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INTERVIEW: KLAUS EICHSTADT OF UGLY KID JOE

After 15 years of waiting patiently, your self proclaimed UKJ berk I Am The Wolf finally managed to track down and interview the legend that is Klaus Eichstadt, lead guitarist of the one and only Ugly Kid Joe!
I say track down, but really it was pre-arranged with Klaus himself – unlike my 5 minute epic with Whit. Yep, this one you see, was legit. Marvellous.

The setting was a bright and chilly day in the city centre of Ireland’s Dublin. I’d flown in about 4 hours before with nowt but a rucksack and a hankering for some of the local tipple. The reason was entirely to see Ugly Kid Joe play – my  fifth show this year. And being the last date on the tour? Who are we to pass up an opportunity like that. Balls were busted, banks were robbed, children were slain in the streets – and then I finally stumbled across the Dublin Academy, in which I met some fellow accomplices of UKJ-based crime. [Names withheld for fear their identity’s may appear on a segment of This Morning*]

We spot Klaus immediately on entering. A fully fledged greeting takes place. 40 minutes later, history is created!

Give your eyeballs a workout for once and read on for top notch tour banter in which we also lay to rest any rumours you may have heard about Dave Fortman! Rock ‘n Rollers worldwide, I give you – Sir Eichstadt:

Let’s start with taking you back to that first gig played since 1996. What do you remember about the show in London?
“I’m trying to think back to that night. That was a pretty surreal moment being backstage again like that…  and you know being in a foreign country in a packed little club. I guess I was definitely nervous, and very nervous right before the show, but you know once we started playing it was weird it was like going back in time… it felt pretty natural you know like, ‘Oh yeah, duh!’ I’ve done this a million times before – it might have been a while – but I’ve done it before. Then you just get back into that after a few notes and you’re like, ‘Okay, I remember this’”.

Did you feel you’d rehearsed enough?
“Umm… no! I guess our first few shows were like rehearsals really. Sometimes you can rehearse too much, you can know everything, but it’s still gonna be a different thing when you hit the stage. There’ll be a different angle – literally. Not being able to hear yourself, getting used to the monitors, different rooms that you play. I mean it definitely took me a few shows to adjust, and then I think for me personally by the fifth show I was like ‘Yeah okay, NOW I’m getting it’”.

What are your personal favourite UKJ songs to play? Or which songs do you love that aren’t in the setlist?
“Well we did actually play Clover on the last tour [Brazil], that was a pretty fun live song but we’re not doing that now. We’ve kinda just taken the songs that we like playing live the most, and the ones that people would like the most. Obviously we gotta play certain songs like Neighbor, Everything About You, Cats In The Cradle… and then there’s kinda of songs that go over good with the crowd like Milkman’s Son. Sure, it’s fun to play, but it’s not like some funky rad rock song, it’s just more of a melodic number – but it’s a good crowd song. Then there’s stuff like VIP which we just like playing ‘cos it’s heavy, and it’s got a little bit of that funky thing going to it. C.U.S.T., another one that’s a fun live song. Those are two of my favourites to play definitely. I also LOVE playing Tomorrow’s World ‘cos it’s easy, but it’s heavy and it’s fun to play.”

So how does it feel for you to be back playing in UKJ? Especially after the split where you felt you couldn’t do it anymore?
“Yeah it’s felt good since the beginning, it’s an opportunity that you know you can’t pass up. Just the experience alone of being in a band and touring, it doesn’t happen everyday! At 44 to get an offer to play Download Festival and shit like that? I’m really glad that 2 years ago we all started talking and made it happen! And now it’s like we’re just riding the wave and seeing where it takes us, be open minded about it. Don’t chase something that’s not there, and just go through the doors that open. I don’t expect the world of it, I don’t expect to become a big star or something like that. I don’t expect anything really, I just hope that we can do what we do, and enjoy doing it.”

