Denver Westworld: Redd Kross: The 39-Year-Old Band You’ve Never Heard That Inspired Nirvana

Redd Kross is playing Denver for the first time in twenty years.

The influential proto-alternative band started in 1978, when bassist Steve McDonald and his older brother, Jeff, were eleven and fourteen, respectively. They had grown up in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, where they, led by Jeff, discovered underground music from magazines like Creem and Rock Scene. They’d already experienced stadium rock at a young age. By the time they started their own act, they had discovered a punk band whose members lived and practiced nearby: Black Flag.

The Flag, a fairly new band at the time, took these kids under its wings. And Redd Kross’s first show, as “Red Cross” – the band’s name before it was legally forced to change its name by the medical organization – was at an eighth-grade graduation party in someone’s living room.

“If you’ve seen the first ten minutes of the movie Boogie Nights, where they show Dirk Diggler’s humble beginnings in suburban Torrance and suburban L.A., imagine that living room and imagine a rock band playing in it, and that was the scene,” says Steve McDonald.

From those humble beginnings, Redd Kross took its glam-rock influences and infused them with a wide variety of musical styles and a punk attitude defined by irreverent humor and a skepticism about fitting in; the result was one of the most secretly influential bands of the era. You can hear the impact of Redd Kross in generations of musicians, including Sonic Youth, the Melvins and Nirvana.

“My brother has never been interested in joining any kind of community and has been into his own trip and is a little too shy to be that social,” says McDonald. “So he never wanted to be pinned to any kind of community. That said, if you look back at the history of the band, any time the band seemed to be part of any kind of movement, we would throw a wrench in it and not benefit from being part of any kind of bandwagon. I don’t know that it was because we had the forethought to think that once that bandwagon starts to fall apart you go with it, or if it was just that we were way too anti-social or punk in our attitude to let anyone else speak for us.”

That willingness to change gears and follow instinct over trends made an impact on a young musician from Washington and all of his peers. Dale Crover, perhaps best known as the drummer for the Melvins, caught a show in 1987 at the Crystal Ballroom in Tacoma, when Redd Kross toured in support of its Neuroticaalbum, which Crover feels was massively influential on the grunge movement. Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic were in the audience, too, as Crover remembers, acting unimpressed with the band’s “good vibes and their happiness.” But the seeds of fusing punk with pop in the heart of the band that would become Nirvana were obviously firmly planted that night.

Although it was influencing underground musicians and impressing music critics, Redd Kross only flirted with mainstream and commercial success its entire career before going on hiatus from 1997 until 2006, when the band was convinced to play some festival dates. Around the same time, the Melvinsrelocated to Los Angeles, and Crover and McDonald became friends. Crover would go on to occasionally gig with McDonald’s hardcore band OFF! when Mario Rubacalba wasn’t available, and McDonald played on the 2016 Melvinsalbum Basses Loaded and then on 109 dates of a tour promoting that project. McDonald also recently played on the new Melvins album due out in summer 2017.

“Those guys came from a punk-rock world but fell into their own thing,” says Crover. “I always thought they were into the same kind of music I was getting into. They could be into Kiss and the Germs at the same time. The Melvins guys had the same vibe. We can listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd and MC5, Black Flag and Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater and Discharge. Punk rockers were dumbfounded by that stuff. A lot of that music I grew up on, and from that I found this. So I feel like I understood where they were coming from very well. [Steven’s] the punk-rock-Paul McCartney bass player.”

Crover always appreciated what he calls the “weirdness factor” of the band as well as Jeff’s strange but compelling pop songs. “Those guys are both weirdos, and I love them for it and wouldn’t want it [any other] way.”

Long-term, that weirdness factor has meant that Redd Kross can still have a career precisely because it avoided trends.

“We saw to it that we were awkward in all worlds. We inhabited many worlds but fit into none of them,” says McDonald.

Redd Kross, with The Omens and The Lollygags, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 15, Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street, 303-291-1007, $17-20, 16+.

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LA WEEKLY: OFF!/Redd Kross Bassist Steve McDonald Loves His New Gig in The Melvins



A conversation with Steven McDonald of Redd Kross, OFF! and now The Melvins is always a treat.

While the term elder statesman applies to McDonald, it seems inappropriate to use “elder” to describe anyone who brings so much youthful enthusiasm to his work. Especially in his latest endeavor, playing bass with the now L.A.-based sludge, grunge and experi-metal pioneers, The Melvins, who originally hailed from the Pacific Northwest.

Truth be told, McDonald, who turned 49 in May, seems to be very pleasantly pleased. When a legendary bass player joins a legendary band, the odds are in the fans’ favor of seeing something amazing at every gig, and this union doesn’t disappoint at all.

McDonald, who cut his teeth in the Hawthorne-based Tourists in 1978 (who would become Redd Kross in 1980) at the tender of age of 11, has a long line of music success under his belt. Along with his brother Jeff McDonald, he’s responsible for some of the best power-pop/punk hybrid music ever with his work in Redd Kross. In 2009, he formed punk-rock supergroup OFF! with Keith Morris (Circle Jerks), Dmitri Coats (Burning Brides), and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From the Crypt). In addition to his work with a bass in his hand, McDonald also has an ever-growing list of artists he is recording and producing, including The Format’s Sam Means, with whom he just did an absolutely killer record, Ten Songs.

What’s happening with Redd Kross and OFF!?
Well, my brother [Redd Kross’ Jeff McDonald] has been writing songs while I’m on the road with The Melvins. I’ve got a little recording space that I share with all the bands that I’m in. I call it the Whiskey Kitchen. I’m doing a couple records for Burger Records and In the Red Records at my space. My niece, Astrid McDonald, has a band called The Side Eyes. They’re totally rad. I’m making a record with them. My July is full with all the different balls I’m keeping the air.

