Interview with Whitfield Crane (Ugly Kid Joe)

Ugly Kid Joe are over in Europe with Skid Row in October.  Mick Burgess chatted to Whitfield Crane about the tour and the reissue of their Stairway to Hell EP.

Next month you’re back over in the UK and Ireland for a run of 14 shows. Are you looking forward to getting back over here?

I can’t wait to get over there. We have 29 gigs in the UK and Europe. We love touring, we’re a live band and that’s what we like doing for sure.

You’re playing these shows with Skid Row. Who’s idea was it to put this bill together?

Dan DeVita, our European booking agent suggested it. We’ve never toured with those guys before so we thought it sounded like a great idea and a great show for the fans.

Are you or Skid Row closing the show or will you rotate each night?

Skid Row will close most of the shows and we close one show. We basically play an hour or so each. We get equal time on stage. For me so long as we have a full room that’s fine by me. This package is badass and it’s been selling out all over which is cool. It’s going to be a great tour.

Have you had any thoughts about the setlist yet?

We’ll practice a couple of nights in California before we get on the plane and we’ll sit around and shoot the shit and decide what’ll be on the set list then.

Last year you played a few shows with Alice Cooper and Duff McKagan’s Loaded. Those were your first UK shows in a fair few years. How did those shows go?

They were great. We had a total blast on that tour.I put Alice’s eye makeup on for the Halloween show. That was a lot of fun. I managed to get all the way backstage into Alice Cooper’s chair and his makeup artist put the makeup on for me. It was pretty cool. I wanted everyone to do it but it was time consuming and no one else wanted to do it as much as I did. I love Alice Cooper and it was a real honour touring with him.

Did you get much time to hang out?

We actually got to hang out more with Duff McKagan and his band and really connected with them. They’re such cool guys. Alice is nothing but a gentleman and he popped in after one show and we got to meet him but most of the time he was doing his own thing. His band were real nice guys and girls too. Orianthi really shreds on the guitar. That tour was such a great experience for everyone involved I just wish it had been longer.

You’ve just re-released your Stairway to Hell EP with some bonus tracks. Why did you decide to put it out again…was this to promote the tour?

It worked out like that for sure but the reason we did that was that we wanted to put the three acoustic songs out as people wanted hard copies CD’s to buy at our shows. We also thought it would be cool to add in the footage of our full Download set to make it a really awesome package for the fans and I think it’s turned out great.

It’s great to see Angelo Moore and Dirty Walt from Fishbone on “Love Ain’t True”. How did they get involved in your record?

I actually dreamt about it. When I woke up I thought how great it would be to work with the guys from Fishbone and thought having a horn section on “Love Ain’t True” would be great. We asked if they’d like to do it and they came down and recorded their parts. They’re great guys and I think those horns really make that song. Angelo is singing with me on that too. We’re all such big Fishbone fans. Angelo Moore is the best front man there is and their Truth and Soul album is as good as Van Halen I and Appetite for Destruction. If you put on “Bonin’ In The Boneyard” or “Freddie’s Dead”, it just makes you want to jump up and down and drink beer. They’re incredible.

In the past you’ve had Lemmy and Rob Halford guesting on your albums. You must have a pretty good address book.

Yes, my phone is certainly full of cool people’s numbers.

Who would you like to get on your next record if you could get anyone?

Sometimes we think “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to get Rob Halford on the album” and the people around us will help to make it happen. It’s not thought out in advance, it’s pretty much of the moment and depends if someone is available or maybe in the studio next door. I want to be surrounded by cool people who I admire and love. Technology these days can make things happen and you can send tracks over to someone that you want to share space with musically. In future projects that I’m involved in I want to be able to do it with badass people that I love but as for anyone in particular it’s difficult to say as there’s so many people I’d like to work with if I had the chance.

Stairway to Hell was your first new recording since 1996’s Motel California some 16 years earlier. How did the intervening years influence music?

I became a more rounded singer. I’d spent time singing for Life of Agony and I had to mirror what Keith Caputo had done and I didn’t even know that I could sing in that style. Then I put together a band called Medication that was detuned, brutal and depressing so that was different to what I’d done before and also I worked with Another Animal and Lee Richards from them was a real vocal guru. He’d sit me down and ask me to sing this and that and he brought out characteristics in my vocals that I didn’t even know that I had. I became a more versatile singer than I was when I first started and had so many more tools in my wheelhouse for me to utilize in the studio. The songwriting just mirrored my life experience and I’ve had a lot of that since the band originally started. I’m a more confident person and we’re not chasing anything or running away from anything as a band and we want to be in a room together so that gives you a band that can write better and really wants it.

Your guitarist Dave Fortman has been making quite a name for himself as producer for Evanescence and Slipknot. That must be handy having a big name producer in the band?

Dave is a magnificent guy and is just the guy you want next to you when you’re creating music. He is such a good friend and great to have in the band. We love him from many different angles. He has an incredible skill set so it’s great having someone like that in the band.

Did you all work on the production together or did you let Dave take the lead?

We all work together but there’s certain things that Dave can do really well but we all had our eyes and ears open and all contributed to the making of the music. It was a natural process and everyone brought something to the table.

Now that you have your new EP under your belt, has this whetted your appetite to record a new album or would another EP be more likely?

We’ll certainly be doing a full length album with 8 or 9 songs. I’m writing material every day and we have a great musical pool and in 2014 or 2015 we’ll be coming at you with a new record.

Did it surprise your when “I Hate Everything About You” became such a big hit?

It was overwhelming, great, crazy and scary. I’d never been out of California at that time and suddenly I was travelling all over the world. We toured for two and a half years straight up. We were even able to do 5000-6000 tickets in Australia and I’d never been there before so it was surprising to say the least.

Was that written about anyone in particular or is it a secret like Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”?

That was inspired by an old school friend of mine called Farrell Todd Smith, he’s still my friend in fact I saw him two days ago. He didn’t go for any of that politically correct stuff that’s taken a grip of the United States over the last few years. He’d just tell you like it is. You could tell him something was really cool and he’d tell you why it’s not. He’s funny and very cynical but a great guy.

“Cats in the Cradle” was another big hit for you and was a Harry Chapin cover. What was it about the song that made you want to cover it?

I grew up loving that song. My sister had it on a 45 and I listened to it a lot in my childhood. When we were making America’s Least Wanted we needed something to fill it up as we didn’t have enough songs. We’d already been playing it live so I suggested recording it for the album. Dave Fortman played the sitar and we just recorded it to fill the record and a radio station in Texas began playing it. It had a life of its own and became a big hit for us. Sometimes if you just let something happen rather than force it to happen then it can just take off.

Your name was a spoof on Pretty Boy Floyd, an old Glam band from the ’80s. Did you ever get to meet up with those guys?

We’ve never met Pretty Boy Floyd but we hope to one day. I think they’d be kind of grateful for the name check as they’ll have got a lot of mileage out of it.

Where do you head after the UK shows are over?

We finish in the UK then go to Europe for a run of shows and finish at Vienna on 26th November then fly back to The States and I’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with my Mom. I look after my Mom but we’re looking forward to playing for you guys for a few weeks and can’t wait to get over there and get started.

Ugly Kid Joe’s UK tour with Skid Row starts on 22nd October in Southampton and ends on 7th November in Norwich before heading to Europe.

Photo by Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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