Star Scene: Whitfield Crane ~ UGLY KID JOE

Whitfield Crane’s scene is incessant. The Ugly Kid Joe founding member and front man states: “My scene is a lot of movement, a lot of travelling, a backpack, a credit card, a passport, an accountant, no responsibilities, no debt, fun, hedonism, music, surf, sand, snowboard and adventure.” Clearly encapsulating the rock n roll dream, Crane’s foray in to music started with doom. [pullquote]I went from kind of being a nice little guy to being a suburban heavy metal kid, and my room at the time became a legendary room in Palo Alto; it was called The Room of Doom. He states: “I grew up with a single mum, in Palo Alto, California, and around 14 years old I found the Black Sabbath Paranoid album, and the first song that really hypnotised me was a song called ‘Hand of Doom’, and I was like ‘Wow, what is this music?’ And then I heard Van Halen, One, and I said to myself ‘What is this music?’ and then it went from there. I went from kind of being a nice little guy to being a suburban heavy metal kid, and my room at the time became a legendary room in Palo Alto; it was called The Room of Doom, covered in Judas Priest posters and Black Sabbath, and ACDC, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. It’s all that kind of stuff, and I suppose that was it. I come from an academic family but school has never really been my thing. I respect those that travel that path, but it certainly wasn’t mine.”

Interestingly, Crane states: “My mum is like a bad ass pianist, she listens to like Beethoven and Brahms. She’s in the choir, my mum in Palo Alto California where I grew up, there is a prestigious school there called Stanford University. It’s like the west coast answer to Ivy League, there is a thing called the Stanford Choir, but she has been in a little choir, my mum, for 50 years, she sits there, it’s in an auditorium called The Bing Auditorium. And I have seen her perform there a couple of times. But it’s a ginormous orchestra, it’s all orchestral.”

Correspondingly, Crane’s mum saw him perform a couple of times. He states: “She saw me in 1993 with Def Leppard once, that was cool. And I stopped the whole show and said, ‘Hey that’s my mom’ and everyone said ‘hi’. Recently, I was on tour in Europe and in the UK, and our last show was in Dublin Ireland in a place called The Academy. My mum doesn’t travel a lot, so if you haven’t travelled a lot, travelling is kind of scary. It was my mom’s 80th birthday, and so my sister who also lives in Palo Alto, brought her up all the way for her birthday to Ireland, to Dublin. She was cool and really looked after her. And there mom was, up on the balcony, and I was like ‘Hey that’s my mom’. It was a pretty beautiful thing.” Crane continues: “My mom reads a lot, she is a historian, she has a vocabulary that would blow anybody’s mind, like when I talk to her, I have to interrupt her and ask ‘what does that word mean?’ She would be like ‘Oh, that word…’, she’s not bragging or being weird, my mum was at Stanford University when she was 15 years old, she was super genius.”[pullquote]I found a lot of solace in music and I still do”[/pullquote]Though his lyrics and music show poignancy and astuteness, Crane laughs and modestly states: “someone called me a black sheep” and concludes: “So I found a lot of solace in music and I still do. When I was a kid, it was back when you had vinyl, you would look at the artwork, you would open up the double record, pull out the sleeve and read the lyrics. It was a such a ritual to it back then, so I suppose that’s my drum roll.”

Crane’s drum roll is now a constant heavy beat. His idols have become his friends; respect is reciprocal. He states: “That’s an impossible question to answer, because I’m really into Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and I’m really into Motorhead and I’m really into Van Halen. I’ve had experiences with all of them. Like in 1992, on America’s Least Wanted, Rob Halford from Judas Priest sang GodDamn Devil, that was pretty awesome. That was such a cool experience. I’ve spent a lot of time with Lemmy over the years. He’s always been such a gentle man, such a learned guy, such a music enthusiast. So there are many Lemmy stories. I’ve spent a lot of time with Ozzy Osbourne, funny times. I’m not even sure I can repeat half the shit. I got to go jam Black Sabbath songs, on a full PA, on Ozzy’s mic, with Black Sabbath, as loud as you can imagine, for 3 days. One of my favourite things is December 3rd, 4th, 5th 1997, I heard the original Sabbath, was going to get back together, when I say the original Sabbath, I mean, Bill Ward was going to play with them, right. It was in Birmingham, which is where they are from of course. So, I called Sharon Osbourne, and I said ‘Sharon is it true?’ and she said ‘I can’t tell you’. I said, ‘I gotta know, because if it’s true, I really have to know because I would go. I would do anything to go see that’. She said, ‘Okay, okay, it’s true! Go to Heathrow and I’ll send you a car’ and she did that. And I brought my friend with me, and I was saying all the way there ‘I am going to jam with Sabbath’, and she’s like ‘what are you talking about?’ I said, ‘Trust me it’s going to happen’. And I didn’t know why I felt that, but I certainly did, and then funny enough they were recording all their shows, 3rd, 4th and 5th, December 1997, they were recording it for a live Black Sabbath record, with the original line up. And to do that they had to run through all the songs for three days while they had a full on studio in a truck backstage and fair enough Ozzy didn’t want to sing all the songs before he was going to sing that night, and so, Black Sabbath needs a vocal cue, and I got a message from Bobby Thompson, he’s the tour manager, he’s no longer with us, but he was one of the greatest men I’ve ever met, and he said I need your help, and I knew right away what it was, and I got to go jam Black Sabbath songs, on a full PA, on Ozzy’s mic, with Black Sabbath, as loud as you can imagine, for 3 days. And it was funny, because I’ve always have sung a couple Black Sabbath songs in cover bands, or in various bands, so I knew these songs, I really knew it. I’m pretty sure I never talked to the Sabbath guys about but I’m pretty sure they got a kick out of it. That’s a pretty cool experience, to get to do that, you know I’m grateful for such things.”

