Musical evolution

Kip Winger on shifts between glam-metal band and classical scores

Union Leader Correspondent
March 21. 2018 1:13PM
Kip Winger's diverse musical projects have ranged from recording and touring with '80s metal band Winger to crafting classical scores for ballets. 
If you go...
WHO: Kip Winger Live and Unplugged

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry

TICKETS: $35 to $40

INFO: 437-5100;

More than three decades in the music business has allowed rock musician and composer Kip Winger the opportunity to get to really know his crowds.

Many of his shows end with audience members on stage, singing along to the metal anthems that made him a standout in the era of hair bands.

“I prefer to use the word ‘friends’ rather than fans,” Winger said. “It’s a cool experience if you haven’t seen it before. There’s always a bunch of surprises during the night.”

And Winger, whose namesake band in the late 1980s and early 1990s charted songs including “Seventeen,” “Headed for a Heartbreak” and “Miles Away,” has friends all over the world.

Plus with a new piano set, he’s likely to make a few more during his next round of gigs.

“This will be the first time in the U.S. that I do it. I just played Japan, and I did it for the first time there last week. It’s a nice addition to the solo acoustic guitar thing because I can break up the set a little bit,” Winger said.

“I’ll keep adding when I have time to practice a new one. There’s several piano songs that I could do. I mean, ‘Headed For A Heartbreak’ is a piano song. I tend to play it on guitar though,” he said, referring to his band’s 1988 progressive metal hit.

Winger is embarking on a series of solo performances throughout the country. His opening show will take place in the Granite State, on Friday at 8 p.m. at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry.

“As a band, we always did very well (in New Hampshire), and I really like the people — avid music lovers, great listeners. I’m quite looking forward to it,” he said.

Outside of his early role as Alice Cooper’s bass player and the lead singer for Alan Parsons’ Live Project, he is also an accomplished orchestral composer of ballet music. His more diverse studio albums and his Grammy-nominated recording with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, 2016’s “Conversations with Nijinsky,” showcase how he can flex his muscle on Billboard’s traditional classical chart or with his legion of metal heads.

“There’s a difference between entertainer and artist. There’s no judgment call; one’s not better than the other. It just happens to be I lean toward the artist side,” he said. “I tend not to make the same album over and over again. It’s not in my blood. My sole focus in life is studying music and learning how to become a better composer.”

The self-taught musician — he said he didn’t learn how to read an orchestral score until 35 — has largely left behind the stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of crowded tour buses and a dozen stadium venues each week.

After Winger, the band, first separated in 1994, he dove into studying music for a greater understanding of it and returned to his childhood love of classical compositions and orchestral oeuvres.

Some of his work outside the band include classical pieces commissioned for symphony orchestras, from his home state of Colorado to Greece. His piano- and harp-enriched score for “Ghosts,” a championed ballet in the San Francisco Ballet’s repertoire for years, has amassed performances worldwide since 2010. He also has got a musical, “Get Jack,” in the works.

But you can’t have new compositions without live concerts. Winger schedules solo dates and gigs with his regrouped band on weekends, often performing with other 1980s metal acts.

“I’m not in it for anything other than (to be) a better musician,” he said. “And I love playing live, because it’s a rapport with actual people. You can sit in a room and glaze at your navel for your whole life writing the best music ever, but if you don’t get out and play in front of people, the art form is lost to a certain degree.

“Fortunately, I get a lot of gigs. That’s very lucky on my part to be able to do it after all this time,” he said.

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