Winger Frontman Opens Up on How Metallica Almost Destroyed His Career: ’I Don’t Think Lars Would Ever Call Me to Apologize’

Recently, Kip Winger, who’s known as the frontman of American hard rock and glam metal band Winger, recently appeared on the Appetite for Distortion podcast. Among other things, Kip reflected on the negative attention the band got back in the early 1990s, most notably due to Metallica’s Lars Ulrich using Kip Winger’s poster as a means to practice his darts skill in the “Nothing Else Matters” video.

Although many years have passed since then, it seems that the topic is still relevant. As Kip revealed during his visit to the Appetite for Distortion podcast, Metallica frontman James Hetfield contacted him not that long ago to apologize for any potential damage to their reputation that the video might have caused. As for Lars? Well, there’s still no news on that front. Discussing the matter, Kip said (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“You can see a video on Howard Stern, where [Lars is] going, ‘Man, I threw darts at Kip but it was nothing personal’ — and he’s never apologized, but James Hetfield called me about a year and a half ago, and apologized for the incident. James was really cool.”

“And, you know, James is the kind of guy I could totally be friends with. He was very sincere, and it wasn’t like, he just called to apologize and then blow me off. He’s actually texted me a few times; we text every now and then.”

“I don’t think Lars would ever call me to apologize. But you know… I think everybody was just young kids. And they were thinking it was funny. To me, it’s not funny to slag off a fellow musician. But, who knows? I mean, they were just doing what they were doing.”

But Metallica weren’t the only ones to present Winger in such a light. Mike Judge’s animated show “Beavis & Butt-Head” which was pretty popular back in the day also featured a character named Stewart Stevenson who was usually portrayed wearing a Winger t-shirt.

And, most importantly, the character wasn’t exactly the coolest one on the show, to put it lightly. Ultimately, this sort of a representation in popular media made some serious impact on the band. Reflecting on the show, Kip said:

“‘Beavis & Butt-Head’ — it was hysterical, I ended up on the wrong end of it. I think that’s just gang mentality.”

Metallica: Nothing Else Matters (Official Music Video)

He also added:

“I just don’t think it’s a great practice to slag your fellow artists. Everybody has their opinion… The older I get, the more I realize what goes into this stuff… I don’t care who you are.”

“If you’ve taken the time to get your song on a record, and put it out there, made a video, worked hard on that — I don’t care if it’s good or bad to me; it doesn’t matter. You put a lot of work into that and I can respect that on every level.”

Winger - "Proud Desperado" - Official Music Video

In another interview from a few years ago, Kip also addressed both the “Beavis & Butt-Head” and Metallica issues, saying:

“It was hard for all the ’80s bands when that happened because they were ushering in White Zombie and Nirvana and Pearl Jam and all of those bands. All of the ’80s bands like us were portrayed as uncool, and I was really singled out by it.”

“It didn’t help me at the time — we all lost our record deals, and all of a sudden, we couldn’t get a job — but inadvertently, it created an opening for me to really study classical music, so instead of [getting] drunk every night, I studied through that time, and I did a really hardcore 10 years of studying classical music.”

Beavis and Butt Head - Stewart's a Nerd

“For me, it turned out to be a very good thing. Now, it’s totally fine — people are like, ‘How’d you get your name on the t-shirt?’ We sell that t-shirt, so it’s completely fine with me.”

Kip wasn’t the only Winger member to address this issue. In another recent interview, the band’s guitar player Reb Beach, also known for his work in Whitesnake, reflected on how the Stewart character from “Beavis & Butt-Head” affected the band. Asking whether it impacted the band negatively, he replied:

“Absolutely, it did, hugely. As a matter of fact, we were on the road and we were selling out theaters. We were on the bus, and this kid said, ‘Hey, you guys got to see this cartoon. I brought you a VHS of it.’ And so we put this thing on the bus… In the cartoon, they hung this kid from his underwear from a tree.“

Beavis and Butt-head - Stewart Gets Laid

“He was wearing a Winger t-shirt, and he was overweight… His name was Stewart, and he was in every episode. And then they went to his house, and his parents were wearing Winger t-shirts, and the dog was wearing a winger t-shirt, and they were all nerds [laughs].”

Reb also added that the band had to cancel some of their concerts not long after Sewart’s appearance in the TV show, saying:

“And so, we actually saw a direct result of that thing. In the weeks that followed, we had to cancel the tour because people wouldn’t be caught dead buying a ticket to a Winger show.”

Beavis and Butthead-Stewart Wets His Bed

And then there was also Metallica with their “Nothing Else Matters” video. Reb explained:

“And then, Metallica didn’t help with showing in their biggest video [in which] they throw darts at a poster of Kip Winger.“

“They would show it at their live show, and my friend who went to see them said the entire arena laughed at that part of the video where Lars throws darts at Kip.”

“I sold all my guitars, 20 guitars. I just bought a house in Florida, sold that – I was only there for 10 months – moved back to Pittsburgh from Florida, which I wish I didn’t have to do. And that was a really rough time.”

WINGER - Live In Tokyo 1991 (Full)

Nonetheless, Reb managed to pull through by getting into Alice Cooper’s band for a while. He explained:

“Kip told me that Alice [Cooper] was auditioning people, and I didn’t have enough money to get there. So Kip loaned me 500 bucks so that I could fly out and I could buy something cool to wear. I admit that I was nervous as a cat at the audition.”

Photos: rick (Winger 23), Kreepin Deth (Lars spits London 2008-09-15)

Author

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.