Whitfield Crane and Klaus Eichstadt grew up in Palo Alto, California, a middle-to-upper-class white suburbia where, according to Klaus, everybody complains about a little bit of noise. Klaus and Whit (short for Whitfield) met when Whit’s father mulched the Eichstadt-cat with the lawn mower. Klaus, whose father is a German and whose mother is from Argentina, and Whit became close friends in junior high school. Whit lived with his mother, and because that wasn’t a good thing, he and a friend called James moved to Santa Barbara after high school.
He ended up in a band and recorded a demo, that sounded great. Klaus had also recorded a demo and wanted Whit to sing on it. But Whit only wanted to do that if Klaus came to Santa Barbara and be in Whit’s band. Klaus was pretty set in Palo Alto, where he had a girlfriend and lived with his parents. He delivered Domino’s pizza and worked with his dad, shipping and receiving video-equipment and making simple repairs. But eventually, in February 1990, he moved to Whit’s Victorian house in Isla Vista, a college town near Santa Barbara. The house had view on the ocean, and Whit and Klaus lived there with a bunch of friends. Klaus started playing piano when he was 10, and his dad bought him his first guitar. Later he shined college and spent all his money on equipment. Whit and Klaus both started guitar lessons at the same time, but Whit only made it a few weeks because he was very lazy and couldn’t stand not being as good as Eddy van Halen yet.
Whit decided to be a singer because that was easier.
At the time when Klaus joined Whit, the band was called Overdrive, and the other members were Eric Phillips on guitar, Phil Hildengaertner on bass, and Mark Davis on drums. Mark had replaced John Spaulding who had gone crazy. Soon afterwards, they kicked out Eric Phillips, who had written most of the Overdrive songs, and the band started to go into different direction with Klaus and Whit writing most of the material. At about this time guitarist Roger Lahr joined the band. He was the only member of UKJ who actually went to college.
Bassist Cordell Crockett replaced Phil on April 1st, 1991. Cordell was a roadie for Love/Hate and had sold computer printer ribbons on the phone, worked on cars, tinting windows, installing car stereos and alarms. Cordell’s father was a drummer and his mother plays piano. Cordell himself used to play trombone in high school. He started when he was 10, in fourth grade music class, but picked up the bass two years later, when he was 12. The boyfriend of Cordell’s sister had him playing in clubs, jazz, disco and weddings. He kept playing trombone for a while but eventually the bass took over.
Drummer Mark Davis got his first drum kit from his mom when he was 10. He practiced all day with his friends in his room. After high-school in Santa Barbara, Mark worked as a grocery store clerk wearing a short haired wig for more than a year, after his boss got on his case about being a musician. Remarkable thing by the way, was that every member of UKJ was the youngest in their family.
Soon after Roger had joined the band, they changed their name to Ugly Kid Joe, a parody of LA glam band Pretty Boy Floyd. Both bands were like night and day, there were no similarities whatsoever. UKJ was supposed to do a gig with them in Santa Barbara, but Pretty Boy Floyd cancelled the show. They had it printed that they were going to be Ugly Kid Joe just for that gig, just because they felt that they represented the opposite of Pretty Boy Floyd. And although the gig got cancelled, they decided to keep the name: Ugly Kid Joe.
The band had gone through various managers, including Steve Sahlein, Will Carlin and finally, Dennis Rider. Billy Morgan was UKJ’s tour manager for their entire career.
As Ugly As They Wanna Be
UKJ’s main selling-point was their demo, which was produced by Eric Valentine, a high-school friend of Klaus and Whit. He was the drummer for T-Ride, who later opened for UKJ together with the Electric Love Hogs during the European tour in autumn ’92. Ugly Kid Joe got signed within ten gigs, when they had never even played outside of Santa Barbara. It was Bob Score who signed the band to Stardog Records. They called their first EP As Ugly As They Wanna Be, released in the US in October 1991, and in Europe in May 1992. The title is a takeoff of 2 Live Crew’s As Nasty As They Wanna Be.
