California Hybrid rockers The Hollywood Undead have been extremely busy with the release of their newest album Swan Song. The combination of Rap and Metal has proven successful over the last decade or so, and with the band’s hot new mix of genres they are hoping to capitalize on the trend with a great sounding record. I recently spoke with J-Dog about the making of Swan Songs and life in the band as one of the Hollywood Undead.
The name of the band The Hollywood Undead is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
J-Dog: We made our first song and didn’t really know what to call ourselves. The music was new even to us; we were just gonna call ourselves the Undead, there’s probably a band called that already and call the 1st song was “Hollywood.“ I wrote it on a blank CD and gave it to my neighbor, and it said “Undead Hollywood” he was like, ”Hollywood Undead? Great name!” A light bulb literally went off in my head like a fuckin’ cartoon. I was like uhhhhh thanks for the name and took the CD and ran out his front door.
What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
J-Dog: Deuce usually will come up with a beat or melody and shows it to us and we bounce ideas off each other, sometimes like the song “Young,” Johnny had an idea and brought it to him and they wrote it together. We bounce shit off each other all the time, the record took a year and a half to finish but we also released another 15 songs that weren’t on the record. So in a year and half’s time we wrote enough for two records but picked our favorites for Swan Songs.
How has MySpace and the internet affected your band and do you think downloading helps or hinders the artists?
J-Dog: It helped our process move a lot faster cause people can hear it faster, every artist in the world has a MySpace page and if they don’t they’re either a superstar already or an idiot. Downloading is bad for established artists but good for new ones. We gave our music away for free forever so people could spread the word and pass it around at parties and cars; it worked.
When playing together and ultimately recording this CD did you find that you could express yourself creatively enough?
J-Dog: Yes, I think everyone in the band can do that. Our previous label tried to censor us and we said no, and had to wait another year to be released. Freedom of expression is all over the CD like Da Kurlzz at the salad bar at El Pollo Loco.
Your lyrics are infused with heavy detail and raw emotion. What is it that normally gives you inspiration when writing lyrics and is there a theme or themes behind the writing of this record?
J-Dog: Every song has a theme; the album itself is a living breathing thing. It doesn’t feel like you’re listening to the same song twelve times. The emotions and expressions come from everyday life; one lifetime is enough to write a million records if you can remember it all. I’ve been pistol whipped with a gun before, had my heart broken, been to jail, donated money to different organizations to help others, stolen alcohol, hung off freeways three stories high to catch tags, babysat my sister’s kids, recorded an album and a million things in-between. If you don’t have emotions or stories to tell about life, then you’re a zombie.
The band keeps things interesting thematically. Can you talk about some of the subjects you tackle on this record?
J-Dog: Goes back to the last question, we keep things interesting cause life itself is and that’s what were talking about. The subject matter we talk about happens out there everyday. Spend a week in LA and you’ll see it all and maybe write a record yourself hahaha.
When you are on the road for a while, I am sure you see and experience many different things you might not even have known existed. Are there any stories that stand out in your mind as being exceptionally strange or odd?
J-Dog: Every city is so different it blows my mind to see how kids are different and styles and accents, it’s hard to soak it all in. I’m sure, when we go to Europe, things will standout more. So far Littlerock, Arkansas stands out, the kids out there are nuts. We played a venue called the Dome. While we were playing, girls were going insane, fights were breaking out, tons of different mosh pits, the speaker I was standing on caught on fire. Kids climbing the lighting fixtures, those kids keep it hyphy out there.
Do you find it difficult being away from family and friends for such an extensive period of time? How do you cope with the separation?
J-Dog: Yeah it’s hard being away from friends and family, I miss being around my friends and hanging out on my back street until 5am. But we’ve spent so much time in LA it was time for us to leave for a little or change something. We don’t want to be those dudes who are 40 who never left home and are still doing the same shit for 40 years. You cope with being on the road by playing shows, it’s pretty interesting meeting new people and seeing new cities. There is always something to do on the road so you’re so busy you start to forget about home. True story
What is the one thing you travel with that you just can’t live without?
J-Dog: iPhone, you walk everywhere on tour ’cause you can’t drive your bus or van around. You’re also with the same idiots for weeks at a time and to shut them out you need an iPOD, and iPhone has GPS maps (I can find PHO in the middle of Virginia), games, video camera, watch porn, whatever you want at the touch of a fingertip with smoothness and ease (sponsor us Apple).
What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?
J-Dog: Ummm, this band has learned so much in the four years it has been together; the excitement of getting signed, the money, the let down of being shelved and not having your album released. Getting a normal job again because you think your dream is over. That is a pretty crazy thing and I feel bad for any band that has gone through that because I know there are thousands of them. You learn a lot about yourself and others when you go through all that because emotionally you’re forced to learn a lot. The toughest lesson I’d say is to respect each other, tons of bands breakup over fighting. In the studio or on stage you have to respect each other because your band will not make it unless everyone is getting along. Maybe when you’re rich and can afford six buses it will not matter, I dunno I am just a dude who makes music and gets pistol whipped then baby-sits.
What is next for The Hollywood Undead?
J-Dog: Europe, Saints and Sinners tour, New mask designed by Marc Ecko, maybe an Apple sponsorship? More music, more tour footage, BlackBerries if AT&T didn’t fuckin’ lie to us, closed-toe shoes, lots of Gstar apparel, nonstop touring, Funnyman puking, drum solos by biscutz, face melters by Charlie, high notes by deuce, Da Kurlzz adding extra meat to his burritos at home when he gets back from del taco, Johhny out of jail, me being perverted, crowd surfing, neck tattoos, drinking, interviews like this one, more titties being exposed at shows, Hollywood Undead stickers and stencils everywhere, you name it it’ll happen my friends.