Jorel Decker AKA J-Dog is a founding member of rap rock band Hollywood Undead. Over the past few years Jorel has found himself deep inside the Oklahoma industry with the flower brand Dove & Grenade.
A little over a year ago, Jorel did an interview with Marijuana Venture when his Oklahoma cannabis operation started to go into full swing. The year since has exposed the difficulties and realities of operating in what likely is the most saturated cannabis grower market in the history of structured cannabis industries.
BlazingAmerica: After watching your brand’s video on YouTube titled Dove & Grenade Industries, it’s clear the brand is not another empty celebrity cannabis venture and you’re a seasoned grower who puts great care into your product. How did the passion with our beautiful plant first develop?
Jorel Decker: I originally started because I was broke and I wanted to be able to make something extra to pay my rent and still tour with my band. It was a weird time in the music industry. Records weren’t selling and streaming didn’t exist to pay artist. Touring artists made no money, on tour we didn’t make much because we owed a ton of money to the label for god knows what. We were signed to the worst 360 deal in music history (editor note: 360 deals are exclusive recording artist contracts that allow a record label to receive a percentage of the earnings from all of an artist’s activities rather than just album sales).
I sold my car to make space in the garage of a townhouse in Hollywood. I used all the money I had and I got 2 tents and jumped in head first. But from the moment I got the plants in there, I couldn’t stop. I became obsessed with every aspect of growing the plant. Later came framing rooms, electrical, plumbing, AC, airflow, lighting, plant health. I still read and talk constantly about cannabis. I’ve been obsessing over crop steering lately. I guess because I’m a music producer, and that can get pretty technical, I love the science behind growing. I’m usually with plants on a daily basis.
I should have quit so many times over the years because I’ve lost money over and over, and lost countless hours of sleep. Whether it was shady partner, cops or robbers, there has been a ton of roadblocks. I never got lucky and made a ton of money in this industry, like I’ve seen happen with other people. I always reinvest any money I make. I took what little money I was making from the band and sunk it all into growing, slowly expanding. Which lead me to being broke for years because I sucked at growing at the time. I always try and do what I thinks right for everyone, even though it takes longer.
I’m only where I am through insane hard work, and determination which I continue to do to this day. When you become obsessed with something, you’d do it for free. Which I did for a very long time in music and cannabis. I’ve been working my ass off in Oklahoma for almost 3 years now and still haven’t profited a single dollar. I’ve spent countless hours on ladders hanging lights, on my knees drilling holes in concrete for trays, pruning plants, spending and investing my own money, flying back and forth non-stop and working 7 days a week, you name it. It’s about the long-term vision for me.
BlazingAmerica: Keeping a band together is hard enough, Hollywood Undead has accomplished this feat and grew a cannabis brand in Oklahoma which has been a struggle, what is the secret?
Jorel Decker: Never quit. It sounds too easy but that is literally it. But in reality, quitting is easy, working towards your passion with no plan B is what is hard. It’s a very scary thing, having no safety net. I remember my band almost breaking up dozens of times. It was always due to financial stress. We didn’t start making decent money till about 10 years into our career. It’s hard to believe because we sold millions of records, but everyone had their hands in our pockets. We didn’t realize it at the time. But I’d have done it for free, which I was basically doing, because I loved playing shows.
It’s the same sad story for so many artists. I’ve really put my music career to the side the last 3 years for cannabis, which sucks, but it’s so hard to juggle both. I’ve also wasted so much time in cannabis from when I started cause I’m self-taught, I never had a mentor. It was all trial and error with growing, make one mistake and you will have to wait months to try again, only to make another mistake. This happened for so many years.
I give so many people advice now, and they’re successful off their first harvest. It’s great to watch but stings at the same time. I wish I knew someone like myself when I started. Most people wouldn’t talk about it, or share grow secrets back then because it was so illegal. I don’t really want to see friends go through the same heart ache so I’m an open book. After going through hell teaching myself to grow, I had to walk around with a duffel bag full of weed in LA and go into shady illegal dispensaries and push my flower and build a sales network. Not a single step of the way was easy.
Looking back, it was almost insanity, the position I was putting myself in. But when you love something as much as I love music and growing cannabis, it becomes your world. It’s inevitable that you’ll become good at something when it’s all you think about and do all day every day.
BlazingAmerica: The Oklahoma industry is incredibly serious about the medicinal aspect of the plant, how does growing lifesaving medicine for legitimate patients play in your operations?
Jorel Decker: I’ll always give real answers and not bullshit people. It’s great because I see people getting help, especially disabled people. I’ve spent a lot of time in dispensaries here and got to talk to a lot of patients. I give anyone free advice that wants to grow their own at home as well, so they can save money. Cannabis is way too taxed and too expensive. The government is the one winning. It affects the patients more than anyone. It’s a fact that cannabis gets people off pills. But at the end of the day, it’s the “cannabis industry.” Meaning it’s a business, so it sucks when patients love a specific strain but it’s not pulling enough flower to keep the lights on, and bills paid in the facility.
We’ve had a bit of a struggle trying to grow the best strains but also strains that pull enough flower to keep the place running. A lot of strains that yield a lot are done very poorly by a lot of people and fuck up the market, so we shy away from those. Exotic amazing strains don’t yield as much usually but people love them. We try and keep patients happy while trying to turn a profit at the same time. Our bills are so high, the market is down, we pay employees well, are taxed so heavy, so it’s been a struggle from the start.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be a saint and say “I only do it for the patients” like most people say. Cause at the end of the day I need gas in my car to get to work like everyone else, which happens to be a 2013 Toyota Prius. So we’re not balling out of control, we’re trying to build a reputable company and keep our patients happy above anything else and keep reinvesting. We’ve almost failed a dozen times already in this market. I’d rather do it right and have it take longer, and hopefully make a profit in the end. Because I haven’t made one yet and I’m working just as hard as the day we started almost 3 years ago. I can only describe that as an obsession.
