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InterviewsThe Return Of Ugly Kid Joe...

Posted on Monday, January 21 2013 @ 13:35:07 CST by Dean Pedley
Heavy Metal 2012 saw plenty of activity from reformed good time rockers Ugly Kid Joe. They initially spent much of the summer months promoting the 'Stairway To Hell' EP by hitting the European festival circuit where they drew packed crowds to the second stages and tents. A full UK tour as special guests to Alice Cooper followed in October and they closed out the year with a headline slot at Hard Rock Hell VI where Sea of Tranquility named them as "THE band of the weekend". Just before that HRH appearance staff writers Dean Pedley and Mark Davies sat down with vocalist Whitfield Crane and guitarist Sonny Mayo.

So we saw you guys with Alice Cooper in Wolverhampton a couple of months back. How was that tour for you?

WHIT: Alice Cooper was a gift; it was an amazing experience and it opened a door for us that we weren't prepared for which was the connection we made with Duff McKagan and his band Loaded. Alice Cooper without a doubt if you get to share a stage with that guy then you are going to learn a lot and be so excited to be working with a legend. But Duff and the guys in Loaded are just so fucking cool; Duff is so Zen, so present, so grateful and so in love with music and that is something that we all share. We are in the process of rebuilding the idea of Ugly Kid Joe, we've been gone for fifteen years so what are you gonna do? We're not getting paid millions of dollars so in this case we shared the backline, we shared the crew, we shared the tour manager and we even shared the dressing room…

SONNY: We insisted that we shared the dressing room (laughs)

WHIT: And so that could have gone south or been like it was, we connected with those guys like the old days, like 1992 when everything was bright and fresh and magical so how was the tour? Amazing on a number of different levels

And Duff is very business savvy so that must have been good to learn from

WHIT: There is childish and there is child-like and as we grow, hopefully, with respect to being childish you dismiss that as much as you can but to keep the child-like then that is the excitement and fun that you have for music and playing a great show and that was the side of Duff McKagan that we met. And so he has already become a great teacher and a great friend

SONNY: There was one particular time on the last show that we did in Dublin we're are onstage jamming and Whit is going to the crowd "jump with me everybody" and Duff happened to be over at the side of the stage watching the show and all of a sudden he's right next to Whit jumping up and down and eating a candy bar. All that other stuff that occurred and that he is a part of is still there but Duff is really just one of us and he's right there alongside us. And when he comes on stage with his enormous bass I swear he gets taller

After the tour I noticed that you, Whit, spent some time hanging out with Motorhead…

WHIT: Well with Ugly Kid Joe at the moment we are doing it all by ourselves. We are not, at this point, part of any label and we are managing ourselves. And so as the Alice Cooper tour ended we found ourselves on November 4th at Heathrow Airport and the Classic Rock awards we're happening the following week in London and people we're telling me that if you want to grow your band then you should really go to that. But staying in London for nine days was a pretty expensive proposition and I don't really know anybody there so I would just be drinking Starbucks and staying in the hotel OR I could go to Motorhead band practice and be adopted by Motorhead so that was the choice I had. So all these guys were in the airport at Heathrow and I had my backpack on and said "I'm going" and that was my plan. I had talked to Phil Campbell vaguely about it but it's not like they said it was OK. So I went to Motorhead's band practice, watched them rock and they said "see you tomorrow" and I went on tour with Motorhead for ten days which was a little different to staying in the hotel and drinking Starbucks.

Being on the tour bus with Lemmy must have been an interesting experience to say the least

WHIT: One of the most magical things that happened was that it happened and I was welcomed into that environment and that means a lot to me. Lemmy's area on the bus is the entire upstairs and downstairs is shared by Phil and Mikkey and then in the middle there was a little area for us. But Lemmy would sometimes come and sit downstairs and he would have his I-Pod. And Lemmy is a real life pirate, he's knowledgeable and a source of music and he would play me these songs. He would ask "Have you ever heard of Dave Edmunds?" and he would look at me and passionately rock out to Dave Edmunds and I would go "Wow!" and he would say guess who this is and push the button and it was Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. So he would introduce me to music that he loves and the passion that he displayed when a power chord hit - he really felt it

You've been away for fifteen years and at the festivals this summer, Download and Graspop, you got such an amazing reaction and blew everybody away. Make no mistake about it you guys are back - so how does that feel after all this time?

SONNY: Well at 2 am last night we pulled in and we were trying patiently to sort out accommodation and sitting on the bus and waiting. And this van pulls up next to us and shouted "Hey, who are you guys?" and our driver says Ugly Kid Joe and this guy screams "Whitfield Crane Motherfucker!" and drives away so how does that feel… (laughs)

WHIT: I've done a lot of work on myself over the last two or three years. Taking booze off the table, taking drugs off the table, taking cigarettes off the table; what a novel concept for a singer. So what does it feel like? I feel like I've been doing a lot of things to get ready for this. Was it going to work? I really didn't know. At Download we watched Sebastian Bach play before us and he's a great frontman and I thought maybe everyone would leave and go to see Lamb Of God. And I got told we had the most people ever at the second stage in the ten years of Download. And Sonny has been a wonderful addition to the band; we're on the same page on a lot of different levels. It feels very natural and it's like I'm coming at it from two different lenses through my eyes - there's all the hedonistic things around music and it's on tap or there is something else and that is what I'm tuning into right now. I'm very healthy, I'm back on my line and I'm singing better than I ever have. So there's a lot of stuff unfolding and I feel like something is truly opening up in front of me

You've released new product with the 'Stairway To Hell' EP so what else have you got planned for 2013

SONNY: I definitely think we'll make some more music…

WHIT: We did the EP which Sonny engineered and Dave Fortman mixed it so we are all in house like one family. And we are collecting people as we go, including yourselves, to help us grow. I thought initially that we would make the EP and nobody would buy a hard copy CD but that's not true - people still like hard copy CD's. So what we might do is make six to eight new badass songs and throw in the EP with some killer artwork and maybe some kind of DVD footage in there aswell and figure out a distributor that believes in us. And we'll use the UK as a springboard, as we should, and we'll go and tour our asses off

SONNY: It's like what do we want to do as guys in a band? We want to play fucking rock shows and cool ones like this. We played a show the other night in Southampton with 241 people packed into this tiny club and it was epic. The crowd was just insane

Second time around, it sounds like you are really appreciating what it means to be a part of Ugly Kid Joe right now

WHIT: Back in '92 or '93 we were very successful and sold millions of records and I went to see Lemmy in his apartment in Hollywood and asked him "What is this?" because I didn't really know where to concentrate and he said "You're born into it" and if you are then it's a rocky road for a lot of people. To get a first chance and survive it then that is really cool but to get a second chance then I'm truly grateful - period.

Ugly Kid Joe have just been confirmed to appear at Wacken Festival 2013 in August and the EP 'Stairway To Hell' is available now with all of the info and the video for single 'I'm Alright' available at http://www.uglykidjoe.net/

Dean Pedley and Mark Davies for Sea of Tranquility
January 2013


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