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Interview with (həd) p.e

20 years in the business may seem like a lifetime, but to rock-Hip-Hop band (həd) p.e,  20 years is the mark of artistic growth and personal evolution. Founded in 1994, (həd) p.e combined punk rock influences with West Coast hip-hop beats to create the unstoppable “G-Punk” act it is today. While the band has experimented with numerous genres throughout the years, the release of their ninth album, Evolution, takes them back to their rock past, giving fans a new spin on a classic sound. No stranger to touring, (həd) p.e recently hit the road again, but despite their busy schedule, bassist, Mawk, spoke with Music Existence to discuss life on tour, the band’s personal growth, the creative process behind Evolution, and memorable tour experiences with Mötley Crüe.

ME: (həd) p.e has been in the industry for 20 years. That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment. What has kept the band’s passion and fire going for this long?

Mawk: Well that’s a question I’m sure each member would have a different answer to. There are the basics of making a living, obviously, but then there’re the things that we don’t want to do like going back to an office job or working at a restaurant. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we all love (həd) p.e with our various instruments and love for music, and it’s just something that we want to do all our lives. I can’t speak for everyone but for me, it also affords a certain lifestyle because as much as I like touring, I love not touring, and the breaks between tours have allowed me to pursue other interests that drive me and that’s just what we do. When you do something this long, it becomes your life.

 

ME: What sets (həd) p.e. apart from other acts in your genre?

Mawk: Well, we made it a point exploring pretty much every genre of music perhaps with the exception of country, and who knows, maybe one day that might happen. But when we started, it was the early 90s at a time when Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre were all over MTV, and in our hometown there was this new band called KoЯn that had just got signed that just destroyed the live shows when we saw them. It was just unbelievable to us; it was like nothing we’d seen.  This was ’93- ’94. The concept of (həd) p.e was to take West Coast Dr. Dre-type beats and put some really heavy guitars opposite. Jahred came in and his idea was to rap and sing, and there’s very few quality rappers who can also sing, so that set us apart from the get-go. Since then, we’ve explored punk, we explored a lot of reggae and we still do. We have a side-name for our band that we call (drəad) p.e where we do reggae versions of quite a few of our songs. I think the willingness to explore and not being afraid to explore different styles of music has really kept us going and kept us maybe a little separated. It’s kind of a double-edge sword because in an industry where people love to pigeonhole every act, you can’t find a hole to put (həd) p.e in, so no one knows if we’re a rock band, a punk band, a hip-hop band, or whatever. So in some ways, it’s worked against us because you’ll never hear the main sound of rock radio, but you’ll always catch an entertaining live show.

 

ME: In the 20-year span of (həd) p.e.’s career have there been any major experiences that have shaped the band in unexpected ways?

Mawk: Oh yeah, and some of them I can’t even admit in an interview. They involve certain words of treachery and deceit, lie detectors, threats of murder (laughs). Of course, those are phrases I’ve put in there for dramatic effect, but they’re actually kind of true (laughs).  Joking aside, there have been big events that have changed the course of the band. As it’s said, “everything happens for a reason,” and it’s true. Things that have happened that have seemed monumental at the time, things that could have taken the band down, really pushed us into a new direction and have forced us to reinvent ourselves. One example is when our original guitarist left and we got dropped by our record label.  Suddenly, we went from this band that could have had the world at their fingertips, to our lead singer having to take stuff to the pawnshop just to get by and me doing this shitty job after that shitty job just to survive. We went through the highs and the lows and you’re either forced to give up or pick up the pieces and continue, which is obviously what we did. And for me personally, as a foreigner, I had to deal with being kicked out of a couple of countries and had to make my way back, so I went through a lot of personal issues that were my own karma. My karma ran over my dogma so to speak and I ended up having to straighten out a whole lot of issues I had that were bigger than I, with the government but I got all of that fixed but that had a huge impact on the direction of my life too.

 

ME:  Last year, (həd) p.e. released its ninth studio album, Evolution. Of all the names for a ninth album, why Evolution?

