The Guardian: Grunge veterans Redd Kross: ‘Courtney Love blacklisted us!’

by Michael Hann

They were heralded as the forefathers of grunge, but a fondness for snubbing fashion – and crank calling their peers – meant that the McDonald brothers never made the big time. Not that they care

For a group Thurston Moore once called “the most important band in America”, Redd Kross have a knack for not helping themselves. Take grunge, of which they were unlikely forefathers. Jonathan Poneman, founder of Sub Pop Records – the label that kickstarted the grunge scene with Nirvana and Mudhoney – said their 1987 album Neurotica, which mixed sludgy hard rock and bright choruses, was “a life changer for me and for a lot of people in the Seattle music community”. But by the time grunge broke, they were making music inspired by early 70s AM rock and bubblegum pop, and 1990’s big-budget, major-label album Third Eye died a death.

Or consider the late 80s, when one promoter looked at an LA band with long hair who loved Kiss. Surely they would fit right in with hair metal? And so they appeared – fairly inappropriately – at the Country Club in Reseda with Poison and Leatherwolf. “We wore makeup on occasion, but our idea of it was to be like a transvestite hooker in a back alley,” says bassist Steven McDonald. “Poison looked more like the cast of Dynasty – honey-toasted and frosted, a midwest mall-chick vibe.”

“We were also very bad pranksters at the time,” says his older brother Jeff, singer and guitarist. “A lot of those hair metal bands would leave their phone numbers on their ads. So we would crank call groups like Poison.”

“I would say we damaged our career on more than one occasion through the act of crank calling,” Steven says. “We used to crank call our own record label.”

“As members of Poison,” Jeff adds.

“We would call the label pretending to be members of Poison or Stryper,” Steven continues, “really disgruntled that we were seeing too much of the other band’s activities out there, and complaining they weren’t paying any attention to us.”

The McDonalds convinced the label the calls had been made by a friend of theirs – letters of apology to their victims were demanded. “Our friend said he’d do it,” Jeff says. “On a tortilla. In ballpoint pen. Needless to say, Enigma Records were not super-enthusiastic about the next Redd Kross album.”

Though there are common threads running through their albums (up to their seventh, Beyond the Door, released this month) – namely a profusion of pop-culture references, a love of glam rock, and the sense that they had been imagined for a Richard Linklater film – they’ve also been a little different each time, but often at the wrong time. Even the approval of the grunge scene brought no benefits. “We were never able to open for Nirvana,” Steven says. “We shared the same manager. Flash forward to Nirvana being the biggest thing in the world – OK, can we please go on tour with your band? We were told we couldn’t, because Courtney Love said we were mean to her when she was fat.”

“We used to crank call Courtney,” Jeff says. “But not about being fat. We didn’t even know she was fat.”

“When she met Kurt Cobain we realised: Oh man, that Courtney chick – we have to be friends with her now,” Steven says. “But she had her revenge. She blacklisted us from Nirvana tours.”

Jeff was 14 and Steven 11 when they formed Redd Kross (first as the Tourists, then as Red Cross) in Hawthorne, California, in 1978. And pity the person who hosted an early show: one Lisa Stengel, who for her eighth-grade graduation party approached the only band in her junior high school. They were “heckled non-stop by local teenagers,” Steven says.

“It was like Bob Dylan in 1965,” Jeff says, adding that it was “great training” for being a support act. “The audience would be freaking out and booing, and we were always able to handle it. We knew we were better than the audience who were booing us. We got an intense education in bravery at a very young age.”

Steven continues the tale. “We had asked Lisa if we could have our friends come along that also had a band, and she said sure,” Steven says. “So we invited Black Flag. When they came in, kids are just evacuating. They knew they couldn’t heckle these guys. The six or seven stoners were blasted out – they were literally standing four feet from walls of extremely high-watt amplifiers. There was no booing. We learned the power of the sonic assault and the shields that electric guitars can provide. It should eliminate all fear if you’re playing.”

More than 40 years on from Lisa’s party, the McDonald brothers are still in love with playing music. “When we play shows now, the percentage of hitting that transcendent moment when you’re really not aware of the mechanics, that exhilarating thing I’ve been chasing my whole career, happens way more often than not,” Steven says. “And that’s one of the ways I can judge whether things are in a good place: the batting average.”

More than that, they still sound as if being in a band together is the most fun you could possibly have. And, Jeff suggests, maybe the fact that they are only now releasing their seventh record has been a good thing. “I thank God we weren’t prolific,” he says. “I think we would have muddled the soup. Taking the time to grow as artists or people was important for us – we haven’t spent all of our allotted creative juices. We weren’t prolific, we were precocious.”

