'We Are: The Hollywood Undead Story'
A&M/Octone recording artists Hollywood Undead will return to the road this January in support of their new album Notes From The Underground. The band will be returning to the underground to play small clubs for their die-hard fans on ‘The Underground Tour’ commencing in Los Angeles on release day – January 8th 2013.
Tickets for all shows will go on sale this week. For special VIP packages and more information visit www.hollywoodundead.com.
The official video for the band’s new single 'We Are' can be viewed on VEVO beginning today as well. The clip was directed by Slipknot's M.Shawn Crahan (aka clown).
While the band’s roots are in the underground, the band has drawn mainstream attention since the release of their 2008 near platinum-selling debut Swan Songs and its acclaimed 2010 follow-up American Tragedy.
Swan Songs has moved well over 900,000 copies, and American Tragedy debuted on the Billboard Top 200 at #4 with first-week sales exceeding 67,000. They've played sold out headline shows all over the world as well as rousing appearances at festivals such as the UK's Download and Rock on the Range, and Epicenter.
The masked Los Angeles collective — Johnny 3 Tears, J-Dog, Charlie Scene, Danny, Funny Man, and Da Kurlzz are excited about the release of their third album. "We stay true to who we are musically," commented Danny. "If even just one kid identifies with what we do, we've done our job.”
Chatting recently with bassist/vocalist Jorel Decker aka J-Dog I first wondered, with the new album Notes From The Underground now out how it differed from 2011's American Tragedy? "You know, it's one of those things that you really have to listen to it to really understand. But, it's got a good mix of our first two records in it, but in a sense it's more mature. But not too much where we're trying to get super artistic and change our style all together. It really is kinda like the first record where we had tons of fun making it. Without worrying about what other people were going to think or what the suits upstairs were going to think."
You mentioned the 'suits,' so how much of an influence did they have on this new record? "Well, the one thing I can say is Linkin Park's last record was the first record they released where they said they had 100% creative power over it. So that goes to show you that even the biggest bands in the world sometimes don't have say in what they want to do."
"But yeah, we're happy with this one. I mean, if I went back in time to begin this record again there's nothing that I would change. We couldn't have done anything better and we did a really good job."
ArtistDirect.com named this new album as one of the most anticipated albums of 2013, so even that doesn't make you second guess the album now?! "No, not at all. Every band, when they release a record, if it doesn't do what they wanted it to do, they start thinking they should have done this different, they should have done that different. You can't really look at it that way though. You really have to have more confidence in yourself than that. When you start second guessing yourself nothing ever gets better that way."
USA Today has already labeled your new single 'We Are' as “an anthem for disenfranchised youth.” Another label attached to your work, but is this a good or bad one?! "I consider it good, because every one of us in the band has been through things. And if I can speak to kids like that, kids going through some sh*t in their lives and they can take something positive out of anything I did, then that's a good thing. Obviously, we're not the band that's gonna go to conformity and we're not speaking to all the kids in the private schools out there - that are going to be lawyers and stuff like that. Obviously we know what we're doing and we're kinda proud of that."
Do you ever do any external out reach to any of these kids? "I do it a lot in-person, because every time we play a show our whole band will be hanging outside on the street or at a bar. So when we go on tour people are like, 'Oh my God, I thought you guys were gonna hide on your bus or be locked into some weird backstage area'!"
It's been said that this new album is "scribed in tears, blood, and truth." So, whose tears, whose blood, and what's the one real truth?! "That's a good question," he laughs, "probably everybody in the band, I guess. This sh*t was fun to make, but it was still hard. It sucks sometimes where you're in a band and you're expected to make a living off of it. Sometimes you have to take a step back and realize that you're not trying to just do it for yourself but you have to write music that other people can enjoy. 'Cause otherwise you would have to quit and go get a job. So, in that sense it's fun to do but it's still very hard. You still beat yourself up the whole year you're writing 'cause you're wondering if things are good enough. And that's when you start doubting yourself. But that's when you have to take that step back and calm down, otherwise you're gonna lose your f**kin' mind!"
Having seen you live, knowing you wear your masks on stage and yet remove them a third of the way into the set, just what is the thinking behind 'un-masking' on stage? "When we first started we never had the intention of wearing them 100% with everything that we do. And ever since the first show we played we've taken the masks of every time. And sometimes we take photos with the masks off, but not too often. But it's like with the current day and age with the internet and cell phone cameras, trying to hide our identities is kinda stupid!"
"I mean, we can sit there and try and hide it and keep our masks on, but the second I step off stage and you're gonna take a picture of me, that kinda takes away the whole stigma of me wearing it the whole time. Because if you Google me on the internet you're gonna see the photo of me without the mask. So, trying to hide yourself that much is a battle you're just not gonna win. So we don't even try to go there."
"And, when you're onstage under the mask it gets f**kin' hard to breathe so the earlier I get to take the mask off the better. [And at places like St. Andrews Hall in Detroit] you know how hot it gets in there. That place gets like a f**kin' furnace."
When a fan wants a photo with you, do you find that they ask you to put your mask on first?! "We just kind of expect to do it. Because we've taken photos without our masks and then in the same exact setting and location with the mask and it just looks ten-times cooler with the masks. Even to us. And we realize that's how it looks and photographers, when we show up without masks, they actually get disappointed. They actually want us to wear them as they think we look better with them too!"
Was the removal of the masks during your live set you guys' idea or some 'suit' behind-the-scenes? "No, that was our idea. We kinda thought about that too. You know, it's another climax, because there's still people out there that don't know what we look like. And the fans that do like us were all thinking that they'd like to see us without our masks. So, when we take them off the lights go down, our masks come off, the lights come back on, our masks are off and people just start screaming! It's just like another climax to the show!"
