On The Line with J. Loren [Hurt]

I recently had a very honest and insightful interview with J. Loren, the frontman for the band Hurt. And he also happens to be the violinist of the band too! We engaged in discussion about his relationship with WCCC, engaging with fans on Facebook, the honesty and misconceptions of the music industry and more.

Alex Obert: I am well aware that Hurt had a good relationship with WCCC, can you fill readers in on what they meant to you and what they did for you?

J. Loren: I’m still in touch with Nervous Rex. I consider him a very good friend. Along with Karolyi and Craig The Porn Star, it was one of the first places that really supported us. And they did so until the end. I kept seeing them have hard times. But we don’t dictate the market, there were other demographics that apparently had more demand. It was sad to see one of the last independent rock stations in the country go down. But it is a little bit out of my hands.

Alex Obert: When WCCC originally made the format change, I recall that you specifically mentioned Rex on your band’s Facebook page and thanked him for his support. How did he in particular become a very good friend of the band?

J. Loren: He stopped by before a show and sat down. I just candidly talked to him about my life. You don’t really get that pretty much. And then I candidly talked to him about his life. It wasn’t like a fan relationship, these guys meet guys who do what I do on a daily basis. And he told me that a song of mine really touched him and he knew where it was coming from. I took some inspiration from that and a little validation that I was doing the right thing.

Alex Obert: How was it to perform at WCCC’s Planet of Sound?

J. Loren: That was really good. We were always running through there so we’d be coming in dead tired with no sleep, but anytime CCC asked us for something, we’d be happy to do it. There are other stations that have really put themselves out there for me. And that’s not forgotten. When they need an extra band to record an exclusive acoustic set or jump onto their festival lineup and they ask me, I get the guys together and we go out and play.

Alex Obert: Who do you find yourself often sharing the bill with on these festivals?

J. Loren: Anybody, really. It’s a lot of the usual suspects, bands of the active rock genre like Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin. I’ve played with everybody from ZZ Top to Twisted Sister, there’s really no rhyme or reason to it after a while. But the ones you see most commonly are that bands that we have toured with. There’s a certain amount of camaraderie because we’re used to playing with each other. Every once in a while, you’ll jump in on somebody else’s set. Everybody knows what everybody’s capable of, we’re all familiar with each other’s music.

Alex Obert: How you feel about the WCCC’s evolution into iRockRadio?

J. Loren: I don’t know much about that. I’ve been in my own little world lately. For the past year, I’ve been renovating a studio with the help of fans and friends. I got hold of a warehouse and I’m turning it into a place where I can have more permanent means of making music, other than traveling all around the country and trying to come up with enough money to pay for recording studios. Unfortunately, I’ve been in the dark.

Alex Obert: Where are you with that right now? How is that going at the moment?

J. Loren: Actually, I just got enough to get my computers going and I should be up to elementary recording in a week.

Alex Obert: Speaking of computers, I know you’re really active on the Hurt Facebook page. How is it for you to interact with fans and have this big outlet to express creativity, thoughts, photos and so on?

J. Loren: Well I don’t know who started this whole thing where bands don’t talk to their fans, it’s kind of elitist. To me, it really stinks. And I’ll usually just say something that’s on my mind. It’s kind of like my own private Twitter, but not really. I’ll put up things that I think are thought-provoking, but certainly not what I had for dinner or anything like that. There’s various responses and that’s good because I don’t want everybody to agree with me. For instance, I made a post a little while back about marriage equality. And of course, that’s not a popular thing to talk about. But it’s something I believe in and I think people should be treated equally, whomever they are. I’m just not scared to talk to people about something like that. I don’t have an agenda. They can think whatever they think and I can think whatever I think. They also have the ability to change my opinion if they don’t rely on common logical fallacies and/or make their opinion clearly and considerately stated.

Alex Obert: How do you feel about all the Hurt tattoos that fans have posted on the Facebook page?

J. Loren: I have a mixed bag about that. I’m not exactly a religious person, but I think there’s something precious and holy about a person’s individual body. I feel like the mark of something that I made on them, it’s kind of strange to me. Put yourself in my shoes, you know what I mean? I’m flattered, but it’s pretty bizarre at the same time. I can’t believe it because I would never put a band on my body, not even my own band. But I try to put myself in their shoes and it really does blow my mind. And it goes back to me wanting to talk to fans directly and interact with them, we’re all kind of stuck here in the same realm. Nobody knows the answers to anything and everybody’s just trying to figure it out. There’s no such thing as a bad opinion, unless someone has an opinion that will not change, even with evidence.

Alex Obert: You had a really gutsy and truthful press release Q&A last year about how much money the band has that was also featured on your Facebook page. What was going on there?

J. Loren: The whole thing is a façade. Even pop stars typically don’t have very much money. People perpetuate this on Cribs. They get the local Ferrari dealership to bring a Ferrari and park it at a rented house for a day, it’s just like shooting a music video. Then the people go back to their little spot in the tenements and go on about their life. They show that they are better than everybody else, but that’s just not the way it is. You’ve gotta work like a dog for a living. And I just don’t want people to be under the illusion that they will become a grandiose musician and all their problems are over. I didn’t want to discourage people, but I wanted to tell them that it’s not about getting there on their walk, it’s about taking the walk. It’s not really about the arrival or the destination.

