Everlast Talks Run D.M.C., Rapping While White, and the House of Pain Reunion Tour

Categories: Q&A
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House of Pain's Danny Boy and Everlast are at the Fillmore tonight.
More than a decade after its last "Jump Around," the indelible white rap group House of Pain -- featuring original members Everlast and Danny Boy -- is back out on the road for a reunion tour that kicks off tonight at the Fillmore. Note: Tonight's show has been moved to Great American Music Hall. Original tickets will be honored. House of Pain leader Everlast has been through a lot since the group separated in '96, both bad (a major heart attack in the last '90s) and good: releasing the double-platinum solo album Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, which launched the hit single "What It's Like." After getting back with Danny Boy and original DJ Lethal (who's also part of Limp Bizkit) for a rap project called La Coka Nostra last year, Everlast says the House of Pain reunion came naturally. We spoke with him recently about discovering hip-hop, the perils of being a white rapper in the '90s, and why "Jump Around" is the new "Louie Louie."

It's funny talking to you, I can remember teaching myself "What It's Like" on the guitar.

It's a good one, it's simple.

I heard you learned to play guitar listening to Neil Young records.

A lot of Neil Young songs were emulated, in my early days. A lot of his songs, some of his best songs, are extremely simple, and I learned a lot of lessons from that. Like you know don't try to be overly -- don't overstep what you need, don't do too much. The song will tell you what it needs.

So had you discovered hip-hop when you started learning guitar, or did you learn guitar first?

My dad had a couple guitars around, but he never played guitar. He just liked having them. I always would play around with it, never really knew much about it, took a few lessons when I was 11 or 12, picked up the very basic chords, and then kind of got into hip-hop and didn't really look at the guitar for a while. It just became about digging through records. And then a few years into actually making hip-hop music, I kind of stumbled back into like, "Oh, I know a couple chords on the guitar so let's see what happens."

Do you remember the first time you heard hip-hop?

Yeah. I lived in a, if you're familiar with what's called, a cul-de-sac. One of my Mexican homies, this cat named Phillip, had a boombox, and we were out just throwing the football around. And he had a tape of that first Run D.M.C. album. And I heard -- like "Rock Box" came on. I was kind of into Kiss, and Ozzy Osbourne and that kind of, like white boy suburban rock kind of vibe. And when I heard "Rock Box," I was just like, "Wow...."

I had heard "Rapper's Delight" probably, in my lifetime, before that. But "Rock Box" was the first time hip-hop music was like, "This is the new shit." I've seen documentaries of the Clash or punk rock bands when they say something to the nature of like, "I heard this music and I knew it was mine, it spoke to me." That's how hip-hop was for me. It was like, "Aw, man, nobody knows about this really yet. This is like very few people even know this is going on, and it's talking to me."

So did you know then that you wanted to make hip-hop yourself?

Not at all, man. Again, even before I got into hip-hop music, I loved graffiti. I knew about graffiti. And if you look back at all the old subway art books about graffiti, it was like cats did graffiti and then you'd see "Led Zeppelin" written on the side. Graffiti was kind of like -- it bridged gaps. A lot of the cats, like this Phillip kid I used to run with, he was into like the hip-hop scene, and I would see graffiti pictures I'd be like aww, that shit's crazy. I would have told you I was going to be some kind of artist, or might have just been a graffiti writer for the rest of my life. I spent a few years of my youth doing it.

At what point did you decide to start making hip-hop?

Basically I had a friend who was publicly known as the Divine Styler, if you're familiar with rap in the early '90s. He was like, when we were both like 16, 17, he was an amazing graffiti writer. And he was totally into music, and was living with cats that had equipment, and they would make music. And I used to write raps -- just 'cause that's what cats would do. So I'd just sort of write some for fun, and they actually coaxed me into spittin' some once, and they were like, "Yo man, you should make a tape." And I made a tape, and literally the first song I ever wrote wound up on that Ice-T Rhyme Syndicate compilation.

Back in the early days of House of Pain, how hard was it being a white rapper?

It was just hard locally, because cats just didn't want to take you serious, 'cause there was no such thing at all. If you weren't the Beastie Boys at that point ... it didn't exist almost. I got my fair share of [getting] booed off stages and a few fights, beat up a few times. I paid some dues around L.A. and you know, but by the time I was doing it with House of Pain, I think cats kind of respected what we were doing. It was the height of the Afrocentric thing, and we were just like, look, we know it's black music, and all that, but we fucking love this shit and we're gonna do it, and we're just some fucking East Coast Irish-American migrants to the valley. But we're going to do our thing, this is what we do.

And so people respected that?

