The early ‘90s was a fecund time in hip-hop. Landmark albums like The Chronic, Enter The Wu-Tang and Ready To Die came out only a few years after pop rap singles like “U Can’t Touch This” and “Ice Ice Baby” dominated the music video-driven market.
And then you have an act like House Of Pain.
Coming up at that very same time with a very different angle—thuggish Irish-Americans from Boston with a party-rap single coming off a self-titled hardcore rap album—House Of Pain is dismissed by snarky VH1 commentators as one-hit wonders over “Jump Around,” but that’s a hard charge to stick. Even if one ignores deep album cuts like “Shamrocks & Shenanigans,” their collaboration with Helmet for the Judgment Night soundtrack or the successful sophomore effort Same As It Ever Was, you can point to frontman Everlast’s massively successful solo single “What It’s Like” or DJ Lethal’s involvement in another band of note, Limp Bizkit.
Hypeman and second MC Danny Boy has remained a little under the radar, but all three reunited several years ago along with Slaine and Ill Bill in the rap outfit La Coka Nostra. So, they’ve actually been back together for a while. It was only a matter of time before we saw a House Of Pain “reunion,” but it’s barely a reunion to them. They’ve been united for a long time.
Everlast spoke about the string of shows they’ll be playing (including Atlantic City on St. Patrick’s Day), the reasons for their original dissolution and the changes he’s seen in the music world since he first put out For Everlasting as a solo artist back in 1990.
I guess the best place to start is the reunion itself. Why now?
Me and Danny Boy have been doing our thing with La Coka Nostra for the last three years. So we’ve practically been doing it. We throw in a few House Of Pain songs in the set with that. Last year, St. Patty’s Day, my good friend threw a big private bash in Boston, and we released a sneaker.
It seemed like a cool thing to do. The way I look at it is, this year came around—and people offer gigs all the time—but for some reason around St. Patty’s Day I get to feeling nostalgic, and it offers me the opportunity to revisit the material that I really haven’t done in a long time, because I’m not interested in being one of these dudes on the old school circuit. Hopefully, that’s still a few years away.
I still what I do pretty well. But this offers me and Danny the opportunity to go out, do a couple shows, revisit some old stuff, have some fun. That’s strictly what it’s about for me. This isn’t going to turn into all kinds of House Of Pain shows. I’d hardly even call it a reunion, it’s just we’re going to go out there and knock this material out. We’re bringing the guys from La Coka with us, so it’s going to be a conglomeration of all the material, just probably heavier on the House Of Pain stuff than anything else.
It’s not like you’re doing a world tour.
By no means.
Is Lethal a part of this reunion?
Right now he’s tied up with Bizkit, so DJ Eclipse is going to be holding down the gigs. Limp Bizkit is making a new record apparently right now, and our agreement with Lethal is we’ve never stood in the way. Last year, he had some touring to do when we were out doing La Coka Nostra stuff.
It’s just part of the deal when he comes with the group. We have to understand. He says that if he can make any of the gigs, he’ll fly out for them individually, but I doubt he’ll be at all of them. He’s a Russian guy anyway. (laughs)
I thought he was Latvian?
Same difference to us. We bust his balls all the time. He’s honorary Irish.
I guess it’s almost 20 years, House Of Pain?
I think ‘Jump Around’ came around the end of ’91. We’re probably talking about 18, 19 years coming up, yeah. Almost 20. I personally put my first record out in 1988. It’s already past the 20 year mark for me (laughs).
Are the three of you ever going to release anything as House Of Pain again?
It’s not in my plans, but I don’t plan things on the same note. I will never say never, but right now, in a way, I consider La Coka Nostra House Of Pain on steroids in 2010. So that fulfills that need for me. And I think the hardcore fans of House Of Pain, they’re all there. They’re already on La Coka. It’s just gonna be fun to come out and do some of the songs that we don’t do. We do the bigger songs in La Coka, like ‘Jump Around,’ ‘Shamrocks & Shenanigans,’ maybe ‘Back From The Dead.’ One or two others sometimes. Now we’re going to throw in some of the stuff that I haven’t been playing. Literally, every day I’m here re-learning songs. (laughs). I have to listen to them again.
Has it been that long?