I think Sonny, Yael and Zac are ace replacements, but was there a different feeling in Brazil when you looked over and saw Dave and Shannon?
“Honestly that was a trip, as that was the first time with the original five dudes – that made the record – played together, which was unbelievably fun for one thing, it was great ‘cos everyone knew the shit already. I had to learn like one song, Dave had to brush up on a few, and Shannon just killed everything – as he always does. So it was really cool in that sense. When we were done rehearsing after a few days, we knew it was pretty good. Just the whole… you know, hey we’re a pretty good band kinda vibe! This line-up’s pretty good!

In my heart it was kinda sad at the last show, ‘cos I looked over at Dave and Shannon, Whit and Cordell, and thought this might be the last time I ever see this because it’s just so hard to get the five of us together to do anything, besides record, like do tours.

Dave’s basically mentioned that he’s kinda retiring from live music and gonna go full time with his producing, plus he’s got family and stuff. So you know, the chances of getting both of them guys at the same time are pretty slim. So this was just a pretty lucky opportunity that happened, but we’re really psyched with Sonny. We’ve all known each other since about 1990, and Dave and Sonny are friends, so Dave’s like passing the torch and is you know, ‘Hell yeah, you’re the perfect person for it’. They’ve got a lot of similarities. We actually call Sonny the ‘Heavy Metal Dave Fortman’. He’s got that same kinda rhythm and he’s from the same sort of East Coast Southern scene – technically Sonny’s a country boy…”

Does this mean that you won’t play certain Dave numbers in the set?
“That’s true, some of the Dave numbers where he does a bunch of leads we don’t do. But there’s a lot of stuff we do of his like Jesus Rode A Harley and Intro. A lot of stuff where Dave usually does leads, Sonny’s playing them and it sounds great you know. We’re not afraid anymore of trying out Dave songs! No One Survives for example, which we played in Belfast.

So yeah, Sonny has worked out really good and then we’ve also found this new guy – Zac Morris, who is our new drummer. He’s basically gonna be Shannon’s replacement. Unless Shannon can do it.”

What are the chances that Shannon CAN do it? It doesn’t seem like Godsmack are busy all the time…
“Right, they go on big hiatus’, but they’re going on this big tour now which will take them right through to the end of the year. It sounds like if we do something in the first part of next year Shannon will probably be involved. We feel pretty confident with Zac though. He knows the material, he knows over an hour and 20 minutes of our stuff, and he’s really good and solid. So we have the two guys. Shannon of course will always be first choice, but that’s all on his part.”

Amsterdam, June 2012. Klaus’ whereabouts unknown…

What have you been listening to in the last 15 years?
“It’s weird, I listen to a lot of pop on the radio, like Hip-Hop/Pop stuff. So I’m pretty up to date with the cheesy stuff. Some of it of course is like ‘Oh God…’ I’ll be like listening to the Top 40 radio station, and you have to listen to a few songs that you really don’t wanna listen to, before you get to the one you really want to hear.
So yeah I just listen to the big hits. Usually Rap Hip-Hop style, you know, the whole thing where they sing the chorus and shit.
Do you remember when there was that whole scene with all the bands that started with ‘THE’, like The White Stripes, The Strokes… and who was that Scandinavian band? The Hives! I liked that scene, it had a bit of an old seventies style rock scene a bit.”

So do you also find yourself going back to the old school of rock?
“Yeah, that’s’ it. It’s kinda weird, I mean the last thing I bought was AC/DC’s Black Ice and then the last video I bought was the AC/DC Live at the River Plate. Which, even though was only 2 years ago, is insane, it’s a great live set.

Are you a Bon or Brian man?
“Well Bon Scott of course! BUT, I love Brian Johnson and I think that Back In Black is probably the best rock record ever made. I love them both, but Bon Scott to me is actually quite a big influence on me personally as a songwriter, I mean his lyrics are just… you know, he was one of the originals.”

Everybody did stuff after UKJ, but did you feel like you’d just had enough musically?
“Yeah absolutely! Not music, but you know the whole thing. I mean after UKJ I did join a couple other bands, but they were very brief. Usually after being in the band for 6 months I’d be like ‘Yeah, I don’t wanna do this’. I was always in that mind that I’m gonna find a band and it’s gonna be perfect, and we’re gonna have that fire again. But it never happened.