 

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus
pinterest

Brooklyn Vegan: Redd Kross cover Sparks’ “When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way’?” for new LP (listen)

 

Redd Kross‘ upcoming album, Beyond the Door, closes with a cover of Sparks’ 1994 single, “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way,” which they transform from glittering synthpop disco into a triumphant rock anthem. It also comes with the creators’ approval. “Redd Kross has always been one of my favorite bands and that opinion was cemented when I heard their amazing version of our ‘When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way,’” says Sparks’ Ron Mael. “To do a version of that song with a completely different musical approach from the original while keeping every ounce of the original sentiment was an amazing feat. I love it!” The song premieres in this post and you can listen below.

Beyond the Door is out August 23 via Merge and Redd Kross’ tour with Melvins and ShitKid kicks off in September and hits Brooklyn’s Warsaw on October 10 and Asbury Park’s Stone Pony on October 11. Tickets for both are still available.

All dates are listed below.

Speaking of Ron Mael, today (8/12) is his 74th birthday. Happy Birthday, Ron!

 

 

 

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus
pinterest

NME: Redd Kross: the eternal alt-rock underdogs on the dos and don’ts of surviving 40 years on rock ‘n’ roll’s sidelines



For almost four decades now, Redd Kross have been stalwarts of the alternative rock scene. Famed for their consistently ace – and really quite glam – indie rock, the band they started as children has persisted through punk, new wave, grunge, college rock and beyond. Sure, their peers in Sonic Youth, Nirvana, The Lemonheads, Dinosaur Jr. and all the rest, may have become household names (if your house is a pretty cool one at least). And yes, Redd Kross certainly haven’t. But they’re still here, making wild rock ‘n’ roll sounds, living the dream – and their stories are excellent.

Rock ‘n’ roll can be a treacherous and vicious place. Many have fallen. Many have failed. And so, who better than Steven McDonald, Redd Kross bass player, to give you some life lessons as to how you can have a 40-year career in rock…

DO… BE A LIFER

“I’ve been doing this band for four fifths of my life,” says Steven of the band he formed with his older brother Jeff, then 14, in Los Angeles back in 1978. “I started doing it when I was 11. It was everything to me. I took a nine-year break somewhere in the middle. That seemed to make sense at the time and so I spent nine years seeing what else was out in the world for me. But then I decided that I could happily be in Redd Kross for the rest of my life. I need to perform. That’s a big part of me. If I don’t perform I get weird.”

DON’T… TRY AND JOIN THE BAND YOU’RE PRODUCING

“I remember I was producing a Turbonegro record in Oslo. It was 2005 and I hadn’t been on tour for years. I went to the suicide capital of the world in suicide season. It got weird. At the time, the band were considering getting a third guitarist and I totally crossed this line as producer of offering to be in their band. They laughed, nervously. No-one was asking me to be in their band. It got super awkward. I just missed performing so much. That’s when I decided that I needed to get Redd Kross back together.”

DO… REMEMBER AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

Steven is fifty-two now. Could he see himself doing this when he’s 80? “Well, the Stones are still doing it. My dad is a precision welder, and he’s 80, and he’s still doing it because it’s what he does. I’d like to be still doing it. If you go by My Generation by The Who, and the mission statement of “I hope I die before I get old”, we’re supposed to be dying around about now anyway. Since we’re not, I guess we’re gonna have to work it out. Pete Townsend is still doing it. He has a nicer backstage area than I do, so I guess that helps, but still…”

DON’T… LET THE BITTERNESS CONSUME YOU

As we touched on previously, despite being consistently brilliant composers of hyper gooey, impeccably melodic glam-cum-indie rock for all of their career, Redd Kross never broke big like their peers. It’s not fair. But life isn’t fair.

“There’s bitterness there, if I’m being perfectly frank,” says Steven. “But I’m trying to chisel my disappointment into wisdom rather than bitterness.”

Can you hear a Nirvana song on the radio without wanting to smash the radio up?

“Well, Nirvana is a weird one,” he laughs. “I loved Nirvana. They don’t make me want to smash the radio up, but Nirvana might make me want to ring up my old manager and scream at him because we shared the same management. Once Nirvana took off, we couldn’t get them on the phone anymore. We couldn’t even get to open for them, which didn’t seem fair.”

