September 5, 2013 Interview – Doug Robb of Hoobastank
In 2001 southern California rock band Hoobastank stormed onto the scene after years of crafting their sound and style. 12 years later they have accomplished a great deal with platinum, silver, and gold records, a massive hit single in “The Reason”, and sold over 10 million record worldwide. Success has not tainted this group of musical friends though. They consistently create quality music with their latest offering, 2012’s Fight Or Flight, and continue to play sold out venues. Recently we caught up with vocalist Doug Robb for an in depth look at Hoobastank’s history, their dedication as friends and musicians, and much more.
Crypticrock.com – Hoobastank has been going strong for almost 20 years now. You guys took the rock scene by storm in 2001 with your self-title major label debut Hoobastank. “Crawling In The Dark” was a massive success and then 2 years later you released The Reason and the single “The Reason” was a gigantic hit. Looking back on that a decade later did you ever dream that the song would have been as big as it was and still is?
Doug Robb – Never, that’s the easiest answer, never (laughs). To have a hit song is so unpredictable. As many bands have probably told you before that after you record your record you kind of sit around with management, the band, and maybe A & R people from the label. You listen to the album and say ok this is going to be a single, at least we did, and our friend’s bands did as well.
When we finished recording The Reason album I don’t think anybody choose “The Reason” song as a single. That is kind of how oblivious we were to what we had. We released a song called “Out Of Control” which was the first single on that record. We as a band had other plans as far as what to do next. I think some radio stations just started playing that song on their own, which is kind of unheard of, but they just started playing that song. They basically picked it first, started playing the song, our record label got wind of that, and they said we are going to push this. If the radio stations are going to start playing it on their own then we are going to push it. We actually fought it a little bit, we kind of pushed back a little bit. We felt we wanted to wait on this song because it’s more of a 3rd single type thing then a 2nd single type thing. We obviously didn’t know that it was going to do what it did, but we’re glad it did.
Crypticrock.com – Absolutely, that is quiet a pleasant surprise and an interesting story. Now as stated before you guys have been plugging along for nearly 2 decades. It’s extremely difficult to live the life of a rock n roll band. Were there ever times up until the rewards of the self-titled album and there after that you wanted to pack it up and do something different?
Doug Robb- We officially started playing shows as Hoobastank in 1995. In 1999 we had been playing for already 4 years, most of us had a job, or two jobs, or had jobs and going to school in Los Angeles. In 1999 we kind of thought we were on the verge of maybe getting a record deal. We were so focused on getting a record deal at that time. We got some money from a record label to record some new songs and we recorded some new songs.
Everybody passed on us in 1999, literally every single label, even indie labels. At that point yea it was pretty discouraging. It wasn’t so much I’m done with this I want to go do something else, we were kind of at a point maybe we have to do something else, maybe that was our shot. We just refocused, made some changes, and mentally let go of the idea of getting a record deal. We thought maybe we got too focused on that, gotten away from playing music because we loved to play music, and playing shows because we love to play shows. Between summer of 1999 and summer of 2000 we said fuck it we are not going to submit anything to any record companies. Ironically the summer of 2000 the labels kind of came knocking on our door instead.
CrypticRock.com – That’s funny because that happens anytime in any part of life. You can relate it to your chasing a girl and after you stop chasing the girl she’s interested in you.
Doug Robb- (laughs) Totally. It’s exactly the same, we literally said forget the business end of this and lets have fun. It all worked out.
CrypticRock.com – When you guys first started the band many may not realize this but your band had another piece in a saxophone player. Was it a difficult decision to subtract the saxophone element from the music?
Doug Robb- Yea, our guitar player Dan was super into the Chili Peppers, he was a total funk guitar guy. Myself and everybody in the band was into Fishbone and bands like Mr. Bungle. Kind of like these genre busting bands, especially Mr. Bungle, which were super heavy at some points and then like evil Ska haunted carnival type sound within the same song. That was the kind of shit that we were all way into it. We were young teenagers and we were emulating these types of bands. We had a couple of saxophone players. Our music was kind of all over the board. That was one of the things, the music already started to become more focused from 1995 to 1999. It was becoming less eclectic, it was becoming more focused and more of a genre to it. In 1999 we said the music is becoming basically more straight forward rock. We didn’t see where we could fit the sax anymore and we had to kind of cut it lose.
CrypticRock.com – It was a natural progression of the band.
Doug Robb- Yea it wasn’t like we were doing this crazy eclectic stuff all the way into 1999 and we said it’s not working cut it and change it all up. It was going in that direction, and I think letting our sax player go was kind of the full evolution and the final step.
Crypticrock.com – The band has obviously taken off since that time. Now 7 studio albums deep into your career, extensive touring and achieving major success, platinum record, gold record… what I want to know is what has changed for Hoobastank over the years?
