It’s the great contradiction of nu-metal; deny that you are and become 3x more. How does one escape? You cannot. Thus we dispatch our admin and CEO Holiday Kirk to the Sick New World festival in Las Vegas, Nevada to confront the genre’s finest with the bitter truth. Today, we ask Doug Robb and Dan Estrin of Hoobastank for the reason why they deny.
Holiday Kirk: We have to start with the most important question of all; the nu-metal label… How do we feel about it in the Year of Our Lord 2023?
Doug Robb: You want honesty, right?
I really do.
DR: It's fucking lame. But it has been since the Year of Our Lord 2000 as well. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say every band that you talk to today if you ask the same question, nobody's gonna go 'we love it.’
We're all about it. I've said a billion times that denialism is a key part of nu-metal.
DR: Is it denialism? Like, we're not nu-metal! I just don't like the title. I think it's bad marketing. [Laughs]
I've noticed, I mean, we've all noticed, that "The Reason" has hit a real resurgence of popularity, and it was always a smash. Have you guys had a moment to readjust and be like, ‘Hey! we're doing this again.
Dan Estrin: I dunno, it doesn't really feel like it's happening again, to be honest with you.
It transcends generations though, right?
DE: Yeah, which is a great feeling and it's something that we're extremely proud of and grateful, very grateful for how everything turned out, you know, and the fact that it's licensed to this show or to this show and younger generations, whatever, it's, it's really, really, really, really cool. Like I said, we're super, super grateful and we realize it, but we were also present when it was current and when it was happening, which was a completely different experience than it is now. It's just really cool though that 20 years later people still either enjoy it or hate it, but it's still out there and it allows us to have opportunities and show up at a nu-metal festival playing the softest song here.
He said it! Not me!
DR: It is what it is. I can't take it away.
When you guys signed to Island Def Jam in 2000, you were a priority for the label, right?
DE: It really felt like when we signed with the label that… Granted we had no other experience.
DR: Yeah. I didn't really have any reference to go, ‘I can tell this band's not a priority but we are.’
I'm gonna take a swing, I think Saliva was on Island Def Jam?
DR: You’re right.
DE: They signed before us.
Okay. And I think that around that time Arista had From Zero and Adema, every label felt like they had to break their own… [despondently] nu-metal bands.
DR: Okay. No, I love nu metal. Love it. Ah, love it, love it. You heard it here first!
You heard it here first folks! But how do you feel like the record label industry has changed in the intervening years?
DE: They're always chasing something. The record industry has always been chasing what's next. They did it with the ‘grunge,’ you know, and that pissed off all those bands being called grunge, you know?
I know. We can't win.
DE: Well just stop labeling shit like that. Stop putting everything into this box, you know? But I guess if that's what human beings do, you gotta do it. So whatever. I'd rather be put into this box than be left out of the box, I guess? [Laughs]
Have you noticed that there's been a bit of a resurgence around the concept of nu-metal and that has brought newer fans to your shows?
DE: I've actually seen bands that were, in the early 2000s that were considered nu-metal that maybe disappeared for a while and are present again, and even waving the flag for it, like ‘Nu-metal's back!’ That's super cool. I feel like it was only a matter of time, like 5, 6, 7 years ago we were saying like, it's only a matter of time before stuff starts to kind of make its way back.
Let me ask you this, Hoobastank, debatable. Hoobustank, is that nu-metal?
DR: Hoobustank was probably metal-ska-funk.
So almost like Mr. Bungle
DR: Very Mr. Bungle, very Fishbone. Those guys up here, us down here, but in the same shitty. What would you call that? See, I don't even know what you would call that.
DE: Mr Bungle?
DR: Like Fishbone, that ska-funk like that.
Fishbone and Mr. Bungle are proto-nu metal to me. I get that a lot. People are like, ‘Well is Rage Against the Machine nu-metal?’ No, no, definitely not. So here's the thing, you talk about like, 'Nu-metal is like a box, we don't want to be put in a box.’ I think that nu-metal's the opposite of a box. You're allowed to explore other genres while maintaining your core essential element.
DE: Is there a difference between nu metal and rap rock?
DE: Okay. I thought so too. Rage Against the Machine, a hundred percent not nu metal. They came out before anybody else came out. To me that’s a rock band with their gain turned down way lower than nu-metal. And to me that's more rap rock. But I don't know if to some people that would put them down. Like he's rapping! It's brilliant what he's singing and saying! It’s rap over rock music.
I think that one of the big things that established nu-metal for what it is was also commercial ambition. And I don't mean that as a naughty word, but you think about grunge bands like Pearl Jam, forsaking Ticketmaster whereas with nu metal bands it was 'we'll sign with Puma. I'm Fred Durst, I'll sign as an A&R at Interscope.' And by the same token Hoobastank signed to Island Def Jam, did the shiny “Crawling in the Dark” music video, and appeared on MTV Hard Rock Live. What resonates about that to the modern generation is that younger musical acts are also going ‘We're gonna do whatever it takes to make a living out of this’ so when younger people look back at bands like yourselves we respect that now.
DR: It's interesting you say that because when we talk amongst ourselves we would basically call shamelessness like a band from prior to our generation who would never dream of doing something that we might have done commercially because of credibility, whatever. And then a band from our generation sees what bands have to do now and go ‘Fuck that! I would never, that is so cringey and like it's so shameless.’ But it's probably the same way bands before looked at us. And really it all goes back to how you said how open bands are of our generation were to make a living out of it, to make a career out of it. The fact is, bands before us didn't have to do the shameless things to make careers. And the fact is bands now can't do only the shameless things that we did. Now they have to even more shameless shit just to put food on the table.
Yeah. I mean no younger band would pass up a Rihanna feature.
DR: Right. [Laughs] We didn't know!
DE: Hey, and by the way, she was younger than us. She was the new artist! We had already had ‘The Reason’ out. We were on top of the world doing our thing. And it wasn't like we were not open to the idea we were a hundred percent open to it. She was just a new signing at the label.
DR: If we had written a song together and it was written as a feature or something like that, it would've been rad. But it was a song [“Inside of You”] we had written, recorded and everything was done. And then they're like, ‘Okay, let's chop it up and try to fit something in here.’ So it just sounded weird to us.
To sum it all up, looking back on 20, 24 years of legacy and now you're in this festival environment, which I think has done an incredible job of curating the legacy acts and the younger acts, do you feel a sense of community in being able to come together like this?
DR: When you say a sense of community, I feel like I should be intermingling with more people, but I really haven't seen anybody yet but I do think it's awesome that we're in a place that, not we the band, but just in general that this makes sense to do. I think it's cool, it's giving it another shot, you know what I mean? Cause if you tried to do this 10, 15 years ago and they're like, eh, you know and now it's, I don't know how fast it sold out, but apparently pretty quick.
Thank you guys so much for sitting down to chat with me. Love it or hate it, you're an important part of the genre that I'll always be repping.
DR: It's not the genre, it's just the title!
No, I totally get it. And I think if nu-metal bands started saying to me we love it, it wouldn't be fun anymore.