The EP contains five and a half songs, and Whit and Klaus were the main song writers. Opening song Madman is about a psycho killer on the loose with some acid in Disneyland. Whiplash Liquor is a party song detailing the drinking habits of middle-class white teenagers, a subject the band is well acquainted with. Too Bad is about manic depression, on a positive vibe though, and more in particular about old Overdrive drummer John, who was suffering from mental illness. Everything About You is about Whit’s and Klaus’ childhood friend Farrel T Smith, who never wanted to go skiing beacuse it’s too cold, and who never wanted to go to the beach because he’d get sand in his shoes. That’s how Klaus came up with the first line of the song "I hate the rain and sunny weather". Farrel was always into bratty jokes and he’d always say how much he hated things. His attitude was however more tongue-in-cheek than viciousness, as shown by the lyrics "I ain’t wearing no frown". The song later ended up in the movie "
Wayne’s World" and became a huge world-wide hit. Sweet Leaf is a short version of the original Black Sabbath song.
The band was just screwing around at practice and all of a sudden Klaus fell upon the riff from Sweet Leaf, and while the whole band knew what he was doing, Klaus didn’t know. So he played it to that point and asked what they should do up to that. They didn’t want to learn the rest of the song because Klaus didn’t have a tape, so they just learned the song up to there. The band didn’t even know if they played it right, they just decided to make it a segment to Funky Fresh Country Club, a story about the Santa Barbara County Jail. The last song is the 26-second-only instrumental Heavy Metal.
Madman and Sweet Leaf/Funky Fresh Country Club were released as promotional only singles (which means that they were not available in stores), and Everything About was the commercial single. The promotional video, recorded in one day at the beach in front of 6503 Del Playa #6 – the house were they were living – and featuring blow-up dolls, was picked up by MTV, and the single went platinum and ended up on #4 in the Billboard Charts. The band also recorded a promo video for Madman.
The artwork on the album, a cartoony Ugly Kid Joe, was done by Moish Brenman, a high-school friend of Whit.
To support the EP, UKJ went on tour with Scatterbrain and called it "The butt-pickin’, zip poppin’, booger flingin’ across America Tour." Later, in October 1992 when UKJ was on tour in Europe with Electric Love Hogs, they were voted Best New Band by the readers of Metal Edge magazine. During that tour, Whit urinated in an elevator on some record company reps in Paris, France.
America’s Least Wanted
Guitaris Roger Lahr left the band early 1992 due to musical differences. Dave Fortman from Sugartooth (formerly She Died) replaced him in April 1992. While As Ugly As They Wanna Be was recorded in 6 days, the band had 2 months to record their first full-length album America’s Least Wanted. The deadline for the album was the Ozzy Osbourne tour. The band was invited to be support-act on his "No More Tours" tour, which was supposed to be Ozzy’s last tour ever. UKJ wanted to have the album finished before the tour with their all-time hero started. The band had 4 days of pre-production at Mates rehearsal studios. When they entered the studio to start the recordings for the album, they hadn’t even enough songs to record a full album. They had 10 days to write a few more. Therefore, they never had a chance to demo songs like Busy Bee, So Damn Cool or Mr. Recordman. The first time they recorded them was immediately for the record. At the end of the 2 months, they needed 10 days more to finish the album, while t
he tour with Ozzy had already started! Whit had to fly back to LA several times during the first days of the tour.
The cover of the album pictures the band’s mascot (a cartoony Ugly Kid Joe) posing as the Statue Of Liberty, holding a porno magazine in place of the hallowed Declaration. Several large record chains thought that would be too much for America’s conservatives minds, so the album was released with an alternative cover too: it pictures the cartoony UKJ bound, gagged and chained with the offending finger hacked off. Like on the EP, the artwork is done by Moish Brenman.
The album contains 13 songs, 2 of which were also on the EP. Everything About You, obviously, because record company Mercury wanted it, and Madman because Whit wasn’t satisfied with the first version of the song, as it appears on the EP. Whit had to do all the vocals for As Ugly As They Wanna Be in one day. Madman was the last song he sang, and his voiced was trashed. The version on America’s Least Wanted is a complete new vocal track. First song on the album is Neighbor, a funny song about a sloppy dude who moves into a nice suburban area. Whit often joked that he was that neighbor.
