See evil, hear evil, speak evil.

INTERVIEW: ROGER LAHR EX-UGLY KID JOE

The Summer of Ugly continues! At this rate it might be the Year of Ugly, and if we’re really lucky the Decade of Ugly. Yes, the reunion of Ugly Kid Joe is still going strong, with a European club & festival tour already in the bag, a jaunt to South America completed and an upcoming tour of the UK as main support to the legend that is Alice Cooper.

I Am The Wolf will keep you updated with the latest news on happenings within the Joe camp, and interviews with members and ex-members. Check out the Ugly Kid Joe section on the menu for pure dedication.

Which of course brings us nicely to today’s bonanza: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Roger Lahr, ex-guitarist for Ugly Kid Joe, and current axe-slinger in Moxie!
Roger was in the band when they hit the big time, from playing unknown clubs and campus’ to playing on MTV’s Spring Break and releasing the multi-platinum EP As Ugly As They Wanna Be. He may have only slung the 6-string with them for just over 2 years, but in that time he managed to help create some of the greatest history of Ugly Kid Joe.

 

Onstage in 1991 with the mighty Joe's.

I’ve spent the last couple of years having informal chats with Roger over the phone, and decided that it was about time to put some pen to paper, or fingers to keys as is the fashion these days. Here is a selection of 8-10 hours worth of chat taken with Rog in October 2011 and June 2012 . There’s plenty more stories ready from Roger, but you’ll just have to wait for the Ugly Kid Joe book to get the full history…

How did you come to join Ugly Kid Joe and when?
“This would’ve been about mid-1989. Well they just kicked Eric Phillips out of the band, or asked him to leave, and I was in the band in the room next door to them. I was always booking the shows for our band [Drive-Thru] and we’d always play together with them when they were called Overdrive. I guess they realized I was up on the business end of things, and they didn’t really like to do that themselves. They didn’t like promoting, or talking to the promoter guys.

Roger (far right) in his early band Drive-Thru

In the end they said, why don’t you wheel your stuff over here? ‘Cos you know, Eric’s gone and we need a second guitar player. I did have to audition though, as they were looking at some other guy too. They really wanted someone who could help them on the business end though, and me and Klaus got along really well.

At this point we were kinda big in Santa Barbara, and we were selling tickets, and people were starting to take notice. They had a demo out too, and that was getting some good feedback. They were using the Overdrive demo’s, and they had recordings of songs like Ghost Town, Goddamn Devil and Madman – then called Madman In Disneyland. We started getting a buzz about us, and a local DJ named Willobee Carlan helped us shop the demo and actually ended up hooking us up with Dennis Rider, which is where the record deal came in. Willobee was actually with us for 6 months, but was slowly inched out by Dennis. Very Hollywood.”

So then you recorded a demo with the guys?
“Yeah we did like a 5-song demo, but the record company said “We love what you guys are doing, but you need a lot more. So, for the next 6-8 months we just want you to play every party you can and play everyday. If you guys are gonna go on the road you need to be ready!” They also wanted a 4-track of us, so we got a little Tascam 4-track, mic’d everything up in the studio and did like a quick little demo. The original one had Heavy Metal, Panhandlin’ Prince, Goddamn Devil, Whiplash Liquor and Everything About You.
They actually wanted us to release a live recording first. We played a place called The Carnaval in Santa Barbara and recorded the show, but it wasn’t used in the end.”

Official promo shot 1991.

Then before you know it the EP As Ugly As They Wanna Be is a hit, and Everything About You has appeared in the Wayne’s World movie!
“I remember we were actually touring and went to the see the film play a cinema in Atlanta, but no-one was at the shows yet. We were unheard of. We got paid a straight fee for the track, like $1500 and that was it…

Which was actually used to bail out Klaus from jail after a show in Baltimore Maryland, where some cops beat him up! The cops were basically hassling one of the guys in our crew, and Klaus went over just to say “Hey, it’s okay he’s with us.” And he put his hand on the shoulder of the cop. Which is a big no-no. So before you know it, the cops are all over Klaus and he spent the night in jail. Dennis Rider sent a lawyer to get Klaus out, so when Klaus got out he was like: “This lawyer came and looked like a total gangster. White hair and white eyebrows, total albino!” So, I think pretty much the money went to this weird lawyer to get Klaus out of jail. He had to have his head stapled actually from the cops swinging the handcuffs and hitting his head!

