Ugly Kid Joe

Ugly Kid JoeUgly Kid Joe have returned to Australia in support of Skid Row, playing Metropolis Fremantle on Wednesday, April 23. Singer Whitfield Crane tells SHANE PINNEGAR about being back on the road, sobriety and making new music.

When Whitfield Crane calls in from a buddy’s sandwich shop in Palo Alto, California, he’s keen to talk about how different touring is for the band nowadays compared to their early ‘90s heyday when they sold over two million copies in the US alone for both their Ugly As They Wanna Be EP and America’s Least Wanted albums.

“We are not just kids, you know?” he says. “We have got almost 20 years of experience between the end of the band in early ’97 to the rebirth of the band. I mean, there’s the difference!

“When you’re 24 and touring with Ozzy and Motorhead, you are drinking beer and you are up to no good and that is what you should be doing. When you are 45 and you are trying to put your band back together and you’re wondering, ‘will it work, can it work?’, the people that are making it work are yourselves. It takes a lot of time and space and experience to get the ground under your feet and we certainly have that. We are self-managed. We are self-produced. It is pretty cool.”

Ugly Kid Joe reformed in 2010 after several years of increased fan attention online, eventually releasing the Stairway To Hell EP in 2012. Crane likens the modern version of the band to a family – a very functional one that works together and pulls in the same direction.

“When we broke up it didn’t end horribly, but it was sad without a doubt,” he reminisces. “Part of me was dead – it was gnarly to go through this… I mean, this is a luxury without a doubt. It has been really fun and it has been natural.

“You’ve got to have a really good – I guess you could call it a talent pool, a family, a band of brothers, whatever you want to call it. We have toured all over the world – we got to go to Israel, Serbia, Romania, Istanbul, all these crazy places that we have never been. Australia was one of the first places we ever toured, so to get the opportunity to come back and go to Australia? Rad. We didn’t know what to expect when we reformed – we hoped things would be cool and things are cool.”

Crane recalls touring the East Coast of Australia in 1992, but the details are hazy.

“We came over there and played at your Australian Music Awards that was somewhere,” he says, “it was awesome, it was at a theme park. We played in it, and they had bars in front of the roller coaster. It was fucking awesome. Then after we played, I think, three big shows, and then I think that was it. I personally came back and did a press tour for the Motel California album in February of ’97. But that was it. I have not been to Australia in a while. Now we are all very excited to come to Australia. Fuck yeah.

“I will tell you this,” he continues, “Those days between ’91 through ’95, it is a blurry mess for me for sure. We toured all over, we had an interesting time, we broke around the world, and we toured for two-and-half-years at one point straight. We just kept touring and it became a big beer-soaked dream. I do not remember much.”

Crane, who’s now sober, says the Australian tour will feature the exact same line-up as a late 2013 European tour, with Skid Row and Melbourne band Dead City Ruins bookending the bill.

“It was killer dude. We did, let me think about this… we did 29 shows in 36 days. All the bands got along. All the rooms were full. It was killer. Yes, it’s a circus of sorts!”