Whitfield Crane’s scene is a creative minefield of radness. The Ugly Kid Joe frontman’s scene is still as incessant as it was when he answered this question two years ago: “My scene is a lot of movement, a lot of travelling, a backpack, a credit card, a passport, an accountant, no responsibilities, no debt, fun, hedonism, music, surf, sand, snowboard and adventure.” Presently, tennis and orchestras are at the forefront of his scene. In particular, Australian tennis legend Pat Cash, and Crane’s very own Orchestra of Doom.
Travelling, touring and creating come easy to the unassuming Crane. Musicians and creatives are drawn to him, no matter the genre. The Orchestra of Doom concept came about whilst Crane was living in Verona for a short stint. Shakespearean play it was not but it did have a sense of romanticism and chance encounters that accompany the Elizabethan theatrical style and era. Crane states: “I don’t really live anywhere. I have a backpack and a credit card and an accountant and a passport and I keep on ending up different places. And then, in that storyline I ended up in Verona, Italy, and I made friends with all the orchestral players and then we manifested Orchestra of Doom.” The choice of songs was joint and intuitive. Crane continues: “We just sat there at a bar in Verona, with the conductor. He’s like, ‘What do you really want to do?’ I had this idea and we both agreed that it should be all analogue, which I think is, ambitious. We just tried to spin out songs and, he’s a Sabbath Fan and we went for the obvious solo stuff, Diary of a Mad Man and Blizzard of Ozz, we picked, you know, Revelation (Mother Earth), we picked Mr Crowley. We picked the song Diary of a Madman, which is so incredible. So we kind of shifted through old school Sabbath songs and a couple of Ugly Kid Joe songs and some Richards/Crane. It wasn’t that intense in the sense of really pushing that envelope because anything you’d pick from Sabbath or Ozzy would be totally applicable in this particular musical discipline. It just would work, but the shit we picked is killer. It’s exciting. It’s a little scary, it’s a 35 piece orchestra. It’s no amps of any sort. It’s no bass tabs. It’s all analogue and it’s a transposed by this dude Andrea Battistoni – he’s probably the most hot shit conductor in the world today. And it sounds killer, it sounds special.”
Crane and Ozzy Osbourne have been friends for years. There is no “hustle” in this, no “cash grab” for Crane. It is paying respect and homage. “I’m not trying to get anywhere. It’s more like, you know, I just love, I love these bands that I love this process and it makes me feel good as an artist and those that, you know, they’re, they’re a really interesting family and a beautiful family. So, you know, I’m pretty sure they dig it.” The Osbournes know this.
In fact, Sharon sent Crane a good luck gift before the first show. Crane states: “She’s the boss. She digs it. She sent me a big box of Sabbath gear in Verona. And all of Ozzy’s things that he needs to get ready for the show. So inside, it was like, stuff that Ozzy’s uses, Ozzy’s special honey, his cologne, and a bunch of cool staff and then a handwritten note from Ozzy signed by the whole family. So I think it made everyone feel good.”
This occurred before the Orchestra of Doom had performed. Crane explains: “Ozzy’s my hero and he’s my friend. Those things are true. He’s mainly that guy who moved me my whole life. He’s almost like a really funny father figure to be honest. Crazy to say, but very true. I saw him perform in the Ancient Arena in June in Verona, like the ancient arena where people were fed to lions – I told him about that process, that we hadn’t done it yet. And then we did it and I had some proof of it. I found myself in Northern California and Sabbath was playing. And I went and saw Sabbath and hung out with Ozzy before the show and I showed him some of it and it freaked him out and he loved it. He was like, Holy Shit. As he listened, it made him feel and he felt loved because … what it comes down to is we love the people that turned us onto music. So this is like an extension of that. At the end of the day, people are people, it doesn’t matter if you’re Elton John or Ozzy Osborne or you know, Barack Obama, at the end of the day past your huge, huge fame or importance in the world, you’re just a human being, everyone’s mortal. So I’m pretty sure though I’m not him. I watched him watch it and freak out. I think it made him feel good. That’s the main thing. He’s made me feel good my whole life. So it was, it felt good for me, micro or macro, to make him feel good, and as a cool experience for me and for him.”
