Everlast talks House of Pain's reunion, Irish-American culture and playing 'Jump Around' live
A funny thing happened since House of Pain went away: Irish thug life blew up.
Boondock Saints. Mystic River. The Departed. The Town. The Fighter. Everywhere you looked this past decade, there was a film, book or TV show about the hardscrabble street life of Irish Catholic hoods.
“Did House of Pain have any effect on that? I don’t know,” says Everlast, the rapper, singer and driving force behind America’s defining Celtic hip-hop group. “My ego would like to think that. For me to make that bold statement, I’d probably feel a little bit like an asshole. But somewhere along the line, I’m sure that’s one of the ingredients in the pie.”
Though they hail not from Boston, but Los Angeles, not Boston, House of Pain still managed to leave their stamp on Irish-American culture, thanks to the ubiquitous hit Jump Around, not to mention jig-worthy jams like Top O’ The Morning to Ya and Shamrocks and Shenanigans. The group managed to survive the white-rap chasm between Vanilla Ice and Eminem with street cred intact.
After House of Pain broke up in 1996, members went their separate ways. Everlast enjoyed huge solo success with hits like What It’s Like and Ends. DJ Lethal joined Limp Bizkit. Hypeman Danny Boy worked on a few projects, but mostly laid low.
But in recent years, House of Pain started reuniting for the occasional one-off gig. And last fall, after reuniting for KROQ’s Epicenter Festival in Los Angeles, Everlast, Lethal and Danny Boy decided it was time for a full-scale tour. On Saturday, House of Pain’s first national tour since 1996 will hit the State Theatre in St. Petersburg.
Shortly before St. Patrick’s Day, we chatted with Everlast (a.k.a. Erik Schrody) about House of Pain’s legacy, and why they don’t sound as dated as you might think. Here are excerpts.
Do you have an agent who does nothing but handles St. Patrick’s Day requests for you?
Not really. Only a couple of years ago did we really start doing it. Danny and I were never really at odds, but we weren’t exactly in each other’s lives for a while. It was probably after we started reacquainting as friends that we allowed some shows to be booked. It was the perfect excuse: “Okay, St. Patrick’s Day.” Nine out of 10 times, it’s in Vegas.
So this is the first tour since ’96 for House of Pain. But you guys have played one-offs since then?
Probably three years ago, we did a St. Patty’s show, then two years ago we might have done a day-before, day-of, day-after show. And then last year we did like a seven-show string. But those were all DJ/rap shows. I really longed to play with my band again. I was like, I’ll do the Epicenter thing, I’ll do the House of Pain thing, but I wanna use the band. We did it, and I had a really good time doing it. My manager said, “Hey, you wanna do a little run?” I was like, sure, let’s do it. Because I honestly think people don’t associate Everlast and House of Pain as much as they should. With the band, it’ll tie it all in. If I wanna launch into Ends in the middle of my House of Pain set, I can. Not saying it will. It might happen. That’s the beauty of the band, is I can just do whatever I wanna do and keep it fresh every night.
In your solo shows, how many House of Pain songs would you do?
It depends on the mood. When you come to an Everlast show, you’re promised an Everlast show. You’re not promised Jump Around. I don’t mean to sound like a dick or anything. And I play it lot, but it’s usually because the crowd is so good and makes me feel so good, and I’m having so much fun that it makes me want to do that song. I have to be in a fun mood to do that song. If it’s a dark night, you might not get Jump Around. But I’ve done Fed Up at Everlast shows. Back from the Dead, occasionally. I used to do a song called No Doubt off the third record.
For you, is it the same when you perform those songs solo as it was when you performed them with Danny Boy and Lethal?
Well, it’s always great with Danny and Lethal. But when it’s the full band hitting it, it just feels better. It just feels bigger. It’s alive. It’s hard to explain. If I start really talking about music being alive, and everybody locking into the spiritual groove of it, I start sounding like Charlie Sheen. I’ve been very fortunate that the pool of musicians that I know in L.A. are incredible musicians. After playing with cats for a long enough time, you learn certain cats, when you’re playing, can lock in on a groove or a sound. It’s unspoken. It’s a language that’s really unspoken. You’re not just listening to a beat and shaking your ass. You’re speaking through music, in a way. Again, this sounds like Charlie Sheen talk, but it’s real.
I’ve been listening to a fair amount of House of Pain to prep for this interview, and it doesn’t sound as dated as a lot of other hip-hop that was coming out of that early- to mid-’90s era. I think the musicality is part of that. Do you think it’s aged well?
I do. There’s certain things that have aged better than others. That era, like the second and third album era, is where (I found) all the musicians I play with now. We were going and finding the best cats, and saying, “Come in and session for us.” Me and Lethal would sit there and hum: “Do something in this nature, do something in that nature.” We’d get tons of tape on cats, and then we’d go back through it and chop it up. But it was real music. It wasn’t like every instrument was coming out of the keyboard. We used real bass guitars, and real guitars. And when we sampled records, we loved a good loop, but we also wanted to attempt to have bridges in rap songs, and things of that nature. My goal was never to be just a rapper or MC. I want people, at the end of my days, to be like, “Yo, he did all that, but overall, the dude was a great musician.” That’s the goal.
Do you see House of Pain’s influence in modern popular culture at all?
It’s hard to say. The reason the whole Irish thing came about was, it’s something me and Danny had in common. And at that same exact time, it was the height of the Afrocentric movement in hip-hop. There was a few times where we felt alienated — going to, let’s say, a Public Enemy show, and Professor Griff is going off on a tirade about the white man crawling around on his belly like an animal. And I’m looking around, and the venue is 75 percent full of white people. Griff is a good dude, he’s a friend now, by the way. But our reaction to it was just kind of like, “Cool, you know what? We’re just gonna be who we are. We’re a couple f---in’ Irish-American cats from the Valley, and that’s what we’re doing.” We tipped the hat to the black music form, but we were gonna do what we do. Eric Clapton plays the blues, we can spit some rhymes. Let’s run with this whole f---in’ old-school, Hell’s Kitchen thing. That’s our thing. Let’s identify ourselves as something relatable to who we really are.
I think that alone encouraged a lot of other people to do the same, be they Italian or Spanish or whatever. You saw a lot more of that come out. It wasn’t a revolutionary thing. It was a tone that got set, and a lot of people started acknowledging, “Okay, this is cool. We don’t have to be this to do this. We can be who we are and do what we do.”
Are you dusting off old House of Pain songs for this tour?
Right now, I got all the songs with the band down, as far as what I know we have to play. As the tour goes on, the more it’ll be like, “You know what song we ain’t done that we gotta do?” That’ll progress as the tour goes on. But there’s a lot. Nobody’s gonna leave, like, “Oh man, they didn’t play any of the good songs that I like.” If you’re a House of Pain fan, you’re gonna be pleased.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*