I think I joined like 3 bands, and all we ever did was demo’s and rehearse. One band actually did a record and played 2 shows. That was Brougham. There were 3 songs on the album I played on. A friend of mine who’s an engineer was putting that band together and he needed some rock guitar, so I said ‘Yeah, I’d love to do it’. They were signed to a major label, but then after the 2 shows I pretty much told them I’m not gonna do this, it’s not my kinda thing.”

And then you played on the Strait Up tribute album?
“I played like one tiny little lead on the Fred Durst one! That’s just cos Mikey’s [Doling, Snot] my friend, so he was like ‘Come down and play something… anything!’”

Klaus, Vienna 2012.

The new EP Stairway To Hell is an absolute gem. What are your favourite tracks on there?
Devil’s Paradise without a doubt was my first favourite. You know what… I would probably say Devil’s Paradise still. I really like No One Survives. I’m Alright I didn’t like it at first but then I really liked it again. It’s weird. I guess the one song that I felt we recorded the most consistently was Devil’s Paradise.”

You Make Me Sick for example, is that spontaneous collaboration, or a piece by piece jigsaw completed by several band members?
“That was actually a song I wrote for UKJ back in the day, back in like ’96. It was just a song I had and I don’t know if I even showed it to the band. I think we were writing for Motel California, or maybe Menace To Sobriety, and I had that song completely written – riff, everything. I wrote all the lyrics, for the most part.

Whit heard it and it reminded him of the rapper Too $hort – I guess my phrasing in it is like that. Maybe I was listening to a lot of Too $hort at the time. I guess it was subconscious, like I didn’t even know I was doing it. But when you listen to stuff over and over, you’re gonna hopefully get inspiration or something.”

On the road, or in rehearsal, do you ever come up with new riffs? Do you get to jam together?
“We have not on this tour. There’s actually a song that’s been floating around that Sonny and I have both taken stabs at writing riffs for, and hopefully we will get together at some point and see if we can make it into a song.

Honestly, this tour we haven’t even had soundchecks! The whole Alice Cooper tour we just did line checks. Which means we didn’t even go up there, it was just our crew. So we’ve only had 3 soundchecks this tour, and for instance today [Dublin] we had maybe 10 minutes to soundcheck. It’s 3 bands and doors are at 6pm, so unfortunately we have not really had any time to just jam, and when we were rehearsing, we were just mainly rehearsing of course to get ready for this tour with a new drummer.”

It seems that you’ve written a lot of new stuff already in regards to the EP… is there any chance of you writing some more on your own for example?
“Yeah, that’s what I plan on doing. At least a few songs, hopefully three or four and just bring them to the band and see what they make out of it, or at least showing it to them and then everyone can give their opinion on them, and then maybe we’ll hone in on like ‘Let’s work on those two, and get that done’, and then vice versa. If Whit has an idea and I’ll put a riff to it, or if I have an idea but no vocal, and he might really love the riff. I mean we did record 13 songs for the EP, but a lot of them weren’t finished. There were a couple that we did actually finish, but we just decided we didn’t like them in the end.”

13 new UKJ songs!! Is there any chance of releasing some as ‘B’ side’s perhaps?
“There is a chance, I guess what we’d actually do is release a demo of a song that actually made the EP. You know, so people can hear a weird old version of it just for fun.

But I don’t think we’d just release something, you know releasing something now, anybody can get at it and you might as well just make sure that it’s something you actually want released. So there’s a handful of songs half done now that could potentially turn into great songs and sometimes you know it’s good to step away from something for a little while and then go back to it… ‘Oh this song’s rad, we just need to go in and change the bridge…’ or whatever.”

Mr. Recordman, Cologne 2012.

There’s a lot of people talking on facebook about the lack of US shows. How come there was never a secret show to start with there?
“We never had the opportunity really. I mean we know a club we can just go to and book it in a second and promote it on the radio, but we were rehearsing for the first tour up in Tahoe and we talked about doing a show up there, and then we said ‘Nah, let’s not do it – let’s just get ready for London and make that our first show’. Why not you know? One of the great cities in the world, and England’s always been pretty good to us so… That was that. Throwing a show is a whole other… I mean we had to concentrate on what was important, which was rehearsing and getting ready for the ensuing tour.”

