An Interview with Deuce – Feb. 9, 2012
by Jamie Bertolini
Sitting at my desk in my home office, safe from the cold, I had the opportunity to speak with rock-rapper Deuce in a phone interview straight from hot and sunny California. Deuce (Aron Erlichman) is set to release his first solo album 9Lives on April 24th. He spoke to me about his music, image, and what it’s like to be on his own.
Jamie: So I understand you go by a few different names. Where did the name Deuce come from? How did you get it to stick?
Deuce: When I first started with Hollywood Undead and created that band I called myself “Tha Prodeuca,” you know, like in the first early 3-5 songs. Basically I just shortened that to “Prodeuca”, you know, “Deuce”. I kinda took the Deuce out of Prodeuca, and that’s kinda where I came from. You can either like the second song I’m in or my old band or some shit like that, and it’s like me - Tha Prodeuca shout out, right at the beginning before I start singing the chorus, and that was my name for a couple songs and then it eventually just changed to Deuce because that was just too hard to pronounce. It’s “Big Deuce” now, you know?
Everyone just started calling me Deuce, and then I started using it in my songs and basically just writing and producing that first CD of mine, I just stuck with that name and kinda used that name, and it’s on that CD that I produced and wrote. And now this new CD has that same sound and I’m just going by Deuce on this CD, too.
Jamie: When you first left Hollywood Undead and started your solo career, you weren’t able to release independent albums due to your contract with a record label. How long were you under that restriction? How did those first months affect you as an artist?
Deuce: I was under that restriction probably for a good six to twelve months, which sucks because everything I was putting up on the Internet was just getting slapped down. But then we got a lawyer and sued them all and they left it alone.
It just made me tougher and stronger. Having to write, record and make a whole album during a period of time when your music’s being taken down could be hard and a lot of people could lose duration or hope. But I have my skills, because I’ve written so much with my old band that it just didn’t affect me too much. Plus I’m a fighter at heart. Who cares? I’m down for the fight.
Jamie: I’ve listened to a few of your new songs and have definitely noticed how you play on both the rock and rap genres. How did you come up with the decision to bridge the two genres in such a way?
Deuce: Just for me naturally, I just can’t go one or the other all the way. It just doesn’t work for me. As a musician I’ll be writing in the studio and if I go (toward) too much rap I just get stuck, you know, and if I go too much rock I get stuck, too. It’s just natural for me. I’m kind of like a hybrid. I’m a hybrid of the two. I’m just a cross-genre artist. I have my own sound and I’m me. I’m a mix of rock and rap, but I’m also just Deuce, you know? I just make the music I make that’s different from other people.
Jamie: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Deuce: It could be from life experiences, direct life experiences with other people, bad experiences, good experiences. Other people, other artists inspire me, other songs inspire me - everything, you know - all these different things from other people’s music to real life experiences. Those are the two different things that inspire me to write most of the time, and I can just write, I enjoy writing. Let’s be honest, I don’t always have to have an inspiration. I can just decide I want to write and I’m gonna write. And I’m gonna write some tough shit, I’m gonna put good shit together, you know, I can go that way, too. It’s just having a good time and deciding to do it and doing it.
Jamie: You mentioned there were some bands that have been a sort of inspiration. Who are your musical influences?
Deuce: I listen to a lot of hip-hop stuff. I don’t know why, but I don’t rap all the time. I just do I like it because it’s just edgier. I like edgier lyrics, I like edgier voices, so I guess I’ll listen to a lot of just tougher, hip-hoppy melodic music. And I listen to a lot of rock too. I like rock too, but if I’m gonna go out or if there’s a bunch of people at my house; what am I gonna bump? Am I gonna bump like a big shot rock song before I go out and have a bunch of beers, or I’ll probably bump some Tupac shit because we’re going riding, you know what I’m saying? It just makes more sense. That’s the type of music that inspires me, I guess, and I listen to a lot but it doesn’t mean that’s the type of music I write. I don’t write fully hip-hop music, I’m not a full hip-hop artist, but it’s the stuff I listen to and bump before I have a good time and when I’m showing a lot at night. Late at night I listen to a lot of music - basically, Tupac, fuckin’ 50 Cent, and old rappers that shine - Kanye West, and sometimes Dr. Dre. I’ll listen to Three Days Grace and some of those bands too - Breaking Benjamin, I like, Rise Against, I like. Avenged Sevenfold, I actually do like them too. I’d say like a mixture of those two things, those types of bands. Those rock bands and those rap bands, both.
