UGLY KID JOE – Vocalist Whitfield Crane

June 22nd, 2012
by Marko Syrjala

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WHITFIELD CRANE

OF

UGLY KID JOE

INTERVIEW AND PICS BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS BY PATRICK CLEMENT

Ugly Kid Joe are an American metal / hard rock band hailing from California. The band was formed in 1989 and to date, Ugly Kid Joe has released three full-length albums, two compilation albums and two EPs. Ugly Kid Joe enjoyed massive success with their early singles “Everything about You” and “Cats In the Cradle” which both ran almost constantly on MTV. The first two albums AS UGLY AS THEY WANNA BE EP (1991) and AMERICA’S LEAST WANTED (1992) were both certified double platinum in USA. MENACE TO SOBRIETY (1995) presented the bands heavier and more serious side and it included another hit single “Milkman’s Son”.  The third and yet the last full length album MOTEL CALIFORNIA was released in 1996. The album did fail to reach its predecessors success and the band decided to split up just one year later. In 2010 the band announced a reunion where the lineup will be the same as the last one before their breakup: vocalist Whitfield Crane, guitarists Klaus Eichstadt and Dave Fortman, bassist Cordell Crockett and drummer Shannon Larkin. The new six track EP titled STAIRWAY TO HELL was released in early June. Two weeks ago the band headed to play Swedenrock Festival and there we then had the pleasure to discuss with Mr. Crane himself and hear the facts behind the re-union, future plans as well as Crane’s personal stuff from a “super fan” perspective… Read On!

THE REUNION

Metal-Rules.com: Okay, let’s start with this Ugly Kid Joe reunion thing. In a way, it already  started in 2010, right?

Whitfield Crane: No, I think it officially started 2011, like officially.  We talked a lot of shit in 2010, like we should do this, and then we finally did it in 2011, so there you go.

Metal-Rules.com: The next obvious question is what was the main reason for you to put band back together after fifteen years and on the other hand, why it did take so long to make it happen?

Whitfield Crane: Oh, my answer would be different than everybody else’s answer, right?  I always just have my answer, so my answer will include what I think other people think, but I’m not the other people, so I don’t really know what they thing.  You understand? I like to sing and I love to sing.  I’ve been in a couple different bands, Life of Agony, Medication and Another Animal, so I’m always ready to sing.  If the door opens up for me, I will walk through that door.  Sometimes there is no door, and so there’s been many moments in the last 15 years where I’m at oh, wow, almost a test of some sort, is can I manage to appreciate the gift that I already had and let go, and I managed to do that in some sense, but I’m always hungry to do this for me. So with Ugly Kid Joe, if you’re asking that question, I grew up with Klaus as a kid, so when the band ended, which it ended, he was done.  He was done with everything about it, everything that came with it, and that’s okay.  The seven years we were together, it was every minute and second of the day was consumed by that band and he wanted to go experience other experiences.  Fair enough, right?  So nevertheless, when the band ended, we went back to just being friends.  We grew up together, same town, same friends.  So it was a very easy transition just to look at him as my friend because in the first place, he was that, and every year or two, I would say hey, man, you want to do – this is what I think happened.  He would have a defiant and annoyed answer of fuck no, I don’t want to ever do the band again, which is a fair answer.  Every year or two, I would say this and every year or two it’d be the same answer – no, no fucking way, right?  Now during this time period, Dave Fortman, the guitar player, and Shannon Larkin both elevated to the tops of their game.  Dave Fortman’s storyline – he’s just our friend though – he becomes a very successful producer, an amazing producer.  We always knew he would be that, but who knew he’d be this big?  Slipknot, Evanescence, it’s on and on down, killer bands.  He’s a badass guy, and Shannon, of course, is in Godsmack killing it, ruling it.  So they were doing – Shannon Larkin and Dave Fortman were doing a Godsmack record.  This is how I think the story goes, just how I think, and they were shooting the shit and of course, they’re going to talk about the old days, and they said why don’t we go make some music with Ugly Kid Joe because why not?  And so the fact that it came from them to Klaus, not me, and I agree.  It had to come from them, the theater of that, the fluidity, the power.  It came from them and then it made him go wow, maybe it’s a good idea.  Coming from me, it would be a bad idea, and that’s okay.  That’s totally cool, and so that’s how it manifested and that’s amazing.  Nothing ends well, so when the band ended, it sucked, but like marriages; a marriage doesn’t end well.  A job doesn’t end well.  Bands don’t end well.  So it ended the best it could, but it ended and there was certainly a hole in my soul over it.

