Origin: Hawthorne, California
Genre: Alternative rock
Years active: 1980–1997, 2004–present
Born Innocent (1982)
Third Eye (1990)
Show World (1997)
Researching the Blues (2012)
Red Cross (1980)
Teen Babes from Monsanto (1984)
Got LIVE if you must (2008)
A History Lesson Part 1 (2010)
Redd Kross is an American alternative rock band from Hawthorne, California, who had their roots in 1978 in a band called The Tourists, which was begun by brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald while they were still in middle school. With the addition of friends Greg Hetson and John Stielow on drums, the band’s first gig was opening for Black Flag.
At the time of their first self-titled EP, in 1980, the band changed their name to Red Cross, which was allegedly inspired by the masturbation scene in the film, The Exorcist. Ron Reyes became the drummer. Eventually, Hetson left to join the Circle Jerks (and later Bad Religion) and Reyes left for Black Flag. They appeared on the Posh Boy compilation The Siren, and then to complete the lineup on their first full-length album, Born Innocent, they assembled a revolving door of musicians including original drummer John Stielow. Full of the brothers’ pop culture obsessions, Born Innocent featured odes to Linda Blair (who starred in a television movie of the same name), a cover of “Look on Up from the Bottom” by the Carrie Nations from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and Charles Manson (whose song “Cease to Exist” they covered). The album also contains nods to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Tatum O’Neal, and Lita Ford. Not long after the release of the album, the group was threatened with a lawsuit from the International Red Cross and changed their name to Redd Kross, allegedly being inspired by Redd Foxx.
In 1984, Redd Kross returned with drummer Dave Peterson to record Teen Babes from Monsanto, an album featuring songs originally by such artists as Kiss, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and The Shangri-Las.
In 1984, lead guitarist Robert Hecker joined the band, as Redd Kross embarked on tour in support of Teen Babes from Monsanto.
In that same year, they were featured on the soundtrack of Desperate Teenage Lovedolls with their cover of the Brady Bunch Kids’ “It’s a Sunshine Day”. Jeff and Steve appear in the movie, along with Robert in the sequel Lovedolls Superstar which the brothers co-wrote with Dave Markey and Jennifer Schwartz. Both movies are available now on DVD.
In 1985, drummer Roy McDonald (of The Muffs and formerly of The Things, and no relation to the brothers) joined the band.
In 1987, Redd Kross released Neurotica, an album reportedly influenced by Saturday morning cartoons and breakfast cereal (one of the songs was called “Frosted Flake”). Although the album itself was successful, the band’s label, Big Time Records folded. The band continued to tour during these years however, and in 1988, drummer Victor Indrizzo joined the band.
As The Tater Totz, the McDonalds teamed with Pat Fear of White Flag and Michael Quercio from The Three O’Clock and released Alien Sleestaks from Brazil, the title a tribute to the series Land of the Lost. Another cover collection, it included songs originally by Queen and Yoko Ono, and featured a cover of The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face” with lead vocals by guest Danny Bonaduce. The second Tater Totz album, in 1989, included Cherie Currie of The Runaways, and Pat Smear. A third Tater Totz album was released called Tater Comes Alive. A side project, Anarchy 6 had two releases, Hardcore Lives! and a cassette only album Live Like a Suicidal, and was featured in Lovedolls Superstar.
On February 20, 1990, Redd Kross appeared on Episode 2 of the cult Public-access television show “Decoupage” with Summer Caprice.
In 1990, Redd Kross signed with Atlantic Records, releasing Third Eye, and appeared with David Cassidy in the film Spirit of ’76, and issued several singles, including “Annie’s Gone”, which had some mild success on college radio. Former Red Hot Chili Peppers / future Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons joined for the Third Eye tours, and appears in the promotional video for “Annie’s Gone”, which saw some light rotation on MTV. Brian Reitzell succeeded Irons as drummer in the band, and appears in the promotional video for “1976”.
In 1991, Robert Hecker took leave from the band.
The album Phaseshifter was released in 1993, with new band members Eddie Kurdziel, Gere Fennelly, and Brian Reitzell. The videos for “Jimmy’s Fantasy” and “Lady In The Front Row” were both shown on MTV’s 120 Minutes. They toured on Phaseshifter for over a year, headling their own shows as well as tours supporting The Lemonheads and The Spin Doctors in late 1993 and Stone Temple Pilots in 1994. In 1995, Jeff and his wife, Charlotte Caffey (from The Go-Go’s), had a daughter, named Astrid.
In 1997, Redd Kross released Show World, produced by Chris Shaw (who also produced albums for Weezer and Soul Asylum) and toured supporting The Presidents of the United States of America. The band took an indefinite hiatus after the Show World tour, and their future was uncertain after the untimely death of guitarist Eddie Kurdziel on June 6, 1999.
On July 1, 2006, Redd Kross returned to the live stage after almost a decade’s absence. The Neurotica-era line up of Jeff McDonald, Steven McDonald, Robert Hecker and Roy McDonald performed a career-spanning set at the REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater) at Disney Hall in Los Angeles. The band has subsequently gone on to play at the Azkena Festival in Spain, the Detour Festival in Los Angeles, give a performance of their entire first EP in honor of Rodney Bingenheimer’s being awarded a star on Hollywood Boulevard, and a set consisting of the entire Born Innocent album opening for Sonic Youth (who performed Daydream Nation) at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. They toured Spain and England in January, 2007. They have played a number of one-off shows including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. In 2008 they played the Coachella Festival in Coachella, California; ATP vs Pitchfork festival in Sussex, England; and NXNE Festival in Toronto, Ontario. In 2010, Redd Kross headlined the Turbo Rock Festival in Spain. In 2011, they headlined the POP Montreal Festival.
Redd Kross toured Australia as part of the Hoodoo Gurus’ 30th Anniversary on the “Dig It Up” Festival concert series. Jason Shapiro of the band Celebrity Skin played guitar, sitting in for Robert Hecker on these dates.
Their new album, Researching the Blues was released on Merge Records on August 7, 2012. They are also putting out a split and performing with the Melvins on December 31, 2012 on Amphetamine Reptile Records.
The band returned to Australia in March 2013, touring with Dinosaur Jr.
June 2015, their album “Teen Babes From Monsanto” was reissued as a limited edition (250) full length 12″ record; it sold out in 24 hours.
The McDonald brothers collaborated with Charlotte Caffey and Anna Waronker (Steve’s wife, frontwoman of That Dog) on a side project. Performing as Ze Malibu Kids, they released the album Sound It Out in 2002.
Redd Kross songs appear on various on the soundtracks to Good Burger, PCU, Bordello of Blood, An American Werewolf in Paris, and Varsity Blues. They have done one song It’s a Scream for the 2000 film Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday The Thirteenth but no soundtrack or the song was ever released on CD. The song “Uglier” was licensed and used in the film “HITS” by David Cross.