Goddamn Devil, written by Klaus, is about Satan. Come Tomorrow is how you always end up right where you started. The story behind Panhandlin’ Prince is that Whit went to New York somewhere in 1988 to visit Mary, a girl he knew. Whit talked to a lot of panhandlers and was surprised how much money they were actually making. They are happy and living their lives, and they’re proud of it. Busy Bee, written by Dave and later featured on the rollerblade movie Airborne, is about how people don’t take the time to really live. (Everything About You and Busy Bee are the only UKJ-songs that are featured in movies. The producers of the movie Dumb & Dumber wanted a song from UKJ as well, but when the band gave them one, they didn’t like it due to content.
However, UKJ were not willing to change it). Don’t Go is a song about Whit’s girlfriend of 1988. Whit wrote So Damn Cool about the people who suddenly liked the band now that they were famous. Same Side is written by Cordell. The Harry Chapin cover Cats In The Cradle was thrown on the album at the last minute. The song is the first song Whit has ever heard in his life. Back in 1993, when the song made it big in the charts all over the world, Whit hadn’t seen his dad in several years. The original writers of Cats In The Cradle were very satisfied with UKJ’s version. Howard Fields, the drummer on the original song, sent a letter to UKJ saying that the song sounded great and that Harry would be smiling if he was still alive. However, it was never supposed to be released as a single, until radio stations got all these requests for it. Mr. Recordman reflects Klaus’ thoughts about getting signed, making records and the music industry. That’s why they let him sing the song. Dave plays lead guitar on it.
A number of guest musicians appear on the album as well. Jennifer Baily from Halfway Home did some background vocals, and the spoken intro on Everything About You is from Pat from Saturday Night Live. A friend of UKJ was in a band in Santa Barbara, and Pat was his cousin. Dean from Infectious Grooves plays wah-wah on Same Side, and Rob Halford from Judas Priest sings background vocals on Goddamn Devil. Producer Mark Dodson had earlier produced the Judas Priest albums Defenders Of The Faith and Sin After Sin, and is friends with Rob. Rob came to say hello in the studio and liked Goddamn Devil. The band asked if he’d wanna sing on it, and so he did. The mumbling words at the end of the album ("You guys are gonna be great...") are from producer Mark Dodson. The band recorded him in his sleep.
UKJ recorded videos for Neighbor, Cats In The Cradle, Busy Bee and So Damn Cool. The video for Neighbor was shot in a suburb of Denver. The video for Cats In The Cradle was shot early 1993, and the video for Busy Bee was recorded in the streets of New York on April 5th, 1993. The band donated the royalties of Panhandlin’ Prince (b-side of Cats In The Cradle) to the Fred Jordan Mission in LA, a shelter for homeless women and children.
To support America’s Least Wanted, UKJ toured with Ozzy Osboune and later on with Def Leppard. In Corpus Christi, TX, during a club tour, Cordell fractured his right ankle on a shaky stage ladder. He had cyberglas cast and at first he sat on a stool to play, but got more mobile once he got a flexible "robocast". On stage, Cordell didn’t use crutches.
Menace To Sobriety
Early 1994, drummer Mark Davis left the band to get married. The band played the Rock In Rio festival in Brazil with sit-in drummer Bob Fernandez from the Electric Love Hogs, and recorded NIB for the Black Sabbath tribute Nativity In Black. The band first wanted to do Faries Wear Boots, but this song had already been taken by another band (it didn’t end up on the album however). NIB was also recorded with Bobby Fernandez. Also, Whit recorded the song Born To Raise Hell with Motorhead and Ice-T for the Airhaeds movie. Bobby Fernandez however didn’t become UKJ’s new drummer. The band auditioned tons of drummers, but wasn’t satisfied with any of them. At a point where Whit was getting kind of frustrated, he went to Colorado to go snowboarding with a friend called Jimmy, who owned a snowboard show in Beaver Creek. At night, they visited a Souls At Zero show in a club and Whit was immediately impressed with the band’s drummer Shannon Larkin.
