Los Angeles rap/rock band, Hollywood Undead, are gearing up for a big day tomorrow with the release of their third studio album, Notes from the Underground, and the kickoff of their "The Underground Tour" at the Key Club in West Hollywood.
After their extensive touring throughout 2011, the band took a break and began working on their third album, working once again with producers Griffin Boice and Danny Lohner along with S*A*M and Sluggo.
The result is a hard-edged album that combines the party rock of their debut, Swan Songs, and the darker tones of their 2011 sophomore album, American Tragedy.
Hollywood Undead has never made it easy to get a handle on their music and they continue this trend on Notes from the Underground moving in and out of styles and genres with ease and a infectious energy that is sure to keep their fans happy.
On Friday, George "Johnny 3 Tears" Ragan checked in from home as he prepared for the release and tour.
Q: What are you up to today?
A: I'm at home getting packed up for the tour. You know, the same old thing.
Q: So you are looking forward to going out?
A: Oh yeah we did some shows and stuff over the Summer but we haven't been on the road in awhile so we'll see what happens.
Q: What can people expect from these shows?
A: A concert. [laughing]
Q: Well, yeah I guess it would be! Are you changing things up this time?
A: Well I mean it's a live show. We have the sets and lights and stuff. I don't really know what else but it should be good.
Q: Are you going to be playing songs from the new album?
A: Well we're going to play a few but we never do that to people too quickly. I used to hate that when I was a kid and people would play their whole new record that I hadn't even really heard yet. So we'll definitely incorporate some new stuff but we will be playing stuff off of both of our other records as well.
Q: How do you feel this album stands apart from your first two?
A: Certainly it has the elements of both of the records because we're still Hollywood Undead but I think we've certainly progressed song writing-wise and stuff like that. We've incorporated some new instrumentation. As far as song writing really all you can do is really try and write the best songs you can and then let it out to the judge and jury. We're happy with it and that's all you can really do.
Q: Is it always a collaborative effort on your albums?
A: Yeah usually we build songs like everybody else does. When I write a song I do it on a acoustic guitar. Everything is built from there. The bones is that usually one person will come up with an idea and then we kind of move from there and people add their two cents as time goes on. I mean it works out like any other band. I think we just layer the music more over time.
Q: Do you have a favorite song off the new album?
A: Well I really like "Lion". I really like a song called "Outside". I mean I like every song on there but those are probably my favorites. I think they are all good though and that's always a great thing.
Q: Your music always seems to stand out because it does have so many different influences in it and elements to it from one song to the next.
A: Yeah you know that's right. We really try to keep it lively, especially once we're in the studio. We like to experiment with different pieces of equipment whether it's through programming or play. We definitely did some of that on this one. We try and keep it not too heavy because then you start pissing people off who like the other records. You want to keep it somewhat similar but keep it progressive so we stay interested. It's a big balancing act but I think we did it. I really like this one.
Q: I interviewed Charlie [Scene, Hollywood Undead guitarist and vocalist] a couple of years ago when American Tragedy came out and we talked about that disposition between the party songs and the darker songs. His theory was that it was because he was the partier of the group and that's where those songs come from and that the rest of the group was responsible for the rest because they are all more depressed than he is. What side do you fall on?
A: [laughs] Umm, I'm the depressed guy! No, I mean we always put party stuff on there but it's certainly not half the band but we sometimes get that perception. It's usually just two or three songs off the record. We incorporate that in and it's funny because when we first wrote Swan Songs, which was towards the beginning of us as a band, we did them more and I didn't think we would keep doing them after that but it's like oh, this is cool man. That's one of the cool things about being in Hollywood Undead because you can really write anything and you can find a niche for it but had I known we were going to have to keep writing party material I probably would have tried to get it off that first record. Now it's such a part of who we are and our fan base really likes it so we've got to keep it up.
Q: You have the new single "We Are" out now. What type of reaction have you seen?
A: Well the fans really like it and that's always big. I think the song is really good so I wasn't too nervous but you never know. I mean it's a different kind of song than what we would normally do but so far so good. Everybody seems to like it. We put out a couple of other songs and for the most part people seem to be really into it and we saved the better part of the record for after its release so it can only get better I think. I'm excited. I've had anxiety for about a month now. Once Tuesday comes and goes we'll all be happy.
Q: You got Slipknot's Clown (M. Shawn Crahan) to produce the video. How was that?
A: Oh, that was really cool! He's a cool dude; a visionary dude. That was one of the reasons we wanted him to do it. We had known he had co-directed som of the Slipknot videos that I really liked and he's a visual dude. He's very visceral. I mean I like his style essentially. We just kind of threw it out there. We didn't know if he did other videos outside of it so it was more like a shot in the dark and then not only did he want to do it but he was really excited about it. That was cool, you know? It was a total bonus getting him to do the video. Especially with him being from a band because he still has that band perspective as opposed to a director who is just out to kind of get a paycheck and just do his job, which is fine but he cared a lot more about what we had to say. We had a lot of input into it because he's been on the other side of it. It was a pleasure. I hope we get to do another one with him.
