Q&A: Brandon Boyd of Incubus

The singer on his first concert, meeting Ozzy and being a nerd

Brandon Boyd, lead singer of Incubus on stage at OzzFest 2000 in Charlotte, N.C., July 8th, 2000. Credit: Scott Gries/Getty

Incubus have been the victims of some false assumptions. Because the band has been featured on your Ozzfests and your Family Values tours, folks assume that it's just another rap-metal hybrid. Then there's the name, which conjures up Iron Maiden black-light posters. In fact, Incubus are a tuneful five-piece from Calabasas, California, whose lead singer, Brandon Boyd, has a supple, assured voice. Their album Make Yourself has yielded a pair of singles, "Pardon Me" and "Stellar," an ode to Boyd's girlfriend, Jo. The group, which recently wrapped up Ozzfest, will soon release an EP, the excellently titled When Incubus Attacks, Vol. 1, a compendium of its hits, two of which were recorded live at the Fillmore in Denver. Then it's off to the studio. First, however, Boyd pauses to chat with us.

One of your first major tours was with Korn. Do you remember your first social encounter with them?
Oh, yes. They brought us over to Europe with them, in January of '97. It was actually our first real tour, and it was really exciting. It was in the winter, and our first show was in Germany. I remember getting off our little European bus, and we saw Munky and Fieldy walking toward us. We were like, "Oh, my God! Those are the dudes in Korn!" And Munky says, "What's up, you guys? Are you ready to be depressed for two months straight?" I said, "What are you talking about?" They said, "This sucks." I don't think they liked Europe very much [laughs]. But it turned out to be a very fun tour.

Have you ever seen Jonathan Davis' extensive porn collection?
No! I didn't know he was into porn. That's funny. We could have been hanging out a long time ago. Maybe he didn't want to bring it on the road. Or he's one of those selfish porn people.

You have a song called "Drive," which is about being ruled by fear. What fears do you have, rational or irrational?
I am irrationally afraid of — depending on what time of year it is — getting sick while we're on tour. Because it is a hell experience being sick and having to go onstage. I'm sort of afraid of sharks, which is slightly irrational, too, because the chances of being hit by a shark are, like, the same as being hit by lightning. I just watched Shark Week on the Discovery Channel — this guy who got attacked by a shark, and it bit through his hand, and it really fucked him up, and he lived to tell about it. He's all, "I'd like to go back into the water again."

They always drag out the teeth-mark-riddled surviving codger at the end of the episode. Totally. But I still go surfing, try to conquer that fear.

You went on Ozzfest. Some bands encounter Ozzy, and some do not.
I did a photo with him and Tommy Lee, from Methods of Mayhem, for a magazine. I went backstage, and Ozzy came out, and he put his arm around me, and Tommy Lee was on the other side. And I couldn't help glancing back at Ozzy and Tommy Lee, and they're making all these faces, biting each other, and I'm just sitting there. The photographer says, "You're supposed to look scary, not scared."

What's the most embarrassing record in your collection?
Winger. When I was seven or eight, I heard "She's only seventeen," and I was like, "That rocks! That guy's got great teeth! I'm getting the record."

Is there anything that your band mates cannot tease you about?
Let me think. When we're trying to make each other angry, they will go, "Whatever, singer! Rock star!" That really pisses me off. A lot of people are really quick to go, "You're a singer in a band. You must be, like, stuck-up, cock, asshole."We fight a lot when we're writing our records. You know, it's five different opinions trying to make their way into one. While making our record, we'd been on tour for so long that we kind of like lost it a bit. So we decided to go talk to a therapist guy, like a band therapist. If any bands out there have problems, they should do that. Bands break up for stupid reasons, usually, and this could help it. We went once a week for about a month, or maybe even two months, and it did wonders, actually.

Do you remember the first show you ever saw?
Oh, yeah. I was thirteen, and I went to Bon Jovi and Skid Row. I drank my first beer, and I got sick on beer for the first time [laughs]. I loved it, though. I remember we were really far away from the stage, and Skid Row went on first, and Sebastian Bach was like, "Fuck, yeah! Rock & roll! Drink beer! Sex!" And he was thrashing his hair around. I was like, "Right on!"

You are known for taking care of yourself on the road.
I was never really heavily into partying as a kid — I've dabbled here and there, but significantly less in the past year. I've been so much happier as a result. While we're on tour — I mean, I don't know how people do it. I swear, I get drunk one night, and I'm screwed for the next two days. I'm happy coming back and watching a movie or going on my computer. I'm kind of a nerd, but that's fine with me.