LA Rap/Rock hybrid, Hollywood Undead, has been standing on solid ground for over a decade through consistently delivering polished, cohesive and genre-bending material that has led them to earn an international army of support. Running like a well-oiled machine of blood, sweat, and passion, Hollywood Undead’s idiosyncratic approach toward their artistry has evoked a heightened connection with their fans that is palpable and rich in sincerity. In celebration of the release of their highly-anticipated fifth studio album, ‘Five’, I caught up with Johnny 3 Tears to discuss the creative process behind the release, getting tattooed at the ripe age of thirteen, the importance of family, living the life of his dreams and more.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of your fifth studio album, ‘Five’. Tell us about the time you spent in the studio recording the album and the overall creative process.
Every time that we record an album, it is a little bit different in the studio. The biggest difference with this record was that we had fulfilled our contract with Interscope Records and Universal. We always had creative control, but you always have to keep in the back of your mind that some A&R guy from a major label is going to have their opinions and thoughts, which is fine, but this is the first time that we had full creative control. We have our own label so we can do whatever we want did whatever we felt without any consequences; that was the biggest difference. It made the recording process a lot more fun for us. I love being in the studio so I always have a good time, and this time around, we really wrote a great record; we’re all happy.
Yeah, totally. I bet that with the depth and extremity of Hollywood Undead’s overall creativity, having your own label granted you the freedom to open new doors.
Yeah. The truth is that these guys that work for labels don’t know sh*t. You know, they think they do; they are all self-obsessed so they think they all know what’s best. I can tell you from experience that far more often than not, they are wrong. If they were right, at least we would have been able to align with their truth. But very rarely does that happen. The band has the right instincts because they are writing the music, so to not have to deal with some dude that has never written a song in his life, wears a suit and went to college to study; that is wonderful. Being out from under those shadows is a big relief.
Yeah, as though you have stepped back into the light. Your brand new comic, ‘Undead Origins’, has a very compelling theme. Tell us about the backstory of the comic and who you worked with to bring the animations to life.
You know, the comic was super cool. There is a lot of nostalgia that goes along with comic books. The idea came about with Billy Martin who is the guitarist of Good Charlotte that is super into comic books. Therefore, our managers, Benji and Joel Madden from Good Charlotte, connected us with Billy and got it all together. He is a really talented dude. We are distributing the comic book through Heavy Metal which is one of the bigger underground comic distribution companies. At first, I thought that this all could be really corny or cheesy, but the guys that worked with us on the characters and the comic made it all come out to be a lot greater than I ever thought it could be. We got to work on the comic and characters alongside them all as well. We are so excited about how the comic turned out.
It seems like quite a few Metal/Rock bands have branched out and taken a step into the comic world.
I did notice that bands are getting into comics! My theory is that all musicians are kinda nerds, and that is why we write music to begin with. Comics go hand in hand with music, in my opinion. The most heavy metal dudes that I have ever met are typically the biggest dorks. You know, we sit there and talk about Lord of the Rings. The two worlds go together more than you would think; it’s pretty cool.
Totally. It can potentially be a release of what was repressed through childhood as well.
Exactly! Another cool thing about comics is that in our day and age, everything is digitized. It is very cool to hold something tangible and flip through the pages of the comic book. It reminds me of when people used to buy CD’s; I used to love buying CD’s and flipping through the booklets to read the lyrics, etc. It is sad that those days are well on their way to being over. Comic books are a token of the past that remind us all of the times before the internet, and I really enjoy that aspect of it.
I remember camping out for the Tuesday album releases at Media Play prior to the Friday digital releases. It enhanced the experience of collecting and listening to new music.
I couldn’t agree more. Our fan-base is predominately young kids and I preach to them about those times, but they just tell me to shut up because I am an old man now! On the other hand, I am really happy about vinyl making a comeback because it does give the tangible feel for music. I remember saving up my money every single week as a kid in hopes to go out and buy a real experience opposed to the instant gratification with new music that we have today. There’s something about music in the past and the whole experience of having to work a bit more and dig to find a new band that was exciting. Times are changing.
Exactly. Speaking of kids, it does seem that you have really maintained a solid and healthy family life with your daughter, Ava, and your beloved wife. Do you have any tips for touring artists that are preparing to start a family and simultaneously touring the world?
Absolutely. There are a lot of bumps in the road; it wasn’t something that I figured out right away. The key is that no matter what, family is first, and that can be tough as a musician. You know, you have lived your life putting music at the forefront of everything that you do and all of a sudden once a family comes about, music no longer is at the forefront. Selfishly, you think to yourself that you want to be on the road all of the time and that you want to be in the studio while you are at home, but you have to acknowledge that when you have a family, you can no longer do all of those things around the clock. At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, that’s what is really important. I love music, but the key is that when you grow up, you have to put some things in front of your own personal goals. That’s the tough part. It’s responsibility. I certainly tell people not to shy away from having a family because they are in a band because it is very possible to do both and do both well. It takes a little focus and drive.
