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Urge Overkill - Interview

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 13 / 6 / 2004

Urge Overkill - Interview


Urge Overkill are best known for their cover of Neil Diamond's 'Girl You Will Be A Woman Soon’ on the 'Pulp Fiction' soundtrack, but have another five albums to their credit. Singer Eddie Roeser speaks to Olga Sladeckova about his band's long history

All good bands have their moments. When their music has potential and the timing is right they can become worldwide known literally overnight. For the Chicago-based band Urge Overkill that time was right in 1994 and the moment people all around the world will always remember them for is with : “Girl, you will be a woman… soon I love you so much, can’t count all the way I’ve died for you girl and all they can say is “He’s not your kind”… The Neil Diamond cover that Urge Overkill released in 1994 appeared in the Quentin Tarantino film, 'Pulp Fiction', and was played all around the world. This, however, has just beenone moment in the band's nearly 20 year history. By that moment Urge Overkill had a huge following in their hometown and in many parts of the United States. They had by then also released 4 albums : 'Jesus Urge Superstar’ (1989), ‘Americruiser’ (1990), ‘The Supersonic Storybook’ (1991) and ‘Saturation’ (1993). Most of Urge Overkill's recordings came out on the Chicago based label Touch & Go. As for the band’s music style, it’s a matter of which song you are just listening to. The band are known for their very variable repertoire which circles somewhere between rock, punk rock through more soft sounds and even to soul. To the credit of the band, though, all of their songs have a genuine quality Urge Overkill were formed in 1985 by Nash Kato (vocals & guitar) and Eddie “King” Roeser (vocals & bass) with the addition of drummer Pat Byrne. Nash was studying at Chicago University when Eddie moved into town. “I believe Nash was studying art.” recalls Eddie talking to Pennyblackmusic over the phone from Chicago. “He is a very talented cartoonist. I had just arrived in the town and I didn’t have anyone to play with. I saw Nash playing with another local band, but they were going to break up and he was considering quitting music and become a cartoonist full time.” Meeting Eddie, however, turn Nash’s plans completely upside down and instead of quitting music he quit art and got deeper into music. “We started playing at a basement of a school we used to go to in Chicago” continues Eddie. “Nash had dropped out by then. Originally he was going to do more art work which is probably what he would have done if he didn’t run into me” he adds with a laugh. The name ‘Urge Overkill’, as you might have already guessed, was inspired by a Parliament song (Detroit Psychedelic Soul band from the 70’s-OS), ‘Funkentelechy’, which from their ‘Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome’ album (1977). “Mood control is designed to render funkable Ideas brought to you by the makers of Mr. Prolong Better known as Urge Overkill The pimping of the Pleasure Principle” “We have run into George Clinton once in the past.” laughs Eddie. “And got a big kick out of that. I haven’t listened to the album for quite a while.” A year later after their formation, Urge Overkill putout their first release ‘Strange, I…’ , an EP on Ruthless Records. Shrieking guitars, pounding drums and howling vocals introduced the band to the music world. The raw and natural sound was stressed even more by a Steve Albini production. Albini was actually Nash’s friend and roommate. “Nash and Steve had been together for some time when I met them” recalls Eddie. “We were the first band that he ever recorded aside of his own band. He is an idealist in recording technique and is really good at capturing a band’s live sound.” It took another 3 years for the band to put out their first album ‘Jesus Urge Superstar’ this time on Touch & Go. The drums for this album were done by Kriss Bataille. The album was produced by Butch Vig who later went on to produce Nirvana's accclaimed album ‘Never Mind’, and to form Garbage. “At the time I had become interested in a hard rock sound but with some catchy parts and pushing the singing up” explains Eddie. “Butch Vig produced also our second album ‘Americruise’ and this was around the time when Nirvana were hoping to be on Touch & Go. Finally Sub Pop, who were in their local area Seattle, ended up putting out the first Nirvana album ‘Bleach’. Sub Pop were going to put out the second album but then the major label Geffen became interested.” For ‘Americruse’ the band used another new drummer, Jack ‘Jaguar’ Watt. The Touch & Go connection resulted in Urge Overkill touring around US and Europe with Nirvana in 1991. Urge Overkill by this stage had just put out their third album ‘Supersonic Storybook’. Once again they were also joined by another new drummer, Blackie Onassis, who then stayed with the band until the very end. “That was a great time for all of us” recollects Eddie. “I probably saw Nirvana playing as much as anyone ever did by playing with them. We were in Rome when their record, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', hit no. 1 speeding out Michael Jackson. That was a great turning point for rock n’ roll and punk rock.” By touring with Nirvana the band had a great chance to get to know them more in private surroundings. “Kurt was pretty sick all the time and it was hard for him to tour” reflects Eddie sympathetically. “But I think at this point it wasn’t a global thing. He wasn't THIS big junkie. It was nothing like that but Kurt did have troubles on the road. He had mood swings and things like that. He would be incredibly happy or withdrawn. They were certainly the greatest live band I’ve ever toured with.” In 1992 Urge Overkill came up with ‘Stull’ , anEP which featured the Neil Diamond song ‘Girl You Will Be A Woman Soon’ but we shall get back to this later… and in 1993 released their fourth album ‘Saturation’. ‘Saturation’ is probably the most popular Urge Overkill album, at least according to their fans. Every one of its twelve songs has been described as a killer. “I think is the most known and certainly most realized album” Eddie says, looking back on it. “I guess we got a little tired of playing it so much live but people say it was the best one. It was put together in a more artificial way. I think ‘Stull’ would be my favourite. It was very improvised and we spent very little time on it but I prefer it that way.” “’Stull’ is a fairly low fi recording” continues Eddie. “It’s much different compared to what we were known for ,meaning more straight ahead and energetic