Metal-Rules.com: Breaking up the band, it’s almost like a divorce, right?

Whitfield Crane: Yeah, exactly.  We weren’t running or chasing after anything, we weren’t running away from anything, and sure not chasing shit.  It doesn’t matter.  The fact that we made music is ’cause we love music.  We love each other.  So for some reason, 15 years later – 15 years later! – You put these dudes in a room, all five of us, which I believe is the best version of the band musically as far as making music.  We started off young and we’re very successful on mediocre music, I thought.  By the time we got to MENACE TO SOBRIETY we made badass music, and that’s how it manifested.  Then we went and did it and right on.  Sometimes it’ll be this version of the band: Sonny Mayo from Snot on guitar and Yael on drums, badass fucking players, all family.  We’re all from the same tapestry, and we’ll go to Latin America in August with Shannon and Dave.  There’s a whole bunch of people we love that were part of it and no one around us sucks.  There’s no label that’s false.  I met some nice people on the label before, and I’m friends with some people, and I appreciate the experience I have.  I’m grateful, but it’s nice to have it not there ’cause the machinery or the business construct of music is done.  The paradigm that it was is no more, and that’s a good thing.  We went ahead and made our own music and of course, Dave, the guitar player and producer is our friend, is our good friend.  We don’t have to call his manager.  We call him.  You want to do that?  A lot of people are rooting for us, including ourselves.  Phil from Motörhead came and watched our show tonight. His favorite song is “God” from MENACE TO SOBRIETY. He loves it.  Of course, Phil’s doing great.  I look at him and I said – right before I go on, I’ve seen you, I love you, it’s nice to see you, and he goes – he looked at me with a very wise and grounded look in his eyes and he goes “Hey, Whit”, with his English accent, he said “Hey, man, it’s really amazing you’re getting another shot.  It’s very rare, very rare that anybody gets another chance”, and I go “I know”.  He looked right through me in a beautiful way and he goes, “Don’t fuck it up”.  I was like, “Gotcha”

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Ugly Kid Joe: Live at Swedenrock 2012 !

NEW UGLY KID JOE MUSIC

Metal-Rules.com: Things have developed and now you’re about to release new UGLY KID JOE music.

Whitfield Crane: Yep, music is done.  We got an EP, STAIRWAY TO HELL.  It’s badass.  We produced it, Dave Fortman mixed it.  It’s got six songs, all killer, no filler, great artwork.  Everybody wants to be involved.  Imagine a boat floating out in the ocean and imagine no wind in the sail.  I’ve felt like that before, and I’ve also felt wind in the sail and the great energy or power or electricity.  That’s what I feel like right now, and I know the difference, so at least for now, things feel beautiful and powerful.

Metal-Rules.com: If I remember right, the physical version of the EP is coming out in early July or something like that?

Whitfield Crane: Actually we released it way earlier than that.  It says that – yeah, whatever, it’s out.  It exists within the machinery. You can buy it here, I think.  We made 2,000 copies.  I had one with me today but I gave it away.  It’s rad.  It’s got cool artwork.  In fact, it’s our favorite artwork ever.  Have you seen our fucking – it’s not here though…  have you seen the Ugly Kid Joe/Motorhead t-shirt we made?

Metal-Rules.com: No I haven’t?

