It All Comes Back Around: The Return of Winger

An exclusive chat with Kip Winger about the band’s new album Seven and more

Winger 1988 (Image: Hit Parader)

On May 5, hard rockers Winger released Seven, their – you guessed it – seventh studio album. 

The band members haven’t put out anything together since 2014’s Better Days Comin’, and frontman Kip Winger admits that he was bit nervous as this latest release date approached. “Oh God, it’s always so stressful – it’s just like the first time I put out an album. It’s always high stakes. You wonder what people think,” he says.

The long gap between albums happened because Winger himself has been pursuing an acclaimed career in classical music, while guitarist Reb Beach has spent time playing with Whitesnake. The pandemic also caused significant delays.

Now that Seven is finally out, Winger can finally breathe.

“I’m really happy with the way it sounds and the content of the record, and I’m proud of the fact that there’s no filler,” he says. “I feel like it’s right in the zone of where I want it to be, somewhere between our first record [1988’s Winger], which had a certain thing to it, and our [1993] third record, Pull, which was a huge album for us, and really was the beginning of the sound of the band, in my mind. This record is really a great cross collateralization of all the stuff that we’ve done, wrapped up into one thing.”



The band, which includes all four original members–Winger on bass, guitarist Reb Beach, multi-instrumentalist Paul Taylor and drummer Rod Morgenstein–plus longtime third guitarist John Roth, recorded the new album in Nashville, where Winger has lived for several years. This time, he produced it himself. “When it comes to my own music, I’m pretty confident about knowing where to finish [a song] – because I also know that after a point, diminishing returns doesn’t help you much,” he says.

He also felt confident about the material, even though it’s been a long time since he recorded a rock album. “I’m replete with ideas,” he says. “A long time ago, I would get stumped for ideas and have nowhere to go. It wasn’t until I really started studying and learning other things and stepping out of my comfort zone that I really started flourishing in the musical idea department.”

Winger Seven, Frontiers Records 2023

He’s referring to his years studying classical composition at the University of New Mexico, starting in 1997. By that time, “I had already had a full career in music, so I took what I had known already and applied these new things to what I already did, and it created an incredibly fertile ground to work in.”

In truth, though, Winger had begun studying music his entire life. “My parents were in a band. They put a guitar in my hand when I was five. I did my first professional gig at eight years old, and my two elder brothers and I played in a band [together] from the time I was five years old ’til the time I was 20 years old.” That means, and sixty-one years old, he’s been a working musician for more than five decades.

Though he started out as a guitarist, he switched to bass after becoming a fan of Beatles bassist Paul McCartney. “And my brother grabbed the guitar, and my other brother grabbed the drums, so it was an obvious choice for me to play bass to round out the band,” he says.

Frustrated that the band with his brothers wasn’t achieving significant success, Winger quit and moved from his native Colorado to New York City. His skills earned him a spot in shock rocker Alice Cooper’s band, and he stayed on for two years. Though it was a good job, he left in 1987 (with Cooper’s blessing) so he could form his own eponymous band.

“I felt at the time it was like, ‘Once a side man, always a side man,’ and I needed to make the break right then,” Winger says. “In some ways it was really stupid. I gambled on myself and won, but I could have just as easily gambled and lost.”


VIDEO: Winger “Madalaine”

Forming the band definitely turned out to be the right call, as their first two albums, 1988’s Winger and 1990’s In the Heart of the Young, both earned platinum sales status. Several of their singles – including “Madalaine,” “Seventeen,” “Headed for a Heartbreak,” “Miles Away,” and “Easy Come Easy Go” – were ubiquitous on radio and MTV. Although the grunge era caused the band to take a break during the 1990s, Winger says that they’ve retained a loyal following because of their emotional connection to the music.

“Nothing makes somebody feel something more than music,” Winger says. “The only thing that you ever remember about anything is what it makes you feel like. If you go to the beach, you don’t remember what it looks like as much as how it makes you feel. If you watch a movie, it’s always about the lingering feeling. If you get in a fight with somebody, maybe you’ll remember what they said, and it’ll piss you off or make you cry or whatever it is – it’s always about the emotion.”

In the past, the band’s willingness to tap into that emotion has sometimes earned them derision from other hard rock musicians. Metallica, in particular, took public swipes at Winger, leading some fans to follow suit. 

“A lot of rock fans hated us and thought we were wimpy. We took a lot of shit,” Winger says. “But I think in a lot of ways, our music actually does stand the test of time, and there’s a lot more under the hood than what the general consensus of the pop world would think of ‘Hey, he’s just Mister ‘Seventeen.’ I mean, anybody that knows the difference knows that it’s way deeper than all of that.”

These days, he adds, “We’re getting a lot more respect. It’s kind of come full circle. And the only reason that’s happened is that I stayed the course and I just kept trying to become a better musician. I didn’t pay attention to any of it, as much as I could. I just realized there was nothing I could do to change it. And so the things that you can’t change, you can’t dwell on them in a way that’s going to ruin your life. You just have to focus on the things that you are in control of – and the only thing I was in control of was the music that I was writing. Nothing else.”

Winger was vindicated when, in 2017, he was nominated for a Grammy award in classical composition.

“Once that happened, I never looked back,” he says. “That basically set the record straight on whether I’m a good musician or not. So anybody that wants to imagine that I don’t know what music is, they can go ahead and just keep imagining that, but they’re just completely out of touch with reality.”

Fortunately, he knows there are many fans who’ve defended the band, then and now – and soon, those loyal followers will get a chance to see Winger in person when the band embark on an extensive string of tour dates – some headlining, and others performing with Steel Panther or Tom Keifer Band. 

Winger 2023 (Image: Frontiers Records)

Winger himself promises fans that they’ll have a blast at these shows: “I can hit every note I’ve ever been able to hit. People heard ‘Seventeen’ in high school and they’re coming to hear that song and I don’t want to let them down.” In order to keep performing at this level, he says he’s “big on health and working out, and working on my voice. I haven’t had a drink since 2012.”

Giving back to the fans, with good gigs and new music, is Winger’s way of showing gratitude. 

“I appreciate everybody hanging in with us,” he says. “This is our 35th anniversary year, so we’re really happy we’re still standing!”



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Katherine Yeske Taylor

Katherine Yeske Taylor is a longtime New Yorker, but she began her rock critic career in Atlanta in the 1990s, interviewing Georgia musical royalty such as the Indigo Girls, R.E.M. and the Black Crowes while she was still a teenager. Since then, she has conducted thousands of interviews with a wide range of artists for dozens of national, regional, and local magazines and newspapers, including Billboard, Spin, American Songwriter, FLOOD, etc. She is the author of two forthcoming books: She’s a Badass: Women in Rock Shaping Feminism (out December 2023 via Backbeat Books), and she's helping Eugene Hütz of Gogol Bordello write his memoir, Rock the Hützpah: Undestructible Ukrainian in the Free World (out in 2024 via Matt Holt Books/BenBella). She also contributed to two prestigious music books (Rolling Stone’s Alt-Rock-A-Rama and The Trouser Press Guide to ’90s Rock. She has also written album liner notes and artist bios (PR materials) for several major musical artists.

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