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maandag 02 november 2015
UGLY KID JOE: A Genuine Comeback!

Interview with vocalist Whitfield Crane and guitarist Klaus Eichstadt by Vera in Cologne (Germany) on the 2nd of October 2015

After an absence of nineteen years, Ugly Kid Joe finally released a new full length album late September. ’Uglier Than They Used Ta Be’ happens to be a funny pun about their very first EP (‘As Ugly As They Wanna Be’ – 1991) which became an instant worldwide success. Also successor ‘America’s Least Wounded’ was a millionseller. The band called it quits in 1997. Whitfield Crane sang in Life Of Agony for a year and did several other projects. In 2010 the band reunited, with another EP (‘Stairway To Hell’) as first result, but now they have a proper sure-fire new album. We went to Cologne to talk with singer Whitfield Crane and guitarist Klaus Ecihstadt; later we could also enjoy a diverting acoustic concert.

You just did some UK gigs and now two acoustic gigs. What brought you to Europe this time?
Whitfield: We have just released a new album with Ugly Kid Joe that will be released in the UK and Europe by Metalville. As support for the record – as you said – we were just in the UK for eleven gigs. We have Richards/Crane as support which is an acoustic project and we have Tim Mc Millan from Australia. Now we are doing some acoustic gigs, one in Hamburg and one in Cologne. I never toured acoustically, it is a different discipline, but it is cool. It is actually a great time for Ugly Kid Joe. We are in Cologne now. It is a beautiful day. We woke up at six o’clock in the morning – which is a bit too early for rock-‘n-roll – but we had to do a television show. So we woke up early and it has been a long day, but we are excited to play tonight at the Rock Pit with an acoustic set. We will start up with Richards/Crane which is my singer songwriter project; a lot of vocal harmonies. It is beautiful. And then of course Klaus (Eichstadt – guitarist – VM) will come up and take his throne, because it is time for Ugly Kid Joe.

We know that you actually broke up in 1997. How did you slowly grow into a reunion?
Klaus: We are friends forever and we have actually been friends after the break up. We both started the band. Everybody is pretty much friends with each other. We were working on a project, Shannon as drummer and Dave as producer and they started to bring up the old days as Ugly Kid Joe. They said it would be cool to do a record or something. They called me up – because they are living on the other side of the country, me in California and they in Louisiana and Florida – they called me and asked: what about it? I said: hell yeah! That started the wheels turning and made us actually join up in LA, make the EP and start again.

In the beginning you did a lot of huge festivals…
Klaus:Indeed, Sweden Rock and Download in the UK to name a few.

Was that the kind of spark that got you going again?
Klaus:You can say that, but you never know. We could have played and maybe four people showing up. Then the flame should not have been bright (laughs), but we played the biggest show we ever did in the band’s history in 2013 at the Polish Woodstock festival.

That’s strange, because you toured a lot with famous bands, like Ozzy for instance. Black Sabbath was a huge influence for the band in the beginning, so that must have been special…
Klaus: It was. Absolutely. Very special and very fulfilling.
Whitfield: We grew up in Palo Alto, CA. Same school, same musical taste and diet. We had heavy metal posters all over our room. And so all the people still alive on those posters we have become friends with, toured with… We went from looking at the posters – which we lived for - to being inside the posters. So it has really been a crazy journey and it feels good to make music. I think we must have been grateful that it happened to us, but there’s so many people that ever had success as kids – we were twenty-four – you make some records and that’s it. That is your life story. No matter what you do after that story, that is still a gift. Even though things have changed, we still make new music, great music. The fact that we are on this label to release new music, to tour again and to look at everybody in the same room and love each other through music and then actually show up to shows, fifteen/sixteen years later… and you see fans in the audience singing because it is their soundtrack, that feels good! So we are fortunate to be able to do this again.