It hasn’t always been an easy road for Crane. Reminiscing, 25 years after its release, he states that recording ‘Americas Least Wanted’ was challenging as he had primarily “cut my teeth playing shows live, that’s why we cut a record deal, I think. We made some good demos whatever, but, I still am a live singer, that’s why you do it all.  to perform live and have that real, whatever that moment is, the moment in time that is imperfect, it’s powerful, horrible or great, whatever the words are. So when you stuck me in the studio in 1992, with the incredible Mr Mark Dodson, at Devonshire studios, I didn’t belong in the studio at that time, I mean I was scared and I didn’t understand, was like I was a child, and I was childish, I was a big baby, i was, and i didn’t understand that you couldn’t just go in there and sing the song and be done. I didn’t know the process, and I wasn’t comfortable with the process. Now I can go in there for 15 hours and I get it. But at that time, every song, the producer Mark Dobson was like really really smart, as far as a psychologist goes, I’d be acting like a big baby and sing a line in whatever song and I’d say ‘there it is’, like a pouty child and he’d press the call back mic and go ‘You could do better’. He had this English accent, ‘You could do better!”  and I’d go ‘No way, it’s great as it is’ and then we would have a stand-off. And then he would press the call back mic and say ‘Okay, we will move on, and that track you just did is going to be there forever and ever and ever’; and then I would say ‘Hang on a minute, I can beat that, I can beat that’.  He did that a lot. But it was also exciting, we couldn’t believe that we were making a record.  We couldn’t believe that we were working with Mark Dodson, we couldn’t believe it. It was so new to us, and we were very young, 23 I think. So that would be the uncomfortable part of it, but there were so many other things that were hilarious, and fun and new.

“I remember MTV came and interviewed us, and I was sitting on a pool table at Devonshire Studios, and they’re all ‘MTV’s News’ and we are like wow, ‘MTV Wow’, how trippy. They had Billboard Magazine in their hands, I didn’t even know what Billboard magazine even was. and they opened it up and said “what do you think about this?” and they pointed to, because we had an EP out at the time, it was very successful it was at number 4, on the charts. and they were like “Well, how does that make you feel?” and I kind of looked at it and said “What does that mean?” because I didn’t know. We didn’t know what that meant. We didn’t follow charts, we didn’t understand what that was. I think that was a great place to be. I mean then you get further down the rabbit hole, you want your success or whatever it is. Which is fine. The main thing about being a creative, doing what you do, or doing what I do, is doing it. Sometimes it’s going to be good, sometimes it’s going to suck, but as long as you’re doing it. You gotta be on the pitch to score a goal. So we were really fortunate to make a record and all and we are very fortunate that it was successful. We got to travel all around the world, weird countries and do all the crazy shit you’re supposed to do.”

With ‘Cats in the Cradle’ in particular, Crane states: “Harry Chapin was a neat American artist, a philanthropist, he did a lot of good work for the homeless in America. That’s one of the pieces of the puzzle and of course around the way doing that song with my sister and the other part of the puzzle, was when we were making American’s Least Wanted we didn’t have enough songs to finish the album, we didn’t have enough material. That’s just a fact. and so I said, ask that’s a good idea and we’ve been playing it live, but not that version, we weren’t very good. The producer Mark Dodson said do it, but he was just getting shit done, we were just finishing the process of making a record and filing it up and then we did that. and then the song became I guess very successful and enough people around the world to enjoy it, and so it wasn’t really thought out, and in fact anything in my life that’s really really worked is not thought out. If I’m running after something, it doesn’t seem to work and if I’m running away from something it never works. But if I’m kind of myself and do whatever it is that I like, from my core, I like this it could be a song, or a sandwich whatever it is, then it has a bigger shot of everyone else enjoying it, but if you do stuff like that for other people, which is a good idea, but, it generally doesn’t work because your chasing it. That’s my opinion anyway.”

