Justin Pearson is as enigmatic as he is ambitious, a jack-of-all-trades best known as bassist/co-vocalist for The Locust. He is also a published author, co-runs and owns his own label (31G) out of San Diego, California, and has played in cutting edge noise/grind bands such as Swing Kids, Holy Molar, Head Wound City (featuring members of The Blood Brothers), and All Leather. Pearson’s newest project is called Retox and features Pearson on vocals, as well as members of The Festival Of Dead Deer, Cattle Decapitation, and Locust drummer (one of my all-time favorite drummers) Gabe Serbian. Retox sounds straightforward compared to some of the other acts Pearson has been with, but not by much. The band is an exciting new direction for Pearson, a riffy beast dripping and matted with clever that has to be heard to be believed. UR Chicago interviewed Pearson through email on July 1st, 2011.
UR Chicago: How would you describe your style of bass playing versus the current bassist? Why him and not you?
Justin Pearson: I feel that Thor’s style is much different than mine, and at the same time I really think he is an amazing player. I think I tend to play more like a drummer, or at least think like one. That aspect often comes out in my writing and playing, where it generally seems more focused on percussive elements, and at times, focuses more on timbre than riff or chord theory. The reason for me not playing bass in Retox was based on the original idea of the band that Gabe and I came up with. Also, the band is located in Los Angeles, and it is just easier for them to write without me. I tend to add the vocals and work on lyrics from San Diego after the material is written.
UR: How does it feel to take the stage without an instrument in your hand?
JP: It is odd at times. With The Locust, not only did I have a bass, but I was stationary due to my pedal board. But I also have general vocal duties with All Leather, except for the occasional percussion here and there. The main difference between playing an instrument and just singing is dealing with the downtime in songs where there are no vocals.
UR: Do you enjoy being a front man/singer?
JP: I don’t consider myself a front person. I think playing in The Locust where there was never a front person made me think differently. Even with All Leather, the fact that the band was a three piece, really made way for there to be equal parts in the band. I think the hierarchy in band structure is something that might fit into more run-of-the-mill acts. I feel that every part is worthy of being the focal point; therefore, all musicians should be the front person when warranted.
UR: What inspires your lyrics? Is there a favorite subject that you love to come back to?
JP: I do tend to have reoccurring entities in a lot of the lyrics that I write. I’m a fan of themes, or I suppose a stylistic thread in topics, or better yet, characters. As far as inspiration, I think I tend to draw from different areas in the world I live in. But things that I write always seem to have a political undertone, as well as a sense of aggravation.
UR: What is the main difference between the way Retox operates, and how The Locust works?
JP: Well, just about everything, I suppose. Even with Gabe and I being in both bands, our duties or components that we bring to each act are so different. Obviously, I am only singing in Retox, but as the only vocalist, I tend to write lyrics differently. And with Gabe’s drumming, I think he focuses more on drive and power, and plays less technical overall. I think there are actually little comparisons between the two bands, and that is a good thing in my opinion.
UR: Do you have any other side projects going on right now?
JP: I’m also part of this thing called Leg Lifters. We are more a production team than a band.
UR: Why Ipecac and 31G for the release? Is there a growing partnership between the two labels?
JP: I think by Retox releasing the LP on both labels, it gives us that much more of an advantage to get the album out there. Also, it shows the family aspect that a lot of the people involved in prescribe to.
UR: Retox sounds more like a straightforward metal/stoner metal band, but some of the riffs still reek of The Locust. Did you mean for this band to be a more mainstream meeting point for a lot of people not willing to make the leap to discern and like The Locust and other similar artists?
JP: I would not label us as stoner rock. Granted, there is a stoner in the band, but overall, the material seems a bit metal I suppose, but moreso we just tried to adapt aggressive and brutal elements to the sound. As far as a concern with mainstream, or even sounding like The Locust, those are both things we have never considered. With The Locust material, the band writes based off of riffs, parts, ideas, and beats. But with Retox, I think the material is structured off of riffs, first and foremost. Then things are tweaked to everyone’s liking. As for the mainstream thing, our collective perception of mainstream is pretty skewed.
UR: What is your ultimate goal or mission statement when it comes to music? Art in general?
JP: I don’t have that manifesto available. I think asking something like that is like asking what is the meaning of life. This question could be summed up when I die I suppose. But then it would still only be an interpretation of what I was part of or what I created. As for other’s art, fuck if I know. I think if something is being spelled out, it might not be art.
UR: Why the name “Retox”?
JP: Seemed fitting for this day and age. I mean, look at the world we live in.
UR: What is your biggest influence in any media (books, movies, art, whatever)?
JP: I think my biggest single influence would be my mother. Even if current politics or learned theories would be an influential medium, I feel my mother is the single handedly most influential part in my life.
UR: The video for "Piss Elegant" carries a pretty heavy message through its images. American acts of fascist nation building and violence. The video for “I Rub the Wrong Way” is all violence in nature. What do these videos tell us about the ultimate message and nature of the band?
JP: Again, it is art and I don’t feel that it needs to be spelled out here. I think you did a good job at how you perceived the videos. My main point is to get people to think. Even if it’s not correct, the fact that something makes people think is the most important aspect. There is plenty of background audio and visuals out there; we just don't want to fall in that category.
UR: Do you believe in the paranormal?
JP: I’m a firm believer in science.
UR: Are you planning to write any more books?
JP: I just finished my second book, How to Lose Friends and Irritate People, and I am starting on another actually.
UR: How has the release of From the Graveyard of the Arousal Industry changed the way you operate as an artist? What about how people see you?
JP: It’s hard to say. One, I am learning how to write after publishing it, ironically enough. I mean, working with an editor for the publishing company helped out a lot. But even after the fact, I am learning more and cringing at the work on my first book, wishing it was better. But I just look at it like I look at the Struggle records, which was the first band I was in. I did my best and hope to grow. As far as being an artist, I think it is a new realm of art that I was not submerged in up until now. And as for how people perceive me, well I can’t tell really. I have had people ask me about my book, who thought it was all made up. I have cleared the air about people’s perception of me, and I have also pissed people off more than before. So, the reaction is all over the spectrum, I suppose.
UR: The Locust Peel session is phenomenal, and I am proud to see that Peel recognized the genius in the band, but there hasn't been any new music from The Locust since 2007's excellent New Erections. What is in the works?
JP: It was great to meet John Peel and to do an actual Peel Session. Oddly enough, he had his ear close to the ground. When we met, he talked to me about Three One G, and boasted about how he really enjoyed The Festival Of Dead Deer, which surprised me. But as for newer Locust stuff, we decided to take a bit of a hiatus for a while. Things were getting a bit stale, and in conjunction to the state of music in general, we all needed a break. But we have most of a new album recorded as a demo and plan on getting back to it in due time. In the meantime, we are working on remixing and remastering the entire Locust catalog released by GSL and re-releasing it on Anti as one album. An “early years” type thing, I suppose.
UR: In a Burn My Eye DVD, I saw an interview with The Locust conducted by a man calling himself Extreme Elvis. After a good bit of antagonism from Elvis, lots of pee flies around, and Elvis gets kicked out of the room. How did you agree to this? What's the story? Aftermath?
JP: No Locust was pee’d on in that interview. As a matter of fact, either Joey or Gabe pissed on Elvis. The story was: the director of the cable access television show, Burn My Eye, set up the interview, which is what you saw. As for the aftermath, we figured out that Elvis is a brilliant man. We did one more “event” with him at Gilman St. a year later, and then I think he denounced himself as Extreme Elvis.
UR: How do you think your label 31G will be viewed by the future?
JP: Good question. Beats me. Let's discuss in due time.