1 of 5 original UKJ hats for members only, plus slightly different mastering of Everything About You on Mercury cassette. Courtesy of Roger, and now safely stowed at I Am The Wolf headquarters.

There were 2 movies we were offered, and they actually gave us the scripts. I was one of the only guys in the band who actually read them, and it was Wayne’s World and the second was Encino Man [California Man in Europe] I read Encino Man, and straight away just said “Guys, this one is not as good.” I don’t know why, but no-one read the Wayne’s World script, but of course everyone had seen the Saturday Night Live skits, and felt it just sounded better. I remember Cordell wanted to do the Pauly Shore one because he wanted exposure, like you know “We could be the band in the prom scene!” But the way I read the script, I felt it was probably gonna be one of those you know… how many times have you seen a band in a movie? They don’t really make them look cool.  You ever see that film Rock Star? The bands just looked so cheesy!”

Why was it not on the soundtrack?
“Because they didn’t want to pay us royalties, and they already had enough bands on the soundtrack. It would’ve been cool to be on the soundtrack alongside Queen though, as they were a big influence of mine. I guess we didn’t have the clout yet to get it on there.
Did you ever see that film Poison Ivy? Our song Too Bad was on there, and I didn’t even know we were on it! Somebody told me when I was working in a laboratory after I wasn’t in the band anymore.”

Stoke Plaza show, fishbowl edition.

How did it feel to see yourself on MTV performing live on Spring Break?
“That was fun because then we were in our element, and you can probably notice that. You know, just pulling faces and having fun. We weren’t like angry guys, like Slipknot, we really just played to have fun. That was the best thing about Ugly Kid Joe, and I always said in interviews that once the fun stops, it’s probably time to quit. So around that time, I could sense things changing. Dynamics were changing so fast, and in a way I didn’t like.
There were a couple factors for me, and I’m not sure if I brought it upon myself, but you know, Nirvana just came out, Pearl Jam was out, and I started realizing that kids with long hair talking about drinking and partying could only go so far. There’s so many bands that always do that, I mean AC/DC can do it, but they’re gods!”

Roger's laminate collection. Ozzy & Motorhead!

So not long after that you were out of the band…
“Well, I remember after the Spring Break tour, Dennis Rider came down and said I’m taking Whit and Klaus to the Cayman Islands, and you guys are flying back home.
So I thought well I’m gonna help the band save some money, plus I also wanted to buy a new Marshall head, so I decided to drive all the way from Florida back to Santa Barbara! It was cool man. It was like a movie, I got to see a lot of funny things in middle America along the way.
I saw a lot of things that made me think America is a pretty weird place!

I remember we stopped in this one little town in Texas, and we ran out of gas, which was pretty scary. I’ve got a black roadie with me, and me with long hair down to my butt. I thought, shit we’re screwed now. So we put on the flashers and we wait, and then Tim the roadie says “Look man, I can’t be seen out here. I’m gonna get killed.” So I said “Okay, you stay in the truck with the equipment, and I’m gonna go take a ride with this guy – cos this guy in a liquid fertilizer truck had pulled over, he had like the hat and the beard and was like “Whurr you guys from?” and I’m thinking, oh shit. So I say “We’re from California.” And he was like, “Yup, lotta weirdo’s out there.”

So the guy drops me off at a gas station, and right away a cop’s right there and he calls me up and goes “Where you from man? What are you doing here?” So I tell him what’s happened, and he calls these three teenage boys over, ‘cos he knew them. Small town. And he goes “Jimbo, why don’t you take this guy back to his truck.” So these three 18 year old guys are driving me back to put gas in my truck, and I’m like “So what do you guys do?” and they say  “We like to go out and shoot animals. We just go out in the wilderness, 4-wheeling it, and a couple guys will stand on the roof and we’ll just find animals and start killing ‘em”. So, they have the guns in the back of the car, and I’m thinking, ‘oh, man…’

They say to me “What do you do?” so I tell them “I’m a musician. I play rock. Do you guys like rock?” And they all look at each other and one goes, “I think I know what that is”. I’m like “Have you ever heard AC/DC?” And two of them outright say “No.” One guy goes, “We listen to Garth Brooks, that’s what we like, country.”
They didn’t listen to any soul or rock n roll, it’s all just country. The whole time I was thinking, am I gonna get out of here alive?!? And yeah, not long after that, I was out of the band.

Roger & Whit onstage in 1991.

