House of Pain have fond memories of playing in Ireland, despite spending time in the back of a garda van, writes Ed Power
THE details have grown a little hazy over the years but it’s fair to say House of Pain’s Leor Dimant will never forget his first visit to Ireland.
“We went to a store we weren’t supposed to go to,” he says, grinning at the memory. “Before we knew it, we’re in the back of a police van being taken away for questioning.”
He is reluctant to go into specifics. Nonetheless, a brush with the law hasn’t put him off the old country. Though Dimant,who performs as DJ Lethal, is of Baltic rather than Celtic heritage, he considers himself an honorary Irishman. As well he might given Irishness, or at least the American idea of “Irishness”, is at the core of House of Pain’s identity.
Indeed, with roots in the Irish-American communities of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, the trio of Dimant and rhymers Everlast and Danny Boy are as emerald green as a Shamrock Shake on March 17. Most famously, the video accompanying their 1992 smash ‘Jump Around’ ticked off a check-list of Irish-American standards: St Patrick’s Day marching bands, Boston Celtics casual wear, clinking beer bottles.
This was a new flavour of Irish pride — one that would be subsequently mined by everyone from Dropkick Murphys to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (whose ‘Irish Celebration’ is House of Pain with a millennial gloss).
“We owe everything to Ireland,” says Dimant. “I’ve always had great times there. I consider myself an honorary Irish person. It has always been a crazy place to play.”
The first time he listened back to ‘Jump Around’ Dimant was proud to have cut a memorable single. Nobody guessed it would become a juggernaut, charting at number three in the US and soundtracking movies as diverse as Mrs Doubtfire, Black Hawk Down and Bridget Jones’s Baby. He isn’t being modest when he says he didn’t see it coming.
“If I could have predicted that, I’d be in Vegas now betting all the time,” he laughs. “You never can tell.”
House of Pain were in their teens and early 20s when ‘Jump Around’ brought international acclaim. Yet by that point, the fresh-faced Dimant was already a seasoned touring artist. While still at high school, he’d already toured the world.
“My first tour before the House of Pain was with Everlast, back when he was doing his solo career. My parents had to sign me out of 11th grade so I could go. Imagine being 16-years-old in that situation. We were touring with Ice-T , at that time the biggest thing on the planet. And we were all travelling on the same tour bus. Man, I was tripping out. I knew I wanted to do this with my life.”
The circumstances in which ‘Jump Around’ was recorded are fascinating. Rapper Everlast had started as a member of Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate “crew”. However, his attempt to cross over as a pop star came unstuck with his debut album flopping on Warner Brothers (with the name ‘Forever Everlasting’ it never really stood a chance).
With Dimant at his side, they hooked up with Danny Boy — an old pal from Everclear’s days as a graffiti artist. One of the first tracks Everclear presented to the group was ‘Jump Around’ — derived from a Shabba Ranks-esque reggae song he’d been working on with the verse “Jump around, if you love freedom. Jump around, if you love culture.”
In the studio, they gutted the lyrics of its hippy dippy sentiments and cut to the chase. The rest is hip hop history. “Its fate was sealed when it appeared in Mrs Doubtfire,” says Dimant. “Once you’re in a movie seen by that many people, the song is going to be remembered.”
That his parents were unusually understanding was no surprise to Dimant. Back in Latvia, his father had been an aspiring musician who’d crossed the Iron Curtain to fulfil his creative ambitions.
“My dad played all the time when I was growing up,” he says. “I remember sleeping in a booth [at a music venue] while my dad was on stage. He wanted to be a rock ’n roll guy back when the Cold War was still on. They had to make their own guitars. So when you see your pop up there as a kid, it plants the seeds.”
He was also made aware of the downsides of the business — for the performer and, even more so, those in their lives. “It’s not easy having a musician as a partner. Things are either really good or really bad. There are a lot of ups and downs. It takes a special kind of woman.”
House of Pain became huge overnight and the pressures took their toll, with the trio going on hiatus in 1996. They reformed several years ago and return to Ireland to headline the Bare in the Woods festival in June. Even at the height of their popularity, though, they were at pains to stay grounded.
“I’ve seen people turned into a**holes and act like God’s gift to the planet,” he continues. “Ninety per cent of people are cool. You don’t want to be that one guy thinking they are special,”
Musical careers rarely have a memorable second act. However, Dimant’s post House of Pain life was arguably just as fascinating. Towards the end of the group’s 1990s run, they struck up a relationship with up and comers Limp Bizkit, whom they often took on the road. The favour was returned when Bizkit asked Lethal to join as beat-master in chief.
“After House of Pain, it was like… ‘holy f**k, what am I going to do now? It was scary. I didn’t even get my high school diploma. So I helped Limp Bizkit before they had a deal. At one point there were maybe 20 people, from the band and crew, sleeping in my house.
“At which point they said, ‘you might as well join us’. What happened after that was extraordinary. But that was okay with me — by then, I was ready for it.”
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