Wing and a Prayer
The story is a familiar one: a successful hair metal band (its first two albums went platinum) ultimately taken down by the undertow that was "Smells Like Teen Spirit." And yet, by the time Nirvana came along, Winger was already adrift, sufficiently staggered by Beavis and Butt-Head and Metallica bitchslaps. We spoke with band leader Kip Winger after the release of the unnecessarily patriotic IV, Winger's first album in 13 years, and before his recently re-formed band's comeback tour.
In the self-penned bio on your website, you write that, while you were recording Pull, "Grunge had taken over, and the perception of Winger was far from cool." Did you have a clear moment of realization that the world of music, as you knew it, had changed?
Oh yeah. When I was on the phone with my friend who was a big executive at MTV, and he said, "You haven't heard Nirvana?" And right then, I was like, "OK, it's over." But I mean, it was doomed for us, you know, early on with Metallica throwing darts at our poster and the Beavis and Butt-Head thing, and it was a little bit like we became the car at the scene of the accident. We took the extra hit.
I guess you don't own any Beavis and Butt-Head DVDs.
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No, but I thought it was a really funny show.
In hindsight, was there a way that you could have better managed the Metallica/Beavis and Butt-Head assault?
I guess so. I don't know. What? Dress up in jeans?
I don't know. I don't have a suggestion here. I'm just asking the question.
The bottom line is, if a band goes out for blood on another band, I mean, that's just not cool. That just shows that Lars is a fucking asshole. And everybody I know who knows him says he is, so I mean, there it is. What am I going to do?
The joke is that we outplay those guys. The funny part is that I outsing and outplay those guys hands down. They can't play very well. [Lars] was taking on [Winger drummer] Rod Morgenstein. I mean, hello? You know, the guy's just [such an] egomaniac it's retarded... I don't even see how they have fans anymore. And then the whole Napster thing. I mean, it's just fucking ridiculous that people still have any admiration for them at all, in my opinion. Their records suck, and it's a dead issue. They appeal to 14-year-old boys with a lot of anger. Rob Trucks
Winger performs Saturday, February 10, at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Call 954-564-1074, or visit www.cultureroom.net.
So you're at Barnes & Noble, perusing various books and DVDs for something on the olden days of Brit punk. It's 2007, for crissakes surely there's more here than just England's Dreaming and The Filth & the Fury. There was a whole different scene that emerged at the end of the '70s, one that existed under the mainstream radar. And in the DVD The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk, a long-overdue light is shed on the underground bands that picked up the slack after the Pistols cashed their final check. Much of it began with a band called Crass, which is touted on this DVD as "year zero" of the anarcho punk movement.
The Day the Country Died is based on Ian Glasper's book of the same name (named after the Subhumans' 1982 debut album) and features interviews with many of the bands involved (Zounds, Conflict, Chumbawamba), loads of montages (fliers, photos), and a soundtrack that lays to waste the overproduced punk of this millennium. The DVD traces anarcho punk's lineage from its explosive beginnings after the release of 1978's The Feeding of the 5000, Crass laid the foundation for England's DIY scene, which viewed the Clash and the Pistols the same way those bands viewed the Rolling Stones as irrelevant cash cows.
Although the groups covered in the film are labeled anarcho punk, it's an umbrella term that speaks more to the bands' politics than style. True, most were of the fast-and-loud variety and wore their circle-A's on their sleeves. But there were plenty of groups that refused to toe the three-chord line, creating sounds that were as unstructured as their ideology. Musically, Chumbawamba was a hundred times more experimental than its punk brethren, while the Subhumans were often critical of anarchist politics and the punk scene in general. (Whether Chumbawamba "sold out" when it signed to a major in 1997 is a different argument entirely.)
Sure, the lack of mainstream exposure limited the anarcho punk audience. But that was just as well: It was about the message, not the commodity. And if that meant playing to a smaller crowd, so be it.
"People would say, 'Oh, well you're just talking to the converted,'" Crass' Penny Rimbaud says in the film. "Well, who fucking converted them?" Jason Budjinski
The guys in power-pop outfit the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus might have picked a name for themselves that has absolutely no meaning to anyone, including themselves, but they're doing everything they can to make sure kids remember it. Rather than shy away from their teenaged audience, the Middleburg, Florida, quintet embraces it. Vocalist Ronnie Winter's lyrical subject matter is probably to blame; debut album Don't You Fake It is pretty much an overearnest ode to the anxieties and painful fears of our youth. But it's also very much about hope, and that's something Winter and company are eager to give their fans.
You've said in the past that it's the autobiographical nature of your songs that kids can relate to the most. What have these young fans come to represent to you?
I look out at the crowd at a Red Jumpsuit Apparatus show and I see me all over the place me everywhere. It's amazing, because it helps you remember where you were when you wrote these things. That's what I love about this music industry. It's impossible to ever really forget where you come from when you're playing shows every week.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus is headlining the Take Action! Tour, which encourages youth to engage with local organizations to combat depression and suicide. Why was this issue so important to you?
Actually, Take Action! brought this particular issue up to us. [Asking us] "Are you aware of this?" We actually were unaware of it. I had never really thought it was that widespread, but it's all over the place.
You also worked with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence last October. Would you say that the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has a special interest in becoming an activist band?
We aren't necessarily trying to be the political band. These opportunities are presenting themselves to us. We want to do as much of that as we can while we're doing our own jobs.
On January 31, you'll speak on Capitol Hill on behalf of Mental Health Purity and Suicide Prevention. That's no small feat.
Um, you know what? I don't think it's even hit me yet.
Do you know what you're going to say yet?
I don't want to give anything away about that particular event because it is going to be one time only. I'll say what I have to say, and I'll say it there... [But I've been told that] I can say whatever I want to say. Cole Haddon
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus headlines the Take Action! Tour on Saturday, February 10, at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Also performing are Emery, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, and A Static Lullaby. It's an all-ages show. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets cost $15 in advance, $17 at the door. Call 954-727-0950, or visit www.jointherevolution.net.
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