People were like yeah, these motherfuckers just doin' their thing. If you ask most black dudes, they all got a crazy white friend. And it's like that's kind of how we were treated, it was like, "Look at these crazy white boys, man." But not in a disrespectful way. It was always kind of like "Oh, these dudes are fun." We were mad fun to be around.

Did you imagine it would get to where it is today, where people don't even discuss being a white rapper much?

Yeah, I mean, I never thought about it that much. I suspect just in general, in life, anybody in their 30s or younger -- it's like race isn't what it was. Racism still exists, it's still alive, and all that shit, but the younger generation just is not tripping that hard. I keep telling people, if enough people just keep fucking each other we're all going to be beige, anyway.

How did this House of Pain tour come together?

We had a few songs and we didn't know what to do with them. Danny already had kind of his own La Coka Nostra thing he had going with a couple other MCs before that didn't really pan out to anything. We all were like, "That shit is hot, let's just take that banner and run with it," and put this music out under that banner. And at that point we didn't release it, we just put it online. And it kind of took off and you know, next thing you know, we make a record of it. And through that experience -- myself, Danny, and Lethal being involved in it -- a lot of good memories came back.

Were there any hard feelings, or was it easy getting back together?

When I left House of Pain originally, it was just because I wasn't happy. None of us were ever at odds. Everybody just had different paths to take. I know what I did was what I was supposed to do, because a lot of crazy shit happened to me right after, like I got robbed by an accountant, and immediately after that had this whole heart surgery thing jump off where I basically played chess with death. Then immediately after that I have the biggest record of my life. Us getting back together was just a matter of, like I said, some of us went through darker tunnels than others. For me, I just left the group because I had to. I just couldn't do it anymore, because I wasn't happy.

So what's the live setup on this tour going to be?

Me on guitar, got a bass player, a key player, drummer, and a DJ. And we just go about doing the tracks live.

So it's you and Danny Boy?

Danny Boy and myself. [DJ] Lethal's just finishing up the whole Limp Bizkit thing, they got a record coming out, apparently. That's his thing, too. But we're already talking to him about -- we're possibly going to make -- people say is House of Pain making a new record? And I say maybe, just understand if we do, it's the last record.

Why is that?

I enjoy doing too many other things, and it's like I would just like to close the book better on that than it got closed. It doesn't mean I would never play the music again, I'm just saying it would be the last record that's called House of Pain.

So is that in the works?

It's in serious consideration, in talks right now. I would say, there's going to be an attempt to make it and if it never sees the light of day, it's just because I thought it sucked.

What about the new Everlast record?

It's basically done, we just getting ready to send it to mix right now. I don't know what I'm calling it yet though. My manager's like freaking out on me about it.

What's it sound like?

At this point, it sounds like me -- a little bit of everything: A little country, a little rock, a little blues, some soul, a lot of hip-hop. I tell people all the time, my softest ballad that I've ever written, to me is hip-hop. The way I structure a lyric in my mind doesn't change whether I'm spittin' over a beat or trying to put together a song with a melody.

When should we look for it?

While I'm out on the road these couple months, I'm sure we're gonna be trying to put a song out. As far as a date of release ... relatively soon, I would suspect.

So you're kicking off the House of Pain tour here in San Francisco.

It'll be good. I'm telling you, with the band, it's fun. It's like, I'll sit there and play "Jump Around" off the instrumental, and the crowd will go nuts, but the crowd and me will go nuts if there's a band behind me. The dynamic is just a lot different. Once you really play with cats that can play ... there's nothing like it.

Are you going to throw in some Whitey Ford stuff in there too?

That's another reason for bringing the band. If I decide at some point. I want to do an hour of Everlast songs, I can do that. All's I'm gonna promise is what the ticket says: You gettin' a House of Pain show. But again, I love to play music, so you never know.

I heard you used to joke that "Jump Around" became the "Louie Louie" of the '90s.

Oh, no, we still say that.

What do you mean by that?


It's just that song. It's always gonna be what it is. It doesn't diminish. "Jump Around" is still in the lexicon. Just like, when you hear "Louie Louie," you don't really think dated oldies, you know what I mean? It's its own thing.

Is that something you're proud of?

I mean I hope the guy who wrote "Louie Louie" is proud, 'cause that shit's gonna live for fucking ever. I won't lie: when I first did the Whitey Ford Sings the Blues record, I was pushing that song away from me, only in the sense to be like look, love it, love that tree, but I'm not going to stand in that shadow right now, I need y'all to take notice of what I"m doing here. But once that happened, that song was re-embraced by me. I do it most nights on Everlast shows if the crowd is fun and I'm having a good time. It's a great fun silly exciting crowd-fucking-pleasing song.

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Great American Music Hall

859 O'Farrell, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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