The late ’90s hard rock scene was quite the bountiful basket of eclectic bands. (hed) p.e. was one of those bands that blurred the genre lines — melding punk, metal, rap, reggae, and rock into one dynamic package. The band scored MTV and mainstream airwave play in 2000 with their singe “Bartender” which was parts laid back G-Funk hip-hop mashed up with some gritty and ballsy riffs and low end antics.
Unlike their contemporaries who traded their hustle and flow in for either a slot in the “Where Are They Now?” file or a more mainstream, pop-oriented sound, (hed) p.e. became the workhorse band — churning out album after album (including their highly enjoyable 2003 release Black Out) and touring like mad dogs, never leaving their fans or the music world wondering, “Whatever happened to those dudes?”
And the perseverance paid off as the band’s latest effort, Evolution (released last week on Pavement Records), landed them back in the Billboard Top 200. They’re currently following this up with a highly-anticipated tour with Powerman 5000 (and then another run later this month with Dope). Recently, we caught up with (Hed) p.e. bassist “Mawk” over e-mail to talk about the new album and all things (hed) p.e. as the band prepares to roll into New York City to rock B.B. Kings on Thursday August 21.
First off, congratulations on the new album debuting at #105 on the Billboard charts! How does it feel to chart in the Billboard Top 200? Some bands I’ve spoken with in the past have downplayed any excitement about being there, while others have been ecstatic — how do you feel about this?
Mawk: Thanks for your kind words! Speaking only for myself – which is all I can do – I know the Billboard Top 200 is very meaningful for some, but it’s such a relative number it has no real meaning to me. Back when we released our first album a band would need to sell tens of thousands of CDs to debut in that chart; now seventeen years later a band needs to sell just a few hundred CDs to get the same position. So how do I feel about this? It’s cool to be acknowledged, I don’t attach any significance to it.
You’ve mentioned Evolution is one of the heavier albums you guys have done and it takes you back to your metal and underground roots. Why’d you guys to take this record in heavier direction?
Mawk: I would say HEDpe has always had that ‘heavy’ side since Jackson joined in 1994. All our albums since then have had metal tracks side-by side with hip-hop and punk and reggae tracks, but the ‘heavy’ was always in there. This time the format of the album was stripped down to a more concise format – eight back-to-back rock songs and three reggae songs; no interludes or exploring other styles. Musically, it pays homage back to where we all started in our various musical journeys – growing up on Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and forefathers of our rock lineage. As a band we went back to our roots but added several decades of our own evolution into the mix.
Lyrically, how do you feel this album stands out from the rest of your work?
Mawk: Regarding the lyrics, I am as much a member of the listening audience as you are, though knowing Jared for 23 years gives me a certain empathy to what he’s writing about. I would say the lyrical direction on this album is much more personal and a reflection on self-experience than in prior releases.
You guys are now on Pavement Entertainment – can you talk about why you made this the new home for (Hed) p.e.?
Mawk: You can only be homeless for so long.
Speaking of the band as a whole – what’s one of the most awesome moments that you’ve had while being a part of this band?
Mawk: That brief moment in time when I made enough $$$ from music to fly my mum to New York City for her birthday. Having deserted my family for 24 years to chase a wild dream in a distant land, it’s such moments that balance it out.
In the same vein, what is it that you love about being in this band?
Mawk: I’m able to lead a certain lifestyle that would not otherwise be possible (if you knew where I came from, and the places I now get to
go to you’d understand).
You’re touring with Powerman 5000 – what’s the tour been like so far?
Mawk: This tour’s been one of my favorites in a long time. The Powerman guys are great, our good friends in Sunflower Dead are main support on the tour, and there’s a lot of camaraderie between everyone on the tour. And – I know I’ll get some flak for this – it’s very “real” to me, every band on the bill is made up of musicians and nobody is starting their show with a “Play” button. How about that? Live music played by real live musicians?!?!?
If someone discovers the band for the first time after reading this interview, which track or record would you tell them to check out so they can get what (Hed) p.e. is all about?
Mawk: Well, obviously I’d tell them to pick up Evolution and see what HEDpe is all about now. Sure, they might like Broke or Blackout, but why
start out with “Hey bro nice to meet you – check out my band fourteen years ago”?
After your tour with Powerman and then Dope this summer, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2014?
Mawk: We have a brief run to the Philippines in late September – hopefully not flying Malaysian Air – then for October and early November we head to Europe and Russia with our label-mates Soil.
(Hed) p.e. performs with Powerman 5000 and Sunflower Dead at B.B. Kings in New York City on Thursday August 21. Click here for tickets.
8/20: Emporium – Patchogue, NY
8/21: BB King’s – New York City
8/22: Hard Times Cafe – Hagerstown, MD
8/23: AlRosa Villa – Columbus, OH
8/24: Cove Nightclub – Geneva, OH
8/26: Music Vault – Hardeeville, SC
8/27: Hooligan’s – Jacksonville, FL
8/28: The Wizard Saloon – Hickory, NC
8/29: Thompson House – Newport, KY
8/30: The Stache @ The Intersection – Grand Rapids, MI
9/02: The District – Sioux Falls, SD
9/03: POV’s – Spring Lake Park, MN
9/05: Mojoe’s – Joliet, IL
9/06: The Machine Shop – Flint, MI
Bill Bodkin is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. He can be read weekly on Trailer Tuesday and Singles Party, weekly reviews on Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU and regular contributions throughout the week with reviews and interviews. His goal is to write 500 stories this year. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English and currently works in the world of political polling. He’s the reason there’s so much wrestling on the site and is beyond excited to be a Dad this coming December. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom