There will always be bands and music that hold a special place in your heart, as you recall the fond memories of where you were and what you were doing when that band or song came into being.
Upon hearing the opening notes of Linda Blair from their Born Innocent album in 1982, I was intrigued and hooked on Redd Kross. They were the next step, at least in my eyes, of the punk ethos captured by the Ramones in the mid-1970’s.
Columbus has gone without seeing the band in over 20 years. The wait is now over, as they have announced that they will play a show at Ace of Cups in Columbus on May 9.
I called-up bassist Steve McDonald on the west coast and asked about the current tour, playing in Columbus and new music from the band. He was gracious in taking the time to answer this old-school punk’s questions.
And so, we present to you Six Questions with Steve McDonald.
Redd Kross – Linda Blair (1982)
Your last album, “Researching the Blues” was released in 2012. Why was the decision made to do a lengthy tour now?
“I’ve been touring a lot with my other bands. I’m in OFF! And I played in The Melvins last year. For practical purposes, Redd Kross could never find a way to tour more extensively. And, touring has just been a goal. We’ve been doing it for the last 10 years; it’s just been more of a part-time concern. For whatever reason, it all lined up that everybody was available and could do it. So, I seized the opportunity and booked it.
“I’m really excited to come to places like Columbus, where we haven’t been in over 20 years. I wanted us to be able to do it when we put out ‘Researching the Blues’, but I also had an OFF! Record that came out at the same time. So, there were just a lot of conflicting schedules and it wasn’t in the cards at that time.
“In Columbus, we used to play a place called Stache’s (closed in 1997). We played there a lot in the 80’s and we played the Newport Music Hall. We did some support gigs there with Sonic Youth and Presidents of the United States. So, it was a regular stop for us.”
How did you decide to have Dale Crover (The Melvins) join you for this tour on drums?
“I’m real excited about it! Dale and I are a bit of a rhythm section right now. He plays in OFF! whenever Mario Rubalcaba can’t do it. We play in The Melvins together, and now he’s playing in Redd Kross with us. We’re having a lot of fun.”
To what do you attribute the longevity of Redd Kross? Is there any surprise that you’ve lasted this long?
“Sure, it’s all a big surprise. I’m grateful for all of it. You just never know what’s going to happen. When the band took a 10-year hiatus at the end of the 90’s, I’m just always constantly surprised at how things have turned out. Every little thing like this (tour) I try to appreciate it in the moment, rather than get caught up in the fear of not knowing what’s going to happen. So yeah, it’s cool.”
With Redd Kross starting in 1980 before the internet, how has the digital age we live in impacted the band?
“Everyone’s got different opinions on this topic. I think for a band like us, who were around in the analog age, one of the things that we see that I think is really cool is that social media allows us direct access to fans, where you don’t really rely on an elite few like the ‘Keeper of the Information Pipelines’, you can connect with people that might be interested in seeing you live, or hearing your music.
“I know that the digital age has really complicated the process of monetizing the music. People are working hard to work around that, and vinyl has seen a resurgence. How ever people value music is good to me. I’m down with that.
“It’s made the touring thing much more of a possibility, I think. I mean, we could have done it (tour) prior, but I wouldn’t have necessarily known that. I would have thought of Columbus, Ohio… that sounds like a world I have no idea about and who would be there? And now, I have an idea.”
“I told our agent that it was important to me to play Ohio. I’ve always loved that part of the country for playing. We’ve always had a lot of fun in the Midwest. People are always really enthusiastic in that region about bands coming out. I’m excited about it.”
Redd Kross always been innovators, with you putting out a mashup album (adding bass to the White Stripes ‘White Blood Cells’ and your brother Jeff doing a podcast and webcast before those were ‘things.’
“I guess we’ve always been purveyors of fine underground culture, an area that we’ve always felt comfortable in. So, it’s ironic that we were ever signed to a major label (Atlantic Records, 1990) and being marketed as the next big thing when we’re most comfortable in the underground.
“With my brother (Jeff), I would always think ‘how the fuck, when you were 13-years old and living in a suburban town, how did you know about Patti Smith and the New York Dolls?’ Jeff brought home “Hunky Dory” (David Bowie) like… the year it came out (1971). I was like, four years old and he was eight! That was crazy! So, I went on to follow his footsteps.
“That White Stripes thing (2002), that was mostly me being sad that I wasn’t in a band anymore. It was also a bit of cockiness, but it was fun. To their credit, they were friendly about it.”
Are there any plans for new music from Redd Kross?
“Yeah, definitely! I have a little recording studio where all my bands rehearse. It’s a matter of juggling schedules. I’m finishing an album with the Melvins right now, and then I’m going to go on tour with that. OFF! is doing a record, as well. But now that Dalve (Crover) is playing with us… he’s a really productive and motivating guy.
“There’s this street in San Francisco called Octavia and I was just in San Francisco with Buzz (Osbourne) and Dale, we passed Octavia Street and I told them the story of someone thinking we did a song called ‘Octavia.’ This turned into Buzz and Dale saying (Octavia) has to be the name of the next Redd Kross album. So, expect ‘Octavia” by Redd Kross sometime, hopefully, within the year.
“So, this tour is definitely trying to massage the productivity muscles and get things groovin’, so it’s part of my evil plan. And I think it will lead to recording ‘Octavia’ this year.”
Redd Kross – Researching the Blues (2012)