Interview with Johnny 3 Tears of Hollywood Undead
Hollywood Undead from Los Angeles made their mark by standing on the hub where the musical genres converge and saying, “Cool, let’s do this.” Their 2008 debut album Swan Songs launched the band into the international spot light and went gold in July of 2009. Their next album is entitled American Tragedy and will be coming out on March 8th, 2011. The day I spoke to Johnny 3 Tears Hollywood Undead was on tour with Avenged Sevenfold traveling in the kind of blizzard that the National Guard gets called out for. Here’s what he had to say about the current condition of the United States and Hollywood Undead.
Tell me about the new record American Tragedy coming out in March.
Johnny 3 Tears: I think it’s a little more evolved. It’s been 4 years later since we have written most of those first songs so it’s a different kind of record. It’s a little heavier. We’re just excited to get some new material out there besides the two CDs that we have out. It’s worth purchasing (Laughs) or illegally downloading either way. I don’t care there’s no way to make a living doing this anymore. Download it, buy it, whatever you want. I’m just kidding! Please don’t illegally download it. (More laughter.)
So, you said the sound of the new album is heavier. How so?
Johnny 3 Tears: I would say there is a lot more rock influence and heavier as is darker and more of a morbid tip than the last album. Not in a bad way but you know it’s a sign of the times. When you write a record you are very responsive to what’s going on in the world and I would say that we incorporated a lot more of what we see around us this time. It’s hard to write a cheery record when 14% of the population isn’t working.
Is that were the album title American Tragedy is coming from?
Johnny 3 Tears: It’s actually more of a personal thing. It’s what happens to any particular person who were born and raised to believe in certain ideals and as we grow into adulthood we find out those things aren’t true and maybe everything isn’t as it seems. It’s kind of that thought process that we as a band and as people in general transcend those ideals and it’s a tragedy because the American ideal isn’t really present anymore in regular daily life.
How is the current state of the country affecting you guys?
Johnny 3 Tears: It affects us just as much as anybody else. When people don’t have money to go see a concert? It’s tough on everybody. It affects me in a lot of ways especially when we are doing signings and I will ask a kid, “Hey are you coming to the show tonight?” and he will say, “No, I don’t have the money.” It’s just such a bummer, dude. It really is. Kids don’t have money to go to shows. It’s not about us making money. If I wanted to see a show at home I would have to think the same thing. “Do I have money to go to a show?” It’s a bummer and everyone is having a rough time but I’m one of the firm believers that everything will work out. I’m optimistic about it all. But you do what you do and you keep going and in my opinion that’s what makes us Americans and that’s what’s good about being an American.
Now tell me about the new masks you are having made.
Johnny 3 Tears: The masks are a little more intricate than the other ones. They have lights in them at least some of them do. We just wanted a change from what he had. We got different enough that they are markedly different but we were a little more centric with the designs that we already had. We don’t want to go too nuts with the change but they are a little more technical with the lights inside and stuff like that. They are all wired with LEDs and they are all controlled by a remote offstage so you can make them flicker on and off yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah, who gives a shit. (Laughs) I’m just kidding they’re cool. They’re cool. Just like the record is different from the last record we wanted to change the visage of the band itself as much as we could.
Did you guys design your own masks? Or did you have someone design them for you?
Johnny 3 Tears: No, we designed our own masks. It’s more homegrown this way. It pertains more to the original concept behind the masks of having a visual presence. We figured it’s a little more honest if we do it on our own. I dig it, the band digs it and hopefully everybody else digs it too.
Tell me about the first single off of American Tragedy, “Hear Me Now”.
Johnny 3 Tears: The only singular thing about it that is different than any other song we have ever written is that it written from the view point of what we saw people were going through. It wasn’t about us. Songwriters write from their viewpoint and for this the whole idea was to write a song from the viewpoint of other people and what they are going through. We did our best to do it justice but that’s why it’s different from any song we’ve ever done.
Is there a way you yourself describe the sound of Hollywood Undead?
Johnny 3 Tears: No, I don’t have a description for the band. The whole idea was to escape a description and not be, “We’re an Alt-rock band or an Indie band or a rap band or this or that.” I think the whole idea was to incorporate all the music that we like. Everybody likes rap music and rock music why can’t the genres meet at a happy medium. That was the whole idea when we formed. Otherwise it gets mundane and I think our audience recognizes that there’s something special about Hollywood Undead. And not in a pretentious way that there’s something special but sometimes I take a look at it from an external viewpoint and I’m like, “Dude, this is cool.” That was our whole goal behind it and we don’t want to be categorized. It’s something different and whether you like it or not we are brining something new to the table.
What are the plans for Hollywood Undead for 2011?
Johnny 3 Tears: A lot of touring, man. We’re on the Nightmare After Christmas Tour with Avenged Sevenfold and after that we come home for a little bit and wait for the record to come out in March. Then we do our headlining tour for a couple months and then off to Europe for the summer. Tour tour tour, work work work, just try and get the band as big as we can, man. And pay the bills, Brutha!
Photos by JONAS AKERLUND