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San Jose Mercury Article

When 5 Minutes A Hanson Is Too Much
By Candace Murphy
San Jose Mercury News 
Published: Wednesday, July 8, 1998 

THE GUY at Mercury Records tells me I can have a 15-minute phone interview with Hanson.

"They'll literally pass the phone," he warns me moments before the big pow wow, prepping me for the interview that will, no doubt, put me on the map as a real go-getter among my journalist peers. "You should get all of them."

I do some quick math. That gives me five minutes a Hanson. I silently bless Isaac, Taylor and Zac for elbowing their four younger siblings out of their squeaky clean pop gig. That would have left me with a little more than 128 seconds per kid. Literary legends are not made in 128 seconds.

But I know I'll have to fire the questions at them fast. I'll be in one of those rare situations where I literally don't have time to waste. I'll have to leave the "How's the tour going?" question to some poor sap working for a wire service. I can see what the answer is later, when I surf the Web.

I'll also have to ask Isaac some other time how his orthodontics are going. An ideal time for that might be much, much further down the road, when the boys bring their revamped Jackson 5 sunny pop sound to the Indian reservation casinos near Palm Springs, sharing a marquee with a grizzled Pauly Shore and a wrinkled Jenny McCarthy.

At 12:15 p.m., the appointed time for the interview, I stand poised near my telephone. I remain poised until 12:16. I'm still there at 12:17. By 12:27, I start to cramp up. At 12:33, the phone rings. It's Hanson's tour manager.

"Sorry, I had to round the boys up," she says. "You'll get Ike first. Isaac. Hang on."

Feeling cocky, I decide to call Isaac "Ike," too.

"Hey, is this Ike?" I ask peppily.

"Isaac," he says flatly, reducing me to rubble as only a teenager can.

I riffle through the Rolodex of Hanson facts in my mind. I could ask what an honor it was to earn the Village Voice's Pazz and Jop critics poll single of 1997 for "MMMBop." How hard it is to write their own music. Or if they shook up a liter of root beer and showered it over themselves when they earned three Grammy nominations.

Instead, I look at the Hanson bio in front of me. It lists the boys' names and ages: Clarke Isaac Hanson, 17. Jordan Taylor Hanson, 15. Zachary Walker Hanson, 12.

I choke.

"Hey, how come you guys go by your middle names and not your first names? I mean, except for Zac." I say. A long pause follows. I mentally punch my forehead with the ball of my hand and silently yell, "Duh!"

"Just because, definitely it's, it wasn't, well what do you go by? Your first or second name?" Isaac asks.

I say I go by my first name.

"Well, it wasn't a choice of mine to go by my middle name," he continues. "My parents just called me Ike. Why do people go by their first names anyway?"

Rumors of dogs

I'd answer but I've just wasted 19 seconds. I decide to move on and get to the heart of the matter. I've read on the Hansons' official Web site, ,that the boys have a new dog named Wickit. I want to know how they take care of it on this tour they're on, which will have taken them from Montreal, where it opened June 20, to Seattle by the time it ends July 21. They'll be at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View on Wednesday.

"That's just a rumor. We don't have a dog," Isaac says.

An umpire in the distance yells "STEEEEERIKE TWOOOOOOO." But I persevere. I ask what other crazy rumors there have been.

"There was a rumor that became somewhat of fact at one point. The rumor got big enough. They said Zac died. That he died in a car crash," Isaac says. "It was announced on several radio stations, in Tulsa, Texas and some parts of California, random places. It was total fiction. Apparently some people were really upset. We were recording the Christmas album at that moment; so within a day of that, it became pretty clear that he wasn't dead."

I want to ask what he meant by the rumor becoming somewhat of fact, but Isaac shuts me down. He's grown tired of me.

"You know what? I'm going to pass the phone to Zac now," Isaac says.

I was hoping to get Zac last. He's the youngest of the three who does a pretty good impression of a kid with an attention deficit disorder.

Zac says hello and sounds mellow. Rather than ask if the Ritalin has kicked in, I opt to ask how the Hansons' cameo on Ringo Starr's new video for "La De Da" came about.

On the video, the trio is shown sitting on a bench next to the 57-year-old former Beatle drummer. Beatlemania is dead; Hanson Hysteria lives. And in short order a posse of screaming teenage girls chases off the threesome, leaving Starr all alone.

"We knew someone that he knew," says Zac (translation: Starr is with Mercury. So is Hanson). "They said, `Why don't you come do this thing?' And we were like, why not? It's the Beatles! They're amazing. They're like the biggest group in the world. We definitely listened to that era growing up, but it wasn't the first music we listened to."

Though their favorite bands are Fastball, Semisonic and Ben Folds Five now, the Hansons cut their teeth on a Time-Life collection of '50s and '60s music. They all took piano lessons but found they preferred to sing. Every evening was a cappella night around the dinner table in Tulsa, Okla.

