When I stepped on to the tour bus behind the House of Blues, I had no idea what to expect. I was not going into this interview as a fan, nor was I going in completely knowledgeable on all things Hollywood Undead. I caught their set at Rock in Rio and was impressed with the energy, but was not a fan of the music. I left Rock in Rio on the extreme high of having seen bands I'd wanted to see since I was a little kid, completely letting this little rock/rap group from Hollywood fall out of my head. I was a bit nervous of course, because interviews usually go one of two ways; either the musicians are total assholes and I have to prevent myself from lashing out, or I have an absolute blast and am sad when it's over. Once in a great, long while though, an interview takes place where you feel like you've just spent the past however many minutes catching up with an old friend. This was a whole new level of awesome. It was kind of like those rare times where you meet someone who basically becomes an instant best friend.
ZR: Thank you for taking the time out of your day to do this interview.
J3T: Oh no, thank you. I ain't got shit to do, haha. No, I do, but I put it off.
ZR: You guys formed in 2005 through MySpace, correct?
J3T: No, not at all. I'm not sure where that came from. That's ridiculous.
ZR: Through research and stuff I read that about you guys. So, how did you guys form then?
J3T: Like any other band. I was in bands with two of the guys, actually three of the guys now, at different points throughout our teenage years. Bands broke up. The usual. Then we formed Hollywood Undead like you would any other band, I guess. I think people have that misconception. I'm not sure where the MySpace thing comes from. We put our music on there, but so did every other band. I never understood the connotation. Every band in the world had a MySpace page, but we didn't form on MySpace.
ZR: Well, I guess it's good to get that cleared up and get clarification on that. So, what provoked you guys to do this particular style of music?
J3T: I think before the bands we had previous to Hollywood Undead were more traditional rock and roll. It just wasn't going where we wanted or the way we wanted. I think a big part of it, growing up in L.A., hip hop is such a big part of it. I grew up listening to more rap than rock. So, it was always a big part of what I wanted to do, but I guess because of being a white kid, you think you're supposed to be playing rock music. I do love rock music, but we just added those elements because it was just something we were interested in doing. There's so many rules in music and stuff like that. The songs are supposed to be this or that or your band is supposed to be a certain way. We weren't interested in playing by the rules. So, that's kind of how Hollywood Undead started.
ZR: Who did you listen to as far as the rap scene, but weren't necessarily influences?
J3T: Growing up, Wu-Tang was my favorite rap group. I liked E.P.M.D. a lot. N.W.A. To be honest, I don't like much rap. I like rap a lot, but I like about 5%. Most of it is just illiterate idiots with good production, but there are those select few who are really good. So, Wu-Tang was one of those groups.
ZR: Since there is kind of a weird stigma with the rap and the rock thing, you know, you mentioned being a white kid and thus being expected to play rock n' roll, do you think some of that has to do with the labels?
J3T: With super groups perhaps...
ZR: I mean with the segregation of the two genres.
J3T: No. Most white guys shouldn't be rapping. If you look at suburban white kids and stuff, that's not how I was raised so it was a little bit different for me, but now I totally agree with white people not rapping usually, from the dorks I know.
ZR: Since you guys have been around for 10 years, you guys have had a few lineup changes.
J3T: One line up change.
ZR: Where the hell does all of this false information come from?
J3T: A lot of people write whatever they want. I've read so much shit where I'm just like... what? I have no idea where it comes from.
ZR: Well, shit... You're knocking my questions down! But I guess it's best the truth comes out.
J3T: Is it? You're like Fox Mulder. You're just on a quest for the quest for the truth...
ZR: Eh, aliens freak me out.
J3T: But they are out there!
ZR: Well, they can stay there.
J3T: I wouldn't say that. The more you resist, the more it's going to come to you. Now you're gonna get abducted or something. Not my fault.
ZR: Gee, thanks... If I ever get abducted, I'm coming after you, haha. So, with the lineup change you guys did have, did it affect your writing or anything like that?
