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Oral History

An Oral History of House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’

House of Pain / Catherine McGann/Getty

Despite decades of slams, get-lows, and hip-hop hoorays, no dumb-out arena anthem has proven as sublimely Pavlovian as House of Pain’s indomitable cattle prod “Jump Around.” “It’s the kind of shit you can put a lampshade on your head and act an idiot to,” accurately observes Danny Boy, the crew’s resident agitated synapse. “It’s our generation’s ‘Louie Louie.'”

This call to action became bigger than Billy Clinton in 1992, but before that, House of Pain were mostly a foster home for second chances. Everlast, the great white hope of Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate posse, had flopped with his pop-centric solo record for Warner Bros. DJ Lethal, the brawny teenage cut-master, had dropped out of high school to perform as his backing band. After the dust settled, the twosome teamed with old graffiti buddy Danny Boy and rebranded themselves House of Pain, a roving white-boy mob of unrepentant L.A.-based knuckleheads draping themselves in Irish flags and Celtics jerseys. Boasting peckerwood status, they were dedicated to drunken bar-brawling, lifting skirts, and fucking up potatoes, filling voids left by grunge’s self-seriousness, New York rap’s increasingly suave delivery, and the Beastie Boys going Buddhist. Or maybe the appeal was just the way the track’s tweeter-frying siren stab lunged directly into your go-bonkers receptors — producer Muggs swears it’s not a sample of a Prince scream or Junior Walker’s saxophone, though he can’t deny the bite of Bob & Earl’s brassy “Harlem Shuffle” on the intro.

Since ’92, “Jump Around” has gotten Mrs. Doubtfire in trouble and helped Happy Gilmore dominate his golf game. It turns sports arenas into collapse hazards nightly and has soundtracked at least one memorable commercial featuring a rapping Pringles can. Beyond a 20th anniversary tour in 2011, the members of House of Pain have been fruitful in recent months: Everlast just released his sixth solo album, Songs of the Ungrateful Living; DJ Lethal’s even more notorious group, Limp Bizkit, re-formed for another stuff-breaking go-round; and all three are working on a new album from their blood-soaked supergroup La Coka Nostra, due this spring. The members of House of Pain took off their shit-kickers and sat down with spin to talk about the impulsive chant that spawned a million junior-high-school mosh pits.

How was “Jump Around” born?
Muggs: I made the beat. I had the song called “Jump Around” already. I was saving it for the second Cypress Hill album. We had just finished the first one and the guys were kind of done recording. I had Son Doobie from Funkdoobiest rap on the song — it was all right. I played the beat for Ice Cube, for a few people. In the process, I had met up with Everlast.

Everlast: After I left Warner Bros. and all that stuff, Muggs and I were dating chicks that kind of lived together, so we’d wind up hanging out a lot. He played me the “Jump Around” beat, but it didn’t have the horn in it yet. He used to have a studio in his bedroom at his aunt’s house that he lived in, in Bell Gardens. I wrote “Jump Around” in his driveway. It wasn’t even a song; it was a bunch of lyrics. I was big into dancehall and Shabba Ranks, and there was one part of my rhyme where I was like, “Jump around, if you love freedom. Jump around, if you love culture.” Muggs was the one to say, “Get rid of the reggae part. We’re going to do ‘Jump Around.’ ” I went out to the driveway and wrote it. As I was writing it, he found the horn. And then we all kind of got chills. I mean, we knew it was good.

Danny Boy: I’d play it for kids I went to high school with that were hanging out with us. You’d play them other demos; they’d just nod their head and go, “Yeah, yeah.” But we’d even play them just the demo in my living room, I swear to God, like, everyone started going bananas, going crazy. I knew this was different.

Everlast: I think the original demo is pretty much what you hear on record.

Danny Boy: I put the House of Pain logo on the second round of demos that we sent out. I guess it went to Tommy Boy, and [label president] Monica Lynch seen it — she’s Irish. She seen the logo like, “What the fuck is this?”

Muggs: She was like, “This reminds me of my brothers. After church, they go to bars and get in fights.”

Danny Boy: It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing that Everlast wrote it. It’s a fucking curse that I didn’t write it, so I don’t get all that money. When that shit goes on, people say, “You’re getting paid off that, right?” I gotta explain that you don’t get money just for performing on the track, you have to actually write the track. I wish somebody would have explained the details: “Hey, if you write these once, you get paid for the rest of your life, for work you did 20 years ago.” What I do is design and aesthetics. I don’t get paid quarterly for logos I did 20 years ago. I love the concept of publishing, it just didn’t sink in — I was too drunk or something.

So, what do you remember about the actual session for the album?
I can remember being in the studio we always used to record in called Image Recording, just being fucked up. We were all weeded-out, drunk, all that. I might have just re-recorded the lyrics. The construction and the making of the record was at Muggs’ house. By the time we got it to the studio and put it on 24 tracks, it was a party: “We got a record deal!”