Mawk: Because that’s what it really was. It is a very simple word and a very obvious word, but at the same time, it carries a lot of meaning for us. Everyone in the world has their own story, but it’s not just about the personal evolution that we’ve all gone through. To bring it back to the album itself, as I’ve mentioned earlier we’ve gone through every genre that we possibly could with the exception of country, and we haven’t yet dabbled in opera (and hopefully we never will), but we all share a common thread in that we all got into music as teenagers. When I was a kid it, was AC/DC, Judas Priest, bands like that, but when Jahred was a kid it was Alice in Chains. So we all kind of had a rock past, and after twenty years of going through every style of music, we went back to our rock past and put a modern-day evolved twist to it. Nowadays, Jaxon is the primary songwriter and his music pays a lot of respect to the classics like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, so in a way, we went back to where we started. We are at a higher elevation to where we were back then. It’s like going full circle except it’s more like a spiral in that we’ve taken the circle but we’re now way higher than we were when we started. That’s really the course of our musical evolution.

 

ME: What was the creative process like with Evolution?

Mawk: The lyrics are always written by Jahred. He’s very particular about that and the lyrics will usually come after the music is written. Now back in our earlier days prior to the Internet and when we all lived in one place, every song was written in the jam format. We’d be in the rehearsal studio and we’d knock out song after song.  Recent years, we’ve all moved out of Orange County, California, and we’re spread out all over the country and nowadays Jaxon will come up with demos and send them to us, and maybe when we’re in town we’ll jam together and then put together a song . Even the recording process is spread all over the country, like the drums for this album were recorded in the Mushroom Head studio in Cleveland. Jaxon then took those electronic files and recorded guitars at a studio in his house in Michigan.  By the time they got to me, we were on the road, so I was posted up in a hotel with my laptop and recording equipment running back and forth between sound check and my hotel room to knock out the bass tracks. So that’s quite high-tech and very punk rock at the same time. It’s an evolution of itself because bands used to start out on the four-track recorders which we did, and then in our heyday, we were in these ridiculous $1300-a-day studios, and now today, we’re back to putting things together in our hotels rooms.

 

ME: So, of all the methods you’ve mentioned – four-track, studios, jam sessions, hotel rooms – which one do you prefer? 

Mawk:  It’s more towards the latter because with the $1300-aday studios, you aren’t tied to a time limit, but in a same time you realize that the record company is charging you for all that time anyway, so you’re under some pressure. Nowadays, you can have a laptop that has the same computing and recording powers of what cost $30,00-40,000 in a studio years ago.  I can sit at home and record in my studio and take my time. You’re not timed, there’s no one looking over your shoulders, there’s a lot more freedom of what you can do and you can erase and redo a track as many times as you need.  That’s a freedom with today’s modern technology that wasn’t there 20 years ago.

ME: The band is definitely no stranger to tours; what is it like the days leading up to the tour?

Mawk: I’ll be honest, everyday my heart gets heavier looking around the place I live and all the beautiful places I spend my days and realize I’m about to head for Cleveland or Wisconsin and it’s 15 degrees below. So, I’m not really jumping for joy and all excited about stepping on the plane. It’s like a resignation because it’s a job and you have to do it and you do it the best that you can, but then when you get out there, it’s great most of the time. I personally prefer it in the summer. What am I doing the days before the tour? Playing bass, packing my suitcase, getting in some last yoga classes and really the most important thing for me personally is making that mental adjustment because if I don’t put my mind in the right place, I don’t want to be there. You have to remember beyond that hour under the lights and on stage, there’s 23 hours and if you don’t maximize those, there’s no reason to be out there. We’re working one hour a day but it’s a 24 hour commitment. So, it’s really what I plan to do in my time on the road off stage that determines the quality of my life, and if I didn’t have that to look forward to, I would really be sweating going on tour.

ME: Is there a particular song that’s a must at tours? A song that’s always expected by fans?

Mawk: A song that’s expected pretty much every time we perform is a song called “Bartender” from our second album, Broke. From the minute we start it, everybody’s hands are in the air and they’re singing along.

ME: Of all the years’ worth of memories, what is one of the most memorable moments you’ve experienced on tour?

