Interview with WHITFIELD CRANE of UGLY KID JOE
Ugly Kid Joe are about to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the smash hit album “Americas Least Wanted” with a national tour. Whilst in Melbourne, lead singer Whitfield Crane spoke to Amplify’s Pauli Dee about the tour, Australia & his latest EP recorded right here in Melbourne…
Pauli: Thanks for chatting with us mate. You’ve been basing yourself here in Melbourne for a while now. When did you discover your love affair for our great city?
Whitfield: Well we first toured here in the 90’s and I was just like “WOW – I love Australia!” but I never had the concept of staying here. Australia in general, but specifically Melbourne has a lot of things that are attractive to me, from a vibrant music scene to great food and kick-ass people with open minds. I just really love it here. Since January I’ve been living in St Kilda, then I went to tour Europe with Ugly Kid Joe for 2 months, then went back to visit family in California, but then hopped right back on a plane and came straight back! It’s the place for me! It’s got flow. The kind of flow that attracts me and makes me feel creative. There’s some really cool people here. I’ve made friends with a lot of musos & we can go out any night of the week and see any style of music or band, you can go out at 3 in the morning and get food or go to the botanical gardens… You know what I did the other night? I didn’t even know this place existed because I’m a little slow, but there’s this aquarium in Melbourne and once a month, they open it up at night-time and they have people coming around with a tonne of drinks and they have music and a big giant crocodile, so I went there the other night… so you know, from death metal to admiring fish at night, you can find it all in Melbourne!
Have you seen much of the rest of the country?
Not a lot. I’ve visited Byron for a little while and I plan on driving up to Noosa with my mate, Jeff. His father’s from up there, so he knows all the cool little nooks & crannies to stop at on the way so I plan on seeing a lot more of the country and I’m really looking forward to it.
I’ve heard that you’ve created another band “Yellow Cake” here in Australia & you’ve recorded an EP. Tell us a bit about that.
Yeah that’s very true. Well I’m the singer in the band and we have a guitarist, Jeff Curan. Jeff is a lefty, he plays in a band called DALLAS FRASCA & he’s not only an incredible player, but he’s really dynamic & original guitarist & by that, I mean the sounds that he creates are all the way back & swampy. Then you throw in the fact that we love someone like Sabbath and bands like that & when we head into Hot House studios in St Kilda, we had nothing and had 4 days to make it & necessity is the mother of invention, so we invented some great songs & we were able to put some Australian legends in there… Do you know who Ross Wilson is?
Yeah man, of course! Is an Australian music legend, we all know who Ross is.
Yeah well Ross sings on the EP with me and he also blows a mean harmonica and he plays it like it should be played, he’s a master! Dallas Frasca also sang on a song with us so it’s pretty cool. It’s done, it’s mixed, it’s mastered & it’s got some cool art-work. We’ll probably fly that off the tarmac in the next 6 months, so we’re really excited about it.
Have you played any gigs with Yellow Cake?
No, not at all… actually a friend of ours, Scott Major has a thing called the Poppy Seed Festival so myself, Jeff & Dallas went down and played a couple of acoustic songs there & one of the songs we played for the first time ever was a Yellow Cake song “Plastic Flower,” so we haven’t really gigged per say, we’ve only played one song publicly so far!
You’ve played some of the biggest venues and arenas around the world. How does something like that or the smaller pub-type gigs compare? Do you have a preference between intimate shows and the bigger arena sets?
I just like a full room. I’ll work with whatever you give me & I’ll make it happen, but if you give me a full room, as a performer or as fronting a band, whatever you want to call it, if you have a full room, you can really harness the energy & really communicate through. The thing a lot a club is that it’s really intimate, it can be super personal. I went & toured with Alice Cooper & Duff McKagan & on the off days, we’d go & play club gigs & it was interesting… You know Duff plays massive gigs with Gun ‘n’ Roses and you listen to his take on it & he prefers the smaller intimate gigs, he loves that it’s really personal, but for me personally, I’m always going to celebrate the moment that I have there, but I flourish if that moment has a full room, whether it’s a club or a soccer stadium.
