Music

INTERVIEW: Zac Hanson chats about the upcoming Red Green Blue 2022 Tour

Zac Hanson chats with Glam Adelaide about Hanson’s upcoming Red Green Blue 2022 Tour.

Hanson return to Australia with their Red Green Blue 2022 Tour

Interview by Olivia Williams

Often when Hanson are interviewed by Australian media, we hear a lot about how “grown up” they are now, how many children they have collectively sired. Good natured questions about whether they ever get sick of singing ‘Mmmbop’, followed by rhetoric about how the band is “back”. 

What is often overlooked in these quick timeslots, corresponding with a new album release or an upcoming Australian tour is the fact that this band, comprised of brothers Isaac (41), Taylor (39) and Zac (36), has a long-standing history of music making, creation, innovation, and commitment to fan connection. Their CV speaks for itself, preceded by 11 studio albums, a long string of EPs created exclusively for their online fan club at hanson.net, a back catalogue of literally hundreds of songs, as well as thirty years of playing together as a band… not to mention fans who have stood the test of time and continued showing up to Hanson shows for actual decades. 

Hanson aren’t back. They never went anywhere. 

They have been nose-to-the-grindstone working hard, creating, producing and maintaining a long standing connection with their fans long since the days of ‘Mmmbop’ and thousands of screaming teenagers in a carpark hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite brother. 

2022 will see Hanson heading to Australia and New Zealand in November as part of a long awaited and extensive RED GREEN BLUE 2022 World Tour. This, on the back of this month’s release of their 11th studio album, RGB (Red, Green, Blue), a unique combination of three solo-led projects, bringing their creative voices together like never before.

We sat down with Zac, the band’s drummer and creative voice behind the BLUE portion of the album, to find out more about how this project came together and what we can expect from their upcoming tour. 

This week has seen the release of your new album RGB – an album split into three individual projects, as brothers, 5 songs each. If you have any experience in digital or graphic design you’ll understand RGB as a colour format in that each of these individual colours, red green blue, can be combined in different proportions to produce any other colours. Such a clever metaphor for you Taylor and Isaac as individuals, producing something on your own, but then bringing that together to create a full Hanson album. When you heard the finished product did you all feel like this was a Hanson record or that it was perhaps something entirely different?

Well, I think it clearly has some different style to it, which I think is great, I love that. It still feels to me very much from the source, but also like it’s innovating and iterating which I think is what good art does. It’s not standing still. It’s continuing to push itself in different directions.

I don’t know if we’ll ever do something like this again, I don’t know exactly what the future is but what I do know is I see growth through it. I think there’s great storytelling for the fans of Hanson, that they get to kind of go behind the curtain a little bit, they get to see a little bit of what makes each brother, maybe more clearly than ever, who they are. And then through that you get to reflect on all the thirty years of music and that better understanding of “where did that song come from?”, “what’s that story about?”. 

Take us to that moment when you’re first in the studio recording your individual BLUE tracks, is there some trepidation about the road ahead creating music primarily without your brothers and band members of 30 years, or was it an exhilarating feeling to have that freedom? 

Well, like you said, there’s some history. We’ve never done solo projects, but working for other people, writing for other people, you have that experience, so it wasn’t scary like “I’ve never done this before”, but what was most interesting to me was kind of letting yourself enjoy the process.

Not getting into that headspace of comparing and worrying about what the other brothers were going to do, but simply saying what makes me really happy and fulfilled right in this moment.

The truth is, there’s about a hundred things you could do and only five songs to do them in, so that was kind of hard…to say, what sides are we going to show today? What styles are we going to put forward?

Because there’s so many things you can do, you can never represent everything and so, it was honestly incredibly fun. Because it was just a new kind of creative process, and that… for those who know me well, one of my favourite things to do is be challenged, with a new set of scenarios, like here’s an accordion and a tape recorder, go make an album and I’ll be like “uhh ok!” I love that. So, this was right up my alley. 

You probably all have a full album of songs within you individually, so cutting it down to 5 songs each, must have been like choosing a favourite child? 

