Hollywood Undead: The eyes and minds behind the masks

Denver — It’s a long road from the beginning of Hollywood Undead to today. They first popped up on Myspace more than ten years ago, released their first album a decade ago, and recently sold out the Fillmore Auditorium co-headlining with In This Moment.

Hollywood Undead has seen lineup changes throughout the years. Jorel “J-Dog” Decker is a founding member. Dylan “Funny Man” Alvarez joined early and was on the first record Swan Songs. Danny Murillo joined before the second album American Tragedy.

You have to admire the resolve to persevere. From the earliest social media they came up and they continue to impress live and on record. 

Murillo looks back on the early days of the masks, “we took an artistic look at the band and came in wearing masks. Also have always had very eclectic and different type of music opposed to the majority of other rock, like hard rock groups out there. We mix in so many different styles of music.”

Decker adds, “I personally believe that between all of us we write really good music, there’s something for everybody. A lot of people don’t give us the chance to listen to our music ‘cause of the stigma behind our band. Some people hear our song, and they’re like you guys are really good. I think as long as you’re writing good music, you can have a career.”

Going on stage wearing masks their eyes are what you see first. Murillo explains the persona of  Hollywood Undead, “we do really love the idea that when we come out on stage we have masks on, like a Shakespearian play. It’s very theatrical. When the show’s about to start, we come out wearing masks and then after a few songs, the lights go down and then the masks are off. You can see who we really are.”

They put on great show and they respect their craft. Murillo adds perspective on their success and offers this advice to aspiring musicians, “Don’t try to make your band famous while you’re still learning how to make a good song. I think it takes time for any artist to learn how to create good music. So even if you have to stay in your bedroom and work on your music and you know it’s ready for the world to hear. Don’t — there’s no rush. Good music first.”

They use technology and talent to put their ideas and individuality up front. Jorel Decker reflects, “kids ask, ‘I want to do music what do you suggest?’ I say, ‘just don’t suck.’ Just practice, write good music, listen to good artists.”

That seems incredibly simple, but it’s not. Danny Murillo adds, “A lot of groups out there, a lot of rock groups, any kind of group — any style, any genre of music. They find their hit and then I’ve noticed the first three songs are their big songs and then the rest are just trying to be as good as the first three songs. But they’re all the same exact formula as the first couple of big songs. They’re just trying to recycle what they’ve made before. We always try to take a different approach when we write a song. […] A different feel on something that has inspired us. Whether it be something we’ve been through or a way that one of the guys is feeling in the band. We definitely write for ourselves and to inspire ourselves and we try to push each other to the next point. Where the next person can go, ‘I’ve got a good idea for this part.’ We work really well together in the studio and personally as friends.”

They’re their own brand of heavy music, rap or however you relate to and define music. You can put their albums in about four spots in any record store. Genres are abandoned as quick as the masks come off on stage. From Hollywood, California it’s easy to put the variety of influences in context. It’s a show with beats, riffs, rhymes and clean vocals and everything in between.

Decker says, “You can’t explain Hollywood Undead ‘what’s your genre of music?’ I don’t even want to go there. Yes we rap on some songs, yes some songs are more metal sounding, some are more rock. We have songs that are like acoustic, country sounding songs. We all grew up listening to so much music. I don’t think any band should have to write the same style of music.”

Dylan “Funny Man” Alvarez puts this context on their approach to creativity, “You can put on a Dr Dre song and easily relate to that. Tell the story of what it is because the man’s writing good music, you can bob your head.”

Like driving from Long Beach to East LA hitting every neighborhood between, of course, Hollywood Undead, are setting every palm tree they see on fire as they go. Like KISS, Alice Cooper or any artist who makes a creative statement it’s import to see them through their eyes before judging their creativity. Decker says, “I can say to anyone who would hear us, just listen to the music, before you judge.”

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