I imagine the Hansons belting out Chuck Berry's "School Day" one evening after a particularly rough day of home-schooling with their mother, Diana, as steaming-hot bowls of gumbo cool atop a checkerboard tablecloth. The spicy gumbo brings to mind another hot act on the market today. I ask Zac if they view the Spice Girls as their competition.

"Yes," he says, "because it's not like Aerosmith is our competition, or Billy Joel. The Spice Girls are competition as long as they do music and have music. It's not like we hate them because they sell records, or anyone else. But people will either buy our records or their records. So they're our competition."

One would assume that the same goes for the Backstreet Boys and `N Sync. Zac thinks. "Yes," he says.

I think back, way, way back to when I was Zac's age. I sprain something doing so. But I remember hanging out with my parents at that age. And not wanting to. As part of a threesome like theirs, and the family's policy of sending at least one parent on the road with them at all times, you'd think their style would be cramped -- especially since their father, Walker, quit his job as an oil-company accountant early last year to help oversee the boys' career full time.

No insipid nonsense

"Our whole family is in this huge bus," says Zac, who must get annoyed having to share the bathroom with sisters Jessica, 9, Avery, 6, Mackenzie, 4, and infant Zoe, not to mention his parents and the family's omnipresent bodyguard. "They don't cramp our style at all though."

That may be because the bus they're on, aside from the restroom issues, sounds pretty awesome. Each bunk has a separate television and VCR (the best way to avoid fights over who gets the remote control), and there's a computer with Internet access.

The boys say they really like the Internet and Zac says that earlier in the day he looked up the Harley Davidson Web site. I ask what they think of the 22 anti-Hanson Web sites -- more plentiful than even the Anti Puff Daddy sites -- which have hurtful names ranging from "These 3 Chicks are Stupid" to "Bad Music Central" to "No Insipid Nonsense [NiN]."

"It's kind of more fun to look at the anti stuff. They make up rumors of why we rank. It's interesting," he says. Then, with the smoothness of gravel he adds, "I'm going to pass the phone to Taylor now."

Taylor is considered the heartthrob of Hanson. His cheeks are perpetually flushed; his shoulder-length hair gives him an androgynous quality. Like his brothers, though, he doesn't have a girlfriend. I decide to ask Taylor what crazy stuff the young girls do to get his attention while he performs.

"What's crazy stuff?" Taylor asks.

I suggest that the young girls might throw their parents' garage-door openers on the stage as both invitation to their homes as well as an homage to the Hansons' fifth and latest release, "Three Car Garage."

"No," Taylor says. "They don't do that."

Shifting gears, I go back to the a cappella angle. Following the release of "Boomerang," one of two indie albums Hanson made between 1992 and 1995 as the boys attempted to launch their career, the three began playing their own instruments. Taylor opted for keyboards; Isaac took up guitar; and Zac pounded away on drums. The move strengthened their songwriting.

"We decided to take it to the next level," says Taylor. "Ike always had a fantasy of being a guitar player. Rock 'n' roll artists -- that was his thing. Then Zac just gravitated toward the drums. We got an old set from a friend and set him up. Zac bangs the loudest; so it was pretty natural for him."

Taylor has set himself up for my next question. It's one I've wondered about since I saw Zac destroy the astronaut figurine on MTV's pre-music awards show. The one all of us have wondered about.

"So, do you think Zac is kind of, well, hyperactive?" I ask.

"No, that's just one of his personas. No, not at all," says Taylor. "The only thing about Zac is he's bold enough to go out there and say stuff we wouldn't and act like he's crazy."

Comfortable with being politically incorrect, I point out Hanson's similarities to the Jackson 5. I ask if there's a concern that any of them will turn out as strange as Michael Jackson.

"I think the only thing we get compared for is because we're a young group, and we're young guys doing music as brothers," Taylor says. "But they were so huge, and we don't want to compare ourselves to them. The only comparison is the obvious, that we're young and brothers."

Tons of money

Taylor hasn't answered my question. Is he scared any of them will turn out like Michael Jackson?

"I think that's a whole other thing," he says.

I'm now sweating. It's been 13 minutes and 10 seconds, and the most riveting information I've pried from the boys is that Zac is alive and the family doesn't have a dog. I might as well have asked what they're doing with the ton of money they've made off "Middle of Nowhere," which has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide.

So I do.

"A lot of people ask about that. That's never been what it's about," Taylor says. "But we're being very conservative about it. We don't spend very much, and we're definitely saving a lot of it. We're trying to be smart about it. You know what, I think we have to wrap this up."

I mumble something about that being cool and hang up the phone.

My time with Hanson is through.

Courtesy: San Jose Mercury Article