A CONVERSATION WITH
"JOHNNY 3 TEARS"
Interview and Visuals by: Fridae Mattas
No strangers to FridaeTV, "Hollywood Undead" has always been a fan favourite and what the people want we try to give them. I was just going to do an album review but what is better than an album review? A Phone interview with a member of the band! Hollywood Undead is currently on a North American tour in support of their freshly released fifth studio LP "Five". Yesterday, Monday, October 30th, 2017 I was able to catch up with George Ragan aka "Johnny 3 Tears" to pick his brain. Keep reading as we discuss the album, the bands new singles and the current state of the music industry. I have to say, we had a pretty good conversation, George was one of the most talkative artists I have interviewed to date. If you all want to see more of Hollywood Undead peep the tour dates to catch them live and don't forget to grab the new record "V" aka "Five" here!
Fridae: So, you guys dropped a new record on Friday?
George aka "J3T": "We did yeah, we’re super stoked! You’re only gonna do that once every couple of years, so really try and make the best of it. Its not like you’re gonna do that one again so we’re really just enjoying it, hoping it does well and everyone is happy. We’re having fun for sure!"
Fridae: That's good to hear! People can download the record, but can they actually physically buy it online or vinyl?
J3T: "Oh yeah yeah, we do vinyl! We did a Bestbuy exclusive for “V”, where they get a bandana we made with the record. It’s funny that you ask that because I have a feeling this one or maybe the next one or the one after that will probably be the last time were doing hard copy CD’s, which is sad for me because I love having something tangible when I buy a record."
Fridae: Yeah (elongated sigh)
J3T: "More and more they’re drifting away from it, vinyl’s doing really well, at least we’ll still be releasing vinyl but as far as a hard cd, sadly those days are coming to an end."
Fridae: I know it's so sad no more CD players, you know the end of an era.
J3T: "I remember when I was a kid I would look forward to buying cd’s because I could read, the inserts, the thank you’s and the lyrics, look at the pictures. Whatever it was, you would sit there and listen to records you had this cd sleeve to hold while you were listening to the album for the first time. Now its instant gratification."
Fridae: On to the next one right?! What can you do...
Fridae: Please introduce yourself to the world!
J3T: "I’m Johnny 3 Tears from the band Hollywood Undead."
Fridae: Thank you, thank you very much! You guys have already released four singles off of this record…
J3T: "Yeah, yes we did! It will be five real soon too, obviously the whole album is out now but that’s another thing that has changed drastically since we started. You try to hide your record so it can’t get pirated but now they can’t stop pirating so they’d rather just give it them instead of it being stolen. The whole system is backwards now."
Fridae: Yes, it is!
Fridae: What is the next single off of the Five (V) record?
J3T: "Well we’re releasing a song with a video that we did with B-Real called Black Cadillac, we just shot his part in LA a couple days ago. And then we’re going to radio with “Your Life” in I believe January. We’re touring, about another month to go and we’ll be hanging out for the holidays before we leave for Europe."
Fridae: Love that track, has a very Regulators vibe blended with Next Episode and Europe is always fun!
J3T: "We actually have really big markets in random places like Russia. We have like the number one record in Russia, so weird it’s like that’s Russia! We never know who we’re connect with, always pretty interesting, you know I’ll see comments from kids in India who bought our record out there. It’s really cool, that’s what I always loved about music, people you never would meet, someone you would never know in any other circumstance but you can connect with them and they can connect with you through music."
Fridae: True, even more so now with the internet.
J3T: "For the first time in a long time kids have access to all kinds of music that they didn’t before and maybe that’s one of the good things about the internet. Kinda sucks in certain ways, but it made it so people otherwise couldn’t listen to something can and express themselves through music, it has definitely helps us express ourselves. It’s an interesting marketplace for sure."
Fridae: Now, you guys are considered an indie band right?
