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INTERVIEW: Whitfield Crane, Ugly Kid Joe – April 2014

| 23 April 2014 | Reply

INTERVIEW: Whitfield Crane, Ugly Kid Joe – April 2014

Ugly Kid Joe visit Perth for the first time supporting Skid Row next week, playing Metropolis Fremantle Wednesday 23 April. Singer Whitfield Crane tells SHANE PINNEGAR about being back on the road, sobriety and making new music.

Ugly Kid Joe - Whitfield Crane 01

When Crane calls in from a buddy’s sandwich shop “in Palo Alto, California on the corner of High Street and Channing,” he’s keen to talk about how different touring is for the band nowadays compared to their early Nineties heyday when they sold over two million copies each in the U.S. alone of their Ugly As They Wanna Be EP and America’s Least Wanted album.

“We are not just kids, you know,” he says. “We have got [almost] 20 years of experience between the end of the band in early ’97 to the rebirth of the band. I mean, there’s the difference!

“When you’re 24 and touring with Ozzy and Motorhead, you are drinking beer and you are up to no good and that is what you should be doing. When you are 45 and you are trying to put your band back together and you’re wondering ‘will it work, can it work?’, the people that are making it work are yourselves. It takes a lot of time and space and experience to get the ground under your feet and we certainly have that. We are self managed. We are self produced. It is pretty cool.”

Ugly Kid Joe 01

Crane likens the modern version of Ugly Kid Joe to a family – a very functional one that works together and pulls in the same direction.

“When we broke up it didn’t end horribly, but it was sad without a doubt,” he reminisces. “Part of me was dead – it was gnarly to go through this… I mean, [being in the band now] is a luxury without a doubt. It has been really fun and it has been natural. Everyone’s got their own talent pool, it’s great.

“You’ve got Dave Fortman. You got Klaus Eichstadt, Cordell Crockett, Sony Mayo, Shannon Larkin. It goes on and on. You’ve got to have a really good – I guess you could call it a talent pool, a family, a band of brothers, whatever you want to call it. A bunch of people making music, and it has been really cool for the last 17 months. We have toured all over the world, I mean literally – we got to go to Israel, Serbia, Romania, Istanbul, all these crazy places that we have never been. Australia was one of the first places we ever toured so to get the opportunity to come back and go to Australia, rad. We didn’t know what to expect [when we reformed] – we hoped things would be cool and things are cool.”

Ugly Kid Joe - Whitfield Crane 02

Crane recalls touring the East Coast of Australia in 1992, but the details are hazy.

“We came over there and played at your Australian Music Awards that was somewhere,” he says, “it was awesome, it was at a theme park. We played in it, and they had bars in front of the roller coaster. Not bars that you would be in jail, but drinking bars. It was fucking awesome. Then after we [played], I think, three big rooms, and then I think that was it. I personally came back and did a press tour for the Motel California album in February of ’97. But that was it. I have not been to Australia in a while. Now we are all very excited to come to Australia. Fuck yeah.

“I will tell you this,” he continues, “Those days between, let’s just be honest about it and say ’91 through ’95, it is a blurry mess for me for sure. We toured [all over], we had an interesting time, for us it was just whatever it was. We broke around the world, and we toured for two and half years at one point straight. We just kept touring and it became a big beer soaked dream. I do not remember [much].”

Ugly Kid Joe 02

Crane says the Australian tour will feature the exact same line-up as a late 2013 European tour, with Skid Row and Melbourne band Dead City Ruins bookending the bill.

“It was killer dude. We did, let me think about this… we did 29 shows in 36 days. That was October 2 to November 26. We had one of your Australian bands, Dead City Ruins share the stage with us and they are great. They will be with us on the four shows in Australia as well. All the bands got along. All the rooms were full. It was killer. Yes, it’s a circus of sorts!”

Crane readily admits that he’s totally sober these days, which makes the touring experience somewhat different to the old days.

“Well, it is different in the sense of I am stronger from a vocal standpoint, [which is] my job. My mission is to go and perform at a high level. A lot of those tools do not benefit that quest. There are a bunch of guys that are in the band that are hung over in their bunk. That is what they did, it is what a lot of people do; but for me to function at the level that I want to function at, I got to be clear. I got to have clear ground under my feet. That is what I do.

“If I am going to be self managed, you got to be present. There is a whole flurry of things that you need to do every day. If you are going to be all-out, which is cool; but it is not going to be cool if you are trying to pull your boat. Yeah, it is a total different perspective. I love all that stuff. I love life. There is a lot of experiences [I had] that I think were great.”

