By Hunter Copeland
Let’s start with a quick one question test:
1. Which of the following does not belong:
A. Classical composer
B. Ballet dancer
C. Kip Winger
If you answered “C,” you would be wrong, as was I. It was actually a trick question. Recently, I was given the opportunity to interview Kip and I was surprised to find that he has done much more than just front a multi-platinum hair band from the 80’s. Even if that had been the only entry on his resume, he could have easily done much worse. However, that isn’t the case.
After a stint in Alice Cooper’s band, Kip went on to form Winger who had major success before being brutalized in the early 90’s by a couple of cartoon characters named Bevis and Butthead. Kip proved with Winger he could write catchy ear candy with the power to effortlessly melt the panties off of teenage girls, but with his more recent work, Kip has proven that there is a life in addition to Winger and that he has much more left to say.
Kip is a voracious student of classical music and has written multiple classical pieces, one of which is currently being performed by ballet groups here in the United States. You can get your own copy of this work entitled “Ghosts,” by visiting Itunes. While there, you will also notice that Kip has been busy releasing multiple solo albums as well. Not only does he tour in support of his solo recordings, but he is also keeping up a touring schedule with Winger, who is still in demand. All and all, this is one busy dude. In the following brief interview, Kip discusses the past, present, and what he sees coming on the horizon. Hope you enjoy. I know I did.
Hunter: As a musician myself, I can vividly remember hearing people like Jimi Hendrix for the first time and wanting to play guitar. I’m curious if you remember what made you want to play music. Are there any specific artists you heard that initially made you want to play?
Kip: I grew up in a band with my brother; my parents had a Jazz trio. My house was music 24/7. So it wasn’t anything particular, we used to play all the classic rock stuff like Grand Funk, Black Sabbath, and Zeppelin.
Hunter: You played bass with Alice Cooper, and with your band Winger. How did you end up playing bass as your main instrument?
Kip: I was always drawn to the bass, McCartney of course!
Hunter: I think most know you from your work with your band Winger. When I look at your bio, I see that you had plenty of projects before Winger and have had plenty since. I’m curious if you could name some of your personal highlights from your career thus far, and would you include your work with Winger as a highlight?
Kip: Without a doubt the opening night at San Francisco Ballet for the premiere of Ghosts. Playing Madison Square Garden for the 1st time, and getting my first gold record.
Hunter: The whole 80’s scene seemed to disappear almost overnight. It seems like some of the artists really had trouble figuring out what to do next. Was that a difficult transition for you or was it a nice change of pace? It seems like it allowed you to go in other directions that you might not have otherwise had time to explore.
Kip: It was only hard in that there weren’t so many gigs out there at that time. Musically I was ready for something different. My sole focus has always been the music. So I just dug a bit deeper for something more.
Hunter: It seems like with the whole Beavis & Butthead deal that Winger became the punching bag for all the 80’s bands. I also remember the documentary footage of Lars Ulrich (Metallica) throwing darts at a picture of you. Anyone can say what they want, but you and the guys in Winger could play! At this point, does that negative crap bug you and is there anything you would specifically say to any of the naysayers?
Kip: Nothing.. It’s the nature of Showbiz, I ended up on the wrong end of the biz for a while, but like I said, music was always my focused, not how popular I am. I think musical prejudice is like any other prejudice, basic ignorance and lack of knowledge for another person’s point of view. I’ve been known to hate on things too. We all have done it. It’s human nature. The key is to keep an open mind and remember that there’s something for everyone out there.
Hunter: What exactly did you do to piss off Mike Judge?
Kip: Nothing.. Mike and I are straight. He wrote a really funny and successful show, I was the fall guy.. It’s showbiz.
Hunter: Some people may not be aware that you studied composition and are in to classical music. I just listened to your album Ghosts for the first time, and it sounds beautiful. How did you end up composing music for a ballet and is it true that you have some past dancing experience yourself?
Kip: I’ve always studied music with a focus on writing orchestral music. I was in a ballet company when I was a teenager, Ballet during the day, rocking to Led Zeppelin in clubs at night. I was always moved by classical music and wanted to know how to express myself in a deeper way through that medium. It’s a lifetime of learning for sure.
Hunter: Between you, Rod on drums (who I also believe was once a member of the Dixie Dregs), and Reb who is a phenomenal guitar player, Winger had some phenomenal talent. It seem like you guys chose to focus more on the songs than showing off musical chops. Did you guys make a conscious decision to always put the song first and did you guys have to make an effort to hold back somewhat?
Kip: We wanted to do cool riff-oriented songs with good melodies. Basically that’s what we do. Whether one thinks it’s good or not is subjective of course (laughs).
Hunter: Between playing your solo shows, touring with Winger, and composing classical music, you seem to be staying pretty busy. Do you favor one of those musical outlets over the other, or is it just a joy to be able to do all of them?
Kip: I like to be composing, that’s my greatest high. Performing is a different animal. If I knew my voice would never fail, it would be more fun (laughs). I love the interaction with the audience though. I think it’s important to do both….to stay connected to real people and not create in a vacuum.
Hunter: What is next for you and Winger and what can we expect from a Winger live show these days? Any new projects we should know about?
Kip:We will surely make a new record as well as me making a new solo record. I’m working on a few new classical pieces as well.
Editor's Note: To find out more about Kip Winger, or to purchase any of his recordings, please go to www.kipwinger.com