J3T: With the change, I think your influence is going to change to some degree. When I write with some of the guys it is different due to it being just a different element. If you're writing with someone you're not doing well with, it's very... ya know. It's something you have to be very personal with. So, it is important to have that relationship with that individual. In that degree, it did kind of change what we were doing, but I wouldn't say too much. We were writing stuff before the lineup change and after so it didn't change too drastically.
ZR: Where did the masks and personas come in?
J3T: The masks were just something because we wanted to have a visual aspect to the band where it's not just a bunch of tattooed guys with black hair. The whole band image thing is such trouble and it's just so lame to me. I really like the masked idea because we can do them ourselves. A lot of us are into graffiti and the visual arts so it brings an aspect besides the music that we can be creative with. I'm not going to lie. Sometimes I regret doing it, but once people identify you with something it's hard to distance yourself from it. So, it is what it is, but that's really why in the beginning we started doing it.
ZR: To be 100% honest, I'd heard OF you guys, but I hadn't heard or seen you until Rock in Rio this year. I was there and I have to ask... Even though you guys have been around for a decade, you are still considered kind of fresh and new in a way. Being on a bill with such tenured bands like Sepultura and Metallica and such, how was it for you guys being up there surrounded by these hardcore Metallica fans just gunning for them and them kind of rebelling during your set, how do you win people like that over? Do you look at it negatively, and if so, how do you get through it?
J3T: To be honest, I don't give a shit one way or the other whether they like it or not. I never have. People are idiots. That's the main thing you have to consider when you're playing a show. People are so set in their ways with what they like. If you get wrapped up in those things then don't play music. People will always find reasons to dislike you no matter how good or bad you are. It's just human nature. If you get a bunch of Metallica fans together, am I expecting them to fall in love with us? No! So, I just have fun with it. It doesn't bother me one way or the other whether they like it or don't. So, for us, it's just another show. I'm going to do another one the next day, and I did one the day before. So, I don't put much stock in those things. You just go out and do what you want to do. If I go out and do something that isn't to the best of my ability, I'm mad at myself, but I've never been mad at someone in an audience or an audience itself because what's the point? If I don't do the job that I am capable of doing, then I am mad at myself. Other than that, only you can control that. Some people love it, some people don't. It doesn't bother me one way or the other.
ZR: With that, how do you pick yourself back up from those nights where you are pissed at yourself?
J3T: Well, to be honest, I haven't had one in a while. I used to be a very heavy drinker, and that would cause bad nights. You don't sleep, there's drugs, the whole nine. I have been sober almost a year now, so I don't have to worry about it as much, but back then I would get mad because I'd get tanked. The problem is, when you're drunk, you think you're doing good and in retrospect you're not. It's like sex when you're drunk. You think you're doing a great job until they say, "Can you get off of me?" Then you realize oh...
ZR: Ah, yeah...
J3T: It's pretty gross! I mean, I like it when a guy gets drunk and pounds me, but for a girl I can understand... No, I'm kidding. The way I look at things is, people pay their hard earned money to go see you, and there's a lot of things they could spend their money on. If I don't do well, then I feel like I am not doing my part, because they did their part. How they act at a show, that's within their right, but yeah. If I don't do my part that's the only thing that bothers me. Other than that, it's all water under the bridge. Metallica fans are very intense. They're very all about Metallica, but the collective I.Q. of the audience is pretty low so it's not hard to do what you do because, well, they're Metallica fans.
ZR: Oh, you'd get grilled by Metallica fans if I printed that...
J3T: Oh, I don't care.
ZR: Are you sure?
J3T: That they're dumb? I'm not saying ALL of them are dumb, but that group of people where it's all Metallica or nothing...
ZR: That I understand. I personally love the argument of "grunge killed metal" when it didn't.
J3T: No. Metal killed metal. It sucks.
ZR: I don't think metal sucks, but it was a natural progression. People like to forget that Alice in Chains opened up for the Big 4 show, and they kind of got lumped into grunge because they were from Seattle.