When did you know this thing was going to be huge?
The first time I heard it in public, I was in New York at a club. I forget the name of it, but it was on the second floor of a building. That record came on, I swear to God, it couldn’t have been out. It was like a promo. It seemed like everybody in that club knew the record. The floor was wobbling beneath your feet. Everybody was jumping like that. It was crazy.

Danny Boy: The first show we ever did as House of Pain, we did a little club; it was like a nightclub of Asian dudes with Dragon Ball Z haircuts. Like that Asian gangster look with really high flattops. We were like, “What the fuck are we doing here?” And when “Jump Around” came on, they all went nuts.

Everlast: It’s like, you can’t lose with that song. Ask one of a dozen artists who do it every night, up to Snoop or Slick Rick. Limp Bizkit made a name for themselves doing it, you know what I mean?

Even Vanilla Ice is pulling out your song now….
I can’t blame him! There’s a big part of me that could have easily been that dude. Had that first Warner Bros. record, with “I Got the Knack” as the first single, blown up, I would’ve been that guy. I’ve seen dude; he’s got his TV shows and he’s doing fine, but there’s got to be a little part of him that says, “That hurts.” To be Elvis one day and not the next. I’d rather not be Elvis at all.

What do you remember about making the music video?
Danny Boy:
We went to New York to do the video for “Come and Get Some of This,” which is on the three-song demo. It’s real slow and melodic; it’s kind of a downer of a song. We rented out the Vault, which is an old S&M club that Madonna had used for her Sex book. It was a nasty little spot in the meatpacking district where all this fucking S&M shit goes down. We found this nasty black room with chains and whips. We shot the first day, and in the middle of shooting, the label came in and was like, “Fuck this, fuck this. We’re going to do ‘Jump Around.’ We’re going to hold you here for a week and we’re going to wait till the St. Paddy’s Day parade.” We shot that motherfucker in a day. The video really captured the innocence of House of Pain. We just liked to go out, drink, fight, fuck, and have no regard. I tried to get up to the parade, the fuckin’ priest throws me out. I’m putting stickers on cops’ backs. We were the merry pranksters of hip-hop. Now I’m coming up on seven years’ sobriety. I think everybody’s got a “Jump Around” video that they’ve lived…but it doesn’t come on MTV.

“Jump Around” has been used in so many movies and TV shows over the last 20 years. Do you have a favorite?
I love seeing it in the movie Black Hawk Down. But I’m most glad it’s in Mrs. Doubtfire, because we just did six months on the road and I was shocked at how many young people were there. They didn’t know our whole catalog, but “Jump Around,” for sure. A movie like that, which everybody plays for their kids at some point or another, it ingrains it in their minds. The only thing that ever bothered me about the use of that song was my label “accidentally” licensed it to Pringles for a hot second. I just checked into a hotel room on tour, I was kicking back on the bed for a minute before soundcheck [watching TV]. I reached into the minibar and — I shit you not — grabbed a mini can of Pringles and started eating them. And I hear the intro jump in and I’m like, “What the hell is this?” It’s a commercial for Pringles. I wasn’t really mad yet, until the little guy on the can’s head jumped off the can and started rapping my song. I think it ran like two weeks and I made them pull it. Then I saw that same commercial a month later with some Spanish house music in it.

Obviously sports teams go crazy for this song.
Danny Boy:
It can be uncomfortable when I’m a Yankees fan and I’m at Angel Stadium and they bring out the Rally Monkey and play “Jump Around.” Any sporting event, it becomes uncomfortable. You just want to watch the game. You just never know who’s going to scream something. No shit, dude, I’m in the same fucking room as you, I get it. If it comes on during a sporting event on TV, and you hear it as buffer music, my phone will start going off. Those are quality problems, though. I’m fortunate to have those problems.

Everlast: I was just at the Rose Bowl with the band from the University of Wisconsin. They hollered at me and they actually worked up their own version of it. The night before the Rose Bowl, downtown L.A., they threw some kind of rally and I went out and performed it with the marching band. They played so fast. It was like a chipmunk version. It was crazy. Almost every team uses it, but those cats for, like, the last 15 years, it’s a fourth-quarter tradition. Like, a hundred thousand people go nuts. It almost becomes surreal.

Danny Boy: I’ve seen the videos. It gives you chills.

Everlast: Everybody dreams about writing one of those songs. I’ve had a lot of songs I’m proud of. A lot of them. But I think I can go to the darkest depths of Africa and go in a bar and if they have a jukebox and you play “Jump Around,” people will react.

Muggs: I think for the 20th anniversary, I’ve got some plans for it. Re-record it with some new prominent artists. Do a couple of interesting things to celebrate it. That song ain’t going anywhere. It’s one of the most iconic songs of the century. It’s like “Shout.” My daughter’s ten. She sings it.

Danny Boy: I know ex-girlfriends, their boyfriends can’t stand it. Every time they hear it, they can’t not think about me.