Everlast Former House of Pain front man Everlast aka Whitey Ford is back with a hot new album called Love, War, and the Ghost of Whitey Ford. Everlast explains in this exclusive interview his new sound, his Johnny Cash remake, the infamous La Coka Nostra project, and all of the House of Pain and Rhyme Syndicate questions that you need to know! A must read!
By William Hernandez
WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the new album? EVERLAST: It’s called Love, War, and the Ghost of Whitey Ford. It’s a different sound. It’s a little more political than some other records I’ve made. I’m excited for people to hear it.
WHO?MAG: Why did you choose to go more of rock/blues sound on the album than just straight hip hop? EVERLAST: Well, I think I’m starting off with the straight up hip hop song, but I’m also part of this group called La Coka Nostra at the moment. That’s straight up hip hop. I have an outlet to do that. The Everlast stuff for me is whatever comes to mind.
WHO?MAG: How did the idea come about to do a remake of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”? EVERLAST: Actually, a keyboard player of mine by the name of Kefus and DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill were doing a bunch of live gigs together, like mash up gigs. I would sing and play guitar and Muggs would cut beats and my keyboard player would accompany us. We did it live a bunch of times. After doing it live a bunch of times, we decided this is good. We got to cut this. It was actually the last record I cut for the album.
WHO?MAG: How did the song “The Letters from the Garden of Stone” come about? EVERLAST: I was just sitting around one night playing with the guitar and started writing about how hard it must be to be stuck over there in Iraq or Afghanistan while over here I’m thinking about stupid problems. While muthaf*ckers over there are dealing with real problems, it just started coming to me. I felt that somebody was speaking through me and I called it like it was a letter home. “Garden of Stone” is reference to a military cemetery or Arlington National Cemetery. It just came to me. It felt as if it came from somewhere else.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Santana for the song you did with him back in 1999 “Monster in the Closet” and how was it working with him? EVERLAST: I had written a song. Somebody in my camp, I think Dante Ross, sent it in to them because he heard they needed a song. Santana came and found me doing Saturday Night Live. He came while I was there basically asking for the song. I wasn’t intimidated. It was cool. I was like “wow! I’m doing a record for Santana”. Nobody knew how big it was going to be. It was cool man. Intimidating to me would be to go do a show in Iraq. That would be intimidating. He’s a real nice guy.
WHO?MAG: DJ Muggs and you performed at the Jam Master Jay tribute show in NY last year. How was your performance? EVERLAST: That’s what we were doing. DJ Muggs, myself, and my keyboard player did it at the JMJ awards and it came about because my boy Kaves was the idea man behind that whole award show. That was his baby. He thought of it and got everybody together and made it happen.
WHO?MAG: How did the song “Gone for Good” on DJ Muggs “Dust” album come about? EVERLAST: Muggs was doing an album of different sh*t. He wanted to try and do something different. He just called me up come into the studio. I want to mess around and that was the result.
WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the La Coka Nostra project? EVERLAST: It’s Slaine, my homey from Boston, Ill Bill, myself, DJ Lethal, and Danny Boy. We just started hanging out making some music together. Danny Boy had this whole little concept about what we could do with it and we’ve just been having fun with it. We’re trying to get this album finished. We’re pretty close at the moment. It’s hard because we got six dudes from all over the place. Trying to organize it and get everybody together is kind of difficult. It’ll be done pretty soon. It’s just like what we like to hear. It’s hip hop that I like. You can call it sort of 90’sish, reflective of what was going on then.
WHO?MAG: How is your approach to writing a song? EVERLAST: It’s whatever comes to mind. I actually have never written a song down like physically such as lyrics or anything, be it rap songs or any other type. It’s whatever is in my mind; like pictures in my mind. I see pictures in my mind and I describe them.
WHO?MAG: I know you converted it Islam a couple of years ago. How has it affected your life personally and as an artist? EVERLAST: It was more like 1995 actually or 1996. What made me do it? I don’t know. Just a bunch of things I came into contact with. They felt good to me. It made me realize about myself and my universe. It made sense to me. I consider it a very personal thing. I don’t really go out and I’m not a part of any major organization that promotes anything. I don’t think religion is something that should be hugely organized. I don’t really believe in that part of it. How has it affected my life? I’m probably alive because of it. I also like to tell people by no means I’m like a saint. I still get caught up and have a drink every once in while. I’m a sinner just like anybody else. Islam is my choice, belief system and I try to adhere by it, but sometimes I fail. What it’s done for me? It probably kept me alive longer than if I would’ve been if I hadn’t found something to ground me a little more.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Snoop Dogg for the song you two did on his last album? EVERLAST: Actually, at the JMJ awards, he asked me to write him a country song. I said I’ll do that. That’s what happened. I wrote him a country song.
WHO?MAG: Can we talk about the Rhyme Syndicate days? EVERLAST: Yeah!
WHO?MAG: Who are some of your influences as an emcee? EVERLAST: My number one influence as an emcee ever was Divine Styler. I wouldn’t have taken on rapping if Divine hadn’t encouraged me to. I wanted to write graffiti back then. Hanging around learning about graffiti and rhyming was cool, so I would make up raps once in a while for fun and make jokes and sh*t. Divine was like “Yo! You can rap, man. You should try and make a song.” Bilal [Bashir] was part of the whole thing. Bilal made beats and I made a demo with him. Somehow Bilal knew Ice T and Ice T heard the demo and that was the first record that ever came out Syndication. That’s the first rap I ever wrote, like for real! Aside from Divine, my other influences were KRS-One and Rakim. That’s what I came up on.
WHO?MAG: How did you get the deal with Warner Bros for your first album “Forever Everlasting”? EVERLAST: I had a deal through Ice T. Ice T had Rhyme Syndicate Records. Warner Bros picked my contract up.
WHO?MAG: How was the production process on that album? EVERLAST: (sighs) I didn’t know anything about production or how it went down back then. They just pointed a mic at my face and I rapped. Bilal took care of all that.
WHO?MAG: You were one of the first West Coast emcees to work with QDIII before he went to work with Ice Cube, 2pac, etc. How did you develop a relationship with him? EVERLAST: Yeah. We used to demo. That was right after that whole Warner Bros stuff. I met Q and I used to go his little house in Venice and we did demos. He probably got stuff that I haven’t heard in 20 years. (laughs) I think he did one song on the Warner Bros album.
WHO?MAG: It was the song “I Got the Knack”. EVERLAST: Yeah. I think he either done that one or remixed it. After that, actually we did a lot of demos and stuff where I was kind of finding different styles and things to do. He probably has got sh*t in his vaults that I know nothing about. (laughs) I don’t think he’s the type of dude that throws anything away.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Bilal Bashir? EVERLAST: Through Divine Styler. Divine Styler was a graffiti writer also. I was hanging around with him trying to soak up some of that knowledge. Divine I think was living at Bilal’s house. Actually I wound up living at Bilal’s house for a while too. That was long time ago.
WHO?MAG: How did House of Pain come together and the song “Jump Around”? EVERLAST: When I left Warner Bros, I kind of pissed off a lot of people so Everlast demos were not going to get looked at. Danny Boy, myself, and DJ Lethal who was DJing for me when I was doing those Rhyme Syndicate dates. Danny was a friend of mine from school. He came up with the concept and we kind of started the group. “Jump Around” came about in Muggs’s driveway. I wrote it in Muggs driveway in Bellgarden. He gave me the beat and I wrote the song.
WHO?MAG: Any last words? EVERLAST: My words won’t be for many years so I’m good. (laughs)