I knew I wasn’t gonna do much after Ugly Kid Joe, and I’d been asked to audition for a band called Third Eye Blind in San Francisco, but I just remember thinking that it wasn’t for me. The sound wasn’t me. I wanted to form something different. Which is why I formed See Spot Groove you know, something funky.
At that point I just wanted to play with as many people as I could and find new ground. I wanted to go through like a cleaning of sorts.”

Did you speak to anyone again after you left the band?
“No not really, except for Klaus. I checked out their later releases though, and I remember thinking on America’s Least Wanted I would’ve wanted the sound fuller, like an AC/DC backing, you know, more grit like Highway To Hell. It just seemed like it came out all kinda light.
I think they did a lot better with Garth Richardson on the Menace To Sobriety album. That to me was more real. Actually, I always thought we were a lot better live than we were recorded. I mean their Menace To Sobriety album, that’s like yeah, that’s where you’re supposed to be!”

What are your memories of the Everything About You video shoot?
“The whole comedy ending of the song, we never really used to play it that way. But we were just goofing around in the studio and it just happened. The A&R guys were actually really pissed off at us, like “What’s this? This isn’t supposed to be this way.”
They were just – you idiots! But we said, well we like it that way. We had to fight for it really. Whit probably realized later, uh-oh it’s popular and now I’ve got to do this part forever, so yeah I’m sure that probably hit him later on down the road.”

Playing at Storke Plaza before getting signed. Phil. H on bass.

So back to the present day shenanigans, do you ever write anything that doesn’t fit in with Moxie?
“Oh yeah, all the time. I’ve got a bunch of stuff. I tend to get in a lot of Lenny Kravitz, Al Green, soul vibe. And then maybe some early Sabbath sounding, kinda heavy stuff.
It’s weird though, I’m not into solo’s anymore. I used to solo a lot when I was younger, but now I just play maybe like one for 15 seconds. I read an interview about Eddie van Halen and his Hot For Teacher solo, and he said the solo’s you play should do something. They’ve either got to add to the song, or take the song somewhere else. Make the listener feel an emotion.
But I just don’t see that when I’m writing, so then I never really solo much anymore. But I think I have to start addressing that now, as a lot of people come to the shows and they’re like you need to solo more!”

I agree Rog, get more solo’s on the go.
“Maybe at the end of a song, me and the drummer might just goof off. A crazy wah or something. Most of the time it doesn’t really call for it though.
Unless I can write something really brilliant like Mr. Crowley, that has two guitar solo’s in there, and it’s frickin’ awesome, I love it. But look at where the guy’s coming from? It’s like a classical background, it’s almost like a symphony, going from one place to another with the solo. Bringing you to different places.”

You can’t beat a bit of Ozzy! So what else have you been listening to recently, any old school stuff like AC/DC or Priest?
“AC/DC… yeah, Judas Priest… not so much. I used to listen to Stained Class all the time, and Hellbent For Leather. But now, it’s mostly old UFO, Michael Schenker, and the last Foo Fighter’s album Wasting Light, I really dig that one. Believe it or not, Journey too, old Journey. Out of the newer bands, I like Paramore a lot. I like how they cut things up with the vocals. My bass player is totally into Mastodon, but I don’t get it.”

Roger in Moxie. Is that the Mr. Crowley solo??

What musical projects are you up to these days, and what’s the latest on Moxie?
“Well with Moxie, we have a new lead singer, so we’re about to debut her at some shows pretty soon. Looking forward to that as we haven’t played live in a little while! We also got some new songs in the recording stages too, and on top of that me and the rest of the guys in Moxie have a side project on the go!
It’s called Vampyre Daycare, and it’s currently just a fun thing we do where we get to poke fun at this current trend in vampires. The singer on one of the songs is from London, and goes by the name of Kip Legend. It’s pretty much ready, it’s called Batfight and features some very over the top cockney style vocals!”

Of course, lastly, how do you feel about the Ugly Kid Joe reunion? Any chance you could join the boys on stage at a show?
“I think it’s really great, it’s definitely the line-up that should be playing, and from what I’ve heard of the new stuff it’s very cool music. Devil’s Paradise has got that real AC/DC vibe!
Could I play with them again? I’m not so sure. It would have to be up to them. I mean I speak to Klaus, we email each other every now and then. Banter, back and forth about sports and stuff. But as far as music goes, we don’t really talk like that. But of course I’d love to go up and bust out Whiplash Liquor one more time!”

Klaus Eichstadt during an early tour for UKJ.

 

Interview: Gary Sutherland © 2012.