It’s not that there couldn’t have been many, many, many more songs. This group of songs that I picked was a combination of writing songs specifically for this project and then one or two that had been sitting around for a while that I thought, this needs a special home.

Like the song ‘Where I Belong’ I started writing about maybe five years ago, but never finished it. Sort of consciously never finished it. It felt like it was an important song, and it was just waiting for the right home.

When this project came forward, it seemed like it fit with the story we were going to tell, even like the stories within a story. Having a song about finding place in an album that somewhat disrupts the norm that kind of says, we’re going to do this in a totally different way. It seemed to connect. I think also, it’s been a time in the world—I think a lot of musicians feel—that we were told, for years now, that we’re not essential.

Like what we do is not of equal value, it has to be put on the side because it’s too dangerous for people to be together. There are all kinds of medical conversations, that’s not what I’m having when I say that, but I think we all realise that being together, singing together, sharing these communal moments… this is one of the most important things anyone ever does. So I think that song was resonating for me. 

What were each of your thoughts on the other brother’s material once you heard it? 

I could definitely pick some songs that stand out to me. ‘Child at Heart’ was one that when we were all talking about how we were going to represent this album—because it’s our label and our band—I know I was very much for it, I thought ‘Child at Heart’ was a special song, so having Taylor go first with that, I think was a great message and just really cool sonically.

We’ve been influenced by a lot of different things but that side, that Brit Rock ‘Travis’ and ‘Coldplay’ and those kinds of bands, ‘Radiohead’ a little bit, you don’t hear that sound in our band very much. And that song tips its hat to it in a very cool way. So, I loved hearing that.

As far as Isaac’s GREEN songs, there were some really fun moments like ‘Cold as Ice’, that song was a ballad he had written years ago and then sort of completely reimagined through the production team with him and David [Garza] and Jim [Scott], they took a ballad and turned it into this sort of jam, rock, funky song and it was recorded all live off the floor in one big take, we didn’t even know what they were doing, it was the last thing that was recorded for the whole album – that was special, there was a certain heart in there.

I think that was kind of a cool and something he wanted to do, because he was the last to record there was a sense of finality to having the last song be something we all did live together. And even though it was about Isaac’s vision and about GREEN, his vision was to bring us back together which was kind of fun. 

You are no strangers to taking the road less travelled, you started your own independent label after a few long of years in the early 2000s fighting an uphill battle with a record company that was no longer fully on the same page as you, and it paid off with your first album as an independent label peaking at #1 on the US Billboard charts for independent albums. This must have been a big turning point for you collectively being able to have creative control over your music

Yeah, I mean, we are no strangers to risk. We seem to like risk; I don’t know if that fits with just being an artist. The way we’ve always looked at this process is, it’s very individual, you are kind of forging a new path with your career, with your ideas with your song writing, always pushing yourself to try and dig deeper and find new stories to tell.

So, all of the steps along the way, whether it’s the label or the things we’ve done with managing ourselves or forming a beer company or the music festival we’ve started, I guess it’s just in our DNA.

I think you find yourself when you challenge yourself, it’s probably less about risk and more about searching for something bigger and something better, never wanting to rest where you are and say, “oh I’m done, I’ve done it”. It’s saying, is there something more I need to stretch for, I need to push for, I’ve learned this skill now how can I become better at it. 

You guys have been pioneering online community with your online fan club hanson.net since the very early days of the internet. But when COVID hit, you were about to head on a world tour and that was turned on its head.

You hit the ground running and were so quick to respond by still connecting to fans via your website, you were really at the precipice of streaming live shows, with technology probably only just catching up with you in some ways, and really at a time when connection was so important to people. Did you feel like you were reinventing the wheel here or, or given that connecting with your fans online has always been such a big part of what you do, was this just another day at the office for you guys? 

It’s a unique feeling to be told you can’t go places and to feel isolated…not by time, because there’s never enough time in the day to get everywhere you want to go, but to be told “hey you’re not allowed”. That changes the game. It feels different, I think.

One of the things we wanted to do when we saw “no concerts” and we’re seeing all kinds of people in our entertainment industry, I think of the technicians and the guys behind the scenes who make their living and pay for their mortgage by helping concerts get put on, lighting guys, sound guys, guitar techs, we see all these guys where really they’re out of work suddenly! 