The young Ugly Kid Joe

The young Ugly Kid Joe

Crane says that despite the early success of the band, success didn’t go completely to their heads.

“Not in the way you are probably framing it,” he replies, “It was more scary than anything because it was the first political situation I was in where you could not… art and commerce are a strange marriage. To be inside that matrix – and we’d never left California so to be surrounded by people that wanted to make money and realizing that it was somewhat challenging on a business construct. To be able to separate the art from the business was really tough to do.

“It did not go to my head in the ego sense,” he continues. “We were kids who grew up musically around the world. Shows were great, a lot of experiences were made. It was a lot to take in. I do not think you could have been ready for it. We did survive it. That is really what it comes down to. You survive stuff. I do not believe it ever went to our head – [rather], it afforded us a lot opportunities. We got to tour with Ozzy and Motorhead and Bon Jovi and all of those. And we are fans!

“Let’s just say it out loud – we are fans of rock and roll music. We love it. We love AC/DC and Priest, Van Halen and all that, so, if anything, the other half of the dream was hard to colour. We are learning how to do that now.”

Ugly Kid Joe - Whitfield Crane 03

Crane continues, admitting how hard it was when the band folded in 1997.

“I did not know what I was going to do,” he says, “It was sad, man. I was lost. I came back from a trip to India, I came to Santa Barbara. My friend Scott Ian from Anthrax called me and said that I could play live with him and I did that for a year – we had a band called Medication. After that I moved back to where I am right now, Palo Alto, California; because I thought it was over, to tell you the truth.

“I feel like I was just getting good at what I do, being a rock singer – then I was back home and it was all like a dream really. Then I [formed] Another Animal in 2007, which was awesome. Then once again I thought it was over.

“Hey man, I am always determined – I can only talk for myself. If you give me an opportunity or you go ‘hey man, there is a door you can open,’ I am going to open it and I am going to go through it. Sometimes those opportunities are not there. Given the chance I am driven and I will show up and slay it, but it’s not always that case. There are a lot of, I do not know how to put it… dead ends?”

The band reformed in 2010, featuring the same line-up as at the time they disbanded, after several years of increased activity online from fans sharing videos and recollections of the band’s tours. In short, Ugly Kid Joe realised they still had a fanbase! They’ve since released the Stairway To Hell EP in June 2012 to critical acclaim, which was then re-released in April 2013 with several bonus acoustic tracks.

“Yes, without a doubt it was surprising,” Crane admits. “This whole thing has been, when we got together we made music I think for the right reasons. We got together, we created, we were not looking out for anything or running away from anything and whatever. Then we hoped this should all work. We did our first show in, what was it, 17 or 18 years, then [we did] Download Fest in June 2012 and that show was awesome. It was either going to work or it wasn’t. That was going to be a real tell tale sign. This [European] tour was 29 shows. We connect with people. We go talk to people. We talk to fans. I am amazed – it is amazing to us, we’re grateful. It is a trip to watch it all go down at this late stage, like ‘fuck – wow!’ It is cool.”

Crane says the band are interested in visiting Bon Scott’s gravesite while in Fremantle.

“100 percent for sure. Do you listen to The Valentines or Fraternity or any of [his earlier] stuff?” he asks, to which we reply affirmative. “We love it. We love everything about AC/DC. That is our favorite band for sure. We love AC/DC, Sabbath, Van Halen.”

There was also a rumour some years ago that Crane tried out for the vocal spot with Anthrax. Not so, says the singer.

“No. I am great friends with Scott [Ian, Anthrax’s guitarist, with whom Crane played in Medication],” he chuckles, “so that would probably be where that got tossed into the rub.

“Would that have been an interesting mix? No doubt, man. Give me the microphone. I can sing.”

A hypothetical one to finish with. If you could magically transport yourself through time and be a part of the recording of any one record in history, which would you choose?

“That is a tough one,” says Crane, thoughfully. “I am going to go with Jimi Hendrix, Axis: Bold As Love. Just to be around Hendrix and watch him. He had a lot on board and would take it to the extreme. Yeah, Jimi Hendrix, Axis: Bold of Love.”
Ugly Kid Joe play Metropolis Fremantle on Wednesday 23 April 2014 with Skid Row and Dead City Ruins, before going on to play Friday 25 April at Melbourne’s Palace Theatre, Saturday 26 April at Brisbane’s Eaton Hill, and Sunday 27 April at The Hifi Bar in Sydney.


Category: Interviews

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