Whitfield Crane: We can’t sell it here because they’re playing, but it says Ugly Kid Joe, Motorhead.  It has the Ugly Kid Joe goddamn double kid eating the horn and it says California and it says on the back everything uglier than everything else.  It looks like a fucking Motorhead shirt, and they said cool.  Well, we made it and we’re like, I’m calling Tom Sagerman right now, and he’s like oh, really?  I’m like yeah.  He’s always amazing.  It’s really cool, but yeah.  Did it exist in the computer, the CD, whatever it’s called; the six songs, STAIRWAY TO HELL and we’re really stoked on it.  It’s unreal.

Metal-Rules.com: Who is distributing the EP?

Whitfield Crane: We are everything.  We’re the label and we are the managers.

Metal-Rules.com: Do you have any plans for a full-length Ugly Kid Joe album?

Whitfield Crane: No, never again.

Metal-Rules.com: Really?

Whitfield Crane: Not with Ugly Kid Joe, no way.  I got another band I’m going to do called Kosco, Richards and Crane, the guys from Dropbox and me, we’re going to do an acoustic record.  That would be 13, 14 songs.  We can have a set.  With Ugly Kid Joe or any band like that that has a fucking catalog, you never need to make a fucking full-length again.  Full-length was merely made back in the day when I was making records in the 90s to get paid in full royalties.  It was basically greed.  Go back to the albums you love, Metallica, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Judas Priest – eight songs, that’s it, and you can do that over here, so no way, never, and that’s basically why we have a catalog and if you could take – think of the bands you liked from the 90s and then answer me this:  on those records, are there filler songs? Every fucking record there are, right?  And I included.  If you could strip those records down to eight songs, they would be masterpieces, so if you’re saying full-length, 13 songs, no fucking way.  If you’re saying eight songs on an EP, ok for sure.  Or we can just feel inspired to make a song and release it on fucking Tunecore.  It’s wide open.  The world’s wide open to do whatever, so the model that it was, hence the question a full-length record, is no more.  So for a lot of different reasons, there’s never going to be another full length Ugly Kid Joe album. Thirteen songs?  Not a chance, but EP’s, eight songs, two songs, one song, good songs.  That rhymed.

Metal-Rules.com: We just talked with a “old school” guy yesterday and he said it’s a fact that these bands like AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, in the 70’s, they released like three albums in a year and it was high quality all the time, but it was only seven or eight songs on each album then.

Whitfield Crane: That’s right.  It wasn’t a year.  It was every year.  Beatles did everything in seven years. Those are the masters.  No one’s that good.  I bow down to those bands and have been inspired and excited forever about all that, and I picked – I’m lucky enough to be a vocalist, or whatever I am, singer, whatever.  I picked Halford, I picked Bon Scott, and I picked Ozzy.  Those are the right dudes to pick.  Dickinson.  Paul Di’Anno, you know?

Metal-Rules.com: You have mentioned many names but who was the biggest influence for you, vocal wise?

Whitfield Crane: The best singer’s Rob Halford, but Bon Scott, too.  If you listen to his – he’s such a wonderful storyteller. He and Ronnie Van Zant from Lynyrd Skynyrd, they both were great storytellers. Bon, funny if you listen to his singing, is in perfect pitch every moment of the whole songs.  He’s so good it’s weird.  Those are my heroes, my straight-up heroes.  Ozzy Osbourne, Bon Scott, Rob Halford.  Rob’s  really good – I sat in my room and sang with that over and over, all that shit off SAD WINGS OF DESTINY.

Metal-Rules.com: You mentioned Rob Halford, Dickinson and Di’Anno, how did you overall like the New Wave of British Heavy Metal thing back in the day?

Whitfield Crane: Oh, you’re talking old – oh, the best ever. Iron Maiden rules, Def Leppard, Saxon I’m not that familiar with, but I saw – the singer, right?  He sang at the Metallica thing at the Fillmore and I was like “Oh my God, what an incredible vocalist” I’m from Northern California.  I’m from the suburbs.  We found AC/DC, Priest, Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix.  We’re pretty limited.  We’re friends with a lot of people that are a little bit more abroad, but yeah, dude, Birmingham, the black fucking country, right?  Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest.  Need I say more?