But at a certain point in time there was a challenge: you had to write new music. How did that happen?
Whitfield: We have a great arsenal of talent. We have Dave Fortman, not only a brilliant guitarist, also producer. This reunion is made up of people who were all in the last line-up before the split.
Klaus: Dave has produced bands like Slipknot, Evanescence, Godsmack, Mudvayne or Down. He became a famous producer, Sonny is a prolific song-writer, Dave is, I have got my skills set… as far as song-writing goes, the spirit never died. It is never that far out, it is not directional. It is not about: let’s do this; it is more about having everybody in the room and let’s throw a bunch of stuff out on the walls. We had about fifteen solid ideas for this record and the strongest ones came on the record. We did ‘Ace Of Spades’ for fun and ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’ as second cover. The writing process is fun. On another level. When we started doing this, we were kids. We did not have so much experience. Everybody shared their experiences and put that into the song-writing formula, which has a different sort of maturity that we probably didn’t have when we were twenty-four.

You have the best selling EP ever in the US as debut. That is a milestone. What did you feel at that time? What did you experience when suddenly becoming famous?
Whitfield: We were living our dreams, just as I said about the posters. When we went on tour with Ozzy, we have always been a good opening act. When a big band hires us, we were good at that. So for me it was unbelievable. I did not expect to quit California ever and now with the success, we could see the world!

Do you still love travelling?
Whitfield: That is all I do and want to do. I walk around the world with backpack. Music gave us the opportunity to travel and there are two things that humans like, that is music and food. Everybody likes food and everybody likes music. If you go on a vacation somewhere, which is cool and you are lucky to do that, but if you are able to travel the world through music and take advantage of that station, wherever you are, and belong to the music community, it is better. You can walk in everywhere. Music really opens a lot of doors; it is a force. Everybody likes melody and rhythm.

You made the record with the help of fans through a crowdfunding campaign. To be honest, that was strange to me. I thought you sold a lot of records and were rich…
Whitfield: We never became that wealthy through music. We sold a lot of records, but we were not millionaires. So that pledge music funding now is open to any band. The fact that you can get your fans the first persons to help you on that journey is fantastic. I am not going to talk bad about computers, but it changed a lot. What I learned through the years: back then you had everybody coming up to a band. Now, when you are here and I am here, we love music and that is the main reason for being here. If you have any amount of intelligence and make a rock record, you know that you are not going to buy a house with it. You will never sell millions of albums. That will never happen again. You will be lucky to fund it yourself and get it out. That’s said, there’s two ways of looking at that. One is that you get frustrated because you are not being paid, because people rip your music off, which is a fair assessment but the other side of that is that everybody who is still here who wants to make music, really loves making music. There was so much bullshit around us when we became successful, which I did not feel comfortable with, and it is not there anymore because there is nothing to get anymore. So everyone that’s left is in love with music and the process of making music and playing live and kicking ass. It is a different time.

You have covered the Motörhead song ‘Ace Of Spades’ and Phil Campbell plays guitar on it as guest. Can you tell a bit more about your connection with him and Motörhead?
Whitfield: We toured with Ozzy and Motörhead in 1992. Ozzy was the headliner and Motörhead was the opening act. We were sharing the dressing room. It was really silly, but our dressing room had this curtain in the middle of it and I think it was me or Lemmy who said: what’s that stupid curtain, open it up and make a huge backstage and that’s when we met them. We had a good time and became friends with Lemmy. Especially last four years Phil showed up on our shows and hang out with us. He showed up on stage at least five times now. So when I called him to play on our record, he was immediately in for it.

If the big success was there, what did you buy first?
Klaus: A TV with a huge screen, the biggest that fits in my apartment, to watch sports. That’s my thing, sports.
Whitfield: I bought a 1966 GTO convertible car, a Pontiac. That’s about it, because I really don’t like things or luxury. I stay with the backpacks and walk around. It is funny, because back in the days we did not tour much outside the western countries. It is only since our reunion that we could go to countries like Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Israel, Turkey… It is pretty amazing; I’d never thought I would ever go…

To round off, what did you do after the band broke up?
Whitfield: I sang in Life Of Agony for a year. I moved to Hollywood and played in a band called Medication. We made an EP and a full length record. I did a bunch of tribute records. I moved back to Palo Alto to see my nieces grow up and I thought that music was over. I thought that this was it. Then I got a phone call in 2006 and met Lee Richards and joined a band called Another Animal. We made a record, toured after a bit, but I always travelled around. I always go for adventures. So I was trying to do my best and sing in whatever band I was allowed to. But Ugly Kid Joe is the band that affords me to travel where I want.

Geplaatst door Vera op maandag 02 november 2015 - 16:57:00
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