BlazingAmerica: Dove & Grenade is an interesting name for a cannabis brand, can you share the inspiration behind this unique name?
Jorel Decker: It’s also the symbol of our band but let me say my band has never furthered my cannabis career in any way. They’ve always been separate. I never got a leg up or special treatment whatsoever. But I always wanted my band involved, we all grew up together and are best friends. I want to bring them along for the ride, and we’ve also put money in together to try and get the brand going. The Dove and Grenade is also a symbol of war and peace which we felt symbolizes our music well.
I also love being in Oklahoma, made a lot of friends out here and I’m moving out here permanently. We started another house brand called Rams Head with Oklahoma friends (@Ramscanna). Oklahoma people are proud of where they are from, and I always love and support that no matter where you’re from. We wanted to do something more Oklahoma centric, not just bring a California brand and shove it down people’s throats. I personally wanted another brand that had people from Oklahoma involved and came off strong and rugged like the people from Oklahoma.
BlazingAmerica: Where can a patient find Dove & Grenade product in Oklahoma?
Jorel Decker: It seems like we hit every shit filled pothole in this process, so we never could get the money together for packaging because it always gets reinvested into the grow. Anyone who grows knows, you’re always chasing your tail. Whether your budget is $1,000 or $1,000,000 you are always going to go over budget. So were finally hitting our stride and catching up. We will have packaging finally ready to go by late 2021. People are already smoking our flower and love it, they just don’t know it’s ours. We’ve been getting great feedback so far from shops and salespeople. We’re usually sold out ahead of time.
BlazingAmerica: What one piece of advice would you give a new player navigating the Oklahoma cannabis market?
Jorel Decker: As for anything that isn’t grow related, I don’t know. I don’t know anything about dispensaries and extracting and other avenues of the industry. For growing, don’t go too big and have a solid team. People count square feet and equate that to a dollar amount in profit. But this is a plant, growing plants is not easy. Then when you do it wrong, you have to sell shitty discounted flower in a flooded market. Blows my mind someone who never had a house plant thinks they can just grow thousands of cannabis plants with no experience.
Even for seasoned growers, the bigger you go, the harder it is. I’ve been doing this for a long time and stills scratch my head and get puzzled on wtf is going on sometimes. Why did just one plant die out of nowhere? You have to start from square one so many times. As for the team, Johnny whom is in my band, we do a lot of business stuff together, our partner Richard whom sold his company to dedicate himself to this, not knowing if it’s going to work in the end, our GM Ana whom is a mother of 3 and balances that and her job with so much dedication, my right hand man Mark who is our lead grower whom moved from LA to be here, it would be impossible for us to run such a large operation without such dedicated people. Specially with some of us having to tour again soon.
This is by far the most stressful venture I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve known Mark for a while, and he moved from LA to Oklahoma a while ago. I don’t know a single person besides myself that would do that because anyone can grow on the black market back in LA and make money. Most people want instant money and can’t wait for the long haul. He took a huge pay cut coming out here originally because he believed in the vision of an awesome facility and brand. It’s extremely hard to find good partners/help in this industry. Build a solid team is the best advice I can give anyone, and don’t be greedy. That’ll always come back to you. But it’s also like asking the question, “Who do you know that is really responsible and reliable that doesn’t have a job already?”
BlazingAmerica: Hollywood Undead was on tour with Papa Roach when Covid first hit, how was being on the road when this madness started all shake-out?
Jorel Decker: It was very post-apocalyptic. I’d imagine the end of the world would start slow, just like that. We were in Europe and shows were slowly getting canceled 1 by 1. We were the last show in a lot of cities before the lock down. You’re hearing about it, you’re not sure what exactly is going on, in reality we didn’t think much of it. But we were in Germany, heading into Paris the next day. Then you see news footage of tanks rolling through the streets of Paris, you’re thinking “Fuck, let’s get back home.” Our tour manager says, “Whole tour is canceled, were flying home in a few hours.” Everyone scrambling to get their shit together after being on tour for about 5 weeks.
We sleep for a few hours then wake up to dozens of missed calls saying Trump did a travel ban. We’re thinking we couldn’t get home. But Americans were allowed to fly back. But then in the airport some dude is wheezing and coughing, people were calling security on him. Like the guy was about to turn into a zombie and start attacking people. Then fast forward to me getting back to LA, I had no food in my house because I don’t stock up before a tour, I do the opposite and try and eat it all and use it all before I leave.
I get home and there is literally no fucking food on the shelves at any grocery store!!! And lines that are hours long to get in. I gave a lady in the store my toilet paper and she broke down in tears. Shit was wild, but I’m vegan and nobody wants vegan food so that whole section was stocked like crazy. I also have a bidet on my toilet, who’s laughing now?!
I actually remember going into the hydro store the day I got back. I had a mask and gloves on, these dudes thought I was gonna rob the place. They were so confused, I told them there was a virus and they were like “what?!” They didn’t realize how bad it was in Europe already.
BlazingAmerica: There are amazing cannabis friendly music venues in Oklahoma of all sizes. Does the possibility of a Post-Coronavirus Hollywood Undead tour with stops in Oklahoma City and Tulsa sound feasible in the future?
Jorel Decker: Shit I’ve been listening to Red Dirt non-stop and playing my acoustic guitar a bunch. I’ve already wrote like 6 songs about Oklahoma, I’ll do it myself if needed.
BlazingAmerica: Hope to see you perform in Oklahoma in the near future. Thank you taking the time to share your growing story. Looking forward to sampling your product soon.