Music

Urge is in our area!

Flamboyant ’90s rockers Urge Overkill dust off
the medallions
for reunion tour

It’s been almost 10 years since the over-the-top pop-rock group Urge
Overkill parted ways at the end of their Exit the Dragon tour in 1995. But a
few years ago National “Nash” Kato and Ed “King”
Roeser, who founded the Chicago-based group in 1985, decided their chemistry
was worth reviving. “I had no doubt that Nash and I could still work
together on an artistic level as long as the sort of personal stuff was out
of the way,” Roeser says. “That’s just sort of run its
course. I just didn’t even feel it anymore and now we get along great.
There are a lot of great musicians out there, but often, unless you meet
somebody else, one or two people with whom you can get some chemistry going,
it just sort of never happens for you.” As for drummer Blackie
Onassis… well, that’s another story. When he joined the group in the
early ’90s, he brought with him a funked-up style of drumming and a
penchant for flashy fashions that raised the indie band to new heights of
popularity—until it all fell apart in a messy split fueled by
in-fighting, personality conflicts and drug abuse. “We just thought,
overall this has a much better chance of surviving and thriving if we just
stick to how it started out,” Roeser says. Instead, Kato and Roeser
recruited drummer Nate Arling from Last Vegas and Gaza Strippers guitarist
Mike Hodgkiss to play bass for the new lineup. But the real challenge for
Kato and Roeser may be recapturing the band’s flamboyant heyday. At the
height of their fame, the group was notorious for driving around town in
convertibles, drinking champagne and martinis while modelling their stylish
suits, crazy shades and signature Urge medallions. Even with the grunge era
in full swing, the band’s trippy, heavy-ended pop songs about TV shows
and mind-altered realities found an eager audience. After the success of
their 1991 album The Supersonic Storybook, they were rewarded with the
opening slot for Nirvana’s Nevermind tour, and when Quentin Tarantino
gave their cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman
Soon” (which originally appeared on their 1992 EP Stull) a high-profile
slot on the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction, they seemed poised to hit the
stratosphere. Ditching the indie label Touch and Go Records, which had
carried their first three full-length albums, Urge Overkill signed with
Geffen Records and released Saturation in 1993. The upbeat record was Urge
Overkill’s most successful release, but it came with a hefty price tag
as the pressures of success and squabbles among the band members put the
band’s future in jeopardy. Their final album, Exit the Dragon, exposed
the darkness that was taking over the band. Roeser quit the following year.
Roeser and Kato made attempts at solo careers, but neither met with the
success they had enjoyed as a team. Roeser insists their decision to revive
Urge Overkill isn’t about making a few bucks or capitalizing on their
past reputation. They’re testing the waters, exploring fresh musical
directions (along with new approaches to their old material) with their
revamped lineup and if everything goes smoothly, there’s a good chance
a new Urge Overkill record will be released before the year is through. V
Urge Overkill With Last Vegas • New City Likwid Lounge • Wed, May 5

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