Why do you think so many underground rock bands took off in that early ’90s and Redd Kross didn’t?

“Timing is one,” says Steven. “But I don’t have the algorithm. But then maybe it’s still lurking. The world has changed. I don’t want to sound like a deluded fool and I certainly know I’m not going to be sold to masses of teenagers at this point, but these days there’s not really an elite that control the gateway to the masses. I think we can genuinely do things on our own terms now. Which is super cool to me. I never really wanted to be a rockstar. I just wanted the ability to keep doing it.”

He laughs.

“I don’t know… I just heard something on a podcast about trying not to be so bitter recently, so I’m trying it out.”

DO… UPSET THE SQUARES

Not only were the band allegedly named after the scene in The Exorcist where a possessed Linda Blair masturbates with a crucifix (then named Red Cross, they added the ‘d’ and the ‘k’ when they were threatened with a lawsuit from the humanitarian organisation), they also covered the song Cease To Exist by Charles Manson – yes, that Charles Manson – on their first album.

“We just wanted to upset people,” says Steven. “Classic punk rock stuff. That said, we didn’t list it on the tracklisting of the first record, Born Innocent, because we were legitimately worried that some stragglers in the Manson Family would come and kill us. It was only just over a decade since all that stuff had gone down, so it didn’t feel too ridiculous at the time…”

DON’T… PRANK COURTNEY LOVE

“Actually,” says Steven, frantically, “I think the reason why we couldn’t support Nirvana was because Courtney Love said we’d been mean to her. Which is possible. We did prank call her once I think. We did that a lot, normally with our record label. We’d pretend to be members of [wretched hair-metal doozies] Poison and Stryper who were our label mates and try to get them in fights with each other. It didn’t work. We just got dropped from our record label instead.”

DO… LOVE THY BROTHER

Rock ‘n’ roll is full of siblings who are known for lamping the shit out of each other. Redd Kross are no different.

“We were never as bad as the Gallaghers,” laughs Steven of his relationship with brother Jeff, “but we would fight all the time in the early years – often onstage. We’ve always been close, but when it comes to responsibility within the band, it’s really easy for us to become bratty little kids again. That’s improved loads over time though. I’m really proud of that. There’s a song on the new record called ‘Beyond The Door’ that is the closest collaboration we’ve ever worked out between the two of us. I’m not sure we could have always done that.”

DON’T… BE AFRAID TO DREAM BIG

“I played my first ever live show supporting Black Flag,” says Steven. “I was 12. We were so tenacious at that age. We’d go through the phonebook and find the numbers of our favourite bands and just call them and ask if we could support them. We called X and The Dickies, and Black Flag were the first band who kind of bit. They invited us down to their rehearsal room and we watched them, and then they just handed us their instruments and said, ‘Go on then, show us what you can do’. I was hanging around with all these grown-up punk people when I was just a little kid. I got completely disowned by all the kids my age at school because I was talking about punk rock all the time. It was very strange.”

 

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus
pinterest

Louder: Listen to new Redd Kross track The Party Underground

By ()

Redd Kross team up with Melvins’ frontman Buzz Osborne on new single The Party Underground – track taken from their upcoming album Beyond The Door

Photo by Julian Fort

Redd Kross have released a stream of their new single The Party Underground exclusively with Louder.

The track has been taken from the Los Angeles outfit’s upcoming studio album Beyond The Door, which will launch on August 23 through Merge Records.

The song features a guest solo from Melvins’ vocalist and guitarist Buzz Osborne, with Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald explaining: “I wanted to hear three of my favourite guitarists and collaborators – Buzz Osborne, Jason Shapiro and Jeff McDonald – trade off solos while we celebrated the finer things deep in the bowels of the underground, expressing gratitude for a life lived in the cultural petri-dish of the world, the world of underground culture.

“I’ve been playing nightclubs since 1979 and I was 12, and it was time for me to talk up the wonders down here. The best stuff will always come up from the bottom. It’s the Party Underground.”

Beyond The Door is said to be inspired by the band’s “total commitment to having the best fucking time we can have while we’re all still here,” with Steven reporting it’s his and brother Jeff McDonald most collaborative record to date.

He says: “Jeff is still very much the driving force behind the compositions, but with more help from me than ever. Jeff and I haven’t shared this much of the writing and singing since Born Innocent in 1981.”

Redd Kross will hook up with Melvins in September for an extensive US tour, while Beyond The Door is now available to pre-order from Merge Records.

