PUBLISHED IN VARIOUS SOUTHAM PAPERS AFTER August 18, 1998

 

 

MMMBOPPIN' AWAY

 

BY NICK KREWEN

 

TORONTO --

They're the latest teen sensation, mixing Motown harmonies with appealing pop beats, but don't you dare mention HANSON in the same breath as NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK or BACKSTREET BOYS.

"We want to be known as Hanson," states ZACHARY HANSON, sitting on the armrest of a couch in a Toronto hotel conference room next to his singing brethren TAYLOR and ISAAC.

"Yeah, we want to be known as Hanson," echoes his brother Taylor, the lead vocalist whose sugar-coated soprano sent a horde of 15,000 teenagers into a frenzy Saturday night at Canada's Wonderland as part of YTV's Psyko Blastr telecast.

"We are  Hanson. I don't know how you want to label us, but see us for who we are and what we do."

"We do the music that we do," pipes in Isaac, his golden Hanson locks tied back in a ponytail." We play the songs and write the songs. That's who we are."

Hanson needn't worry about an identity crisis. Since the Tulsa-based teen trio released their first Mercury Records album back in May, they've been an instant smash. Propelled by their #1 hit "MMMBop" and the current top five hit "Where's The Love," Middle Of Nowhere  has exploded around the world and sold more than two million copies; 300,000 in Canada alone.

Their healthy, blemish-free faces have adorned magazine covers, posed for the requisite celebrity milk ad, and recently returned from a promotion trip that took them through Australia, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

A reported book project from Virgin Publishing is due in the Fall, but a rumored movie is just that...a rumor.

"We're releasing a long form video," says Isaac, "But that's much different from a movie."

Yet despite their young ages -- Isaac, Taylor and Zac are 16, 13, and 11 respectively -- Hanson are not pop music novices. Middle Of Nowhere  isn't even their first album.

It's their third.

"We have two indie records we released locally," says Taylor, who sings and plays keyboard.

"On our own money, basically," guitarist Isaac interjects. "They were called Boomerang and MMMBop."

"The first one was much more hip-hop," adds Taylor. "We didn't play any instruments yet. It was all synthesized, because we only played keyboards. The next one we played all the instruments, wrote all the songs, and basically did ourselves."

Approximately a month after MMMBop  was released, the trio signed with Mercury Records and recorded Middle Of Nowhere, co-produced by STEVE LIRONI, who previously worked with BLACK GRAPE and SPACE; and THE DUST BROTHERS, famous for BECK's Odelay and introducing rapper TONE-LOC to the world.

Three songs were held over from the MMMBop  album sessions: the title track, "Thinking Of You," and "With You In Your Dreams."

"Of course we wrote`Man From Milwaukee' on our way up to the studio," Isaac dutifully adds.

Of course.

Boomerang was released three years ago, and the brothers Hanson have been writing, rehearsing and performing for five. You don't want to know how old they were when they wrote their first song.

"Isaac wrote his first song in third grade," Taylor answers. "I don't remember the name of it. Then Zac and I started writing songs right after that."

"The first good song we wrote was called `Rain Fall Down,'" recalls Zac.

"Yeah, that was on our first album," chime Isaac and Taylor simultaneously.

"That was more like five or six years ago. Maybe seven," Taylor continues." Before we became a group we started writing songs."

As you may have gathered, holding a conversation with the three Hansons is like watching a tennis match. At the start of the interview, they enter the room in single file, stop briefly to shake hands, and sit themselves on a couch. They often speak simultaneously in incomplete sentences, interrupt each other regularly, and spike thoughts into their sibling's monologues.

Yet one can't help but be impressed by their confidence. Aside from fronting the new vanguard of adolescent talent that seems to be dominating pop music at the moment, Hanson has more in common with the SILVERCHAIR and RADISH school of teen bands as self-sufficient artists whose love of music outshines potential profits and screaming girls.

While most kids are jazzed about basketball, hockey and video games, Hanson feels the same about songwriting. Mention the names of some of the collaborators Mercury Records hired to write with the trio -- including such Tin Pan Alley veterans as BARRY MANN, CYNTHIA WEIL and ELLEN SHIPLEY -- and the boys are starstruck.

"When we heard we were going to write with them, it was `Oh my God!' says Taylor.

"Weil and Mann are incredible," adds Isaac.

"If you heard all the songs they wrote on one tape, you wouldn't believe it," Taylor interjects.

"`On Broadway.' `You've Lost That Loving Feeling.' `Who Put The Bop,'" Isaac recites.

"They're legends, man. A lot of the writers we wrote with have written numerous songs. Huge hits! That was an amazing experience," Taylor shakes his head.

But it is Zac the drummer who insists that the pairing of songwriting veterans with Hanson wasn't a teacher-pupil relationship.

"It wasn't like they taught us. We were both at the same level," he asserts.

In fact, the group challenges any assumption about their abilities or their motives. The question of whether the trio is a naturally driven phenomenon or if their oil executive father WALKER is a JOE JACKSON-type of showbiz sven gali bent on creating a Jackson dynasty out of Hanson DNA is met with a stern rebuke from Zachary.

"Don't even assume that!" he states.

"Our parents are extremely behind it," says Taylor. "But it's totally what we want to do. It's so in us, we couldn't deny it.

"Yeah, we couldn't deny the fact that we love music," agrees Isaac. "The first music we listened to was '50s and '60s rock and roll. From the time we heard that, it really sparked something in us. During that time we started writing and singing songs. We were singing acapella at first. It just evolved."

The reporter gets a further lecture regarding age and accomplishment when he asks whether the boys had problems being taken seriously when they began in their native Tulsa.

"Different people did, but you can't avoid that," says Taylor. "It's our act. It's not about our ages. We're not trying to market ourselves as being young. That has nothing to do with it.

"We're just a band that happens to be young," Isaac suggests. "That's coincidence. It's just something we love to do and we're doing it at a young age.

"That's what it's really about," intervenes Taylor. "You should just forget about our ages and listen to the record. If you don't like the record, that's cool. But if it's about age, then that shouldn't be written about."

Not surprisingly, no one in Hanson feels like they're sacrificing their childhood.

"How many people have seen half the world? " Taylor asks rhetorically. "We've gotten to go all over Asia. All over Europe. All over North America, and seen a lot of different things.

"And I'm not even 12," adds Zac. "Most people never see this in their whole lifetime.

"No, no, that's not a good thing. That's a bad thing. I should be in school right now," he adds sarcastically.

"Even if you were at the best college in the world, there's no better job you could have that what you love to do, having fun doing it, and doing it all over the world," Taylor concludes.

As for future endeavors, Hanson promises that they will return to tour Canada, with projected dates like next Spring.

"We have to," insists Taylor. "We're really looking forward to touring. Hopefully everywhere we get to in Canada is a major stop."

Concerning Hanson's long-range plans, Isaac remains hopeful.

"Just cross your fingers and hope you have a long career," he says. "Hopefully, you get to the next single and then the next record. Your hopes have to be modest. You have to take life one step at a time."

Here's the kicker: There are three Hanson siblings who are even younger than this trio.

MENUDO, anyone?

 

 

 

-30-

DISCOGRAPHY

1997 -- Middle Of Nowhere

1997 -- Snowed In

1998 -- Three Car Garage: The Independent Recordings

1998 -- Live From Albertane

 

THANKS: Samantha Johnson, Sara Milne, Graham Parley

1997, 1999 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink

Home

About Octopus Media Ink