With Kid Rock guesting on a few tracks and serving as producer, you'd think Uncle Kracker's debut, Double Wide, would have been shining like the diamonds in his teeth. But it took eight months for the Lynyrd-Skynyrd-meets-hip-hop album to finally take off, thanks to the lazy, countrified ballad "Follow Me"[RealVideo].
Now, 26-year-old Kracker (born Matt Shafer), Kid Rock's DJ and best bud for the past decade, is making a loud noise of his own on an album recorded in the back of the bus on Rock's seemingly endless tour in support of the breakthrough Devil Without a Cause.
As he prepares to hit the road this summer with Sugar Ray, Kracker sat down to rap with Joe D'Angelo about establishing his own voice, impressing the boss and how a guy who started using turntables before he really knew how could spin off into his own success story.
Sonicnet: If Kid Rock's signature tune is "American Bad Ass," what song on Double Wide best represents Uncle Kracker?
Uncle Kracker: "Better Days." I'm a lot more confident these days than I used to be. "Better Days"[RealAudio] suits me best because I'm not that aggressive and I'm not that confident and I'm just that much more laid-back.
Sonicnet: To listen to your second single, "Follow Me," you wouldn't think it's an Uncle Kracker tune.
Kracker: It's definitely different from the whole record. But when we first started recording that song, with us being from Detroit, that song was supposed to be this doo-wop/Motown song something different, because every song's got its own little twist. And this song was supposed to have that, but after we recorded it, I was like, 'Man, that could be something for radio,' so we switched it back.
It takes on a couple of different meanings. I've heard some people think that I'm talking about drugs, or some people think I'm talking about cheating. I guess it's kinda both. I would never want to say anything that would get myself in trouble, being married with a couple of kids. That song is like a dirty picture painted with a pretty brush.
Sonicnet: How does it feel now that the album is finally taking off nine months after it was released?
Kracker: It gives you that kind of "I told you so" feeling, 'cause the last thing you want to see is your record sit on a shelf. You go and you do it, and you work for a record deal, and you [write] a record, and you put it out, and it doesn't sell, and you're kinda like, "What? That's not the way it's supposed to work." So in the end, you're kinda like, "Man, I knew that record was good." ... My record did the same exact thing [as Kid Rock's Devil Without a Cause]. It sat around for that long before it kinda took off. I mean, the odds say it ain't gonna do [as well as Devil Without a Cause], but it's doing well enough. It should be platinum in a day or so, and I couldn't be happier.
Sonicnet: Do you think you're ready to headline big shows on your own?
Kracker: I've always had this plan with Kid Rock. Just being best friends, we sat around for a long time going, 'OK, what we're going to do is take the Kid Rock thing and do this with it, and then we're going to spawn you off and it's gonna be Uncle Kracker this and that.' It kinda didn't take shape as soon as we thought it would have. Now everything's falling into place. We knew going into it that the odds of someone going from a big group and splitting off and doing a solo project [weren't good]. There hasn't been many people that have had success doing it. I'm just happy to have done what we've done with it so far. Only because going into it, the odds weren't looking so sweet. ... I don't know if it was a plan so much as a pipe dream, but it was definitely something that we've always wanted and talked about, and now it's here. Now we're talking about maybe touring together.
Sonicnet: During Kid Rock's tour last summer, there was a portion of the show where you stepped up and performed Uncle Kracker songs.
Kracker: Yeah, and that always felt weird to me. Because we didn't want to shove it down anybody's throats, but at the same time we knew we were gearing up for me to go out by myself. I've been sitting behind him for so long that for me to try and come out and overcome the being in the background thing was kind of a way to do it, too. ... The reception wasn't so bad because I'm in the group, and here I come up front. Some people didn't know how to take it.
What was weird was going up and singing "Follow Me" in front of everybody. Especially this last tour, where it was Buckcherry, Fuel, Kid Rock, and in the middle of this Kid Rock set, here I come, and I'm singing "Follow Me" to all these rock 'n' roll kids. Just to deal with that in your head was like, 'Man, this ain't so good.' But I'll tell you what them kids, they either knew it or they didn't, but they didn't boo, they didn't frown. It helped me a lot to be able to do that, to be able to come out in front of those kids and do what we were doing. They were really good to me.
Sonicnet: When you first met up with Kid Rock, you had no formal musical training and no DJ training at all, right?
Kracker: None. When it came time for me to start doing stuff with him, I was barely 16. In fact, I had just gotten my license probably like a week or two earlier. He calls me up because he had some issues with his DJ something happened and he needed a DJ for a show he was doing. So he put me behind the turntables, and I was there more or less as something for people to look at, because I didn't know what the hell I was doing I just started learning at the shows. And I'd be doing backup vocals. There was even a point where I was doing everything from behind the turntables. I was running samplers and doing the turntables and working the lights and working the fog machines basically everything that you can stick behind the tables, that's what I was doing. So every now and then, during the show, I would hit a little scratch or two and hope that it didn't suck.
Sonicnet: What did you contribute to Devil Without a Cause, and what did Kid Rock contribute to your record?
Kracker: I co-wrote most of the record with him. Kid Rock knows what he wants, and I'll finish a verse or two for a song. He'll start something and work on something else right away. He can put together a song and already know that it's done, even when it's not. I'm like the seal of approval. I'll just sit back and give the nod, like yea or nay, and that's just always how we've worked together. Like, I can say, 'Oh, this would sound better like that,' or 'That sucks,' or 'Do something different.' That's more or less my role in the overall thing, aside from writing a couple of verses here, a hook there and verse here, just helping him finish a line. He contributed to my record what I contributed to his record. I've sat around with him for the past 10 years just making songs. There are literally hundreds of Kid Rock songs that probably won't ever see the light of day. If we didn't do anything in a day, at least we made a song, because neither one of us had jobs. It was just something to do. Now it's sweet because we're doing it for something.