You know, it is more than likely super fulfilling for Ava to see you doing what you are doing. Ava probably feels like the coolest kid in class. She can also nurture her artistic characteristics through observing you and your creative expression.
Absolutely. Ava loves coming to our shows! She just came to a festival a couple weeks away. She gets a kick out of it, and she does brag to her friends, but I keep her in check and make sure that she is being nice. I don’t force her into music, but I put it out there for her because I think that it is such a great outlet. Throughout your teen years, you run into a lot of insecurities and uncertainty within your adolescence, and music got me through so much of that. I always think that music is such a great outlet for any kid to get out some of their angst. Hopefully, Ava follows in my footsteps, but if not, that’s totally okay.
Music really is medicine. Let’s talk tattoos. Tell us about some of your favorite personal pieces and the tattoo artists that you worked with to bring the pieces to life.
There are two specific dudes that I get tattooed by. I have been going to one of them ever since I was way too young to get tattooed. His name is Connor Garrity and owns a shop in West Hollywood called Timeless Tattoo. He is also in a band called All Hail The Yeti! He is a really good friend of ours who has toured with us and stuff. He has been tattooing since I was little kid and he would tattoo us back when we were only around fifteen years old! We definitely have a great relationship with him and he is a really good guy. I also do some work with John Caleb who is in Orange County and he is an awesome tattoo artist. I have tons of random tattoos that I have had done throughout the years. I mean, I got my first tattoo when I was thirteen years old.
Oh my goodness. I have yet to hear that one yet. That is really young!
I was very young. My parents were kinda nuts. They didn’t care! I knew a guy who was a senior in high school while I was a freshman who had a rigged tattoo machine in his apartment. Man, I can remember it like it was yesterday. I bought a 40 of Mickey’s because I was a little scared, and he tattooed a celtic cross on my arm. I remember that my palms were sweating, I was nervous as hell. It was not a normal tattoo machine; it was run with batteries out of a radio.
My palms are sweating thinking about this experience…
Yeah, that was my little prison tattoo. I was a little troublemaker back then and I wanted the tattoo to look tough! Obviously, my objective with tattoos have changed, but the memories still remain. The piece is now covered up even though I did have a hard time covering it up. I haven’t gotten tattooed in quite awhile. The cool thing about tattoos is that they are a map of your life. I would have never gotten the tattoos that I got done when I was sixteen years old right now, but that doesn’t take away the meaning behind the piece. I can look at that tattoo and remember the moment. Tattoos are a beautiful reminder of where we all once were, either bad or good. I love being able to observe tattoos on my skin as living artwork. I must say, there are a lot of things about tattoo culture that I am not a fan of. People go out to get sleeves just to get sleeves these days, but they are missing out on the whole point of what tattoos are about. It’s a living map of where you once were in life and tattoos should be treated sacredly just like anything else with the body.
Totally. The timeline aspect is enlightening. I am sure you have seen a lot of fans with Hollywood Undead tattoos over the years. Tell us about some of the fan tattoos that you’ve seen throughout your years. Any special album cover, portrait pieces?
It’s beautiful. It’s so special to be a part of someone’s life that you don’t even personally know in that aspect, but you do know each other because you believe in the same thing or you share a love of the same thing. It’s almost like you have a relationship with fans without ever having to speak to them but you do speak to them through the music. That is one of the beautiful things about music and tattoos. These fans care about what we are doing as much as we care about what we are doing. How much more gratifying can something you do be? We are honored. I am dumbfounded every single time that I see a Hollywood Undead tattoo and that will never wear off.
Powerful. As you guys are currently on tour, it is well known that Hollywood Undead has a cult following. Tell us about some of the experiences you have had connecting with fans on the road and acts of admiration throughout your current tour.
There are so many different people from so many different walks of life. I remember back when I was a kid, I went to a concert and felt like I was in a room with a bunch of people that I would never see throughout the world, but the concert gave us an atmosphere that created a connection amongst us all. I love talking to and getting to know our fans, but one of the things in particular that I enjoy is finding out where they are from. Some of the stories that I hear about how people have gotten into our music are crazy. We know fans that have passed away that I have had relationships with. You get enveloped into this world that you may never have gotten involved with otherwise through music. There is tragedy involved, but just being able to be a part of so many people’s lives, even if it is from a distance; it’s an honor. We have been doing this for almost fifteen years and I have literally watched kids grow up. It’s such a special experience that I would never ever take for granted. I think that is important for any musician who has the privilege of people letting you into their world. I think about that on a daily basis.
Wow. I look forward to your fans hearing that message. Last but not certainly least, do you have anything else that you’d like to bring to our attention about ‘Five’ that we haven’t spoken about yet and any closing messages for your fans?
‘Five’ came out on October 27th, 2017 and we are very excited about it. I hope everyone cares for the album as much as we do. I cannot thank you all for all of the support over the years. We love you.