J3T: I get that. We get lumped into the whole rap-rock scene. We had nothing to do with it. So, it is what it is.
ZR: Agreed. I saw you guys labeled as "nu-metal", but you aren't like... Limp Bizkit-y or anything like that at all.
J3T: People don't like things they can't brand. They're not willing to just let it be what it is.
ZR: If you had to choose a brand, what would you consider it to be?
J3T: Well, when people ask what kind of a band I'm in, I just say that it's rock music. That's what it is. All of our progressions and instrumentation is rock. We just added something more. I would consider us more industrial than rap. We use synth and things like that. Some of it comes off kind of gangster-y, but it's not because we were intentionally writing rap music, we were just talking about life. People's misinterpretations are all over the place, and if you try to correct them all you'll lose your mind so it's just whatever.
ZR: So, what's next for you guys? I know you put out an album in March of this year.
J3T: Hey, you got one right! Haha. Well, we just started this tour, and it's two months long. We just have a lot of touring. Europe and such. It's not fun. I like touring in the states because you have some sort of familiarity. We were in Russia last year and it was 30 below. You're in a different world completely. It's fun, but after the 10th or 20th trip... I'm not a traveler. If I wasn't in a band, I doubt I would have ever left the country. I'm such a homebody. Touring is probably the weirdest career choice I could've made, but it's cool. You get to see a lot of different stuff. It's interesting.
ZR: What's been your favorite place on your tours so far to either play or just be in general?
J3T: There's a bunch, but one city we were just in that I've always liked is Budapest, Hungary. That place is a fucking trip. It's very old school. They have very old castles and stuff, but it's such a party city. So, it's very odd. They'll have like... not raves, but giant parties in these old castles. Promoters will rent them out. So, you're in this 14th Century castle with like dungeons and unc unc unc. It is so bizarre. The people are really nice. It's a very oddball city. The more commercial or well known tourist destinations like Paris and London, they're not nearly as fun as the off-the-grid spots. It's cool seeing the Eiffel Tower, but I'm not a huge fan. Every place, it's the same deal. Like, with Vegas. The first time I came here, yeah there's cool things, but then there's parts where it's a shit hole. There's a lot of trouble to be had. So, I hide.
ZR: Sweet. Well, thank you! I think we got it.
J3T: Cool. I love Metallica fans, for the record, haha. They're the best!
ZR: Are you fucking with me?
J3T: Yeah... Haha! Actually, I don't know any. Everything with Metallica fans is just what I've heard. We're not a band that's going to be playing with them often, but that was the trippiest part about that whole thing, yet kind of cool. Those guys have been around forever, and they are legends in every respect of the word. So, playing before them was really cool. Their fans kind of have a bad reputation, but I don't personally know any. I know there's a gazillion of them, and they're ruthless. Our friends are in Avenged Sevenfold. They did a world tour with Metallica and they said it was brutal for a while. Until Metallica personally kind of endorsed them, they would get shit thrown at them and get boo'd because all they want is Metallica. Slayer fans are the same way. I have a few buddies where if I say something bad about Slayer in front of them, it's as if you just insulted their mother or their sister. They get all, "Watch your mouth when it comes to Slayer." Jesus... It's very intense. I wish our fans were that crazy, so I envy them.
So, there you have it. I had a great time talking and debating with Johnny, and even though I went in not being a fan of the music itself, I left being a fan of the heart and the humans who go into it. It's a pretty cool experience getting to bullshit with someone about everything from aliens to some of your favorite bands, and goes to show that you don't have to enjoy something, but you can at least respect it. I definitely do. Even if he's not a big fan of Metallica fans like myself, haha. We are kind of crazy though. I hope I get to sit down with Johnny or another member in the future to catch up and see how things are going, and I'm definitely going to give Hollywood Undead another shot next time they are in town. Be sure to check them out on this tour if you get the chance. They do put on a good show from what I saw, and they do have hearts of gold.
All Photos ©Sheri Ramsey-Lewis/ZRock'R Magazine