Until last winter, Spacehog â€“ the glam rock band from Leeds, England, with lots of airplay for 1994â€™s "In The Meantime" â€“ hadnâ€™t set foot in Wisconsin in a long, long time.
Then there was that show on a snowy December night at a tiny club in Kenosha. Unless you looked into the crowd of about 50, you wouldnâ€™t know that the band with its huge sound was playing to an empty room. In a spot where other bands could mail it in â€“ one of the acts on the bill even cancelled â€“ Spacehog brought all the energy it had during those Summerfest and Shank Hall shows way back when.
You could tell that 20 years in, these guys still loved their jobs. The smattering of fans who came to Kenosha to see them play appreciated Spacehog now more than ever.
This time around, Spacehog returns to Milwaukee in a larger venue, joining Everclear, Soul Asylum and Eve 6 in the Summerland Tour at State Fair Thursday night night. It's easy to call it a â€˜90s band reunion â€“ and it may be â€“ but listen to Spacehog play, and then ask yourself if this is a band just cashing a paycheck. Pretty sure youâ€™ll come to the same conclusion I did.
We caught up with Spacehog drummer Jonny Cragg from Denver, as his tour moves to the Midwest. He talked about life on the road and whatâ€™s next for a band that did so much more in its four albums that just what you heard on the radio and saw on MTV.
OnMilwaukee.com: Howâ€™s the tour going?
Jonny Cragg: It's going great. It's been a bit of a revelation. We had a slightly tense relationship with the Everclear guys on our first time around.
JC: We were in very different places. (Everclear's) Art (Alexakis)Â was sober and we weren't. We were just young, silly English boys on our first major jaunt around North America. This time around it's very different. Art has been very gracious and benevolent. Not that he wasn't before, but I just think we're more aligned, because of our respective trajectories, with our respective fans. We've really come together on this one, and the other two bands have been absolutely marvelous. The sense camaraderie has been pretty brilliant, actually.
OMC: Did you tour with them the first time around, or is this the first time you've toured with them?
JC: We did the first ever Spacehog tour with Everclear, Tracy Bonham and the band called Seven Year Bitch.
OMC: That was 20 years ago. You're in a different place than you were. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about then and now?
JC: There's a lot of parents on the tour. A lot of the guys have got kids. But they're just earnestly plying their trade. We're just trying to reach people and play good music. It feels good. But yes, thereâ€™s a certain amount of reflection. And there's a certain amount of looking forwards and trying to explore possibilities in this new paradigm that we're staring down the barrel of.
OMC: Last time we saw you, it was a cold snowy night in Kenosha, and it was a crappy venue. And there were very few people there, it wasn't promoted. At the same time you guys put on a show as if you were playing to Wembley stadium or something. It was one of the most impressive rock and roll shows I've ever seen, because you didn't mail it in. It was like every other Spacehog show. Would you say that's what defines you guys as a band, that you give it your all every single time?
JC: There's a lot of commitment to a live show, sure, because I get very annoyed with bands that aren't committed. You don't have to jump around to be committed, but we do try to jump around as well. Committed to the fidelity of the music and the records, and committed to just giving it that little bit of extra something. Not totally improvised, but just a little bit of added excitement playing the shows in front of a bunch of people.
OMC: As you guys have been on the road longer, are things trending in the right direction? Are more people showing up at the shows?
JC: It's hard to tell when you're on a four-band bill, because different people are coming to see different bands. Of course they have an interest in everything else, or the package as a whole, but the truth is we're reaching more people doing it this way. We're very happy to be part of it.
OMC: Have you guys been writing new music along the tour?
JC: We haven't, if I'm honest. We do have some works in progress. We did record a song when we were in L.A. It's a song that we open the set with, not to give to much away, but we do a cover of Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays." It's a very resonant song both lyrically and musically. Because of the subject (a 1979 California school shooting), because we're parents, and because we see all this horrible gun crime in the U.S. in particular, in the schools. We're worried, as parents, that that's setting a horrible precedent.