Metal-Rules.com: Can’t hesitate to ask that how you liked the American icons KISS. We’re you ever a fan even when you were younger?

Whitfield Crane: No.  I met Gene Simmons.  He ruined the band for me.  He was honest of who he is, but Ozzy’s really Ozzy, dude!  He’s really the dude.  Lemmy’s really Lemmy.  Gene Simmons was false and he owned it in my face, and that was okay, but what about Kiss?  Gene Simmons ruined Kiss for me.  He’s good at that, and it is okay.  I’m not talking shit.  I’m saying that he told me some things about Kiss that he wanted to make sure that I knew it was false.  I said “Wow, really?”  He said “Yeah”.  I said “Okay”

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BITS AND PIECES OF UGLY KID JOE

Metal-Rules.com: Also, history-wise, I remember the story that the reason why you picked out the name Ugly Kid Joe was because of Pretty Boy Floyd.

Whitfield Crane: That’s true. Yes, we love them.  They gave us our name.

Metal-Rules.com: Ugly Kid Joe has it’s history and there are people who do think that the band was just “one hit wonder” . Some do say that Ugly Kid Joe was never a too serious band. How do you like comments like those?

Whitfield Crane: You know, by the time – when we came out and blew up, that’s when grunge happened and humor was outlawed.  Once again, we’re not chasing, we’re not running, so I don’t – I think we became a couple years ago.  I think that would’ve been a fair question and maybe even a thought out process but no, I don’t feel that way at all.  I think you can do whatever the fuck you want and look at the bands on this – look at all these bands here.  Fun is alive and well, and that’s okay.  Rock is back.  It’s not all too cool for school and blah, blah, blah.  We came out with the last – we don’t – if you think about Ugly Kid Joe, where do we fit in?  We don’t.  All the metallers love us, like the Motorhead guys love us.  Ozzy loves us.  The Van Halen guys love us, right on.  We love them, but where do we fit in with our peers?  We didn’t, right?  We didn’t fit in, so was I worried?  No.  Would I have been worried a couple years ago?  Probably? Everything feels really natural and electric right now, which I said before, I will say probably again.  So no, I don’t think it matters.  We made six songs.  I don’t know if you’ve heard it yet.  It’s badass.  It’s fucking awesome.

Metal-Rules.com: I actually saw your new video at YouTube a few days ago and it did sound awesome.

Whitfield Crane: Yeah, yeah, “Devil’s Paradise.”  That’s cool, huh?  So we’re bowing down to all our heroes.  We love fucking Priest and Sabbath and AC/DC.  We love – Fishbone is on our record.  I don’t know if you know who Fishbone is, but they’re the masters, the legends.  Angelo Moore and Dirty Walt are on our record.  So it’s a fair question with this band, you either love this band or you hate it, historically, but the thing about that is the shit that we get, we deserve.  We fucking blew up on these fucking songs, “Cats in the Cradle” and “Everything about You,” which I love.  Fair enough.  That’s why we’re having this conversation.  If you look through the catalog of Ugly Kid Joe, you listen to MENACE TO SOBRIETY you go whoa, who knew?  So I think it’s fair that it’s like this, and I think it’s a good challenge, and I don’t mind it.  I think probably the opposite.  Like, I’m all good.  We’re here to – I don’t think necessarily to prove anything, but I know I’m very – with great respect, I’m confident.  I feel good.  Plus, I feel good with me.  I went and worked on myself for the last two and a half years.  I went and thought about life and I was like wow.  So I’m very clear, I’m grounded, I’m grateful, so I’m good with me, and when you’re making music or whatever you’re doing, you should start with yourself.  Like, do you like your songs?  Yeah, I do.  Do you even give a fuck?  If the answer’s “no”, then the answer’s “no”.  Right now, this moment, I’m all fuck, yes.  Like Phil said, he’s like this is a big deal.  You’re getting a second chance.  I’m like, that’s crazy, you know?  In a good way.

