It seemed like Winger were catching flak from all sides in the 1990s.
As the industry swiftly closed the door on hair metal in the wake of the grunge revolution, Winger became the proverbial punching bag for the metal community and the “fall guy” for a genre that had seemingly died overnight.
Famously, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich can be seen throwing darts at a pin-up of Kip Winger in the video for “Nothing Else Matters.” Then, Mike Judge plastered a Winger shirt on Stewart, the dorky neighborhood kid on Beavis and Butt-Head.
Over the years, Kip has lamented the fact that these very public anti-endorsements effectively stifled Winger’s career as a band — and cast a stigma that has scarred the legacy of the band and its members. It doesn’t help that Winger’s biggest hit, “Seventeen,” hasn’t exactly aged well in terms of political correctness.
“It was the irony of my whole existence, because my focus has always been the music and being a good musician,” Kip told Yahoo! Entertainment in a new interview promoting the Paramount+ docuseries I Wanna Rock: The ’80s Metal Dream. “Like, one thing I will say about ‘Seventeen’ is if you take away the lyrics… it’s a very, very difficult song to perform. It’s got a lot of tricky stuff going on from a musical point of view.”
He continued, “And so, it was tragic, like: ‘Wow, how could I end up in this position, being the one out of all of these [’80s hair-metal] guys that can orchestrate for an orchestra?’ It was bad. It was really bad.”
Kip said Metallica frontman James Hetfield recently called him to apologize for the “Nothing Else Matters” diss (though Ulrich has not), and that he buried the hatchet with Judge back in 2011 when Beavis and Butt-Head made a comeback.
“James Hetfield called me to apologize about a year and a half ago,” he said. “He was really contrite and was like, ‘You know what? That was uncool. And I’m sorry we did that.’ It was a very nice conversation. It seemed that the guy was completely awesome and I totally could be friends with him. But, you know… it was really Lars [who threw the dart]…”
All in all, Kip, now 62, said he wouldn’t go back and change anything. He has since established himself as a worthy artist in his own right in his post-glam metal years as a symphonic composer of some renown, receiving a Grammy nomination for the Best Classical Contemporary Composition Grammy for a piece entitled C.F. Kip Winger: Conversations With Nijinsky.
“It’s a very weird place to be in history, my position,” Kip said of the backlash his band received, “but it fueled my engines to not let it end this way. I can’t be this guy in history. So, I forged through with what I always did, which was stick to the music.”
A teaser of the I Wanna Rock: The ’80s Metal Dream episode featuring Kip Winger can be seen below.