For their detractors it was all too easy to write Hanson off as a band who had two singles "MMM Bop" and "Where's The Love?" before disappearing as quickly as they'd appeared. For their fans though they know the history of independent album releases previous to their huge success and their very being has inspired multi-million selling artists such as Avril Lavigne. Designer Magazine caught up with Taylor Hanson following their first show in the UK in over 3 years.
Q: Being back in the UK after all this time must feel like starting again. How has it been?
A: It's been three years since we were here in England and about five years since we last did a proper tour or played a real show. First of all it was really awesome to see the fans and give them a concert. And then it was also really cool to do a different kind of show. We've always stopped in the middle of our concerts and played acoustically, but it's really cool to play a whole show where you really don't go farther than a couple of guitars and keyboards.
And London is just a great city. Seriously, there so much to see here. The only thing about what we do is you see the world, but so many times you're just working hard when you're there. It's been really great to be here and getting new music out to people.
Q: It must be a relief to find the fans have grown with you rather than moving onto pastures new
A: When you have been away this whole time a lot of fans have grown up and changed with us. Somebody that was 14 or 15 on the first record is at college now 22 or 23. That's on of the coolest things, to see your fans taking this whole journey with you.
Q: Does there ever come a point where you get used to the adulation. You must have had to grow up pretty quickly to face these screaming hordes every night.
A: We do get used to it at a certain level. People are in bands are used to things that a lot of other people aren't used to. There's things which we see as normal that are really abnormal to a lot of other people. But you never get used to or take for granted the energy and the amazing compliment it is to have fans that are really passionate and really excited. Seeing your fans in that way you don't ever want to get too comfortable into thinking you'll always have that.
Q: Here in the UK we've only just witnessed a full acoustic Hanson show for the first time, but I believe you've been touring across the States with it for the best part of the year.
A: Were bummed that were only doing the one gig as far as doing the acoustic shows. The whole thing with the acoustic shows is that the new record comes out in the spring so it's still a while before were releasing new music on a global scale as far as putting it in stores. Just having the opportunity to be here and have people see this special show is really cool because it is different than anything we've really done as a whole tour. Hopefully people will be able to look back at it and go 'Wow I saw the acoustic Hanson show' because this isn't something we'll be doing all the time.
We've come in and done acoustic shows in shopping malls for one offs, but having people come into a concert venue where you're really set up with a good sound system and yer know an hour and a half or two hours where it's only the pared down stuff. Were just really looking forward to coming back and playing more gigs.
Q: Do you feel vindicated that you're still around after critics wrote you off so early on in your career?
A: There's always these questions you ask yourself. You don't know whether you're going to be able to come back and keep having fans and keep being able to put out records. And it's always well we'll see what happens. You can never know, there's no guarantee - especially when we were as young as we were and people go 'wow, is this something that's real and authentic'. For us since the very beginning it's always been hard for people to grasp how organic this has always been for us. I mean this is who we are. The fact that were doing it I'm not surprised because that is who I am, but the fact that we still have fans is something that always blows us away.
Q: You'd been playing for years before "MMM Bop" came out. Were you glad you started early or in retrospect would you have like to start at the age you are now?
A: The thing is it couldn't have happened like that. It's hard to get people to understand that we were making music and we were going to make music and so we couldn't just go 'Well I guess we just better wait cos we might get tired. We better wait a few years and then we might start'. It's just who we are and it's really lucky to have the success early on, but the fact that were doing it - it's just what we do.
Q: Looking back how do you feel about MMM Bop?
A: I guess I'm just really proud of it like everything else. You're really proud of the music you've made and you're always changing. If we released MMM Bop now it wouldn't necessarily be representative of what we do, but it was representative of what we were doing then.
Q: Both the acoustic album and new album "Underneath" are being released independently. How's that whole process been for you?
A: We've just started our own label and it's really interesting because you go through the whole process of educating people. They go 'Independent. What does that mean? Does it mean you're in a garage with a few CD's sticking them in Fed Ex'. What's so interesting is that for instance in the UK were with the same distribution company we were before, which is Universal, the difference is our ownership of the music and our company is putting together the team to promote the music. And throughout the world it's the same thing...it's finding people that are passionate about being part of the team. For us it's really about breaking it down to the core and saying lets get closer to the fans.
Q: With the knowledge that record companies are always after the Top 10 or Top 5 hit was it a case of getting that control back again so you can make the music you like?
A: A lot of people assume that deciding to do what were doing now is a defiant things against other labels or the label we were with or labels in general. What were doing now is an all positive thing. It's really about what is just the most exciting thing and thing that feels sort of fresh. It's not about proving that the label are doing it wrong. It's more about the opportunity to do something new.
And it is nice to know that on every record you're going to recoup all your expenses and things you've invested in it a lot faster. That's always a nice thing and it allows you to do more things. Part of our goal is that were going to be able to sign other bands and give other music opportunities directly.
Q: You've worked with so many people on the new album. Greg Alexander from the New Radicals, Michelle Branch, Matthew Sweet and members of the Bare Naked Ladies and Semisonic. How does it feel to work with these people and have massive contemporary artists such as Avril Lavigne say if it wasn't for Hanson she wouldn't have started in music?
A: It's huge. As a musician you go out there and take risks and you make your music. Who knows whether you're going to be successful or not, you just make it. To take it to another level and have successful musicians talk about you being an inspiration to them is all you can ever hope for. Michelle is a good friends of ours and we've gotten to know Avril a little bit recently and it's really inspiring. It's inspiring to know that people were turned onto music by something you did.
The point with music is you're supposed to affect people and even though somebody goes MMM Bop it wasn't a political statement. When you put out music it should affect music in someway. And when someone says 'Yeah I heard your record and that made we want to do music and here I am after selling millions of records'. We must have been doing our job if that happened.
Q: In your songs you draw on your own experiences. For example getting married last year and having a baby must have had a huge effect on you both personally and as a songwriter?
A: That's about as big as you can get in terms of changes in your life. It's huge to have a baby that's almost a year old and to be married. It really affects you and it's a huge inspiration. Taking one road trip can inspire a song, getting married can inspire a career.
Q: Do you realize how many heartbroken fans out there that wanted to be Mrs Taylor Hanson?
A: Yeah, I guess you just have to take it as it comes. Hopefully nobodies hearts are broken that bad that it will do any permanent damage. It's so funny when people go you're a sex symbol or you're a heartthrob when they want to make a point of that stuff. It was never about that for us. Whether you've got 1 million girl fans or a bunch of screaming soccer fans you're just glad to have people that are excited about what you're doing.
Q: And finally what are your ambitions for next year?
A: First of all it's just getting your music out there an reinitiating people. Saying this is what we did before and this is what we did on the last album and this is what were doing now. That's what it is to have a career - to be able to keep reinterpreting what you do to people.
On a much bigger level I think it's us writing and producing for other people, signing other bands to the label and hopefully we'll be able to do that.
"Underneath Acoustic" is available through the official website
The full album is released Spring 2004
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