HOUSE OF PAIN ARE BACK, AND DANIEL O’CONNOR (AKA DANNY BOY) TAKES TIME OUT BETWEEN BITES ON HIS BURGER TO TALK RIP NICHOLSON THROUGH THEIR CAREER AND REUNION – OLDER, WISER AND DECIDEDLY MORE SOBER.
DANNY BOY interviewed @ 08.20 AEST – 8th April, 2011
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
It’s a 20 year anniversary of sorts for the Irish-Americans who last brought their shamrocks and shenanigans to our shores in a massive tour featuring Naughty By Nature and Coolio back in 1996. And, this was their only time here as Daniel O’Connor expresses between bites of a burger at Long Island, New York’s White Castle.
House Of Pain’s upcoming shows will be less of a brawl with blunt weaponry and executed in a more concise and refined manner. “The major difference is it’s not as drunken and angst-fuelled. It’s more mature,” O’Connor explains. “It’s definitely sharper than before. Before it was like a dull dagger that we stabbed people in the neck with.”
The He Who Breaks The Law tour celebrates the inception of the band’s coming together back in 1991. Erik ‘Everlast’ Shrody and O’Connor met at William Howard Taft High School – the same white suburban school in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles that gave us actresses Lisa Kudrow (Friends), Dana Plato (Diff’rent Strokes), Marcia, Marcia, Marcia (Brady Bunch) and west coast hip hop legends Eazy-E and Ice Cube. Here N.W.A.‘s ‘Boyz In Tha Hood’ was founded, and where Shrody and O’Connor first conceived House Of Pain.
There has always been a strong rock prevalence in the make up of House Of Pain’s sound. Off the Judgment Night soundtrack they sized up against Helmet for ‘Just Another Victim’ and since the heavy rock ‘Who’s The Man?’ from the Who’s The Man? Soundtrack, House Of Pain have been synonymous with rap-rock fusion. In growing up, O’Connor explains they had rock music first, then when rap music spread through to the west coast they defiantly adopted it and made it their own.
We all grew up listening to AC/DC and Led Zeppelin and Rush. Being a normal white kid in the 70’s and that’s what you’re listening to. There was no hip hop at the time, When I hear ‘Black In Black’ with the drums I hear a hip hop beat, when I listen to Led Zep I hear a rhyming pattern,” says O’Connor who broke down the cultural clash he and Shrody had to overcome to express their love of hip hop.
When it came their time to step to the bar and get a drink out of hip hop, House Of Pain, now including Leor ‘DJ Lethal’ Dimant, signed a recording contract with Tommy Boy Music and in 1992 their début album had everyone sculling back a settled Guinness and head-butting the bastard beside them as two drunken Irish MCs and a Latvian-born DJ put on their shit kickers on and kicked some shit like ‘Put Your Head Out’, ‘Top O’ The Morning To Ya’ and one of the most celebrated hip hop tracks of all-time, the DJ Muggs produced world-wide smash hit, ‘Jump Around’. Coming at arguably one of the most exciting time in hip hop’s 30-something year history, their début LP became a multi-platinum success.
By 1996 House Of Pain had dropped two more LPs (‘94’s Same As It Ever Was going gold in the US) and had worked alongside Cypress Hill on projects and jumped in on tracks with Gang Starr’s Guru. The group had reached the heights of success in both hip hop and the music industry for their merciless attack of Irish-bred rap. But before a legacy could begin, each member limped away from House Of Pain to pursue other interests. Shrody became Whitey Ford singing the blues – a highly acclaimed solo career away from rap music. Lethal became the skeleton suit DJ/producer for rock outfit Limp Bizkit and Danny Boy honed his talents away from music as a graphic designer before stepping back in for the La Coka Nostra collective hip hop movement. Still, the House Of Pain stood abandoned until 2010’s widely recognised reunion show at KROQ’s ‘Epicenter 2010.’
As 2011 rolls through, the group is looking back 20 years since they merged their shotgun-pumping raucous rants and beer-fuelled raps over Irish jigs, bagpipes and kilts. “It’s the twentieth since the inception. We have grown apart and grown back together, and come back in full circle. It just felt like the right time to do it, and we didn’t want to miss that 20 year window either,” O’Connor continues. “It just feels like a combination of all the years, the blood, sweat and tears. And this time everybody got new skill sets sharpened from the 90’s obviously. The experience and strength is way bigger.”
A Conversation With DANNY BOY
RIP – Last time you guys came down here it was with Naughty By Nature and Coolio – looking forward to hitting our shores and revamping your Aussie fans?
DANNY BOY – It’s the only time we came down here and we are looking forward to coming back.
We haven’t heard from House Of Pain in a long ass time, apart from age what has been the major differences in House Of Pain 2011 to the Shamrock Shenanigans of the early 90s?
The major is difference is it’s not as drunken and angst-fuelled. It’s more mature, matured better and more concise. It’s definitely sharper than before, before it was like a dull dagger that we stabbed people in the neck with. Now it’s more refined.
Why now is 2011, why not last year or closer to your reunion like for La Coka Nostra? To revamp the House of Pain?
It’s the 20th since the inception. Despite what time the record came out, it doesn’t mean we weren’t band before that. The 20th was coming around and we were already working as La Coka Nostra. We have grown apart and grown back together, and come back in full circle. It just felt like the right time to do it, and we didn’t want to miss that 20 year window either.
