ve been really hitting it hard since our new album SEVEN came out in May on May 5th. We did a tour with Tom Keifer, and we’ve been playing a lot. We went to Japan. We’ve done very well with that, so we’re continuing to do that. We’re playing all the hits and a couple of songs from our new record, and it’s really a good kind of discography of our whole era. Although at this time, we’re not playing anything off of WINGER IV and I don’t think we’re playing anything off Better Days Comin’ either, but we’re playing songs off of every other record.

SFL Music: Is there a particular reason for that?
Winger: Time.

SFL Music: You stated that the box set captures an unforgettable era. What do you think today’s musicians could learn from the music of the eighties and early nineties?
Winger: That’s a good question. I’m not one of these people that’s like, oh man, my era was so great. It all sucks now. There’s a lot of seasoned pros that kind of want to reminisce about their time being the greatest time for songwriting and all that. I don’t believe that. What I would say that I’m very happy to have been involved with, is having been an artist that was recording before the digital age and getting to witness the transition into the digital age. So, I have a unique perspective about what it was like to record with tape machines and as you said, cut up tape and edit things like that, and really get in there where the stakes were really high and it was very expensive to do this. You really couldn’t afford to make mistakes and this kind of thing, but there’s no way to tell a young musician, hey man, when I was your age, it was costing us two thousand a day and if you screwed the tape up, you were screwed. I mean, it’s irrelevant. So, to be honest with you, given the technology involved, I would be hard pressed to know what kind of takeaway there is because other than the fact that we were all the ones that helped develop it to this point. So, if anybody is looking for some old stories, we can sure give it to them. There’re so many great bands out now that are just killing it. It’s interesting to watch, I’m speaking specifically the rock genre, just morph from one kind of band to the other. It’s really all about creativity, is what this is all about. Like people being inspired by hearing something, trying to copy it, making it their own and evolving it. That’s really all I can say about that. It’s fun to watch it all go down. I don’t consider myself somebody who would take the attitude of saying, well in my day, we did it that way.

SFL Music: It sounds like the tech-savvy we have today for recording is a bit easier?
Winger: It makes it way easier. Absolutely! You can make a record in your hotel room. People are doing it every day. Now, it’s down to how good is your melody and what do your lyrics say which was always what it was about anyway, but there was something really magical about being in a recording studio when the tape was rolling and you know, it was kind of a thing. Ninety-five percent is that thing doesn’t exist anymore.

SFL Music: Winger is a close band, but do you think that it might be a drawback nowadays that people can do so much independently like sending files and such? Do you think that takes away from bonding time like you guys had in the studio?
Winger: I think its half dozen, one sixth or the other. It does, yeah. The comradery of sitting in the studio with guys and pounding it out, there is something to that. On the other hand, it’s all about inspiration. Young people that are doing new music, they’re gonna use the tools that they have at hand. The inspiration’s gonna come through them or whatever part of the universe it’s coming, and they’re going to experience it the same exact way I did because they weren’t where I was, you know what I mean? It’s all about accessing the universe and manifesting something cool through your creativity. I think that a lot can be gained from people experiencing a group effort on a song, but a lot of people can’t do that. It’s like saying to a person who is in a starving country, yeah, it’s great to go to this restaurant ‘cause it’s amazing, but they can’t do it. So, it’s fun to watch how many creative people are out there just killing it. It’s quite overwhelming honestly. I’ll confess. I don’t listen to a lot of music, but when I do get exposed to it, I’m kind of blown away at what’s going on out there.

SFL Music: You have lived in Miami. Is there anything you’re looking forward to when you go to Key West? You also have a solo show on January 16th at the Sunset Pier.
Winger: Listen I love Florida. I mean I love the sun. I’m all about the sun (he laughed). It’s fun to play those gigs. They asked me to do a solo show before then and I agreed to do it. I haven’t been doing so many solo shows, so that will be fun.

SFL Music: I’ve seen your solo show. It was awesome! Is there anything different that fans can look forward to?
Winger: I don’t know if I’ll do it with a percussionist this time or not. I need to learn a few new songs is what I need to do because I’ve been doing the same songs for a while. So, maybe I’ll throw in a couple new songs but again, it’s down to, if I have forty-five minutes and they want to hear the hits, then what are you gonna do?

SFL Music: Is there anything else new coming out?
Winger: We’re just working the new record and just playing the shows and stuff. We might put out a couple more videos. We had a really good reaction to the new record and so we’re happy that people are supporting the new music, and supporting live music. So, attendance’s have been really good. A lot of fans that have been with us since the beginning bring their kids and their kids are really into it, and then the young faction of Guitar Hero guys, the young twenty-year-olds that want to see Reb do his thing. There’s a lot of those in the audience, so it’s fun to see an audience filled with all ages. We had a couple kids there the other night that were nine and twelve.

SFL Music: Expanding the generations.
Winger: Yeah.

SFL Music: Are you guys going to be expanding the Winger tour dates?
Winger: Yea, we’ll be playing through ’24 for sure.

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