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THE OLD DAYS

Metal-Rules.com: Let’s go a bit back to the crazy days in the early 90s. You did great tours with some of the biggest bands in the business. I especially remember the one you did with Def Leppard in 1992 when you also performed in Finland. What kind of memories do you have from those tours you did? 

Whitfield Crane: Not too much, because we were drunk.  We were wasted permanently. Those are the years you do that.  From 14 to like 25 or -6, you can do that.  Your body can take it.  Its acceptable behavior in the sense of it’s still funny, and then at 27, 28 when you’re still doing a bunch of fucking cocaine and drinking Jagermeister and smoking cigarettes, it’s not that cool anymore and then it either goes this way or that way, and you see that.  Some people die trying to keep up with that shit.  So we had a great time.  Def Leppard is great.  They’re great to us.  We went around the world with Def Leppard.  I mean, fuck, I had HIGH N’ DRY when I was a kid.  There’s Joe Elliot talking to me and shit.  We toured with Ozzy.  We toured with Van fucking Halen.  We toured with Bon Jovi, soccer stadiums.  Went on every night, we did Wembley, the real Wembley, 40-80,000 people a night.  They gave me a microphone.  I was one of three singers that got a microphone. Shit, it was loud in these things.  I could go “blaah”.  How cool is that?

Metal-Rules.com: Do you ever miss those old days?

Whitfield Crane: No, man, I just love that they happened. It was awesome, man.  We toured with Van Halen.  Do you understand that I am a humongous Van Halen fan?  Eddie Van Halen, if he saw me, he’d say “Hey, Whit” If Lemmy saw me now, he’d go” Whit, hello there”.  If Ozzy sees me, he’ll go “Whit” The thing is, dude, I’m a super fan.  I love these bands.  Love them, and then, somehow, miraculously, I am singing in a band, and so in a sense, it’s kind of a disguise for the super fan to meet these people and the funny thing is I did meet them and they accept me as a singer.

Metal-Rules.com: That must have been great to get such an appreciation from your own heroes?

Whitfield Crane: Yes, you can be part of this weird tapestry of rock or metal or whatever it is, and I’m like really?  I went and sang “Born to Raise Hell.”  I’ve jammed with Sabbath.  I’ve sung sound checks with Ozzy, I’ve done all that shit.  Super fan does good, right?

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Ugly Kid Joe promoshot from the late 80′s

MOTORHEAD STUFF

Metal-Rules.com: It seems that you have really special relationship with the guys from Motörhead?

Whitfield Crane: That’s right.

Metal-Rules.com: How that originally got started?

Whitfield Crane: Well, I think that started with – when we got the Ozzy tour, we were young, very excited, really excited, obnoxiously excited, and we had the EP album, which I don’t think is very good, but we were selling a lot of fucking units or whatever you want to call it, and this is my take on the whole thing, and we went and we looked at the bill, and Motorhead was making their 20th record – 20th fucking record, right?  And for the reason of commerce or the illusion of sales and whatever it is, Motorhead was before us, so the bill on the – yes, unacceptable, uncool, and not acceptable, no fucking way, right? So then when Motorhead, Ugly Kid Joe with their crappy little EP, right?  And then Ozzy with Zakk and fucking Mike Inez and Randy Castillo, and I sat backstage of that first show when it was that lineup and I was like, I know that’s uncool.  No fucking way and everyone else was excited.  Rightfully so, we’re excited and filled with love and joy and energy and verve and all that shit, and I cruised in and there was Lemmy, as you can imagine, the master sitting there with his white boots and his fucking look, his pirate fucking badass mystical Lemmy look, and behind him was cases of booze, and he sat there.  Who knows what he was thinking.  I thought perhaps he was annoyed with what was about to happen because it was annoying.  So I walked in, got on my knees right in front of him, and I didn’t say one word.  I didn’t shake his hand.  I just looked at him, and he looked right at me.  He must’ve been thinking there’s that little fucking upstart mother fucker, and I said “I’m sorry”, and he looked right at me and he got cool body language instantaneously and he said “Glad you said that”.  I go I know, dude, and that was that.  So I don’t know if that was the first domino.  I mean, I met him before that, but he’s looked after me in a nice way.  He’s accepted me.  I mean, singers are weird to begin with and we need a lot of attention, whatever it is.  I’ve gotten better through age.  I’m older now.  I’m not twisted in the web, but yeah, we do have a special – words might be limiting to describe it, but we love them and they love us back, and I’m like wow, that’s cool.  If you had to be adopted by a band, why not be Motorhead.  Priest dudes back us up.  Rob Halford sang on an Ugly Kid Joe record.  I sang on a Glenn Tipton record.

