HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD

New EP on the cards for later this year.

The members of Hollywood Undead view the No. 2 Billboard 200 debut of the rap-rock group's third album, "Notes From the Underground," as an endorsement of the tweaks it made while making the set.

"What we try to do with each one is progress just enough," the group's Johnny 3 Tears (real name George Ragan) tells Billboard. "We want to make a new record and a different record than the other ones we've made, but fans are expecting something, or people who like your music are expecting something. So you have to juggle. Trying to find that fine line is always a big part of the process. But we treat it the same every time, man. We know the difference between a good song and a bad song, and we try to write as many good ones as possible and go from there, y'know?"

Hollywood Undead recorded most of "Notes From the Underground" -- which sold 53,000 first-week copies -- with regular collaborator Griffin Boice, but others made significant contributions to the set. Nine Inch Nails alumnus Danny Lohner, who executive produced the group's 2008 debut "Swan Songs," returned to helm the new album's first single, "We Are."

"It's always an experience working with him," says Johnny 3 Tears. "He's a good friend, and he really is kind of another member of the band in the sense that he's really willing to take things as far as we are. And he's an experimental kind of guy, so we always try new stuff out with him." More eyebrow-raising, perhaps, was enlisting pop and R&B hitmakers S*A*M & Sluggo to work on the lighthearted track "Pigskin."

"Those guys are, like, pop dudes, and we're about as un-pop as you can get," Johnny 3 Tears acknowledges. "They're just another set of really talented dudes, and they definitely have a different M.O. than Danny or Griffin, so those are the kind of guys you actually learn something from. Half the time we're writing I was trying to pick their brains and see how they think when they come into the studio each day and what they're thought process is. They really know how to make stuff sound sweet, so it was great to work like that and get some insight."

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Hollywood Undead's other main collaborator during the "Notes From the Underground" process was Slipknot's Shawn "Clown" Crahan, who directed the video for "We Are" -- which Johnny 3 Tears says was rewarding as any of the recording studio experiences the group had while making the album. "You never know what to expect when you meet people like that," he explains. "(Crahan's) somewhat of a legend, at least in my world. So it's a roll of the dice, and you never know what you're going to run into. But he's one of the coolest, most creative dudes we've ever worked with. He really understood us as a band 'cause he's on that side of it, too, and his style is very visually driven, which is kind of perfect for our band. The whole experience was just really cool for us, and you couldn't ask for a nicer guy to direct the video."

Hollywood Undead is currently on the road promoting "Notes From the Underground" and expects to be touring into 2014. Johnny 3 Tears says the group is also thinking about releasing an EP later this year, possibly of remixes or incorporating songs it worked on for the album but that didn't make the final cut.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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