 

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus
pinterest

Redd Kross Return to Rock the Underground with “What’s a Boy to Do”

Listen to the latest song from the band’s upcoming album, Beyond the Door. 

Redd Kross to the rescue! The legendary Los Angeles rock pioneers are set to return with Beyond the Door, the band’s first album since 2012’s Researching the Blues. In advance of the record, Redd Kross have shared “What’s a Boy to Do.” Listen to it below.

 

Still led by brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald, the group insist that Beyond the Door is their most collaborative effort in decades. “Jeff is still very much the driving force behind the compositions, but with more help from me than ever,” Steven explained. “Jeff and I haven’t shared this much of the writing and singing since ?Born Innocent i?n 1981.”

When Beyond the Door drops in August, ?the band says fans should expect “total commitment to having the best f*cking time we can have while we’re all still here,” a.k.a. “the Party.” Preaching the gospel of rock and roll that can save your soul, the McDonald brothers and company—guitarist Jason Shapiro and drummer Dale Crover of The Melvins, to be exact—have still got that unquantifiable “it” that makes them special.

Citing a panorama of influences including K-pop, glitter gangs, embarrassed tweens, long-term relationships, and a mysterious character named Fantástico Roberto, Beyond is the sound of Redd Kross circa 2019. Swirling with psychedelic power pop elements and the band’s penchant for hard-charging riffs married to sweet and sticky melodies, it’s Redd Kross at their tuneful finest.

Beyond the Door arrives on August 23 via Merge in the usual formats of CD and vinyl, along with a “peak vinyl”—a.k.a. a limited-edition pressing on opaque purple vinyl.

The band will hit the road hard in support of the record, linking up with tourmates The Melvins in San Diego, CA, on September 3, with the groups rolling across the country before winding up in Las Vegas on November 5. See the full tour itinerary below.

Redd Kross on Tour with The Melvins:
09/03 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
09/04 – Santa Ana, CA @ Observatory
09/05 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
09/07 – Sacramento, CA @ Holy Diver
09/08 – Berkeley, CA C@ ornerstone
09/10 – Eugene, OR @ Wow Hall
09/11 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
09/13 – Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s
09/14 – Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s
09/15 – Spokane, WA @ The Big Dipper
09/16 – Missoula, MT @ Top Hat Lounge
09/17 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
09/19 – Ft. Collins, CO @ Aggie Theatre
09/20 – Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre
09/22 – Kansas City, MO @ The Record Bar
09/23 – Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
09/24 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
09/25 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
09/26 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
09/27 – St. Louis, MO @ The Ready Room
09/28 – Louisville, KY @ Louder Than Life Festival
09/30 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue
10/01 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
10/02 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
10/03 – Detroit, MI @ El Club
10/04 – Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar
10/05 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Red Theatre
10/07 – Syracuse, NY @ Wescott Theatre
10/08 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
10/09 – Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom
10/10 – Brooklyn, NY @ Warsaw
10/11 – Asbury Park, NJ @ Stone Pony
10/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
10/13 – Baltimore, MD @ Otto Bar
10/15 – Richmond, VA @ The Broadberry
10/16 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
10/17 – Charlotte, NC @ Visulite Theatre
10/18 – Athens, GA @ 40 Watt Club
10/19 – Birmingham, AL @ Saturn
10/21 – Orlando, FL @ The Social
10/22 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Rom
10/23 – Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum
10/25 – Pensacola, FL @ Vinyl Music Hall
10/26 – New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
10/27 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon
10/28 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live Studio
10/29 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
10/30 – Austin, TX @ Mohawk
10/31 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
11/03 – Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
11/04 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
11/05 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Bunkhouse Saloon
Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus
pinterest

Classic Rock Magazine readers vote Beyond the Door by Redd Kross #1 Track of the Week!

Greetings good peoples, and welcome to the latest edition of Classic Rock’s Tracks Of The Week. So much music, so little time but we’ve combed through as much as humanly possible and reckon we’ve got a pretty appetising list to tempt you with. But first let’s look at last week’s top three, in reverse order:

3. Dinosaur Pile-Up – Round The Bend 

2. Novatines – Medicine 

1. Redd Kross – Beyond The Door

Congratulations to Redd Kross, comeback kings and now TOTW winners! And well played to Novatines and Dinosaur Pile-Up for highly respectable second and third places. You’ve all done marvellously. Now let’s see who emerges victorious from this new stable of noble rock steeds, right after a victory spin of Redd Kross’s champion track. Dig in y’all…

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus
pinterest

Read more posts