Some musicians are desperate to court controversy. They make self-conscious attempts to get under the skin of a target deemed a threat or make otherwise inflammatory comments about a bigger presence in their genre. On the other hand, there are musicians who do little to fan the flames as it were, but still carry labels such as ‘trouble-maker’ and ‘notorious’ like an albatross around their neck all because of a little honesty. Aron ‘Deuce’ Erlichman certainly falls into the second category.
Leaping like a tattooed wrecking ball as the mastermind of masked rap-rock crew Hollywood Undead, Deuce went from nowhere to everywhere after the success of debut album, Swan Songs. Despite the success, all was not well within the … Undead camp and soon after he left under an acrimonious cloud followed by a hailstorm of back-biting and trash-talking from his ex-band mates.
Two years on and Deuce is back with a new collection of songs. Earlier this year he released the video to his new single, “America,” from his forthcoming debut solo album Nine Lives. Once again things are starting to look up for Deuce, free of the creative and emotional restraints of the past: “I don’t have anything holding me back now.”
Geeks of Doom: So you’re doing ok?
Deuce: Yeah, just coming out with this new album, Deuce Nine Lives which is basically the sequel to my first album I made, Swan Songs.
Geeks of Doom: The first single from the new album, “America” – what’s the story behind that? It’s obviously political…
Deuce: The story behind that is…it kind of has a worldly message to it, political and worldly, like the chorus says, ‘Do you want to see hate / like a needle in your veins,’ but the verses are more specific, more personal. It could be political I guess against things that I feel are bad or fucked up in today’s society…it’s basically my own opinion about shit here [and] how everything is. A little bit of a political opinion in it but that’s about it.
Geeks of Doom: The video is particularly impressive; you and the band fighting off zombies!
Deuce: Yeah, yeah! The zombies and stuff actually that ties into the message of the song. Like, you know how there’s an American flag and there’s zombies and we’re kind of running away from the zombies in the song? That’s kind of like we’re fighting against these things, we’re taking the power back. Why blame it on a country, you know? It’s not the people at the top, it’s the people at the bottom. The song is me taking my power back from Swan Songs because if you put it side-by-side with any song from my first album it’s just a little better than some of them.
Geeks of Doom: People will know you best from Hollywood Undead. If we go back to the beginning, how did you guys get together?
Deuce: I created the first song called “The Kids” basically by myself and then I got someone in the band to rap on it with me…we put it up on the internet and it kind of blew up. That was like five years ago and so I just kept writing the songs and kept going with it. There was a little bit of jealousy and problems along the way, but I kind of just ignore everything. It was like, ‘whatever is working,’ you know? So who cares if there’s eight members, six members? To me, I didn’t really care because I was writing it and I was doing it, the music. I just kept going along with it so that’s kind of how I went about it: just a bunch of people in a room, I was making the music and that’s what it was. Just a bunch of rappers and me doing my thing singing and doing the music.
Geeks of Doom: So you consider it your band?
Deuce: Well yeah, I mean it’s not like someone else sat here and wrote the songs and said, ‘Hey, let’s do this, let’s do that.’ Not to be a dick, but it’s not like they were rappers before or they were artists before, like I was. I would just record them line by line to turn them into a rapper, to make them sound legit.
Geeks of Doom: So they were just hanging out lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time?
Deuce: Yeah, we’re all lucky. I don’t think people have to be super good to be legit, but I’m just saying they weren’t like rapping or doing music. I had the skills, I still do have the skills, to make people sound good if I need to, you know what I mean? That’s what a good artist does …now I’m on another level. Now I’m solo I’m on a whole ‘nother level. Like I said, you could put the single “America” by the first single from Swan Songs, “Undead”, which I was on and I wrote…if you play those two songs back to back “America” does sound better. It’s just a better song. I’m not trying to bang on the other stuff it’s just… it’s just a bigger song. It’s catchier and that’s what it is.
Geeks of Doom: Obviously you’re pleased with Nine Lives and you’re happy with how it’s sounding?