It seems like you almost have an English base now?
“Well yeah, that all happened because that tour we got. We realized that this was a great tour, great festivals. It’s Dan Devita from TKO booking it…”

…I always imagined Whit on the phone “Hi, is that Download Festival?”…
“He’s been on the phone, he is working on stuff like that… funnily enough it was a friend of Whit’s that sort of got us the first gig which kinda started the whole snowball effect, which was the Sweden Rock Festival. A buddy of his, who I’ve gotten to know a little bit as well, had a friend who worked for the promoter, and just threw our name into the hat. That was one of the first bites, and then Dan Devita got involved, and he just started pushing for it and then we got all those gigs.”

How do you feel in regards to the fans, and the amount turning up at shows?
“It varies of course, I didn’t expect the London to sell out as it did so that was pretty cool. I thought that we’d fill it eventually, but didn’t know it would sell out a couple of months before it happened so that was a good feeling! Especially in London where there’s so much to do and see, and so many bands playing. It’s crazy, it’s like LA.”

And you were competing with Slash that night too…
“Yeah and then we start hearing stuff like that, so it was cool that there were actually people who like us still. I mean, it’s funny seeing young people in the crowd. That’s surprising sometimes. We’re seeing a lot of  groups of young people coming to the shows, so maybe they have older brothers or sisters.. or fathers, who turned them on to us!”

I remember being down the front for the London show, and everyone around me knew the lyrics to every song.
“A lot of those club shows on that first tour were just ridiculous, like how many people knew the lyrics to every single song. I mean Paris and Vienna were crazy!

Tell you the truth, I’m kinda psyched that this current tour is over since I broke my fucking toe the other night. I can still play, it’s no problem, but it’s like every other thing is a pain in the ass…”

How did you break it?
“Well, I was just walking around barefoot and I caught Sonny’s shoe with my toe, and my toe just bent back and it broke.”

So you went to an English hospital? How were the English nurses?
“Yep, and it was all free. But you know what? – they were all dudes I think. There was a lady at the counter, but then all the doctors and X-Ray people were guys. But the cool thing was it was for fucking free! Didn’t charge me one penny! And I didn’t take any ID either. It’s crazy.

Our drummer got his insulin for his diabetes and it didn’t cost him a penny. So yeah, we just took the bus, and it probably cost us more to take the bus than get the actual treatment.”

Klaus thinking of 80s hits… “Ohhhh, Viennnnaaa!”

Well, let’s wrap it up there then. Just one last thing of course. With all these big guys you’ve met, like Lemmy and Rob Halford… You’ve not met AC/DC!
“Correct. But I don’t think anyone meets them really. One day hopefully! I mean whatever opportunity it takes, we’ll take that.

Coolest thing is that when you meet these rockstars, they tend to be really nice. I mean everybody I’ve met, anyone I’ve looked up to, or has in anyway truly influenced me musically, have turned out to be pretty damn nice. Every single one. I can’t recall any true hero of mine that I’ve met, turning out to be a jerk.”

I love the way that UKJ has all these ambassadors within rock, all these great musicians that respect what you do. You’ve always managed to stay in the minds of plenty of people who only have great things to say about the band.
“It’s pretty rad. It’s funny to me sometimes. Like ‘No way, the dude from Motorhead’s gonna jam with us??’ It just sounds wrong.

Duff McKagan said it the best the other day. He was like, ‘Yeah I remember when you guys came out, and you were like this big deal, and everyone knew about you, and you had that hit… But what people don’t know is, that you’re just a HARD, ROCK, band. That’s it, you’re old school hard rock!’

That’s why it works, because our music is basically just hard rock that all evolved from bands like Judas Priest and AC/DC, and they can probably all see that. They can see that we’re influenced from that school, and you know not some prog rock, nu-metal etc. Just hard rock… and a little bit of hip-hop.”

 

Interview and photos: Gary Sutherland © 2012.

 

* Okay, it was Erik D and Paul B. And no, that’s not a hip-hop duo.