Well you’re going to be flourishing in some full rooms in December when you take Ugly Kid Joe’s “America’s Least Wanted” 25th anniversary tour around the country. That’s gonna be mad man, I can’t wait. Are you going to play the entire album?
Yeah man, we’re gonna play the whole album and then we’ll go through the catalogue and pick out a heap of others & maybe break some down for an acoustic session. We’re so grateful that we get to do this 25 years later, it’s quite surreal & it’s amazing, really. But the thing that’s really beautiful to me is Dave Fortman is back & he’s coming to play these shows in Australia, so it’s the whole original band and you feel that whole familiarity & sounds that he brings, he’s a very special guitar player & you know the other thing for us that’s so cathartic & heavy & beautiful is the simple fact that we’re all still alive & we’re doing it again & celebrating a record we made in 1992. The feels are just going to be kick-ass! We’re a high-energy band anyway and always have been, we’re really looking forward to it.
These songs are 25 years old. Do you feel a need to re-invent them or change them somehow, or do you feel compelled to stay true to their original sounds?
Ooh, good question! We don’t really chase anything in particular, but we’re all better players now. When we were kids, we were really loose and that’s one of the cool things about the record; it’s a really loose album, you know it’s imperfect & it’s alive & I think that’s one of the reasons it was so successful, but as far as how far we’ve come since then, we’re all much better now, I mean I’m a much better vocalist now & the whole band have an extra 25 years of experience under our belts now so we’re much better, so I can only imagine that it’s going to sound better!
You’ve played together for so long now. Do you still need to rehearse?
No! Not at all. We can get that done in a day! I think we’re booked into a rehearsal studio in North Hollywood called MATES on the 26th, 27th & 28th of November, we’ll have the 29th off, get on a plane on the 30th, land in Sydney on the 2nd of December & just fire up the machine for the first show on December 3rd.
Have you got any plans to record again with Ugly Kid Joe?
I’d imagine we might go into the studio sometime in 2018 & create something & release it. I suppose as long as it’s working, we’ll keep celebrating the music again & again. Jeff Fortman is a bad-ass producer, so we can go & create in-house, which is a real luxury & it’s also always a lot of fun to create with these guys. When we’re not creating or playing we’re good friends, but when we’re creating, it’s great fun and I guess that’s what makes it shine!
Now I have to ask about a story I heard about the filming of the video “Everything About You”
I heard a story that half-way through the video shoot, while on the beach, you had to stop filming because the Federal Aviation Administration came along and complained about inflatable dolls interrupting flight paths… Is there any truth to that?
Oh man, I would love for that to be true, but it’s not. It’s a good one though!
It’s a great one! You haven’t heard that one before?
It sounds familiar! Look, we were so full of shit back then. We were kids and we’d just make up stupid shit! You know what I mean? It feels like a familiar shadow of a stupid remark I made back in the day that’s haunting me now! It didn’t happen, but I like the story!
In 1992 in your song “PANHANDLIN’ PRINCE” you asked Mr Trump for some spare change.
If you could ask him anything now, what would it be?
Can I have some spare change sucker? I’m standing by my words. That guy’s been a douche the whole time & now he’s just a presidential douche.
Do you think politics have a place in Music? Or should the 2 never be associated?
Not for me! For me, rock ‘n’ roll music is not political at all, but there are artists out there that use their music to get their political view across & sometimes it’s powerful. If you wanted a blanket statement, I’d say that there’s a couple of brilliant-minded artists that when they speak, they do it brilliantly & I think that’s fine but a lot of the time I think it can be a little obnoxious.
Mate, thanks again for chatting with me. I have to wrap it up, but wanted to ask, if you had any advice for your 24 year old self, what would it be?
Do it just like you did it!
Ugly Kid Joe will be touring their “America’s Least Wanted” 25th Anniversary Tour across the country in December.
Sunday 3 December – Manning Bar, Sydney 18+
Monday 4 December – The Zoo, Brisbane – 18+
Wednesday 6 December – Capitol, Perth – 18+
Thursday 7 December – Fowlers Live, Adelaide – 18+
Saturday 9 December – Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne – 18+