Deuce: Yeah, I’m happy just to start taking over as a solo artist. I don’t have anything holding me back now. I have a better management team, I have better people around me, I’m always improving myself. So always keep updated on the Facebook page because there’s always new stuff coming out and I’m always going to be putting out new music and of course the Nine Lives album is just starting out.
Geeks of Doom: Yeah, you’ve been pretty open about the whole process of making the new album. You post your online diaries and you update Facebook – is that because you enjoy it or are you still trying to convince people that leaving Hollywood Undead was good and this is the real you?
Deuce: I’m just being honest, you know? I always tape a message to the fans, I love the fans. I have fans in the UK, I have a whole bunch of them in the UK that I talk to…I have become more honest, other people have become more fake.
I just feel like things are building up and it’s going to be bigger than it was before. I will be bigger than I was before, I know I will. The music’s better and things keep rolling. The live shows are going to be better than before, you just gotta keep your eyes open, you know what I’m saying?
Geeks of Doom: Was Nine Lives in any way a cathartic record to write?
Deuce: You know each song is its own thing…I just write [about] real shit; what I wanna say…I’m just direct and I know I can make anything sound good. So I just say what I wanna say…people want to doubt me, they become in competition with me. I guess there’s like a lot of anger on that album and on the new stuff is kind of more anger on a lot of recording stuff but it’s melodic and it’s fun and it’s honest. So that’s what it is: the music’s good and each song has its own message with its own words.
Geeks of Doom: Like you said, you’re open and you’re honest. I think that sometimes is misconstrued as you are looking for controversy – you’re being honest and other people seem to take offense.
Deuce: Yeah, yeah. I mean I’m a controversial artist, that’s just what it is. I like saying shit, but I don’t say it to be controversial. I’ll say it because I want to say it for a reason, but it can end up being controversial. Today controversial is being honest, saying something specific. If someone says it in an interview it’s ok, but if someone says it in a song and it sounds good then it’s like ‘oh my god he’s so bad!’ But that’s how good it sounds; the better you sound the more controversial you are. Someone could say shit all day long about the music industry but if you do it in a very creative way and make it sound good and the fans like it then more power to you. You’ll be even more controversial, that’s how I see it. Because songs never go away, they never get old…songs stay forever.
It never goes away, that’s what’s cool about music and that’s what I like about it…if you have something good, it’s really good because it doesn’t go away. It will last forever.
Geeks of Doom: Absolutely. I haven’t seen much of your side of what happened with your split from Hollywood Undead – what happened?
Deuce: Basically I was just taking the band to another level. I was gonna take it to the next level. I had already built it up from that point on and they just got scared that I was getting better, my writing was getting better…to be honest with you they were hearing some stuff I was recording in the studio, not necessarily for my solo project, but some of the band didn’t want me to continue growing as an artist and getting that attention and getting better at writing because they thought I would become too big. Basically someone didn’t want me to be the writer.
Geeks of Doom: So they were intimidated?
Deuce: Yeah, they were getting intimidated but they didn’t have a sense of team play. Everybody in that band wants to be center of attention so there was always going to be fights. It’s going to be hard for them to make good songs, but that’s all I’m going to say. I’m going to keep it at that.
Geeks of Doom: Move on with your new stuff!
Deuce: Yeah, move on with my new stuff because I don’t got a problem writing. The music will show and the skill line will show itself. The clocks a-ticking, you know what I’m saying?
Geeks of Doom: You’re heading out on some live dates on the Fight To Unite tour – are you looking forward to hitting the road?
Deuce: Yeah yeah! I’m looking forward to killing it, dude! We’re going to have a good time up there; we’re going to be playing “America” at every show and a bunch of other stuff. We might play some older stuff and some newer stuff too so for all the old fans, the fans that knew me from Swan Songs to the Deuce Nine Lives album…the next step from Swan Songs.
Deuce’s solo album Nine Lives was released April 24, 2012 in the U.S. on CD and MP3, and on May 7, 2012 in the UK on CD and MP3.
Deuce is currently on tour throughout the U.S. Check out his website for tour dates: www.deucela.com.