Q&A: Steven McDonald
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Steven McDonald has been recording music since he was a kid, having co-founded the LA-based band, Redd Kross, with his brother, some 40 years ago. He's been playing bass in the hardcore-punk supergroup OFF! since 2009, as well as playing bass in the Melvins since 2015. Here he talks about what it was like opening for Black Flag at the age of 12; why he got into music in the first place; and gives us his recipe for "KISS Chicken."
You started Redd Kross with your brother, Jeff, when you were still kids — what made you guys do that?
Obsession made us do it. We were ingesting large amounts of the '60s and 70’s popular culture, so by the time ‘78 rolled around, it was time for us to turn around and vomit back at the world that had fed us so relentlessly. That, mixed with the golden era of rock n roll ‘68 to ‘73 that we had just lived through, created a perfect storm of obsession that propelled us.
As Redd Kross, you started opening for Black Flag, right? What was it like being so young opening for Black Flag?
Bizarre and thrilling. I was 12; they were twice my age, still unknown but very aggressive, noisy, and powerful. We got to do all of our first shows with them, and it was some of their first shows too!!
In a previous Q&A for Hüsker Foöd, your OFF! bandmate, Keith Morris, claimed that you have the worst eating habits in the band, mirroring those of your son. Would you like to respond to that?
I’m not exactly sure what Keith is referencing, but I would have to guess my sweet-tooth that sometimes rears its head on tour. I’ve been known to polish off whole bags of gummies and licorice whips. But Alfie mostly eats like a model -- grilled chicken, cucumbers, and Nutella. .... so yeah, maybe I do eat a lot like Alfie.
Does your son eat real food yet? My 4 and 6 y.o. boys seemingly only enjoy PB&J or ramen, and it hurts my soul. It legit makes me really, really sad.
Alfie is 9 and has a very restricted palette. He’s super picky, and yes, it’s painful! Strangely though, he’s obsessed with cooking shows.... so I’m hoping that might be a gateway to more culinary adventures.
Who has the shittiest diet in the Melvins?
Buzz is a super whole foods guy. Dale is too, but he’s way more likely to trash it up with me. I think I just missed their junk food years.
I've heard that King Buzzo is a big baseball fan. Does he force the Melvins crew to take in ball games when possible? Is he more of a nacho or big soft pretzel kind of guy? Do you have any favorite sporting event junk foods?
Dale is always first to initiate a ball game plan. Even if it means we have to leave the hotel on a rare day off at 7 am. So yeah, in that sense, the word “force” would be applicable even though everyone except maybe Walsby enjoys a ball game.
Buzz will rarely go. He doesn’t like to mix business with pleasure for some sagely reason I don’t understand.
Some kind of dog or sausage situation paired with a nice amber Ale is my happy place at a game.
There was an article floating around a while back that claimed bass players were, scientifically, THE most important musicians in a band. Would you agree?
No... well, I guess I need to see the numbers and flow charts to get down with that science. ;) But all bands are different. I would say, though with my favorite band, the Beatles, the bass is usually my favorite part of the instrument track, but even then, the singing is still my favorite part. And then, of course, the songs are always the most important part putting the fucking writers at the top of the totem pole. ;)
Is there an artist, or band, that you never got a chance to see but wish you had?
The Beatles, Queen, and yes, I never saw Bowie (I'm ashamed of that).
Do you cook? If so, any specialties?
I do. I’m the grill master of the house, and I’m pretty good with salads as well.
I make a lot of what we call “Kiss Chicken” on the grill for Alfie.
- Chicken cutlets
- Ken's Bbq sauce
- Grill that shit and baste a little.
Ken's is the bbq sauce they use at Rock N Brews (Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons’ chain of sports bars).
Picky Alfie loved his chicken when we ate there once. I asked for the bbq sauce recipe, and the waitress told me, “I think it’s from Costco... it’s called Kens”. Kiss Chicken was born.
Did you have a favorite meal growing up?
My mom's chili is really good, and she made a good lasagne too. She’s from rural Indiana, so we also had a lot of shake and bake, which I loved, and salad was, of course, a chopped head of iceberg slathered in Mayo. My salads are the opposite now.
Was there one record where, upon hearing it, you realized you wanted to make music?
Maybe the first runaways album, kiss alive, and the first 4 Ramones albums.
Any favorite eateries in the LA area? I’m hoping to make it out there for the “Watermelon” premiere shoot, so I’ll need some recommendations.
I always draw a blank on this, but we have pretty great Mexican food of many different levels of authenticity and style. I’d make that hunt the main objective.
Would you want your son following you into the family business? I’m a truck driver by trade, and if my kiddos become truckers, I’ll be incredibly sad.
Well, he seems super committed to sports though he doesn’t play on a team yet. So we’ll see with that.
If he plays music, I will encourage him to write and sing asap. He seems to have a natural thing with singing. But yeah, the road thing... I hear you; it’s tough. And yeah, I’d prefer he found a way to be passionate about something that put him in the driver's seat (metaphorically speaking) as much as possible.
You’re also a producer, having worked with bands like fun. — which job do you prefer; a musician or producer?
It all depends on the project. The balancing act seems pretty healthy, though. The studio is great cuz it’s at home, but the stage is where I can be weird, and approval is more readily available. So I guess I kind of need both for now.
I’m based in Cincinnati and am curious if you have ever been, and if so if you have ever tried our famous “chili?”
I haven’t been to Cincinnati since the '90s. I can’t remember.
But as I mentioned earlier, my mom is from Indiana and always made fantastic chili... so maybe I grew up on something very similar?
For Redd Kross tour dates, go here!
For OFF! tour dates, go here!
For Melvins tour dates, go here!
AND, to support OFF!'s film, "Watermelon: The Movie," go here!