type of rock. ‘Girl You Will Be A Woman Soon’ ended up probably our biggest song internationally after Quentin Tarantino picked it up for 'Pulp Fiction' We had hoped we would be known for a song that we had written but that was not to be. You can’t choose those things.” It wasn’t by chance, though, that the band came across the original Diamond song. “We were fans of Neil’s songwriting and his persona” explains Eddie. “We found a record of his named ‘Velvet Glow and Spit’. We weren’t really aware that that song had been a minor hit and thought that was just a really bizarre song. Our version is very different compared to the original.” “I had about 5 songs which I was flipping” said Quentin Tarantino lateri n an interview featured on the 'Pulp Fiction' soundtrack explaining how he decided to chose the track for his film. “And then I playedthe Urge Overkill ‘Stull’ EP and ‘Girl You Will Be A Women Soon’ was the first one on it. People who knew Urge Overkill were saying that the band have always liked Neil Diamond. Wel,l I’ve always loved Neil Diamond and I loved this song and their version of it is even better! From the first moment that I played it I knew this was it without a doubt. I thought it was the perfect song to dance to.” The song ‘Girl You Will Be A Women Soon’ appears half way through the film while Mia (played by Uma Thurman) dances to it. It’s one of the most popular scenes in 'Pulp Fiction'. While Urge Overkill were already very popular in US, Pulp Fiction spread their popularity worldwide. It also seemed to be the perfect timing for the band’s upcoming 5th album ‘Exit the Dragon’ which was due to come out in 1994. Unfortunately it was delayed till 1995, greeted with mixed reviews and received little airplay. Nash and Eddie’s musical relationship at the time had become tense which resulted in Eddie’s departure from the band. “Our parting was a long drawn out thing.” Eddie says, reflecting on the band’s split up. “I was pretty much the one who decided that the band had to shut down. I saw the direction it was evolving in. We would have gone on and made a bad record which would not have been Urge Overkill record –half of the songs would have been mine and half Nash’s. It wouldn’t have sounded like Urge Overkill. I don’t think it would have held up to our other albums. At this point we were proud of all the records that we made as a team. It would have been a financial decision. Maybe we would have done well but I didn’t think our hearts were in it.” After Eddie left, Nash and Blackie attempted to keep things going but it was not to happen. They replaced Eddie with Nils St. Cyr and were hoping to put another album out on 550 Music. Unfortunately the label pulled out. Shortly after that Urge Overkill disbanded. While Eddie and Nash couldn’t work on Urge Overkill anymore they still wanted to be making music. Nash went solo and released his debut album ‘Debutante’ in 2000. Eddie formed Electric Airlanes with his brother John and recorded a few songs for an album but that never got officially released. Eddie also started another group called Lime with former Jesus Lizard drummer Jim Kimball. Unfortunately that didn’t last long either. Aafter a few years the musicians began, however, to miss Urge Overkill and the way they used to make music as a team. “It’s not often that you find yourself in partnership that has a lot of chemistry” explains Eddie. “A lot of bands suffer from not enough chemistry .Nash and I seem to come up with the best material when we write together and it took us some time to realize that. Also we missed playing the old songs.” “Also, at least locally, we got a lot of support. A lot of people were asking us “Why…” Well, it wasn’t even why but “When are you guys going to get back together again?” “Urge Overkill came really naturally and when we went out on our own it seemed really forced and playing wasn’t as good. We both are willing to admit that ,but I think it was something we both needed to do. It was quite a long break. Had I known it was going to be so enjoyable I think we would have started up a few years ago but things are really going well between us and I wouldn’t want to change that because it has been fun and who knows what it would be like if we were together earlier.” Since Urge Overkill reformed the demand for their live appearances has been insatiable. They have played in their hometown many times and also have the toured the States. In September they will be touring Europe playing in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, England, Italy, Denmark and many more countries. “In many of those cities that we played recently we have probably played our best shows ever” ponders Eddie. “I think our songs are very difficult to perform at our best and we used to stay up very late and I remember some shows… Put it this way there were shows that I barely remembered.” he laughs. “I’m sure Nash would say the same but now there is much less of that going on.” “We have been playing so much that we haven’t really had time to write new stuff” admits Eddie. “It’s always good to have something out before you tour too much. I think this is the last touring we are going to do until we have some new songs that people can get hold of.” The tour should be over late this year. It will be interesting to see what will the reformed Urge Overkill sound like. “We are trying to stick with the similar formula of writing like we used to” Eddie reveals. “It will be tragic rock with more soul. I think we have more soul type emotion. It’s hard to say. We have just finished couple of songs though. I think our material is fairly dark and tragic.” After about a year after reforming, Urge Overkill seem to have the full support of their old fans back and sound as good as ever. “The music scene has changed a lot over the time” concludes Eddie. “Bands like the Hives or White Stripes who play sort of heavy rock are so popular now and that’s what we have been doing the whole time in a way. So it’s like “Finally!” To be fair a lot of people who come to see us in US, they have been following us for a long time.” “Urge Overkill are back!”. I have nothing more to add…

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Urge Overkill - Interview

Urge Overkill - Interview

Urge Overkill - Interview

Urge Overkill - Interview

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Stull (2004)
Urge Overkill - Stull
Urge Overkill will always be best known for their cover of Neil Diamond's ‘Girl You Will Be A Woman Soon’, but Olga Sladeckova, examining their 1992 mini album 'Stull', finds they are a much more diverse band than often accounted for

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