Also down the street from us, there’s a famous venue called Cain’s Ballroom that has been there for over 100 years now, they can’t put on concerts so we immediately were thinking about how to find a way to not only connect with our fans but also to help in whatever way we can our little community of guys have work. Keep this venue open.

We were seeing that a lot of venues around the country were sort of going under, never to return. That’s such a sad thing as a musician, because we’ve played the teeniest 200 seat club, we’ve played arenas and everything in between, right? We did end up doing about 25 concerts at Cain’s Ballroom over about a year and a half period, which is a lot to play one venue.

It wasn’t all bad, because one thing that’s been really cool for us is to see everyone be forced to adopt ZOOM proficiency, and though it’s not the way I want to continue in the world as ZOOM being the option, what we did see was engagement at the same moment in time from fans all around the world, watching the same concert, chatting in the same chat room – it was almost like a return to 1998 where suddenly we see people engaging in like America Online (AOL) was suddenly a thing.

I think that was really cool and there’s a part of that we’re trying to keep as we go forward. While we’ve all learned streaming at a new level, we’ve been trying to stream for years, and do more of that. But it’s always been an uphill battle, and suddenly you see, wow this is really available in a new way. It wasn’t all smooth, we definitely had some streams where the internet decided to just stop working and technology… things would fail and we’d try to figure out what it was and connect with a new group, but overall what it was, was very good.

Hopefully we get to keep all that goodness and add in people live in the room together. 

Talk to me about the upcoming Australian tour, it’s been awhile, obviously fans can expect to hear from your latest release RGB, but you honestly have such a back catalogue of songs from the past 30 years, you’ve got your nostalgic tracks from the early days, you have 11 studio albums, years and years’ worth of members only EPs accessible via your fan club, are you changing up your set list every night to try and showcase as many of these songs for fans as possible? Or do you just stick to what you can remember the lyrics to?

Well, you obviously have a deeper understanding than some about how much there is there. Fan club songs…there are probably about 100 songs that have just been released to hanson.net members over the years, 11 albums, yeah there’s a lot.

Even in this last year ‘Against the World’ the album we released one single at a time came out, and of course RGB which was 15 songs. It’s really hard to play them all, and this almost to me feels like a reset. You’re starting from square one in some strange way, where everything is returning and beginning again, so I think there’ll be a lot of different stuff.

Definitely playing some old stuff, definitely playing some new stuff. We’d have to sit in one city for two weeks playing every single night to really get all the music. What we try to do each night, is find that very difficult balance between playing for the fans who have been coming for thirty years and also knowing there are people that might just see one concert, this might be the first and only concert they ever see. So, you want to hit the songs that have been highlights, the ‘Mmmbop’s and the ‘Penny and Me’s and ‘Where’s the Love’ and ‘Thinkin’ bout Something’. You’ve got to hit that mix of things as well. 

HANSON
​RED GREEN BLUE 2022 TOUR
​NOVEMBER 2022

Sunday 6 November
​The Astor Theatre | Perth, WA
18+
​On sale: Thursday 26 May (12noon local time)
ticketek.com.au | Ph: 132 849

Wednesday 9 November
​Enmore Theatre | Sydney, NSW

​Licensed All Ages*
​On sale: Thursday 26 May (12noon local time)
ticketek.com.au | Ph: 132 849

Saturday 12 November
​Hindley Street Music Hall | Adelaide, SA

​18+
​On sale: Thursday 26 May (12noon local time)
moshtix.com.au | Ph: 1300 438 849

Monday 14 November
​The Fortitude Music Hall | Brisbane, QLD
18+
​On sale: Thursday 26 May (12noon local time)
ticketmaster.com.au | Ph: 136 100

Wednesday 16 November
​The Forum | Melbourne, VIC

​18+
​On sale: Thursday 26 May (12noon local time)
ticketek.com.au | Ph: 132 849

Saturday 19 November
​Powerstation | Auckland, NZ

​18+ 
​On sale: Thursday 26 May (12noon local time)

More information at frontiertouring.com/hanson

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