Doug Robb and Dan Estrin, Hoobastank

Hoobastank are in Manchester tonight to celebrate 15 years since “The Reason”. Sarah caught up with Doug and Dan before the show to talk about cover songs, 25 years in the music business and spending the night in Sadam Husseins palace…

Hi guys, how are you doing?

Doug – “We’re good, yeah, really good”

Dan – “We’re good now… we weren’t before. It stank in here; there was four guys in here”

I wanted to begin by talking a little bit about “The Reason”. It’s been 15 years since it was released, and you’re celebrating that by playing the album in full tonight?

Both – “Yes!”

If you think back to that sort of time in your career, what are you fondest memories?

Dan – “Coming to England!!!”

Doug – “Ha! Anything that comes along with that kind of attention and commercial success actually feels good. We felt really good as a band. To some people’s surprise, if someone was to ask me what my most fond memory of the time being in the band is, it isn’t necessarily “The Reason” album cycle. I think the first album cycle, I enjoyed that even more. It was less pressure, still a success in our eyes, a lot of fun, and we were even more young and naïve. With “The Reason” album and all the success that came with it, there came a lot of pressure and a lot of targets. And then when you become successful, then comes people who are just in it to rip you. But when I think about all the things that were happening… there were all these different shows, like award shows”

Dan – “Yeah, that was just a different level!”

Doug “There was all this recognition and it was kind of all a blur but it was so cool that we got to experience it”

This year isn’t just 15 years since “The Reason”. You formed in  1994 so it’s also 25 years of Hoobastank. How would you say your music has evolved in that time?

Doug – “About as much as I’ve evolved as person, just as much as you’ve evolved as a person. We don’t dress the same, we don’t act the same., we don’t do anything the same you know?”

Dan – “I feel like most people forget that they have changed as well, liked those people who are talking about us, they’ve changed”

Doug – “Let’s go look at a picture of anybody over the age of 25, like, what did they look like 25 years ago?”

Dan – “Let’s break out those fucking photo albums!”

Doug – “ I just think our music has slowly evolved along with us as human beings, with our tastes, with our view points on life, and how we approach everything we do. It’s hard to put really specific points on it, because it’s an evolution… ‘When did this animal turn into this animal?’… well it’s been a long time and it was just a gradual change. There’s no specific dates that the music became harder, or became softer. It’s a constant evolution.”

Has anything changed with the way you write songs together as a band?

Dan – “Things are always changing. Not necessarily permanently, it hasn’t changed to ‘this way now and always this way now’ where as we used to always just be in a room together…”

Doug – “It’s constantly in motion”

Dan – “We’re not usually all together when we are writing, sometimes the ideas will come up when we are with each other and somebody will play something, and someone else will then go ‘Hey what is that?’ and that may turn into something. But we’re kind of all off like this, you know, on our own and so when we’re away from each other and somebody is creating on their own, it then gets sent out to… whoever… but that shit was happening when “The Reason” was wrote”

Doug – “And it used to just be on cassettes. Demo cassettes, four tracks, and now it’s all through the email and the computers”

“Push Pull” is your most recent album and it was released last year. The album had quite a polished sound overall, and also covered Tears For Fears “Head Over Heels”. Who came up with the idea to cover that?

Doug- “The producer Matt Wallace asked us at one point if we would be open to the idea of covering a song, and we’ve done some covers in the past but nothing that we released officially. Most of the time it was always done just tongue in cheek, sarcastically. We were like ‘Sure, we’ll consider it’  and he gave us homework, to go home one night and come up with ten songs that we really loved each. It wasn’t a case of choosing the song we’d think would be the best single. It was just ten songs that we loved, it could be completely left field. We spent the next day listening to everybody’s songs in the studio, it took 4 or 5 hours because after each song we would talk about why we liked the song and what was cool about it and how we could bring our own spin to it. After a few days doing that we’d narrowed the choices down and we voted… and we settled on ‘Crazy’ by Seal. I kind of knew though, once we began to record it and perform it that it didn’t feel right at all, it just didn’t feel good and I think Tears for Fears was our second choices because it was a song where we all loved the original. I thought what we could do to that song as Hoobastank was cooler than what we could do to “Crazy”.

What else was on that list?!?

Doug – “Besides those two I can’t really remember!”

Dan – “There was so much stuff on there!”

Doug – “The list we had was huge; I can’t remember that top ten at all. Just those two”

Dan – “I think there was a Justin Timberlake song on there. I can’t remember. Chris had some weird ones”

Doug – “Walking in L.A. might have been on there?”

Dan – “No! No! It was ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ by Tina Turner! That was one of them. I have the list somewhere, I came across it not long ago!”

What music are you listening to at the moment?

Doug – “There was a point in our lives that we always had our ear looking for something new, trying to stay ahead. I haven’t been that way in a long time. Most of the stuff I listen to is music that is a little stranger in general. I don’t even know where to find that these days. I get music now just by accident. Like I’ll hear something in a movie or in passing somewhere and I’ll try to figure out what it is”

Dan – “I’ve actually been listening to more rap than I usually do, but you know who I actually dig? Nothing But Thieves. I like some of their tones and I like what they do. I’m so fucking cynical though, maybe because we’ve been slapped around so much by people ‘You are fucking this’ or ‘You are fucking this’, kind of like how Maroon 5 are getting the shit kicked out of them right now… I’m just thinking leave them the fuck alone dude, leave them the fuck alone. I do the same thing to other bands. I do it to Nothing But Thieves. I think they are such a fucking great band. I’m there trying to think about what they sound like, who does he sound like. He sounds like Jeff Buckley to me. I really love Jeff Buckley. That’s maybe why I dig Nothing But Thieves. “

What is your favourite song tonight in the set?

