Hoobastank singer doug Robb remembers being three years old and wearing tighty-whities while he salsa-danced in his bedroom. “I just had to move,” he says, “and I couldn’t stop.” He says that it was the first time he felt possessed by music. As a shy kid growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of Agoura Hills, he found salvation in his headphones. But geeking out to Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai gave Robb a mistaken impression. “I grew up thinking that you had to shred your instrument to be in a band,” he says. But after joining a band in high school with very little experience on his instrument, bass, he decided, “You don’t have to be a virtuoso.”
On Hooba’s second album, The Reason – which hovers in the Top Ten twenty-one weeks after its release – Robb has written a song, “Disappear,” that he says “makes my hair stand on end.” Now, as the sentimental hard-rock quartet prepares for its summer headlining tour of the U.S., the newly single frontman checks in from the West Coast, on a break from moving all of his belongings out of his ex-girlfriend’s pad.
Does a band’s name matter?
Apparently not, if Hoobastank didn’t stop us. What are your favorites? Soundgarden is an especially awesome name, and Alice in Chains. I think Stone Temple Pilots is a stupid name. You know what’s a horrible band name? Clay Aiken.
What music from your childhood do you still spin?
Faith No More is my favorite band of all time. I listen to those records constantly. All the old Van Halen stuff, from the David Lee Roth years. The first concert I ever went to was David Lee Roth’s Eat ‘Em and Smile show at the Forum in LA. I actually met him at a VMA afterparty in 2002. I saw him trying to make his moves on this girl. I’d heard so many stories about how cuckoo he was, but he was a really kick-back, gracious guy. I told him I was working on my karate kick.
At fourteen, you got your first guitar. What were the circumstances?
I went to hang out with my grandma in Japan and I was bored. There was an acoustic guitar, and I started fucking around with it, playing single-string things. I figured out that Bon Jovisong- it goes [sings], “I guess this time you’re something something….”
“I’ll Be There for You”?
Yeah! It seemed relatively simple. When we got home, after saving up some cash and bitching and moaning, I got this awesome Applause guitar. It had a fake snakeskin pattern. I’d just play and play and play.
Have you ever serenaded anybody?
Doesn’t performing count?
No. Like a one-on-one thing.
I do a lot. Not in a romantic sense, but chilling with the girl who I was dating these past few years. I have a little Spanish guitar, and I’d strum and sing softly. Lots of Mr. Bungle [laughs], and I can play almost all the Foo Fighters’ songs. But I’ve never been the guy underneath the window with the mandolin.
Eleven of twelve songs on The Reason are written about a person referred to as “you.” Who is “you”?
[Laughs] Well, “you” doesn’t pertain to one female, but lots of females in my life. A combo of two or three different relationships I’ve been in.
What’s the worst Hooba song?
The last song on the first album, “Give It Back.” It’s a total space-filler, and I think it sucks. I felt like I half-assed that one.
If you were reincarnated as a female musician, who would it be?
Fiona Apple. I absolutely love that girl. It’s one thing when she opens her mouth to speak, but it’s another when she opens it to sing. She’s an unbelievably talented lyricist and songwriter. When the Pawn… is one of my favorite records of all time.
What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to you onstage?
I called St. Louis “Cincinnati.” It was a small show, like, 300 kids, and we were in Cincinnati the day before. They both have that sss sound. I looked at the crowd and said, “Everybody boo now. Get it out of your system.”
Do you have a favorite hip-hop album?
I’ve been listening to a lot of old Slick Rick, like “Hey Young World.” I like Jay-Z, but at the risk of pissing off the entire hip-hop community, a lot of hip-hop today is bad, talentless crap. I’m totally more into A Tribe Called Quest-type stuff where there was a real originality. I love a jazzy feel with hip-hop beats.
Hoobastank are probably paired on bills with much crazier hard rockers. What kind of freaky shit have you seen backstage?
None of us do drugs. I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. Never smoked pot. I know that sounds completely pussy. I can barely drink alcohol – I think it’s the Asian thing in me. I turn bright red and get fucking wasted after two drinks. But we’ve been around heavy drugs, and it always trips me out. The first time I saw someone do cocaine, I was staring with my mouth open, like, “Oh, my God! Dude’s doing cocaine! I’ve only seen this in movies.”
Who was that?
Let me just tell you that lots of bands do cocaine. And a lot have strippers all over the place. We don’t attract the strippers, and that bums me out sometimes. They want the guys with the tattoos, like in Saliva – bands that wear lots of leather. Strippers smell leather, and they come running.
I heard you might play the KROQ Weenie Roast this year. Wear some leather.
I’ll bring my baseball mitt.