Hollywood Undead is a very theatrical band live. A lot going on. "Yeah, and I love that. Growing up and going to shows I couldn't hate bands more that just got on stage, played 12 songs, don't even talk between and then get off! I like bands that put on a show. Dudes doing flips off their speakers and getting into it with each other. To me, that's what I enjoy watching. So, I think all of us enjoy those things which is why we put the elements into our show. I mean, if you want to see a show you've got to get your moneys worth."
Being that it must be hard to see all around you wearing these masks, and playing the smaller stages, do you ever bounce off one another during a show?! "We kinda got it into a rhythm where we don't do it quite as much, but when we first started touring and playing shows we were falling all over each other," he laughs.
It's been revealed that you have all upgraded your masks, so what have you done to yours personally? "Mine, I put in gas mask cartridges in mine. They're actual like old World War II-style gas mask cartridges that actually light up, which is cool! Light comes out of them. If I wanted to I could have put smoke coming out of them. I've been collecting gas masks for years now, so I've always wanted to customize one. And this is the first time that I've actually been able to do it."
You personally co-wrote 6 out of the 11 songs on the album, or 8 of the 14 with the bonus tracks, so how do you all come together to create songs? In the room at the same time or on your own time? "It's different for every single song. For some songs it's literally one person by themselves starting. Sometimes we're all in a room together. It's because there's so many of us. The combination is always mixed up. But then if one person starts then we'll all get together and work on it later. But some songs, as you've noticed I have nothing to do, and some songs I have more to do with."
You are known for your roles in the more fast-paced songs, such as 'Tendencies' and 'Sell Your Soul' and also some heavier songs, similarly to Johnny 3 Tears. So, how do you feel you've evolved as a vocalist since the band began back in 2005? "It's actually one of the things that I didn't realize. Because if you listen to the first songs that Hollywood Undead recorded my voice should sound different. My rhythm’s different and my voice sounds different. So, I think that's from touring for so long and recording so much that I've naturally gotten better - just like anybody would."
"Take a rapper like Eminem and you listen to his first record through to his last one and he doesn't even sound like the same person. I think you get better at what you do the more you do it, no matter what it is."
If there was one thing that you wanted to buyers of this new album to feel after they had listened to it the first time, what would that be? "I just want them to be satisfied and be happy, because some people like our first record more, some people like our second more. I'm just hoping that people walk away from this one and be like, 'Holy sh*t, that's their best record to date'."
You are now about to return to the road in support of the new album, including Detroit on the 16th. Another run of so-called underground small clubs for your die-hard fans, have you ever thought about what it would be like to play 10 sold-out nights at Madison Square Garden, for example?! "I think once you get to that point it would just be like us playing 10 sold-out shows at a small club. I think it happens so gradual that it literally would be awesome. But I don' think the bands ever gonna be doing that. I appreciate the bands that do that, but we're not at that level. So, yeah, for us that would be amazing, but I could only dream that we could do one night sold-out there!"
"Obviously I want that, but music is changing so much that I'm kinda just a realist when it comes to judging our band and our music. I could sit here and be like 'we're gonna be the biggest band in the world,' 'cause so many bands say that and their albums flop! So, I just want to be humble and realize that all of this could disappear at any moment."
"When we first started touring I had no idea what was going to happen. All of us were so passionate about us. So in my mind I was like how could some else not like this when I like it this much?"
There have been some behind-the-scenes fights between you guys over the years that the press have heard about, but is that all over and done with now?! "Yeah, all that's now been put behind me a long time ago. None of us ever dwelled on that it was always the other party. We never gave a sh*t really. But yeah, I feel that it's not talked about as much now. We'd just love for it to go away. I really feel that it's about to so that we can finally go back to being Hollywood Undead and not something out there that people are talking about for all the wrong reasons. And legally, I can't really say anything about it all anyway, sorry."
No worries, it's all good. Now, let's tackle the name of the band and its inception? "The way it was is that it was always going to be Hollywood Undead in a sense. The first song we wrote was called 'Hollywood,' and it was us joking around about all the people that go to the clubs and sh*t around here. So we then decided to call ourselves Undead, but the name of the song stayed 'Hollywood' - because the song was about people in Hollywood."
"So we were simply Undead and the first song was 'Hollywood' that we made. And we actually burned it onto a CD and I gave it to my neighbor to check out. And he looked at it for a second - and it said Undead Hollywood, but he just read it backwards: Hollywood Undead. Like, that's an awesome name! I was like, sh*t, thanks bozo! And I've been laughing all the way to the bank ever since," he laughs again.
Do you think that music still has something to say today? "I think it depends on the storyteller. When Eminem came out people were saying Hip-Hop was dead and all sorts of sh*t. But when he came out he told stories so well, so crazy that he did something that people weren't doing before. And then he became the best storyteller. The aspect of music in general, yeah, you take DupStep, for instance. That's like a new genre of music and it's changing the direction of the way that music is going. So I think that music, as a story, is never-ending."
Hollywood Undead - sadly misunderstood or completely understood?! "It depends who you're asking, because it's a little bit of both. A lot of people don't like us and so in that case we’re misunderstood. But the people who love us they just get it. It really just depends who you're asking."
Finally, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, we here at Exclusive Magazine love Penguins - do you?! "None whatsoever! Don't they smell bad? They look cool when they swim around, but I've had no encounters with penguins. So, personally, no slight interest in penguins whatsoever. That makes me look like a bad guy, eh?", he laughs, one last time.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
'Notes From The Underground: Deluxe Version' iTunes Purchase Link
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