Double Kross

After a disastrous last trip, US rock band gets to play two Madrid dates this time

Jason Shapiro, Jeff McDonald and Steven McDonald of Redd Kross perform on Day 2 of the Primavera Club Festival at Arteria Paral.lel on December 7, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.
Jason Shapiro, Jeff McDonald and Steven McDonald of Redd Kross perform on Day 2 of the Primavera Club Festival at Arteria Paral.lel on December 7, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. Jordi Vidal (Redferns via Getty Images)

Redd Kross is returning to the Spanish capital in the hope of making up for the bad vibes of their last visit 13 months ago.

“Our last gig in Madrid, as part of the Primavera Club festival, was very strange: a tragedy at another venue [Madrid Arena, where five young women died at a Halloween party in 2012] led the city to restrict access to the Matadero at the last minute,” explains Jeff McDonald, the 50-year-old lead singer and guitarist for the veteran band from California.

“Of an expected turnout of 1,000 people, only 150 saw our act, although all the police there enjoyed the concert,” he jokes.

In fact, this time around the group have booked a second night at Sala El Sol after their first concert, scheduled for January 15, sold out.

The McDonald siblings feel more than a little indebted to their fans. “At the Primavera Club we begged organizers to let in all the people who were standing in line outside. But it wasn’t possible,” recalls Jeff.

Then again, their 35-year career in rock and power pop means the bandmembers have already seen it all. “At the clubs where Steven and I played when we were still underage, they forced us to stay in the kitchen, threatening to kick us out if they saw us in any part of the building other than the stage,” McDonald remembers.

Redd Kross went on a hiatus between 1997 and 2006 for personal reasons. “My wife and I had had a daughter, and the band was away from home for long periods of time. Besides, a year after stopping, our other guitarist Eddie Kurdziel died.”

When we were playing underage, they forced us to stay in the kitchen"

Their return was significantly conditioned by support from Madrid promoter Heart of Gold, which was behind a 2008 DVD called Got Live If You Must!, which was recorded live at the capital’s Joy Eslava venue.

“I was nearly used to the idea of not performing ever again, but Steven continued to work as a bass player for Beck and The White Stripes. Our comeback was so much fun that we finished it off with a new studio album.”

But Merge Records — which is also home to Arcade Fire — did not release that record, Researching the Blues, until 2012. “Taking so long to find a label allowed us to go at our own pace. On this occasion I did all the writing and Steven, with whom I’ve written songs many other times, acted as producer. The next time it might be the other way around.”

The brothers have been joined at the hip musically ever since Jeff was 15 and Steven 11. “We became one of the first bands to release a single on the L.A. punk rock scene,” he says. The radio guru Rodney Bingenheimer took care to put them on the airwaves. “It was a dream for kids like us, who owed our education to him and some teenage neighbors with very good taste and a bunch of British albums. We were familiar with everything that came before punk, while our contemporaries started out with the Sex Pistols.”

Their love of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles even provided Jeff with some bittersweet memories. “My parents took me to a Beatles concert when I was just three. We were at the back of the stadium, and the only thing I remember is a bunch of hysterical girls screaming in front of me, scaring me.”

But that was not half as scary as the criminal history of occasional musician Charles Manson, whom Redd Kross did not hesitate to cover on their first album. “We were trying to draw attention to ourselves. And it was partly because John Waters, in whose films we had immersed ourselves, had dedicated Pink Flamingos to him.”

The album had a rough, attractive sound to it, and was titled Born Innocent after the controversial TV movie in which Linda Blair, the child star of The Exorcist, is raped at a reform school. TV was clearly a major inspiration for those fledgling musicians. “We used to live in the same neighborhood as The Beach Boys, two miles from the Pacific, but surfing was only one part of our summers. We spent our lives in front of the TV much as today’s kids spend their lives in front of the computer.”

But if there is one key album in the band’s discography, that would be 1987’s Neurotica, which influenced Nirvana, Mudhoney and other grunge bands. “All of the opening bands we introduced on our tours of the northwest went on to become superstars of the movement,” says Jeff. Even the Seattle co-founder of Sub Pop, the mothership of grunge, has stated that this album changed his life.

“Maybe it’s just that we got there too early,” muses McDonald.

Redd Kross will be performing at 10.30pm on January 21 at Sala El Sol, C/ Jardines 3, Madrid.

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