OMC: It took a very long time for the last Spacehog album to come out, but it finally did. Are you guys going to continue to record as a band? Or have you turned into a touring act?
JC: That's the thing that we're talking about as a consequence of being together doing this tour. Obviously it took an enormous amount of resources, energy and juice creatively, spiritually, financially and otherwise, to make "As It Is on Earth."
When you look at the numbers, we're not in bad shape, but we're not selling anything like the same amount of records that we did back in the day. It begs the question: is our time best spent laboring, crowdsourcing and getting money together to make another album, or would it be better spent doing songs consistently and continually having content via social media? I'm not really sure what the answer is. I'd love to make another record, but the truth of it is that the infrastructure's just not there in the same way to support us doing that.
OMC: Anything else interesting going on in your life, personally?
JC: I just moved to Seattle. I'm exploring a new region. That's excellent for me, personally.
OMC: Are you happy? Are you having fun?
JC: Yeah. Brilliant.
OMC: Are you guys getting along? Are things smooth in Spacehog land?
JC: Yeah, we're loving it. The life blood of any rock band is the live show. We have a new guitar player calledÂ Derrek Hawkins, who's been marvelous.
OMC: He's excellent.
JC: Yeah, he's a wonderful addition. We're very happy.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published Aug. 19, 2015
An unseasonably cool and windy August night didn't stop NEWaukee's Night Market from heating up Wednesday evening. Rather, the crowd bundled up and took in the local vendors, food trucks, dancers and marshmallow making.
Published Aug. 13, 2015
Laura Langemo doesn't take herself too seriously. In fact, the FOX 6 Wakeup News reporter says her goal is to make viewers laugh a little while going through their morning routine, and to that extent, she's willing to try just about anything for a great story.
Published Aug. 12, 2015
The Wisconsin State Fair is great on so many levels, but as an infomercial enthusiast (read: sucker), I have a particular fondness for the zillions of oddball products sold in the Exposition Center. I could spend all day browsing and watching the pitchmen do their thing.
Published Aug. 11, 2015
I was afraid Wisconsin State Fair might sell some "Stars and Bars" stuff this year, but my concerns have been put to rest: according to Kristi Chuckel, Communications and Marketing Manager, you won't find any Confederate flag merch at the fair.
Published July 29, 2015
If you've never heard of floating and sensory deprivation tanks, let us answer this question for you: it's not a form of torture. Rather, some consider it the ultimate form of relaxation, injury recovery and meditation, and it's coming to Milwaukee very soon.
Published July 28, 2015
When you've visited the same place well over 20 times, sometimes you have to look at it a different way. Whether that means taking a bird's eye view from the treetops, or a fisheye perspective from just a atop the water, Wisconsin's crowing jewel that is Door County still looks spectacular from any angle. Even if it's one you have bend a little to see just right.
Published July 15, 2015
Though Liz Lincoln, who writes under the nom de plume of Eliza Madison, just published her first erotic novella, the Milwaukee writer isn't new to penning books about romance. "I've been writing romance forever, really," says Lincoln, who debuted "Fast, Fresh & Hot" this summer on Amazon. " I wrote romance stories when I was in middle school."
Published July 12, 2015
A decade ago, I took a spin around the Milwaukee Mile in a special two-seat IndyCar. I did it again this morning, and it was even better.
Published July 8, 2015
While I only passively care about what happens on the court, I nonetheless passionately, urgently and desperately request Milwaukee and Wisconsin to get its act together and build the Bucks a new arena before it's too late. Just like I preached in the mid '90s when the Brewers were semi-genuinely eying Charlotte as their new home, I'll say it again: Build it now.
Published July 3, 2015
It's a long-standing tradition at Summerfest - and at plenty of other festivals - to use radio station DJs to introduce a headlining band. It may seem like a five-minute formality, but as usual, there's a back story to most of what the public sees while standing on the Summerfest bleachers.