Jamie: How do you come up with the lyrics to your songs and what do they mean to you?
Deuce: They’re just basically ideas that I’m presenting to people and I’m putting out there through my words and melodies, that if I want to communicate something, you know, like the lyrics of Crackin’ is kind of like: “Let’s get it crackin’”. It’s like, let’s get the fuckin’ party started, let’s get the drinks out, let’s get the girls crazy, you know? Let’s get into the hotel room and have some fun. That’s the message of that song. And then you’ve got America, which is kind of like an “I don’t give a fuck,” you know? It’s kind of like a big “fuck you” to whomever - whoever doesn’t like me. Each song has a basic simple meaning behind it and then all the words in the song revolve around that idea. But again it’s just like when you write, it either sounds good or it doesn’t, and it’s like it either works or it doesn’t work. It’s just like anything else, like making a movie, making a song, making an album. You have that basic idea but you never stick to one thing because you never know what’s gonna work, you have to try things. You have to try things in the studio and that’s my rule, is that I always try things. I’ll record for one sentence, you know, 10 different sentences for one line and then one of them will work. I’m picky and that’s how I roll.
Jamie: What was the best part of creating your album 9Lives? How long did it take?
Deuce: The best part of creating it was, it was just fun. I have a song with Travie McCoy called “I Came To Party” and it was just fun. Some of it was just fun to sing on and write. When you write it and record it, and it sounds as good as it does - not to be cocky, but it just sounds cool. Being able to make a good album that’s good or better than the first one is like, [pauses] I’m stoked, you know, I’m happy about it. I’m happy that my level of making albums is equal or as good as the first one I made. I’m pretty stoked on that. That’s kind of how it was.
Some of the songs were made a while ago and some were just made in a couple months, while I was going out having fun, but it was also becoming a struggle at the same time, you know, it was just learning to balance it all and being able to still do the lawsuits and being able to make badass music, and at the same time still party sometimes. Can’t miss the party, you know?
Jamie: Do you plan on touring when your album is released?
Deuce: Yeah, we definitely do. There’s nothin’ for sure yet, but we will let everybody know as soon as we know, for sure. But we’re definitely looking into something right now - an album release show, but nothin’ is for sure yet.
Jamie: You write all your own music?
Deuce: Yeah, I write all my own music. Sometimes I work with different people, different producers, you know, executive producers and there’s co-producers on the album and shit like that, but I’m the producer and the writer of the whole album.
Jamie: Does it feel any different now that you don’t need to get the opinions of a group, or is it still the same in some ways?
Deuce: It’s good, yeah, it’s a little faster. Where on the first album when I would make the hits, people would complain and I would have to convince them and say, “Trust me, this is a hit.” Maybe not a hit, but a good song and it was the main song that blew the band up, then having people say, “I don’t like it,” and listening to those opinions could steer you in the wrong directions, basically. And that’s what I don’t have anymore; I don’t have someone to do that anymore because there was a couple of people who would do that, a lot. It’s just the truth of it, you know, the facts, that there were people who would just try to steer it in the wrong direction. It got as big as it got because of my writing and because of my decisions to keep songs, you know, “No, that’s a good song, we’re going to stick with that.” If I didn’t do that, then I don’t know if we would have got to where we got back then. I’m doing the same thing with my album. This one was a little faster to make than that one; not faster, but it is because I have experience from before. It’s just better; it’s a quicker way to be.
Jamie: One last question, I’ve seen your music videos and the cover of your album: Why the mask?
Deuce: The mask is just part of my image, you know? It’s something that I’ve always done. It’s something that I’ve had since way back then. It does create a little bit of mystery and I like being able to change my face up, I like being able to change the look of my face depending on the theme of the song. If the song’s like Let’s Get It Crackin’, you know, the mirror ball/disco ball works for that and it fits with the whole theme of the song, the whole theme of the lifestyle - the drinks, girls, drugs, all that stuff. And then you have America, and it’s a little more serious. You have a ripped up American mask with blood on it. So I like the mask because I can kind of create a statement, a separate world for people to live in, kind of. That’s what I like about it.
Jamie: Is there anything else you’d like to say or add?
Deuce: Thanks to the fans for sticking with me through the tough times, through the good times, and hopefully I’ll get to meet everybody. I just want to meet every one of the fans and give them all a hug when I see them, you know, for being so nice to me. And just thanks for supporting me through the Swan Songs and now the Deuce 9Lives album.