Australian audiences are in for a treat, with special guest performers still secret, Crane states: “It’s all on the down low and on the back burner. It is really about celebrating Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Ugly Kid Joe and Richards/Crane through a 35-piece orchestra. It will be special.” He continues: “We’re going to fly seven key members in from Europe. They will be the core and then we outsource the orchestra of each town. If we can get Andrea Battistoni here, we’re going to do it. He’s a busy cat. Either way, we’ll get one of the greatest. The thing is that there is like a whole brood of those guys. So the worst case scenario we’ll get his lieutenant,” Crane laughs, “but no, I’m still in talks with getting him over here. He’s a special guy.”
As for Australian tennis legend Pat Cash’s involvement, Crane remembers how their friendship started: “I guess he came to an Ugly Kid Joe show in 1992 at Brixton Academy in London. I don’t remember that. That was a very toxic time for my young rock and roll frame. I love tennis and I love sport in general and I was like, ‘fuck, I really want to see the Australian Open’. How’s that for a mission? Cause I was gonna be in Australia. I was like, how can I do that? Should I buy a ticket? What should I do? And my friend, this guy named Erich. He was a Stanford professor or some super genius, said ‘Why don’t you email Pat Cash?” And I go, ‘that’s a great idea, if I had his email’ and he said, ‘I’ve got Pat Cash’s email’. So I email him, you know, ‘Dude, what’s up? My name’s Whit, I sing in this band, I want to go see tennis”. He got right back to me and he’s like, ‘Come check it out’. And from then we became great friends. And from that I’ve gone on to see, French Open, I saw Wimbledon this year, which was awesome. I saw Serena and I saw Nadal play Wimbledon. How cool is that? It’s just that we are both are super big, heavy metal fans, rock and roll fans. I mean, he has a rose tattoo on him. We both love heavy metal music, rock and roll music. We both grew up with Judas Priest and Sabbath and all that. So, I’m pretty sure I’m getting it right – he was listening to a walkman before he won Wimbledon and I’m pretty sure he was listening to Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath on a freaking walkman a lot. So that’s something I would do if I was the tennis god. We see eye to eye on music and he’s a great, conversationalist, he’s a spiritual dude. So we just like each other. He’s got a really great girlfriend from Ireland, Catherine. Good diamond. And of course I love tennis, so I go to the tennis. I mean, I’ve loved tennis all my life. So, yeah, it’s just, you know, you make friends with people, some people you connect with and some people you don’t. So I feel connected with Pat Cash, your friendly neighbourhood tennis legend.”
Crane also played a spot of tennis with Cash. He states: “ We played at Queen’s Court, which has the greatest grass courts in the world, and it’s right next to Wimbledon basically. We went there with some friends. One of the friends I brought was Arya. He’s a drummer for Skindred and we went there and you have to dress all in white. And I told Cash, I told Cash ‘I’m not going to the store and buying all that white crap’. He bought all the outfits including shoes and socks, I still have the socks right now, the tennis socks are amazing. They actually are. I had no idea how different socks could be, like I wear these now, I left there with these tennis socks, they’re so rad.”
Crane continues: “So anyways, we played there, it was a really hot day and I’m hung over and he’s like ‘Look we came to play’, you know, cause he’s a proper tennis pirate. And he said ‘All right. Are you ready?’ And I’m all, yeah, what do you mean? He goes, ‘Go stand on the grass court and get ready. And I’m going with it and I think I’ve pretty good trajectory, depth perception. I really do. I think I, you know, even though I’m older now, I think I’m still somewhere in there an athlete. And he goes, all right, and he points and says ‘Put your foot up there’, And I put it like that. And he goes, “I’m gonna serve it right there; exactly there’. We’re talking about a proper tennis court graph. And he goes, he was only giving me 45 – 50% of what he could do. And it was like Zeus’s lightning bolt. And I was like, ‘what?’ And he’s like, ‘Try it again’. And so I backed up and I knew where he’s going, I mean, he was literally was showing e with his hand, and saying it was going to be right there. I went and touched my foot again, got back, really concentrated and couldn’t return it … and he wasn’t trying. The athleticism of those players is really impressive. And I think sport is so evolved that it helps with war, with the world, because at the end of that sporting event, you’d hope that you’re shaking hands. Being at Queen’s Court that day and getting smoked by Pat Cash is my athletic dream.”
Whitfield Crane Orchestra of Doom Australian dates
3RD December MELBOUNRE Palais Theatre
7TH December SYDNEY Darling Harbour Theatre