Is this really a distinct reunion, was there a definite separation of careers over the years between yourself, Lethal and Everlast?
Yeah man it definitely does. With La Coka Nostra when we did ‘Jump Around’ on stage or ‘Who’s The Man’ or something like that. But with this it’s like a full band we are bringing. We’re covering all the classics and then some, and Eric with his new material. It just feels like a combination of all the years like blood, sweat and tears. Everything we’ve done we kinda touch on it and just bring it on in there.
Now in high school you and Eric went to Taft – I’m sure you got asked this a lot, is that around the same time as Ice Cube and Sir Jinx’s time there?
Yeah, we all know each other, yeah I went to Taft, but I didn’t attend the school so much. In other words I was always ditching class. We were all in the same circle, it was weird, Divine Styler came there for summer school. There was a lot of hip hop stuff going on in there. This guy Brett Maser who was in Crazytown but he was also producing Bel Biv Devoe and a lot of hip hop shit back then. It’s crazy that such a white suburban high school had that much hip hop talent come out of it.
There has always been the hard rock edge to House Of Pain’s tracks and with Eric’s interest in blues with Whitey Ford, was there always a solid rock influence for you guys?
No, not at all. We all grew up listening to AC/DC and Led Zeppelin and Rush. Being a normal white kid in 70’s and that’s what you’re listening to. There was no hip hop at the time, When I hear ‘Black In Black’ with the drums I hear a hip hop beat, when I listen to Led Zep I hear a rhyming pattern.
So there was never a cultural clash between rap and rock music?
Absolutely. There was. Between rap and rock music, punk rockers hated jocks, they hated rockers. Then when hip hop came around, especially white guys in hip hop. Yeah it was a clash at first, but that’s why we put our foot down. ‘We’re Irish, you don’t like us doing hip hop? Fuck you, blow me.’
With Lethal and Limp Bizkit, Eric exploring the blues and you with La Coka Nostra has all this given new flavour to the House Of Pain cook pot for your new shit? Or will you be tapping back into the original fine malt recipe you guys started with?
That is yet to be seen, but I think the latter is more correct. I just can’t imagine us doing a record we’ve done before. And everybody got new skill sets sharpened from the 90’s obviously. The experience and strength is way bigger, so we’ll see.
Is the chemistry still the same in the studio … with you guys being in charge of your own paths, now forming as one collective group, is it harder than say 20 years ago?
It’s the same as it was. Eric’s a tyrant. It’s up to him, we don’t challenge that. but don’t tell him I said it. He’s sitting right beside me anyway.
Where are you now guys?
You caught us on tour, out in Long Island New York eating White Castle burgers, we just did an instore signing of posters and shit like that. Yeah, we don’t have (White Castle) in L.A. so we had to come to New York to eat it.
So be it a curse or a blessing – ‘Jump Around’ – how strong do you think House Of Pain would have been over the years without that hit?
It could have been stronger and it could have been weaker. It’s one of those things. It let us know where to go from there. Strategically it might have have been better to come out with that record but who can predict it. It just is what it is.
What can you tell us about new work from House Of Pain?
So, far it is what it is. We are motivated and fucking excited on working on some new stuff. We are finishing the last week and half, two weeks on this US tour. Then we’re coming to Australia to see you guys for three weeks. Then we go to Europe and then we sit down, get together and start working on new material. So, so far you know everything and that’s where we’re at, until we’ve finished touring.
Anything new, any surprises?
Yes, but nothing that you haven’t heard. Nobody wants to be bored with new material right now, if I come to see a band play I wanna hear the shit I know. Plus, it’s the 20th anniversary so you know we gotta give out the classics.
Of course. Hopefully Alchemist will do something, Lethal will do most of the production. And others from the past and hopefully we can find some new and exciting people to help. There’s a big producer out in L.A. named Joe Rivera we’re trying to hook up with him. Everybody in the West Coast is talking about him, Eric knows him.
You have said it before that you’ll be touring with a live band?
Yeah, we are coming to Australia with the band in June. We’re blowing the budget.
Now I’m sure this doubles as a holiday for you guys as well. I heard you’re the king of sneakers?
Yeah, I did the documentary in 2008. As far as sneakers go I still buy sneakers but it ain’t what it was, you know? It’s so overblown now though, with the economy being the way it is I can’t justify blowing that kinda money, I just feel there’s better things to spend my money on.
I just copped a pair of New Balances from my boy in Boston. At any given time I’ve got a couple hundred pairs, I know Eric has the same or more. It’s the b-boy thing, you know.
How many do you pack for a trip Down Under?
Good question, I think maybe 4 pair, 5 pair. To tell you the truth I’ve been wearing the House Of Pain Adidas Campers. The good things about these shoes, they don’t really get banged out, I like the old style Shell Toes and the Campers, the suedes, more bang for your buck. Plus it’s that 20 year anniversary so I got that retro vibe going rather than rock a new pair of Jordans or something.
Something I only just noticed after buying your first album when I was 12, I never knew it was called House Of Pain – I always assumed it was called Fine Malt Lyrics. Am I the only one to have thought this about the first LP?
If you were asked me what the first one was called, I would have said Fine Malt Lyrics. Let me ask Eric. (Eric: “Fine Malt Lyrics.”) Technically it’s self-titled. We consider it the same thing, I woulda called it Fine Malt Lyrics too. From the record company’s point of view, they wanted to make a self-title album, like introducing the House of Pain as the House Of Pain.