Q: It was cool how you each got to have your own little segment.
A: Yeah well I wanted the whole three minutes! I'm the coolest.
A: No, it was cool. He came to the table with that already. We never did anything like that before. Normally videos are performance-based and I think that gets old. You know, lip synching a song 900 times so it was cool having a different idea from the get go. We knew we were going to be doing something different. We were all stoked on that.
Q: Do you know what the next single is going to be?
A: I think we're going to go with a song called "Another Way Out" but you never know. It really depends on the single that comes before. So I mean all these things are up in the air but I think we're going to try to go with "Another Way Out".
Q: So will you be touring the rest of the year?
A: Yeah we're out on the road all year. We're going to Europe after this one. We're going to Russia where I've never been so I'm excited about that and we're going to some markets we've never been. As far as Spring and Summer we're trying to decide what we're going to do. I usually find out about 24 hours before we leave to where we're going.
Q: Will you be playing some of the Summer festivals this year?
A: Yeah we've booked Rock on the Range and a couple of other ones so we're going to fill in between. There's been talk about us going out on Uproar or maybe doing another headlining run. We don't know yet. We'll definitely be out there. I just don't know in what capacity.
Q: This tour is a run of small clubs?
A: Yeah we're playing all the venues we played when we first started touring. You know six or seven years ago or whatever and that was kind of the whole idea. We're calling it "The Underground Tour". It's supposed to be a real intimate run for the kids who have been there the whole time. It will be fun. They're a pain the ass to play but to end up close and personal with everybody is fun. You don't have as much disconnect as when you play bigger venues or radio shows. We're excited about that aspect.
Q: Do you notice a difference in your crowds from these small shows versus a large stadium show?
A: We usually get your diehards at the smaller shows because they are the one who wait for it and get the tickets. I guarantee I'll see a lot of people I've seen before and that's what is cool. I mean that adds to the intimate factor. You know there are kids who really, really love the band and you get that personal experience, which is fun. When you're playing live day in and day out in the same circumstances it can become mundane but these kind of shows are exciting. They're fun for the band just as much for anybody who goes to the show.
Q: Is there a song you're looking forward to pulling out on this tour?
A: Well honestly "We Are". Anytime you get to add new music it's fun because you play these songs hundreds of times so we're putting in "We Are" and "Dead Bite" from the new record on this run and then we'll be adding more. It's exciting to play new material in general.
Q: Who is your biggest influence right now?
A: Right now I'm not sure but you know I love the Deftones. I love Nine Inch Nails and Wu-Tang Clan. You know "Ain't Nuthing ta F**k Wit". Those kind of bands. Honestly, I'm not a genre guy. I like kind of any band that's good no matter what kind of music it is. I get into it all.
Q: Do you have a favorite album from 2012?
A: There were no good ones! With us writing a record all year and even when I'm on tour the last thing I do is listen to music. You know we're in the studio for twenty hours straight so I don't listen to much music but lately I've been listening to a lot of Slipknot for some reason. I guess because I'm pumping iron trying to get ripped!
Q: You are doing some signings before some of the shows?
A: Yeah well even when we do those, I mean at these small clubs the buses are parked out front. You get to hang out with everybody regardless which is actually really fun. I like doing that. Getting to know the kids that come to our shows. It's cool hearing where they come from and all that stuff. I'll see them at the signings sometimes and then I'd see them outside afterwards anyway.
Q: Do you have a favorite place to play?
A: Ooh! Chicago I think is my favorite. I mean they're all good. Well actually L.A. is probably the worst place to play and that's bad because that's where I'm from. I definitely like Chicago. Denver is really fun. They're all good but Chicago probably stands out.
Q: Do you have any words for someone who may be thinking about checking out the new record?
A: You know I treat music by pretending I don't care. That's how you get a girl to like you! [laughs] You know, I don't care what you listen to or not. You know that usually gets in their head. You say don't get it and then they want to listen. Go ahead, do whatever you want, I don't care!
Q: Finally, where do you want to see the band at by the end of the year?
A: Well obviously any band wants to get get bigger. I hope we keep having opportunities to progress because we've got a fan base that luckily is very cool to kind of go with us wherever we want to go. I'd like to see that continue and like I said going to new places that we haven't been. You know being in a band is kind of hard sometimes but that is one of the things that really makes it worthwhile is going to new cities and seeing different stuff. That's always really cool. You know we get to see Russia for the first time. From my understanding most people don't really want to go to Russia and it's understandable but hey what the hell, let's go see what it's like! Touring, hopefully we sell some records and get some new fans and just keep making the old ones happy.
Doors open for the show at 7 pm and tickets are on sale now.