"i have a certain mojo"
zac hanson on keeping it indie, life after "mmmbop" and stomping the yard with the jonas brothers

By: eva kurtz-nelson
Posted: October 9, 2008

Zac Hanson is a passionate man. His energy bleeds through his long responses to straightforward questions, in which he usually talks about, well, his passions: His passion for the music he's been making with his brothers since he was seven, including the unforgettable (if indecipherable "MMMBop,") his passion for helping Africans faced with AIDS through Hanson's Take the Walk campaign (which they're currently on tour supporting, bringing them to Lupo's on Oct.16), his passion for a life that includes the 22-year-old's wife and new baby, and his passion for mercilessly crushing the Jonas Brothers in a boy-band dance-off. Smart, multitalented and seriously funny, Zac Hanson might be one pop star who's actually ready to save the world. Plus, he's still totally dreamy.

Post-: On your Walk Around the World Tour, you've been doing pre-show mile walks in the cities you visit to support Take the Walk. What can people expect to see and experience if they join you in Providence?

Zac Hanson: They start at about three at the concert venue. We'll make noise with a megaphone or with our voices, and you take your shoes off. We basically go in a large circle, and afterwards we register the number of people who walked a mile and donate a dollar for each mile on their behalf. We don't make a guess about who we actually have, because we want to count each individual person. It's a very humble event that's not about awareness or something grand. We all have the unique ability to do a huge thing, and we're a generation with unique tools to affect each other. We're empowered with education, and even in the worst economic crisis in years we have amazing resources, talents and freedom of speech that we can use in a way that isn't based on guilt. It's a great group of people who do this, and you should be privileged to take part.

P-: Since you mentioned the economic crisis and since you're so involved in activism, I was wondering if you had an opinion on the upcoming election.

ZH: I do have an opinion, yeah . but I'm not going to tell you. I mean, there are only so many battles that you can fight. But every vote counts, and we have so many freedoms and opportunities that we shouldn't take for granted. I'm not one of those people who has a big voter registration drive or something . it's in your face and it's not that hard. An absentee ballot doesn't cost you anything. If you don't care, maybe you shouldn't vote. But everyone should vote.

P-: A lot of college students were probably fans of Hanson when you first came out and have lost track of what you're up to now. What would you tell them about why they should come see you guys play now?

ZH: That's hard, because you don't really know where people are. Most of our fans are college students who've grown up with us for 10 or 11 years. Those are our core fans. We've always been really passionate, and that's why we do everything that we do. I guess you can say that we'll surprise people. After 10 years, bands evolve, and we continue to be influenced by music, by being a father, by being married. We're lucky and we love what we do. I'm not really gonna sell myself, I guess. I'm not a really good salesman.

P-: You're going to start working on a new album soon - which artists are you currently influenced by?

ZH: All three of us write and sing, so it's not like one guy saying, "Oh, I suddenly like Bob Dylan." We have a lot of different influences and tendencies, and we'll always be Hanson. No matter how many things happen, there's something that we all enjoy about the chemistry. We love great pop songs, like Elvis, the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin and Bill Withers. Our next album should have more unashamed power-pop, while the album we're promoting (2007's The Walk) is rougher around the edges.

P-: How do you balance touring, family and just being a young person?

ZH: Balance would be a bad word, because it's not balanced - it engulfs you. By the end of this tour, we'll have done over 100 shows, so it's pretty much nonstop. We're very patient. Our families are on the family bus on tour with us, which gives us the natural sanity of being with people you love. And what's better when you're young than being a musician? Making music is a youthful thing. It's what we love. Also, I took an Xbox with me. We're pretty normal guys. When we're not on tour we're at home watching "Heroes" and" Lost."

P-: What's the best part about having your own indie label, 3CG Records, and are there any downsides to being on an indie label?

ZH: The best part relates to business right now and the state of the music industry. It's a really hard time to be in a band, and in my opinion a lot of labels have forgotten that the key to success is building a fan base. Radio stations own [the labels] and MTV owns [the labels], and they're paying them millions and not getting much back, but they're telling their artists to not go on tour and meet fans, which just kills the business. The labels are big public companies going through all these mergers, and when we were on our first label we found ourselves in a huge merger where we were one of only 12 out of 200 bands from our label that weren't dropped. Afterwards we were like, "This is not a place we would ever want to be, they don't know us." Now we have the freedom to choose great partners and people who understand us. The bad part is the extra stress it puts on you creatively, since you're making every single call.

P-: I hear that the Jonas Brothers have challenged you to a dance-off in their song "That's Just the Way We Roll." If Hanson met this challenge, would you win?

ZH: Yeah, they did, didn't they? Would I win? It's not a question of whether or not I would win, it's a question of how badly they would lose. And that's not a statement of how bad they are at dancing, it's a statement of how good my dancing skills are. I have a certain mojo, a groove, a sensibility of spastic motion. As a drummer, I know how to be in the pocket of the rhythm, you know? So deep in the pocket of the rhythm that you can taste the lint in the pocket. It should be like that movie, in the streets and the alleys . Stomp the Yard, man. Stomp the yard. I'll have to do some training. I hear that they do karate, though I don't think that'll help them.