J3T: (Lots of laughing) "Imma me tell you something, when we first signed to Interscope they said we were “Sell Outs” because we were signed to a major label, and then we had a few records where we were “Pop” and then we had a record where it was “Underground” and now we’re an “Indie band” so its like I can’t keep up with what these monikers are. I’m just making music with a lot of different fusions of Rock music but I don’t get into the details as to what kind of rock it is or what type of metal or hip hop. I look at it very simple its rock at the end of the day, it all comes from rock music."
Fridae: That’s right no gentrification, no cookie cutter boxes to be categorized in, music is music!
J3T: "It’s all emotion, that’s how I’ve always looked at it, you’re connecting emotionally with someone. How you choose to do it or how you format the sounds around that connection is up to you, with whatever you’re into, obviously sonically different records have different feels. The important thing is that its helping you to convey your emotions through music."
Fridae: Mmhmm, I agree. Where did you guys come up with the concept for the album?
J3T: "I don’t think we’ve ever done a whole concept record per say, we write songs that are kind of the glue of the record where there’s a staple for the sounds we want and then everything else you know I don’t think we’ve ever stuck to a plan where we’re gonna do this. There’s now way to keep track and its kind of a disservice because you might miss something if try to plan too much. We’re free spirited in there (the studio) we try to write songs and make the best of it."
Fridae: That's cool good to know! How did you guys formulate the songs? Were you guys like okay we're going to write one day and then we're going to record a next day or did it just happen, here's some lyrics here's a beat.
J3T: "We start to write like any other band, with an acoustic guitar and singing. We try to get the skeleton down for the song and all the production stuff we do in the studio from that day forward. No two songs are exactly the same with how we construct them or write them. We start with the melodies, get the lyrics down, get the chord progression down and kind of build from there. There is no specific formula but people are always surprised that we write how we do because we are so beat heavy and add some industrial stuff. But, before all those things are in a song no matter who you are, it starts with some chords and a melody, gotta stick to that, stick to the basics and keep it simple. I was trying to figure out how John Lennon would write a song and get that as best I can, he is the best in my opinion. Beatles songs are very simple, a lot of songs are simple you just gotta get that chord in there and move from that point forward."
Fridae: I've noticed your music growth to this point from the first record. Honestly, from what I have this album is very cohesive and positive. It sounds like the best record Hollywood Undead has released to date for sure, especially track #6 “Nobody’s Watching” huge potential.
J3T: "Well, I obviously genuinely appreciate that. When you write a record and you are conscious of your peers, it’s a worrisome process because you really just don’t know how other people are going to feel. As a band, you’re always trying to move forward to keep it interesting for yourself and to keep it fresh but at the same time you don’t want to change too much to where you annoy the fans that have supported you. It’s a weird juggling act moving forward and new things but not overwhelming people."
Fridae: You guys still have the sickest beats, that's what's made you guys stand apart from the pack and drew me to cover your music.
J3T: "You know the beat is so important to a track, especially with the way your body responds to the music, we always put extra thought into that and try and come correct."
Fridae: Well you guys did a great job on this record.
J3T: "Thank you! We really appreciate that."
Fridae: What advice do you have to give, to new artists who are trying to break into the industry?
J3T: (Sigh) “Man, you know it’s tough because the advice I give you today wouldn’t matter, it could be completely irrelevant two years from now because things are changing so fast. One thing I would say is if you want to do music, make sure Music is what you really really want to do. And, it doesn’t have anything to with thinking you're going to get rich or famous or all these other side-effects that may or may not occur. Nowadays, its so competitive that if you’re not working 24/7 on your craft, someone else is. Bands don’t get signed like they used to, a hundred or so bands were signed a year to a major label, now, it’s maybe eight to ten.
You have to make sure of your dedication, if you really believe in it as an art form before any other thing that might come along, because it’s a tough world to break into. You have to make sure its your passion not just “I want to be a Rockstar” so I'll start a band, you gotta believe in the art form. That would be the advice I give to anyone thinking of doing it. If you half-ass it, you're not going to make it anyway, might as well quit while your ahead. But, if you do believe in music, do believe in the art form and believe you have something to say, then just work hard and keep your head down, you could do anything you want.”