Metal-Rules.com: Super fan is really going on strong here “Laughs”

Whitfield Crane: Prove that I’m not – I am a little – but I’m really into these bands to this day.  You know a smell and sound, they take you back?  I was obsessed with these bands, so all of a sudden, I’m playing with these bands.  What a trip, right?  I asked Lemmy once.  I went to his house, his apartment in Hollywood, and I’m curious because I think he knows a bunch of shit.  I’m curious.  Some things you shouldn’t know.  I figured that out, too.  Some things should be mysterious, but Lemmy, I’m all Lemmy, what is this?  What is this whole thing?  We were coming off of America’s Most Wanted, sold a shitload of records, and I looked at him and I’m all what am I involved in?  What is this thing that we’re – ’cause obviously he’s been there for everything since Jimi Hendrix?  He looked at me and said “You’re born into it” and I said “Really, dude?”  He said “Oh, yes”.  I said “Ah, you’re born into it” So I like that.  Okay, and perhaps a lot of people are born into a lot of different things and they forget what they’re supposed to do.  You know, many are called, few are chosen type shit.  So I get that this is a fucking gift.  I understand.  I’ve gone and entertained the pitfalls.  I’ve fucked with the wrong stuff.  I got to tell you, it’s good to do that if you can survive it.  It’s good to have experiences if they don’t make you bitter.  Can you be grateful?  Can you dare to be grateful?  Yeah, and I am.  I’m fucking stoked.

Metal-Rules.com: Like you mentioned earlier you did record “Born to Raise Hell” with Motörhead. How that thing first came about and how was the recording session back then?

Whitfield Crane: The sessions of it? That was weird. It was me and Ice-T and Motorhead.  How weird is that?  I think Lonn Friend invented that.  It was supposed to be an answer to – who was it, Bryan Adams and fucking Sting?  Rod Stewart?  There was something to do with fucking swords.  What is that?  “Three Musketeers”  So Lonn Friend was all let’s do this, and originally it was me, Sebastian Bach, and Motorhead, and then Sebastian pulled out and then it sat there in this purgatory and then at the last second, they were all do you want to do it, Ice-T – Ice fucking T?  So imagine me, once again, ’cause we love rap, too.  We love rap music.  So there I am with Ice-T and Motorhead.  So that’s how it manifested in a short story version.

Metal-Rules.com: That must have been one of the strangest things ever in Motörhead’s history?

Whitfield Crane: Ever. I agree

Metal-Rules.com: Alright, I think we have used our time now. Do you have something more to say? 

Whitfield Crane: We made a new EP.  It’s called STAIRWAY TO HELL.  It’s great.  Go listen to it, enjoy it.  We’re excited to be playing music.  I am, at least, and we’re grateful.  We’re stoked.  Sweden was awesome.  How cool is that?

Metal-Rules.com: Thank you for your time !

Whitfield Crane: Thank you, brothers.

HTTP://UGLYKIDJOE.INFO

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