Whit went on stage to jam on AC/DC's Sin City and immediately knew that Shannon had to be the man. Whit invited him to do audition in Santa Barbara, and the next thing they knew, Shannon Larkin was UKJ’s new drummer. Now, the band could finally start jamming and writing songs for their new, second full-length album, Menace To Sobriety. In the meantime, on April 5, Cordell got married to Karen in Las Vegas. (Note: They are divorced by now, and Cordell has a new girlfriend named Carin!)
Before the band started the recordings for the album, they did a week-and-a-half tour in the US, to test some of the material. The audience had to pay a ticket for only $3 and bring two cans of food. At the end of the tour, UKJ raised 15,000 cans of food. Later, for the Excuse To Go Snowboarding Tour with Dog Eat Dog and Goldfinger (UKJ knew John Feldman, the singer of Goldfinger from the Electric Love Hogs), the ticket price was $5 and all proceeds went to AIDS research.
Menace To Sobriety was recorded at a ranch called Palace Del Rio. Built in 1922 and set on 36 wooded acres in rural Santa Ynez, north of Santa Barbara. The house was once owned by Dean Martin and Jimmy Stewart, and is now run by the Rosedale family, who rent it out to musicians. Every member had his own room in the house, and there were tennis courts, tennis balls, a pool table, dogs walking around and huge parties in the weekend. The band claimed that half of the budget for the album was for beer and alcohol. Whit was especially happy with the fact that they made the studio a stage-environment for him: huge stacks of PA-speakers at the left and right, and a monitor in front of him, just like on-stage.
After recording the drums, the band took a week off when Garth Richardson’s wife had a baby. Garth, who had earlier worked with Rage Against The Machine and L7, produced the album. The reason why UKJ chose him as producer, is the cool drum sound that he had on his previous work. GGGarth stutters when he gets excited or frustrated, and therefore added the three g's to his name.
The recordings in the house ended on December 23rd, 1994. However, Whit still had to do some vocals in LA, while he was the one who had insisted not to do his vocals in LA. The album was finished on February 19th, but wasn’t available in stores until June 6th. In the meantime, Whit and Shannon jammed with Glenn Tipton (Judas Priest) on his solo-album. Whit sang back-up on one song, Shannon played drums on four songs.
None of the songs on the album are left-overs from America’s Least Wanted, they are all new material. The first track of the album is Intro, which is one of the many crazy recordings of guitarist Dave Fortman. He recorded it at home on his eight track with a drum computer. During the recordings of the album, Whit listened to it in his bed, and decided that this was going to be the prelude to the next album. Dave taught Klaus the riff and they started playing.
God, the second song on the album, started as a mouth-riff from Whit. Whit wrote the verse, Klaus wrote the chorus and Dave came up with the intro, middle and solo. Most of the lyrics are also written by Whit. The first version of God was a little too slow and the whole last part of it was different. The band listened back to it about two weeks into making the record and decided that the song wasn’t good enough. Fortunately, they had kept the drums set up, so they could easily redo it. Tomorrow’s World was an old song from Klaus. The riff was originally written when the band was rehearsing for the Brazil shows in 1994. Dave was playing drums and Klaus and Cordell were playing riffs. The lyrics are from Whit, Shannon and Klaus, who were all thinking of different things when they wrote the song. Clover is another mouth-riff from Whit. They jammed on it at rehearsal over and over and tried different parts. They played it till they had a chorus and added riffs.
All in all it took while because they had to put the pieces together. C.U.S.T., the fifth song on the album, is short for Can’t You See Them? Dave wrote the music and Whit and Klaus the lyrics. Lyrically, the band called it a flashback to Whiplash Liquor from the EP. Milkman's Son, the first single of the album, is written by Dave Fortman, about missing his girlfriend. Literally, the titular expression refers to a child whose differentness causes speculation that the milkman fathered him. Suckerpath was conceived in an Australian hotel room. Cordell started playing a bass-riff, recorded it on his four track and gave the tape to Klaus, who added some guitar over it. Whit and the rest of the band filled the holes. They made the song in different rooms! The lyrics were mainly Whit, but also Klaus. Dave wrote Cloudy Skies and Jesus Rode A Harley too.
