Interview: Isaac Hanson, of HANSON

By | September 30, 2009

The guitarist, father and “MMMBop” scribe chatted with A&E prior to Hanson’s Oct. 3 show at First Ave.

WHAT: Hanson

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 3, 5 p.m.

WHERE: First Avenue, 701 First Ave. N.

TICKETS: $27.50 advance/$30 door

For the sadist pop culture obsessives of the world, nothing electrifies the palate like child celebrities baring the emotional scars of their surreal, tortured formative years. Corey Feldman ‘s continued existence hinges itself on that sick, carnal lust for society destroying the kids it thrusts into the limelight. So shouldn’t Hanson, the ’90s boy band of “MMMBop ” fame, also be seminal weirdo wash-ups? Happily and sadly, no. Brothers Isaac, Taylor and Zac find themselves married, touring, boasting a new record and swinging through First Avenue this week.

The band hasn’t veered much from the pop-rock that made them teen-famous in 1997, but as one expects, they’ve grown musically and experienced the dropping of both testicles (voices) and major labels.

Now seven albums in, the group bides their time doing charity work for Africa-related causes, cultivating loving families, making music and relishing a devoted fan base.

Guitarist and all-around nice guy Isaac Hanson took the time to chat with the Daily before the brothers hit the road on their upcoming tour.

Tell me about the new LP.

This record, maybe more than a couple of the previous records, is, I’d say, a very liberated record. The coming record is, after all those things [a label squabble with Island Def Jam that resulted in the formation of their own independent 3CG Records], a liberated one and we’re ready to just throw the gloves off. It’s not just about encouraging people to do things with their lives; it’s not just about surviving a crazy music business. This is about the fact we love what we do, so I think the record has qualities of exuberance and joyfulness, I suppose.

It’s been said keeping a band together is like keeping a relationship together, but with the added stress of constant travel and work. How do you and your brothers not hate each other after 15 years?

Let’s just say there are certain things, as far as our nerves are concerned, that have worn thin with one another, as with anyone. At the end of the day, even though that is true, we share a bond that is a little bit bigger than just our ability to communicate in word and business environments. It’s a bond of music that is, I think, bigger. Music is a universal language and it also applies to us in the band. I think it’s the thing that really keeps it all glued together, when it’s all said and done.

You guys have a notoriously devoted fanbase. What’s the craziest expression of fandom you’ve experienced over the years?

We’ve had plenty of breaking into hotel rooms, and things of that nature — ripping on clothes, yanking on hair, all that kind of stuff. Zach actually has a scar on his arm from slapping hands in a crowd. This girl got a hold of his hand and he has, like, a legitimate scar because her fingernails dug into his arm so much. I will say, it’s easy to discount people who are so enthusiastic and think, “Oh they just like the phenomenon of whoever these people are.” But they really do embrace completely who we are as a band and as songwriters. We’re really lucky; if it wasn’t for that level of enthusiasm, I can guarantee you we wouldn’t be a band for 15 years plus.

With all these years of hindsight, how do you guys remember the “MMMBop” era?

We were a lot younger and a lot greener. A lot, maybe, less jaded about people’s potential perception of who we were. We just went out there and did what we did, loved what we did and didn’t think about anything else other than that. Our fan base certainly embraced it wholeheartedly. I think in some cases people looked at us and thought, “Oh, those guys are a novelty,” and I understand that. But at the end of the day, all I can say about all that is, we’re pretty much the same band we were then as we are now, just a little bit older and maybe, not quite as energetic [laughs].

I wager 100 years from now, when pop culture books are written about the ’90s, your band will be featured prominently. What’s it like to be a landmark of a cultural movement like that?

It is an interesting phenomenon to have made such a big splash. We never would have thought that “MMMbop” would have done what it did. The unfortunate irony is, “MMMbop” these days, as far as how much it was played, wouldn’t even break the top five. I hope that if anything else, people would see a group of young guys who, first and foremost, loved good songs.

Throughout your career, what are you most proud of and what’s something you’d have done differently?

The thing I’m most proud of is going out there and starting our own record company [3CG Records], I wish we would have done it sooner. That’s probably about it; it’s both.

How crazy did you guys get in the height of your teen years? Were lady fans all over you?

I’ll give you the honest answer: Not as crazy as I could have been. Honestly, not anywhere close to it. At the end of the day, I’m gonna be really candid about this, I think my mom is kickass and I didn’t want to do anything to offend my mother. When it was as crazy as it was, it was easy to steer clear of. It was so ridiculous that there was no level of sanity available. The likelihood that you were gonna find an opportunity to really have a decent conversation with someone beyond like “Hi. How ’bout the weather?” Before she kinda looks at you with that glossy-eyed look like, “I can’t believe I’m talking to you.” That actually makes it easier, because you realize you’re not looking for someone who looks at you like that.

Finally, the age-old question, between you and your brothers, which one is the cutest?

[Laughs] Ya know, I have no idea. I suppose it depends on which fan you’re talking to. I haven’t really assessed that one. I could say something like me. I really don’t know. You’ll have to be the judge of that one.

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