With OFF!, we just had a conference call a little while ago. We’ve got plans to try and do some stuff in the coming year.


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logo-150Since early 1978, brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald have been working on a band, music, or some form of noisemaking. At first, they were The Tourists. Then in 1980, they became Red Cross (but some nutty nonprofit organization already had dibs on that name) and finally wound up as Redd Kross. Sure, over the past 37 years, the McDonalds have taken some breaks here and there from Redd Kross to raise children, relax, recharge, etc., but the fact remains that their passion for music and all things pop culture has allowed their musical acumen to continue to grow and flourish. From their first recording, the 1980 EP Red Cross, to their most recent full-length, Researching the Blues (2012), the band has continued to expand its sound, even if it hasn’t performed nearly as much as fans would like.

We caught up with the brothers one day after they were done practicing a couple of weeks ago. Always entertaining, the McDonalds occasionally finish each other’s sentences and are not shy about sharing their thoughts on their career, the scene (or “scenes,” as they point out), and pretty much anything else they could think of. Catch them on Friday night at the Crescent Ballroom as they return to the desert and promise to bring the “razzmatazz.”

New Times: Hi, guys. What’s happening?

Jeff McDonald: We just finished rehearsal.

How was it?

Jeff McDonald: We’ve been having great rehearsals and going through a lot of songs.

Are you going to bust out with some special stuff for the Phoenix fans, since it has been two decades since you have been here?

Jeff McDonald: I assume everything will be special since it’s been two decades.

Steve McDonald: We’re banking on that.

Jeff McDonald: So far, we’ve had just the best times on this tour, so we’re thinking it will be special. We don’t play that much, so we have such a good time when we play.

You took some time off, Jeff, to raise your daughter, correct?

Jeff McDonald: Yeah, that was in the early 2000s. We took this long break. I didn’t want to play. I wanted to recharge. I really wanted to be ready to perform again. Redd Kross is band that (pauses) . . . We’re kind of like seasoned performers.

Steve McDonald: (interjects) more like Liza Minnelli.

Jeff McDonald: And the Osmonds . . .

Steve McDonald: We don’t consider ourselves peers of like the Foo Fighters. We’re more like peers of Liza Minnelli and the Osmonds.

Jeff McDonald: We always make sure our show has a certain razzmatazz. Some people call it razzle dazzle, but I call it razzmatazz. I think some of our latest shows that we’ve done in the past year have been some of our most exciting gigs. We never play the same show twice. We always write up the set list, like, five minutes before the show. We kind of keep ourselves on edge on purpose.

So, how many songs did you run through today (in practice)?

Jeff McDonald: Umm, we are just kind of getting our feet wet again . . .

Steve McDonald: Like 30.

Jeff McDonald: Was it 30?

Steve McDonald: Yeah. Some of them are a minute and half long, but . . .

Jeff McDonald: We know songs from any record in our career. We do a little bit . . . You know, songs that work with the set. Sometimes we’ll be playing in front of an audience and a certain song doesn’t seem right for the vibe, so we’ll cut it, and sometimes we’ll throw in a song that isn’t on the list. We do that stuff constantly. I think it really irritates some people in the band . . . But um.

Steve McDonald: No one cares . . .

Jeff McDonald: Steven can handle it.

Steve McDonald: I can just never tell if we skip a song if it’s because someone can’t read the set list.

Jeff McDonald: It happens. I’ve skipped like four songs before on accident.

Somebody with good penmanship should write the set lists.

Jeff McDonald: I have the worst penmanship in show business. I have the penmanship of a doctor.

So you prescribe your songs?

Jeff McDonald: We prescribe our songs. We don’t perform them.

Click here to read the entire interview by Tom Reardon.

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SF Examiner: Redd Kross in S.F. for New Year’s Eve – interview with Jeff McDonald

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 11.14.34 PMNew Year’s Eve will be unusual for Jeff McDonald from the campy Los Angeles rock combo Redd Kross. The band – which includes his brother Steven – plays The City with old chums The Melvins and Frightwig, backing their latest riff-fest, “Researching the Blues.” But it’s not exactly McDonad’s preference. Most holidays, he and his wife Charlotte Caffey (of Go Go’s renown) watch “Rocking New Year’s Eve” on TV. He says, “New Year’s is a holiday that I’ve basically given up on, because people have these really high expectations for good times and it’s basically a hooligan’s paradise.”

Click here to read the full interview.

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One-Hit Wondering with the Seattle Weekly

citylogoThe Seattle Weekly has a short interview with Jeff McDonald:

Los Angeles band Redd Kross, led by brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, has had a long and storied career, releasing its first EP in 1980 and then albums slowly but steadily through 1997. After 15 years away from the studio, the band came roaring back in 2012 with Researching the Blues, a cracking rock-’n’-roll record that earned Redd Kross some of its best reviews yet. Guitarist/singer Jeff McDonald weighs in on the twists and turns of the band’s existence.

Click here to read the full story.

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Guitar World Magazine Interview: Redd Kross Guitarist Jeff McDonald Talks ‘Researching the Blues’



Last year, rock and roll veteran punksters Redd Kross released their first album in 15 years, Researching the Blues, on Merge Records.

What does some time to grow do for a band of boys with glammy makeup and a psychedelic sense of style? For Redd Kross, it seems marinating in those creative juices does a body good.

We caught up with guitarist Jeff McDonald at his LA home base to talk about the album, his gear and a few other tidbits.

Click here to read the full interview at Guitar World.


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