Alex Obert: When you started Hurt, did you speak with record label executives where you could see them lying through their teeth? Did you originally have misconceptions about what it’d be like?

J. Loren: It was always a battle about artistic integrity. I’m a very, very hardheaded guy when it comes to something that I’m creating. And I think that I am justified in that because I’m the world’s foremost fucking expert on what my songs should sound like. The music industry is unusual in that the record labels are not just purveyors of art, they actually try to meddle with it. You would never see that in the world of painting. You wouldn’t see somebody come up to a famous artist and say that there’s too much red in that. (laughs) It’s really the only market that I’m aware of where the record labels try to interfere with somebody’s vision. And I resisted that. That was probably the most difficult part of the process, but I expect that. And to some degree, you can’t be completely obstinate, you have to play the game little bit. There were certain battles that I had to pick. I’m going on a fifteen year career in the music industry, so we’ve apparently chosen fairly wisely.

Alex Obert: When did you feel that the weight got lifted off your back to not have to deal with that?

J. Loren: It never really has been completely lifted. The weight really had to do with artistic plateaus. To be honest, I couldn’t care much less about what a record company thinks. And that’s the truth. My blunt honesty, though I have grown to be less razor-tongued through years and wisdom, was a huge detriment in the “Yeah, yeah baby! We are totally going to support you!” industry. Still, the only people that I actually work for are the audience. And that’s still a loose relationship because we have fans of such caliber that they allow me to do very diverse records. All that being said, there was no point at which it was lifted. But on a personal level, for instance, writing Ten Ton Brick was letting go of a couple of emotional and constant hurdles in my life. It’s just a process of catharsis. To be frank, I couldn’t give a flying fuck about what our record company says or whatever. I’m doing this for other people and myself. I’m doing it to preserve the memories of people that are no longer with us. I hope to provoke some thought and hopefully change the world in a better way.

Alex Obert: You are well-known for bringing violins into your music, where else do you see violins in rock?

J. Loren: I actually have never really listened to violins being done live in rock in combination with singing. The possible exception is Blue October, with whom i am a friend and a fan. But their violinist is not the lead singer. Still, Ryan wears a lot of hats and contributes to this wonderful band’s wonderful sound. Otherwise, there’s a disturbing trend of bands using symphonic backing tracks, that kind of bothers me. I guess if the audience is happy, that’s okay. I’m just not a big fan of fans paying hard-earned money to hear a recording in the background. We personally have never used any backing tracks and I play the violin live. But I’m not aware of too many musicians who do that and there’s probably a very good reason why. Singing while playing violin is extremely difficult for me to do, it takes a lot of practice and a lot of perseverance. Frankly, I don’t think that a lot of rock musicians are willing to do that. There’s a whole new breed of violinists out there who have reached a whole new echelon. Back when I was playing with rigorous practice, I was one of the best. Now there are people who are much better than me. And hopefully that trend will continue.

Alex Obert: I was interested when I discovered that you attended community college at fourteen years old. Why was that and how did it come about?

J. Loren: Well I was homeschooled and it was kind of for a lack of anything better to do. I finished my studies and then what do you do? I guess supposedly go to college, right? So I enrolled in college. They said that I was too young. They tested me extensively and apparently, I made the grade. That’s when they enrolled me there. I ended up dropping out because all I really wanted to do was be a musician and there’s no college degree for that.

Alex Obert: How long did you attend?

J. Loren: I did about two years. When I was very young, I was doing construction to help pay my way through community college. But I was just kind of floundering. And hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t go to college. It just happened to work out for me the way I did it. And I live life on the thin red line every day, so that’s what you’re doing to yourself if you don’t get an education.

Alex Obert: During that time, did you take part in bands prior to forming Hurt?

J. Loren: To be honest, there was no other band. I kept on trying to get members and that was an excruciating process, usually because of various drug abuse and various work ethic problems. That’s people in the local area. I’m sure that anybody that’s tried to have a band can relate to that. So I went and made this thing on my own from the beginning and found members to help me. I found various people along the way to put in their piece of the art. It was a labor of a mix between love and desperation, but I knew I was meant for that. So the album that it became was The Consumation. I was finding myself consumed with grief and at the same time, I was consummating to a musical career hell or high water. I just quit well-paying jobs and started working on music. I didn’t care anymore about anything else, so I was maybe doing some good in preserving the memory of people who can no longer make new ones with me.

Alex Obert: If it were to all end today, how do you want your contributions in music to be remembered by fans?

J. Loren: Well I don’t want to end today because I feel my best work is yet to come. I’m still pushing boundaries, as far as the writing. There are many songs that just haven’t been able to be recorded because situations with record companies and funding. So I don’t want it to be over today and I don’t want to think that way. But at the same time, I guess I can have the satisfaction I touched people’s lives. But there is so much more that I feel compelled to do and I would have regret that the compositions didn’t get to see the light of day.

Alex Obert: Very well said. I’d love to thank you so much for your time and a great interview.

J. Loren: Thank you very much, Alex.

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