Since I’ve done some of them, absolutely. I don’t listen to my music, period. The records with the band, I play when I’m playing with them. I hear the music all the time. It actually changes the further away from it you get, the more you play it live, it kind of evolves into a different thing.
Are you doing any of your solo stuff?
I’m considering it, but it’s unlikely. Just because there’s going to be a DJ situation. If there’s something I can figure out, a cool way to integrate it without it seeming forced or out of pocket, it’ll happen, otherwise, it probably won’t.
You’re opening for yourself, theoretically.
Kind of. I think there’s going to be a local act, but basically from the time Slaine takes the stage, we’re going to integrate it so [La Coka Nostra] are kind of opening but there’s no set change, really.
I saw KRS-One and Redman do a show once and you thought Redman was going to open for KRS, and you showed up and they actually just went song for song. It was one of the coolest things I ever saw. They came out together, one guy did a song, one guy did a song, one guy did a song. I’m not saying that’s exactly what I’ll do, but that’s what I’m kind of in a process of figuring out now.
When House Of Pain dissolved, there was a general feeling that there were issues with the perception of the group, where the group was, you had some personal issues, discovered Islam. Is a lot of that stuff no longer important?
I just think the fact that we’re different people is more of what it is. Like I said, my first record came out in 1988, and by 1991 or 1992, I had a platinum record. From 17-years-old on, I’ve been in the record business and doing pretty good. So by the time you hit 25 and you got a shitload of money in the bank, you and your three friends, everybody’s like, ‘You can’t tell me shit.’ You just get that young attitude of, ‘Well, fuck you then.’
The money and the business gets in the way of everything. Some cats have spiritual issues, some cats develop drug issues. The reason House Of Pain broke up is we were all unhappy. When I look back on it, I can’t say, ‘This is the moment. This is the straw.’ It was just like, ‘Are y’all as unhappy as I am? Cause I can’t do this anymore.’
You couldn’t have told me I was going to make any more records after that. I was like, ‘Oh man, it’s over.’ Luckily I had some good friends that were like, ‘Dude, let’s make music.’ And the next thing I knew I was working on the Whitey Ford Sings The Blues record. Like I said, I don’t make plans, I just do what I do, and I’ve been very fortunate.
The money. In the early ‘90s and mid-‘90s there was a hell of a lot of opportunity in hip-hop. Now it’s completely different. You’ve got 20 years of experience, but how different is it now as compared to how you saw it?
Actually, it’s kind of the same as it was in the mid-‘80s to a certain degree, as far as the independence of it. Except people were buying records then. It’s a little tougher now; you just have to have good shit. If you take La Coka Nostra for example, that was a project for fun, we did it for fun for close to three years. All we did was release music for free.
The thing I don’t like about it nowadays is I have to be on Twitter and Facebook and a blog and all this. I have to give you more than music now, which is odd to me. It’s part of the biz, if you want to be in the biz, you got to do these things to a certain degree. That’s the thing that makes me sound like an old man. I don’t keep up with that shit the way I should. I’m on it, and I’m there, but it’s just not as important to me. I see the cats who know how to freak that shit and do it well, those are the dudes who really win. I just thank God for publishing and the fact that I can play live, cause that’s where you make your bread now.
What are your plans after the reunion tour?
In April, I think La Coka Nostra are doing a little run in Europe. We hit Russia and a few places I’ve never even been in my life, so I’m excited about that. I’m going out as Everlast in Europe and I’m doing a little festival run of all the summer joints. I’ll be out there about a month. From now until then, I’m in my studio just trying to record another record.
You seem more prolific now than almost ever, if I were to say.
You know, I was a lazy bastard man. I never looked at playing live as anything but a way to promote a record, you know what I mean, for a long time. And when people stopped buying records, I embraced playing live as more of a way to make a living, and just that constant activity of playing live makes you write music more. I realized that as long as I’m doing something, as long as I get a guitar in my hand every day somehow, I’m gonna be writing music.
And it helps that [I’ve got] La Coka and we’re able to do House Of Pain stuff. I’ve scored a show and got nominated for an Emmy a year ago. Things are good man. For not having a hit record on the radio, I’m doing pretty fucking good (laughs).
House Of Pain performs at the House Of Blues in Atlantic City on March 17 and Nokia Theatre in NYC on March 18. houseofpain.com.