Doug Robb- I don’t know man. We kind of have run the gamut as far as every possible emotion, high and low, that is associated with being in a successful band. We’ve had some unbelievable highs and we’ve had some harder times. I don’t know, I don’t think our perspective has changed anymore than anybody else who has grown from 25 to 38 years old. You just kind of see the world differently. My perspective of what is important to me has changed. I have a daughter and another kid on the way. I’m not the 25 year old who wants to go out and conquer the world and party while I’m at it. I’m a guy who likes to play music and if people want to listen that’s awesome (laughs). Obviously I don’t feel like this is the twilight of our career but I am definitely in more a retrospective point in my career where I can look back and see all the cool things we’ve done. I don’t sit around and think oh we used to play amphitheaters and arenas and now we are playing this club tonight. I still have a good time doing what I’m doing.
CrypticRock.com – Yes and the band is still relevant. Your latest album Fight Or Flight was released September 2012. It’s a very strong record filled with great tracks. Tell me what the writing and recording process was for the record?
Doug Robb- We recorded that record almost exclusively in Toronto. That was cool because we always wanted to do something outside of LA because everything we had recorded up until then was where we’re from. It was kind of like in the past. You wake up at home, you’re in your element, you do your thing, you go to the studio to work , then you check out and it’s back to life. When you record somewhere away from home you basically eat, sleep and breathe the album. You wake up, you go to the studio, you’re there all day and come back and work on more stuff in your hotel. That was really what we wanted to do this time around. I think that’s one of the main differences in this record.
Also, this is the first record since The Reason album that we wrote as a four piece band. The two records in between Every Man For Himself (2006) and For(N)ever (2009) we kind of wrote the music as a 3 piece and had a studio bass player come in and fill in the blanks. This time around we got to write the songs as a four member band. We got to rehearse, tweak the songs, and they all kind of go through an evolution process which I think is pretty natural and healthy for songs. I think by the time we got them recorded they were more complete than some of the songs on the previous two records.
CrypticRock.com – It definitely shows through in the music. It’s a very solid record and very balanced between the heavier and more mellow tracks. Now you are currently on The Big Night Out Tour with Fuel and Alien Ant Farm. How is the tour going for you guys?
Doug Robb- Yea we’re almost about half way through it. It’s been going good. I don’t really know what my expectations where, but I am having fun, and the guys are cool. We’ve known both the bands for years. Alien Ant Farm we’ve known since prior to both of us having record deals, from the mid to late 90’s. It’s always interesting to see how career and life paths panned out, and kind of reminiscence a little bit. The tour’s been great.
CrypticRock.com – You talk about life taking you different ways over the years. The band has maintained essentially the same line-up since 1995. What do you equate the longevity of the band keeping the same line-up all these years?
Doug Robb- I don’t know, like you said essentially the 3 out of 4 members are the same. Our bass player has been with us for upwards of 4 years now. I don’t know, it’s probably a lot of things, we are friends, we’ve been able to keep our egos in check relatively well, also what else the fuck are we going to do? (laughs). Even on the really “bad days” you have to sit around and go well I could be doing a normal job and that would suck. I think that has to do with the ego thing. I think we understand if people want to see us play, why not play for them, if we have that opportunity.
CrypticRock.com – You know that is an impressive feat because many bands can’t keep their egos in check, that is downfall with a lot of bands. The longevity is definitely something you should be proud of.
Doug Robb- It is for sure. I think a lot of it has to do with none of us were in it to be rock stars. To live a rock star life or whatever. We just really had a lot of fun playing music, especially starting, it was just like a drug. I don’t think anybody was like ” I can’t wait until I’m famous” or “I can’t wait to have the perks of this and that”. I don’t think any of us really cared. I think maybe some people go into it and say “I want to play music because I want to be a rock star” and then they get it, it’s just a recipe for self implosion.
CrypticRock.com – Right, it should be about the love of the music. That has definitely worked for Hoobastank. I’d like to know what some of your musical influences are?
Doug Robb- It sounds clichéd but that whole time period where grunge was king was the time period where I was most susceptible to being influenced by music. All those bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and Pearl Jam. All those bands were probably the most influential. My high school years, where you are just a sponge for new music, those bands all kind of spoke to teenagers at that time. I think that would be the easiest call as far as who had the most influence.
CrypticRock.com – That is some great stuff. My last question for you is regarding films. CrypticRock covers horror movies as well. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Doug Robb- Well what’s considered horror? Can you throw the first Alien movie in as horror or is that sci-fi/suspense?
CrypticRock.com – I’d call that a horror movie for sure because that movie is definitely scary (laughs).
Doug Robb- (laughs) Yea, I’m not like a horror movie guy at all. I remember being a kid and seeing A Nightmare On Elm Street movies and being scared shitless. It’s not like I actively seek out horror movies now, because I feel like I can’t suspended my disbelief anymore. Anytime of movie that seems more realistic nowadays to me seem scarier.