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.”

 

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Louder: Listen to new Redd Kross track The Party Underground

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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.

 

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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…

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July Shows Canceled

We regret to inform you that due to Dale Crover’s back injury sustained earlier this year, Redd Kross must cancel their 3 upcoming shows this July in Asheville, Atlanta and Carrboro NC. As much as it saddens Us to do so, the band is focusing their efforts on Dale’s full recovery. Dale’s doctors expect him to be back in action for Redd Kross/Melvins US tour this fall. Much love, RK

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Brooklyn Vegan: Redd Kross go ‘Beyond the Door’ on new LP, share title track

Redd Kross are back with their first album in seven years, Beyond the Door, which will be out August 23 on Merge. Jeff and Steven McDonald say the record reflects their “total commitment to having the best fucking time we can have while we’re all still here.” Steven also says this is the group’s most collaborative album in ages, maybe ever: “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.” This record is also the first time longtime live members Jason Shapiro and Dale Crover (Melvins, OFF!) have played on a Redd Kross album. The first single is the title track, and is a typically super-catchy, glam-punk riff-rocker. Listen below.

Redd Kross will be on tour with Melvins (with whom Steven currently plays bass) and ShitKid this fall, and dates include NYC-area stops on October 10 at Warsaw in Brooklyn and October 11 at Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Tickets are on sale now.

Redd Kross – Beyond the Door tracklist:
The Party 2:09
Fighting 2:25
Beyond the Door 2:32
There’s No One Like You 2:49
Ice Cream (Strange and Pleasing) 3:43
Fantástico Roberto 3:54
The Party Underground 3:10
What’s a Boy to Do? 3:22
Punk II 1:41
Jone Hoople 3:17
When Do I Get to Sing “My Way” 4:02

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STEREO GUM premiere: Redd Kross – “Beyond The Door”

Last year, I spent a whole bunch of time (and money!) buying up back issues of Metal Maniacs: a music magazine that was around, in various formats, from 1989 to 2009, although it’s not around at all anymore. It was never published online, or preserved on microfiche, or collected in book form, or formally archived anywhere. This is a fucking travesty, because Metal Maniacs was a groundbreaking publication, especially over the first six years of its existence, when its founding editor, the late Katherine Ludwig, was running the show. Ludwig’s vision of metal was radically inclusive, expansive, and thoughtful. Read through every issue of Maniacs from 1990 up to ’95 or ’96 and you see an entire galaxy that barely resembles “metal” as it appears today. I mean, you can’t actually do that, of course — not without a lot of effort anyway — but you should. Or, at least, I did. And when I got to the August 1994 issue, I read features on Sepultura, Soundgarden, Black Sabbath, Entombed, and Redd Kross. The writer of that Redd Kross piece was Marina Zogbi, and it opened with this:

There aren’t too many bonafide rock legends around these days that are still young and cool enough to matter. And certainly none that have recently released the best album of their lives. If you have even a passing interest in how the youngest (genuine) punk band in the US grew up into great, non-conforming musicians, beating odds and banging heads along the way, here’s the Redd Kross story. (If you don’t, you’ll probably write us whining that this space should have been devoted to Deicide. Yeah, yeah, yeah.)

That was 25 years ago. TWENTY FIVE. In 1994, Redd Kross were “bonafide rock legends.” They were! The band was formed in 1978 by brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald, who were then 13 and 9, respectively. Here’s a line from their current bio:

Jeff and Steven started making music together in Southern California as Red Cross during the first wave of Los Angeles punk rock, famously cutting their teeth opening for Black Flag at a middle school graduation party.

This is one tiny piece of the Redd Kross story. Ancillary to that is the anecdote behind the origin of the name “Red Cross” — as well as the anecdote behind why “Red Cross” was changed to “Redd Kross.” That’s a whole story right there! The Redd Kross story is SO MUCH huger than that, though.

For instance, there are the early years, when the McDonald brothers were arty punk-rock teenagers who released two EPs (Red Cross in 1980 and Teen Babes In Monsanto in 1984) and two LPs (Born Innocent in 1982 and Neurotica in 1987). Each of those releases is loaded with wild, unbelievable factoids, coincidences, and references, any one of which could fill an entire blog post. Not THIS blog post though. Moving on…

Next, you’ve got Redd Kross’ major-label debut, 1990’s Third Eye, which aesthetically positioned the band somewhere between ostensible pre-grunge oddball contemporaries Enuff Z’nuff and Jellyfish, but it sounded like pure Cheap Trick worship with Beatles harmonies and hooks. Couple fun facts about that album: (1) There is a song on Third Eye called “Shonen Knife” — a tribute to the Japanese band Shonen Knife. The following year, the Seattle band Nirvana took the Japanese band Shonen Knife on a tour of the UK, prior to the release of the former group’s own major-label debut, Nevermind. (2) On the cover of Third Eye, there is a photograph in which sits a naked woman wearing a creepy-ass plastic mask. That woman was later revealed to be Sofia Coppola, who must have been 19 years old at the time. I could keep going! But I can’t. We gotta move on!

Moving on: In 1993 — when “alternative rock” was a goldmine — Redd Kross released Phaseshifter. That was the one Metal Maniacs described as “the best album of their lives.” Real quick here: Phaseshifter is fucking awesome. So too is the album that followed it, 1997’s Show World. These are stone classics, front to back. Naturally, NEITHER ONE is available on Spotify, which is a truly horrifying indictment of Spotify and a glaring example of the insane voids that exist within music-streaming services. What is the point of a “universal library” that doesn’t have fucking “Jimmy’s Fantasy”? Why do we bother with music at all? No time for that now, just sayin’.

Then? After Show World? Redd Kross broke up.

Then? Fast forward 15 years: Redd Kross released their first new album since Show World: 2012’s Researching The Blues. That was SEVEN YEARS ago. Crazy!

Then? Fast forward to right now: Redd Kross have dropped the first single/title track from their seventh LP — their seventh LP since forming in 1978! — Beyond The Door. Here’s another line from the current bio:

On the surface, the album title is a playful reference to an Italian horror film the McDonald brothers watched as children, a loose rip-off of both The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby that stars Juliet Mills of ’70s television program Nanny And The Professor. But like all things Redd Kross, it would be a sad injustice to stop digging there. No one knows what lies Beyond The Door … but we’re all in front of it.

And here we are, at the proverbial door! If you know Redd Kross, you know what this sounds like: pure Cheap Trick worship with Beatles harmonies and hooks. That doesn’t change, because that is timeless music, and timeless is the music at which Redd Kross excel. It’s right here. Let’s go:

The deets of the album’s release are as follows: Beyond The Door is out 8/23 via Merge. Pre-order it here. They’re touring with the motherfucking Melvins, too, and I’ve got those dates for ya below. But before we get to that, I gotta share some other stuff that applies to this post and probably won’t pop up elsewhere without some digging on your part.

First, Phaseshifter single “Jimmy’s Fantasy”: a perfect song.

Second, Show World single “Mess Around”: a perfect song.

Third, BECAUSE I CARE: scans of Marina Zogbi’s Redd Kross feature for Metal Maniacs from ’94, which is way more in-depth than what I could manage in a blog post:

 

 

 

Last and probably most important of all, yr tour dates: Redd Kross x 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 @ Cornerstone
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

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