Fridae: True enough, true enough. That said, what drives you guys to keep making music?
J3T: “You know, I don’t have a choice in the matter. I never felt that I really did, even at my worst when I’m getting sick of it, sick of touring, sick of being in the studio, sick of the whole life. If I step away for a few days, I’m drawn back. Its just who I am and its kinda one of those things, you can’t really argue with your nature. I’ve never really had to think of what or why I should do it, I’ve always just done it, never really been a question."
Fridae: Who were your most influential musicians growing up, what did you listen to?
J3T: "My Dad obviously like most kids was the first to introduce me to music, bands like Neil Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival. I still love those bands, but as I got to the more modern music in the circle of school, I was really into Wu-Tang Clan, EPMD a lot of old school hip hop. I love Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor is right up there as the greatest ever to me. It’s pretty eclectic because I listened to stuff my Dad had me listen to, but then I also listened to stuff from other kids at school. I got this weird really crazy juxtaposition, which I think is a big influence on the Hollywood Undead sound.
We’re all a bunch of kids from L.A with a heavy hip hop influence in our upbringing but all of our parents were really into classic rock. Those two sides I think had a heavy impact on the sound Hollywood Undead has but those. And a few modern rivals the “Deftones” and “Queens of The Stone Age” are some bands that I really like out now, but I don’t think music has touched a really good point overall, in quite some time. Especially, with the advent of electronic music and some of the new rap music that I find completely unbearable and probably has 2Pac Rolling in his grave. Honestly, I’ve stuck to those bands mainly because no ones come out making me think “Oh I need to listen to this” I know there’s a brave new world for music and music has always had its ruts and great moments. Hopefully, we get another renaissance like when Grunge came out and had this undeniable influence and hopefully my generations calling card isn’t God damn house music cuz that would suck!”
Fridae: (Laughing) I agree and yes it would! Now, you have to be a social media superstar to get a recording contract if you want one.
J3T: "What pisses me off about that is, you don’t even need to be good at music!"
Fridae: No! No they don’t!
J3T: "They’d rather choose the guy with the social media followers than the guy who actually has talent. The game has completely changed, they don’t look at what you can do, they look at how many people follow you that might come to a show if you play one. The policing system is all out of whack, all you can do is contribute and contribute to good bands that don’t suck."
Fridae: Yeah, it’s a little hard when crap is being blasted on radio, it’s the curators of mainstream music.
J3T: “Rock music is borderline dead at this pint, it’s not even healthy. But I’ve always said all it takes is that one big rock record to reintroduce the culture to show them what they’re missing out on. Obviously, we would love to be that band but I don’t think we will be. It’s ok one day there will be a band that comes and blows everyone away just like Nirvana did or when the Beatles came to America."
Fridae: Yeah, those bands are hard to find…Who knows maybe Hollywood Undead will change the worlds mind with “Five”.
J3T: "Hey, even if we influence someone that could change someone mind that would be cool, I’m cool with that too."
Fridae: Exactly, all it takes is that one person to just spread the news, word of mouth is the best form of advertising.
J3T: "Yeah, you just need that spark to get that person going. An artist I really like is Post Malone, I like his style, he’s a really talented artist and he’s huge! Normally with these huge guys, I find they are terrible and have all songs written by a team of songwriters but Post Malone is really good. I found out he was a fan of our band when he was growing up and that was cool to me. So, even if you’re not someone whose doing something huge in the music industry, you never know what kind of influence you will have on someone who might. Someone will do it!"
Fridae: Well…Hopefully, someone needs to save music!
Fridae: Anything else you want to share with the world?
J3T: "We really appreciate all of the support from our fans those who know about us, those who don’t check us out. We’re really happy about the new album, listen to it if you can or want to and come out and see our live show, its always good time hope to see everyone out there!"
Fridae: Fantastic! It was great chatting with you George…Finally!
J3T: "I really appreciate your time and apologize for any delays."
Fridae: Enjoy your show tonight and thanks for chatting with me today. Looking forward to catching you on your next Toronto stop.
J3T: “No, thank you.”