Jesus Rode A Harley deals with heaven. Heaven is supposed to be all pearly and white but in Dave’s vision it’s all red light district and bars. 10/10 is another mouth-riff from Whit. Dave used to play it in an old band, but much faster. 10/10, short for "ten out of ten (die)", means that in the end, nothing really matters. We’re all gonna die, so don’t stress on every little thing. V.I.P. started with a riff from Klaus, and because Whit has no idea what to sing over it, Shannon came up with the lyrics, about the bad people in the music business. People who say they love your band and turn around and drop you. Oompa started with a bass line from Cordell, and a mouth riff from Whit. The song is a total joke, the band played it at every rehearsal. When they did the recordings for the album, every member got one shot because they didn’t want it to sound too uptight. Candle Song is another song written by Dave. Slower Than Nowhere only appeared on the European and Japanese pressing of the CD. The Japanes
e edition also contained NIB.
As on the previous albums, Jennifer Baily did some background vocals, and at the beginning of Suckerpath the band used a Nicholas Cage-sample from the 1986-movie Peggy Sue Got Married. Because of the connection with Shannon, Whit was very excited that Brad from Souls At Zero did backup vocals on the album. Whit called it "full circle". The band recorded videos for Milkman’s Son, Tomorrow’s World (directed by Josh Taft) and Cloudy Skies.
Cordell came up with the title Menace To Sobriety. The cover of the album is a picture of a post-card that Klaus’ dad sent him during the recordings of the album. He said it reminded him of Klaus when he was a kid! At the inside of the text book there is a cleaning bill that the lady who rented the band the house had sent them. She kept very good track of any destruction the band made during the recording of the album. At the back of the album there is a picture of a very drunk Farrel T Smith, taken right after the soccer world cup match USA-Brazil in 1994.
In order to support the album, UKJ did the Snowboard tour, the European club tour, and the big stadium tour with Bon Jovi and Van Halen. Many times, the band skipped their hit Everything About You from the setlist, because they wanted to make sure they were standing tall on the new material. At the Wembley stadium in London, UKJ played the Sabbath cover NIB with Ozzy’s son Jack on vocals together with Whit. On the US tour in August and September, the tip of Cordell’s right index finger was caught off by the bus door.
After the US and Canadian tour in 1995, record company Mercury dropped the band. That is, UKJ’s contract had ended and it was not prolonged. The band didn’t want to stay at Mercury anyway, because the company wasn’t a family anymore. Everybody who had worked at Mercury when UKJ got signed, had left or was fired, and there had always been small problems with censorship, videos, etc. The band started writing and recording songs for their new album in Klaus’ studio, that was built in his own garage. The band started their own label Evolution Records, and when half of the new album had already been recorded, they signed the distribution deal with Castle Records. It took the band 3 months to get the songs on tape. They did all the production themselves, because they felt that the recording techniques were just a matter of trying and getting it right. Therefore, Motel California only cost $60,000 to record, while Menace cost $600,000!
Motel California, Klaus came up with the title, contains 12 and a half song. Most of the lyrics are written by Whit, but everybody contributed to the songs. Sandwich came out of a group-jam in less than 20 minutes. Dialogue was completely written by Shannon, Undertow is the first song that Whit ever wrote on guitar, and Little Red Man features background vocals from Lemmy from Motorhead. The band knew Lemmy from previous tours, and when he walked into the studio, he grabbed a microphone and yelled ‘little red man!’ Would You Like To Be There is written by Dave Fortman. The song was originally called Alien Song because the third verse is about outer space. Rage Against The Answering Machine, a heavy metal song with the band’s answering machine as vocals, was originally called Message Saved.
Sandwich was the only commercial CD-single and video, although a video for Bicycle Wheels had been recorded in Amsterdam, but has never been released.
After the European tour in December 1996, the band came home to Santa Barbara and started demoing songs for the new album. Their manager Dennis Rider said that they had offers from a couple of record companies. Klaus felt however that something was wrong and had a long conversation with Whit, who was in India at the time. Klaus also asked the others guys, and their reaction didn't surprise him. Everybody wanted to do something else or go into another direction. Finally they agreed to disband UKJ. It was a very amicable split-up.