Challenges and victories, ups and downs, steer the dream but Crane doesn’t rest on his laurels. He is currently in Australia recording with a new band he started with Jeff Curran. He explains: “It’s a band called Yellow Cake, with guitarist Jeff Curran and he plays in the band Dallas Frasca who’s playing with us on the tour, and Jeff’s one my favourite humans in the world and also, just that by itself, he’s a cool dude – he could be driving a car or standing there, drinking a coffee or smoking a cigarette, he’s just kind of a rad entity, you know – but he is also a special artist and guitar player and the sounds that he gets out of the guitar are nothing like heard in this world. So we all toured together in Europe, and I was like, ‘I would really like to make music with you’, and he said that would be cool.  So I pulled Dallas aside and I started to talk about it, and said is there any chance, would it bother you? And she looked at me, and she’s tough and she is a bad ass singer, and she looked right at me and said, ‘If you don’t do it I’ll be mad at you’. So Yellow Cake, it’s a 4 song offering we tracked in St Kilda at Hothouse Studios and has a guest appearance on one song from Ross Wilson. He’s a freakin’ legend. He plays harmonica and sings on one song and Dallas also songs on one song as well. It’s really brutal and it’s Sabbathish. It’s crushing. So yeah … Yellow Cake.”

In fact, his advice to anyone wanting to make music is: “Figure out what you like, and mirror it, be it, throw a little piece of you inside it.”

As to what Crane listens to now, Crane states: I am a luddite – the fact that I have this iPhone, I think I deserve some sort of parade or trophy. So I’ve just figured out this week, that you can put on YouTube and put on a particular song and then it can play music like Spotify.  I have been listening to Robin Trower: Bridge of Sighs, Jimi Hendrix: Room Full of Mirrors, Jimi Hendrix: Burning of the Midnight Lamp. I listen to something I like. The cool thing about it is my friends have Spotify and I’m fascinated that it can go on the computer matrix and pull out songs that are similar, and I’m like “Oh i like this song and this song”. But, most of time I don’t listen to a lot of music, because I’m surrounded by it. For instance, I’m in a little apartment and I have that, you know that company BOSE, you can put your iPhone on it and it sounds killer. So, this is the first time in a long time that I have listened to a lot of music. Al Green, Otis Redding, Lynyrd Skynyrd. I suppose those are things I have been listening to.”

Ugly Kid Joe’s sound in food form would be “Pabst Blue ribbon beer because it will take you on a journey and you can drink a lot of it!”

Excited about this tour, Crane states: “As far as preparation goes, we just got off a two month tour in Europe. We weren’t doing the full record, but we were doing a fair amount of it. Dave Fortman is back in the band, which is such a blessing, he’s such a powerful guy to be around and such a fantastic guitar player, and he’s the real thing. We have a couple of different guitar players who take his spot, Sonny Mayo, we love Sonny, another guys name is Chris Catalyst, we love Chris Catalyst. We all love each other. If you get the real guy in there, because no one can play Dave’s lead, no way, that’s cool. So the preparation, what is it’s me doing a lot of interviews, talking to a lot of people and then it’s those guys doing their lives. I’ll fly back to the United States on November 17th, to look after my mom for thanksgiving and then I’m going to LA, and we will probably go three or four days of rehearsals, at a rehearsal place in Hollywood called MATES, which is great they’re really cool people. And then we will hop on a plane, I believe it will be November 28th, 29th, one of those days, and then we arrive in Sydney on December 2nd, and hopefully transcend the jet lag and then we will roll the dice and rock the mic.”

Catch Crane with Ugly Kid Joe as they play the whole “America’s Least Wanted” and more, this December.

Tickets on sale now!


Sunday 3 December – Manning Bar, Sydney 18+

Monday 4 December – The Zoo, Brisbane – 18+

Wednesday 6 December – Capitol, Perth – 18+

Thursday 7 December – Fowlers, Adelaide – 18+

Saturday 9 December – Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne – 18+

It was September 1992. Millions of snot faced skate – surfers worldwide were cracking a few brews in their bedrooms, on beaches and in their garages listening to one album…  “America’s Least Wanted” by UGLY KID JOE.

“America’s Least Wanted” was a double platinum phenomenon selling over 2 Million albums catapulting UGLY KID JOE to headlining arenas and touring with the likes of Van Halen, Bon Jovi and Ozzy Osbourne.

For the first time ever UGLY KID JOE will be celebrating the 25 year anniversary and performing “America’s Least Wanted” in its entirety and Australia will be the first in the world to hear it as they kick off a National tour this December. It’s time to re live the simpler times and embrace this wonderfully cathartic wrecking ball of rock ‘n’ roll energy and if there’s one band that can start a party that everyone will remember, it’s got to be UGLY KID JOE.

Joining the party will be Australian rock legends DALLAS FRASCA who fit somewhere in between The Black Keys, and the incredible full-throated wail of Janis Joplin. Their songs are catchy, huge and you can feel the truth in their tales.  TIM McMILLAN combines the melodicism of Jeff Buckley with the eclecticism of Frank Zappa and the harmonic creativity of Devin Townsend. His latest release “Hiraeth” is a collection of instrumental pieces and songs composed & recorded during a year on the road in Europe and feature a variety of guest musicians from the rock world, including members of Motörhead, The Sisters of Mercy, Ugly Kid Joe and Mr Bungle.

About Mary Boukouvalas 1612 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos,,,, She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.