Hot on the heels of their highly successful 25th Anniversary Shows last year WINGER return with new studio album Better Days Comin’, the long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s Karma (one of their best!) and a touring schedule that has them plenty busy through all of 2014 and beyond. I had the chance to get lead singer/writer/bassist Kip Winger on the phone not too long ago and we discussed the new record, current tour, the story behind my favorite song, and WINGER then and now. Have a look:
Amps: OK, first off. “So Long China” is such an incredible song. What’s the story behind it? And do you have a favorite on Better Days Comin’?
Kip: That’s awesome that you dig that song, you’re the FIRST person in an interview that’s mentioned it. When we were doing it Reb was like, “That’s my favorite song! Check out the bridge!” but you’re the first interview I’ve done that’s mentioned that song. So Reb (Beach, guitar) and I sat down and wrote a bunch of tunes and we got seven finished on the first two go ’rounds of writing and we had a bunch of riffs undone, just teeny little riffs and I sent a bunch of the unfinished ones to John Roth and that was the riff that made him say, “Man! I wanna work on that one!” so John came up to write a few tunes which was something new. He was only in on the writing on Karma for one song and it was his idea that Reb and I finished. This makes the first time that John (Roth, guitar) and I actually sat down and worked on tunes. So we started with that riff and he had written one for the verse of the song, and I just started humming a melody, and it was one of those things that just happened very naturally. I was telling somebody earlier that all the best shit happens by accident. It just kind of wrote itself.
And we were listening to it, a very happy, upbeat tune and I just started singing “So long, China”, like, what the fuck does that mean (laughs)?? I had no idea what do with that! And I sent that song around to get help with the lyrics. When I’m stuck on something I send it to Donnie Purnell who used to be in KIX and wrote all the cool shit for those guys, and he was like, “I can’t do shit with this” so I sent it to Eric Bazilian (THE HOOTERS). He came back and said, “I got nothin’, man”. We were down to the wire. I live in Nashville and a friend of my wife’s, my wife is a songwriter, and fuck if this chick didn’t sit down and go “So long China, Shanghai flower, I hope you find what you’re looking for” and I’m like, “My God! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!” I love that song, and it’s Reb’s favorite, and mine too.
Amps: I loved Karma, so it’s no surprise that this record is as good as it is.
Kip: I appreciate that. Quality control is big with us. I try to tell young people who ask for advice to just know when your ideas suck. That’s the bottom line. It’s easy to stand there bouncing on your heels in the studio thinking, “I’m a God” but when it’s bad you gotta know it. You can’t just pick your good ideas you have to pick your BEST ideas and just not settle. That’s the biggest thing I see with some bands. “Oh, this is a cool riff, that’ll do!” We don’t do that. We really try to beat ourselves senseless in the high quality department. We’re a riff-oriented band, dude. We write riffs, we always start with those. Both Reb and I are riff guys. Hell, I wrote the music riff to the middle of “Seventeen” and I wrote the verse riff on “Queen Babylon”. Reb is amazing at just coming up with shit off the top of his head. If I put up a beat and leave the room, I’ll go back and peek around the corner and he’s just comin’ up with some killer riffs.
Amps: To clarify, Paul Taylor does or does not write/play on this new one?
Kip: No, Paul only got back together with us when we did the anniversary shows. I had asked him to come back for IV and he passed on it. He’s busy. We’re really good friends, but the timing just doesn’t work out. I’d love to write with him on the follow-up to this one, kind of in the Steve Perry vein. We could use one or two like that on the next one.
Amps: I was a big fan of Pull, especially “Down Incognito.”
Kip: You know what? When we did this album I felt we needed an answer to that song. And that’s how “Better Days Comin’” was born. We wrote a track that quite literally is the answer to “Down Incognito”
Amps: How long do you anticipate being out on the road for this one?
Kip: As long as we can! We’re like the fine wine band. Some people get us, and some people don’t, so it’s hard sometimes. Some of the promoters are like, “WINGER? Oh, fuck yeah!” and others are like “Ugggh, WINGER” but right now we’re doin’ well, dude. We’ve got every weekend till the end of the year booked and we’re still filling in dates. We’re also heading over to England later this year. Where are you located?
Amps: I’m in Dallas, Texas. Nevermind England! Get HERE, please!
Kips: (Laughs) I’m sure we’ll be there. (Editor’s note: WINGER is here on June 5 at Trees Dallas!!)
Amps: I see on this record you have some different arrangements, some real chugging parts in “Storm In Me”, some off-time sections in “Tin Soldier” and stuff. What brought that on?
Kip: This record exemplifies all aspects of the band is the best way to answer that. We have one of everything we’ve ever done on this album. “Tin Soldier”, I mean we’ve sprinkled prog rock in our music all the way from the beginning and then “Storm In Me” is kind of a split personality type of song. It’s got the schizophrenia vibe. I think the one song that’s the farthest away from anything is one that John and I sat down with, “Be Who You Are, Now”. That was one that we completely wrote ourselves with a BEATLES-type riff and it all developed from there. My catalog for referencing music is all 70’s stuff so there’s gonna be a 70’s reference on everything I do.
Kip: Man, I see myself as the same. I think I’ve lightened up a lot. And I’ve been able to achieve a lot of the things I wanted to do. My personality’s pretty much the same. I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t feel like I’ve ever made it. Back when I was a kid getting a record deal and “making it” was a big deal. WINGER was never that huge. We kind of had our fifteen minutes then we didn’t just go away we got blown out of the scene with that whole Beavis and Butthead thing. And then I spent years trying to rebuild my credibility, so knowing that other musicians understand that I know what I’m doing is very important. Basically I focus on learning music, and understanding it and expressing myself in that form. I guess the way I’ve changed is that I just now feel like I can hold my own in a room full of famous guys that I really look up to. I’m a shy dude, I’m not really part of the clan. I just do my own thing.
Amps: How’s life for Kip Winger now in 2014?
Kip: Good, man. I’m still gettin’ gigs. I’m still writing 30 years into it, so I’m happy for that. Everything’s real good, I can’t complain.
Amps: Say something to the WINGER fans of the world.
Kip: Thanks for hanging in there all this time. It’s nice to know people are still listening. I’m not a huge internet guy but I do go on and see the comments people leave us appreciating what we do and it’s nice. So, thank you.
I gotta tell you, Kip is a real down-to-earth, and quite funny guy. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind, but then again, when you’ve got the chops that he and the boys do, all you have to do is press PLAY on Better Days Comin’ and that’ll do the talking. WINGER rocks Trees Dallas this Thursday June 5. Be sure and look for our live show review and check HERE to see when they’re in your town. Something tells me you don’t wanna miss this one!