Mawk: Well, I could sum up a tour in one memorable moment. I was just talking to a friend about it today and having a good laugh about it because even after 17 years, it’s still clear as day in my head. In 1997 when (həd) p.e were nobodies, our record label, with their infinite wisdom, decided to send us out to  be the opening act for Mötley Crüe, who was on this huge arena tour. I used to be a huge Mötley Crüe fan in the late 80s; this was 1997. At this point, the audience is still wearing their same tight, leather bike jackets but they’re all a little bit older. Ladies are straining their pleather jackets and dresses a little more than they used to. They were just these Mötley Crüe fans and we’d come out rapping with crazy guitars and pyrotechnics, and we’d be met with like 15,000 poker-faced people with a handful of people in the front who knew who we were who were loving it, so it was the weirdest tour. Tommy [Lee] was a huge fan of our album. This was also when Tommy was sober and Nikki Sixx had been sober for about two years, and it started out with [Tommy] coming to our dressing room to get a hit on a joint, get a little high and he’d tell us, “Hey guys, don’t tell Nikki. Nikki would be so pissed at me.” Then he’d come out and say, “Let me get a sip of that Jack Daniels there.” So a sip became a couple more sips, so at the end of the tour, Tommy was pretty much partying hard. Then I go home, sitting on the beach and I see on the TV breaking news: Tommy Lee arrested for domestic violence, and I’m thinking, ‘no don’t tell me we got him all fucked up again and he started drinking and slapping Pamela Anderson!’ I think that’s pretty much what happened. I kept up with Tommy for a few years afterwards and eventually lost touch, but we were there for the great sobriety of Tommy Lee. It was great because the Crüe guys asked us to come on stage on their last song and mosh pit around them as they played. I remember [Mick] Mars was already about 80 at the time and he’d tell us, “Guys, just don’t knock my hat off. I don’t want the audience to see that I’m bald.” (laughs) So for the last show of the tour in ’97, we were in Phoenix and we all decided to get up on stage, and security didn’t know what was happening, so as our guitarist was jumping off the stage, the security guard grabbed him by the foot and started trying to pull him off, so you see our guitarist hanging off the edge of the stage, and Nikki Sixx ran across and got into an altercation with the security and started kicking him, so the rest of security got involved, the police got involved and Nikki got arrested that night for trying to incite a riot. It was also his birthday, so he spent his birthday in jail, but it was probably some of the best publicity they got that year. We got Tommy fucked up, Nikki arrested, and Pamela slapped, so that’s pretty much what happened on that tour. It was a scene because back stage, you’d have like three tour busses, all these semis and then this nasty RV that was parked in the corner leaking piss out of the toilet, and a band of guys who hadn’t showered for days, beer bottles, Jack Daniels, and drugs everywhere. That was where we were at that time in our lives, and part of our lives was getting through that.

 

ME: What should fans expect to see on this tour?

Mawk: To have a great experience and walk around saying, “Wow, what a show.” That’s ultimately what we want. We want to appeal to all people: to the long-time fans, to the girl going there with her boyfriend who can appreciate the feel of the show, to the other musicians in the audience watching us and saying, “Wow these guys are actually great. They’re not just a band singing about clitorises and vaginas.  They’re actually a really good, solid band of musicians.” If the fans want to get in the pit and beat themselves up, as long as I don’t have to get down there with them, then they can do that too, go home and show off their bruises the next day. As long as they leave with the impression that they left a really good show.


 2015 Tour Date

  • 03/26 – Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance
  • 03/27 – Boston, MA @ Middle East
  • 03/28 – Duncannon, PA @ Tubby’s Nightclub
  • 03/29 – Halethrope, MD @ Fish Head Cantina
  • 03/31 – Springfield, VA @Empire
  • 04/01 – Ladson, SC @ Ocean Cowboys
  • 04/02 – Ft. Pierce, FL @ The Inlet
  • 04/03 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room
  • 04/04 – Sanford, FL @ West End Trading Company
  • 04/06 – Jefferson, LA @Southport Hall
  • 04/07 – Houston, TX @ Scout Bar
  • 04/08 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
  • 04/09 – San Antonia, TX @ 210 Kapone’s Live
  • 04/10 – Justin, TX @ The Silo
  • 04/11 – Joplin, MO @ Venue
  • 04/12 – St. Louis, MO @ Mad Magician
  • 04/13 – Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
  • 04/15 – Waterloo, IA @ Reverb
  • 04/16 – Arlington Heights, IL @ Home Bar
  • 04/17 – Detroit, MI @Token Lounge
  • 04/18 – Battle Creek, MI @ The Music Factory
  • 04/19 – Geneva On The Lake, OH @ The Cove
  • 04/21 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar
  • 04/22 – Stanhope, NJ @ Stanhope House
  • 04/23 – Amityville, NY @ Revolution Bar & Music Hall
  • 04/24 – Philadelphia, PA @ Legendary Dobbs
  • 04/25 – Lancaster, PA @ Launch Music Conference/venue TBA

For more information on (həd) p.e., visit

 

About Tracy Lian

Just your average ME interviewer

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