Classic Rock

Redd Kross

The rocky, melodic, groovy psych-poppers have a new album out, but Courtney Love won’t be buying a copy.

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California­n brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald formed Redd Kross when the latter was yet to enter his teens. Taking their name from that scene in The Exorcist, the late-night movie-obsessed siblings went on to release six albums which combined the energy of punk rock with the melodic sensibilit­ies of The Beatles, the insistent power of rock and the incense-and-peppermint grooviness of psych-pop.

As the band prepare to release Beyond The Door, their seventh album, bassist Steve McDonald – who spent five years of a post-millennial Kross hiatus working with Sparks, and is currently a member of The Melvins – reveals (among other things) the hidden perils of crank-calling.

You were very young when you embarked on your musical career. How old were you when you played your first gig? I was eleven – and the crowd weren’t happy to see us. I cut my teeth dealing with angry mobs. Our first show was an eighth-grade graduation party. They were yelling for Zeppelin covers, but we’d heard the Ramones by then and moved on. Black Flag played that show too. We got them the gig, playing a living room in Hawthorne, California. Later that month we opened for them at Pollywog Park in Redondo Beach. They’d sent a fake demo to the organisers of a jazz festival, so people were expecting Kenny G stuff. The audience were polite to us, but when Black Flag came on it turned into a fullblown food-fight riot, with families throwing whole picnic baskets at them.

Red Kross’s Phaseshift­er and Show World albums arrived into an era in thrall to Nirvana. During the grunge explosion we shared management with Nirvana, so I couldn’t get my manager on the phone any more. We were responsibl­e for him working for Nirvana. He’d asked us if we’d encourage Sonic Youth to work with him, and we did, which led to Nirvana. So when they happened we asked: “Can we go on tour with Nirvana?” “No, Courtney hates you. She said you were mean to her when she was fat.” Which wasn’t true. There may have been a crank call at some point, but it had nothing to do with her weight. Then four years later this girl we’d been crankcalli­ng was suddenly the Queen of Siam of the grunge world and we couldn’t benefit from it. Many times we’d shoot ourselves in the foot by doing outrageous things like crank-calling our record label.

“By the time I was ten I’d seen Led Zeppelin

and Kiss.”

What’s the secret to being in a band with your brother? My brother always wanted a partner in crime, which was a gift to me. By the time I was ten I’d seen Led Zeppelin at The Forum and Kiss on the Kiss Alive tour. One thing I learned from Ron and Russell Mael when playing with Sparks was although there’s a lot of overlap in their skill-sets, they’re very at peace with their roles, there’s a mutual respect for what each individual brings to the team. And that’s also true of me and my brother.

Apparently the songwritin­g dynamic has shifted slightly since Researchin­g The Blues, and you’ve been working with Jeff on material more than ever. That’s probably down to me having a little more confidence. Even at this late stage we’re discoverin­g new ways to approach things and each other, and I hope that may continue. IF

Beyond The Door is out on August 23 via Merge Records.

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