Dan – “Crazy Bitch”

Oh my God… no! I mean your favourite song in your set!

Dan – “In our set, maybe it’s not my favourite to play, but my favourite out of them all would have to be ‘What Happened To Us?’ off ‘The Reason’ album”

Doug – “….. probably ‘Never There’”

Dan – “Oh I like that!”

Doug – “I enjoy it because of where it falls in the set. It falls before a slow song and after a slow song, it’s a high energy track between those two slower songs and maybe that’s why it seems a bit cooler. I notice that the audience react positively to that. That may be because if you’re playing a slow one the people are just kind of watching and nodding their heads, and then the next one they are watching and nodding their heads, but in my memory, that song in the middle has everyone rocking out and I think we’ve actually been playing it really well though.”

What’s the opposite to it? What’s the most challenging song in the set?

Dan – “It’s ‘What Happened to Us’”

Doug – “Is it?”

Dan – “Yes! In that song I have to do so much to get from one part to the next, I have to switch different things to get different sounds on the guitar to go from this part to that part. It’s not as simple as just playing the chords”

Doug – “About a third of the way through the set there’s a song called ‘Lucky’ and then ‘From The Heart’. ‘Lucky’ is a song that we’d never played live ever until we started doing the 15th year anniversary shows, and so I don’t have the luxury of 15 years of muscle memory, and awareness of where to place the vowels and all that. I’m just trying to figure out what is the most comfortable way for me to sing it. It has some really high notes in it. It’s not hard but it makes me out of breath!”]

Do you have a crazy story you could tell me? Maybe something about the fans, or a show you’ve played, or an experience you’ve had as band?

*note – they both look at me like my head just span 360 degrees*

Doug – “We haven’t been asked that in a long time. Actually, we used to joke about the people interviewing us because that question would come up all the time. Crazy tour stories? I personally don’t have a tonne of crazy stories. I mean there are some things that people might think are crazy, but our tour life compared to other bands has been pretty tame. How do you pull back on 15 to 20 years of touring to pick just one thing? It’s probably not fan related, we’re not like ‘Oh my gosh, this one fan did this, or did this’ , its usually not that. When I think about the interesting stories that I want to share with my friends it’s more about the places and situations we’ve been in, like playing in Rome in front of the Colosseum. Or recently going to the North East corner of India to play for the Maharaja and going through the mountains with guys guarding us with AK47s. That kind of stuff is more interesting to me than going ‘Uh yeah, this one time, there was these three fans…’ urgh… that doesn’t seem interesting to me at all. A few years ago we did a USO tour in Kuwait and Iraq. We played a show in Baghdad and flew in Black Hawk helicopters to get to the show and then we stayed in Sadam Hussein’s palace. That’s the kind of crazy stuff that I look back at and think ‘Oh my God, did that actually happen’ not the more stereotypical wild party stories. If that’s what you were even implying? Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Not at all! Helicopters are way more interesting.

Doug – “That’s the kind of things that I want to tell my friends about. That’s something interesting that I did!”

What next for Hoobastank? New album maybe?

Doug – “I hope we get to tour some more. I mean, I know we will, but nothing is set in stone. So I’m just writing new music. Every once in a while I get really excited and I want to write, I get in a mood to write a bunch of stuff, and then the next day I’ll be like ‘Ahhh no, I don’t want to do that”. It kind of goes back and forth. I love touring and writing and recording, but it’s almost like I enjoy the camaraderie of hanging out with my friends and doing stuff on tour more than I do the shows. Like the day to day stuff of us hanging out, and going places and exploring and experiencing things together is what I imagine before we go on tour, I think about that more than I think about the shows themselves. I feel that way about recording too. I’m not thinking about the music so much as I am thinking about getting to the studio, knowing we’re going to hang out together, eat dinner together, talk together. It’s this whole bonding thing that I miss about recording. It draws me to go ‘Yes, let’s do that again!’, it’s never the feeling that I want to make more music, it’s the feeling that I want to have that experiencing again of making more music and the highs and lows that come with that. If someone came along and said ‘Hey we want another album from you’ I wouldn’t be the one who said no to that. I wouldn’t know what else to do. This is what we do.”

Dan – “Writing these days, is kind of like what Doug said, the urge to do it… I don’t know… maybe I’m not as hungry for it like every minute. What I’ve always done is grab my phone when I start with an idea and get it down, I end up with all these ideas and eventually they come together. I get ideas and I’ll shittily put them down, like on my iPad, which I absolutely suck at. But I think, it’s something that has to come out of me at some point, and it’s the same for you (Doug) , you’re going to have to create at some point too, you’ll know you have to do it. Sometimes it is music, sometimes it is something else. I would like to make more music”

Thank you both so much for your time this evening! Have a great show!

Interview by Sarah Cummings