Exclusive Interview: LOCUST’s and RETOX’s Justin Pearson

There are few people in the hardcore community who have done as much as Justin Pearson and done it their way. From all the bands he’s been involved with over the course of his 20+ year “career” to his label Three One G, Mr.Pearson has not only maintained relevancy in the minds of punks worldwide but he’s done it on his own terms. Plus he’s a swell guy, as evidenced by agreeing to be interviewed by a nobody like me. Read on after the break.


1.Why don’t you introduce yourself, your name, your bands, and your role in them.

I’m JP. Currently I play in The Locust and Retox. Occasionally do stuff with a
project called Leg Lifters, which is by definition, not a band. I sing 1/3 and
play bass respectively in The Locust and just sing in Retox.

2.You have been involved in some manner or other with music for over 20 years now. What have you learned and how have you grown as a musician and label owner that would be of benefit for those just starting out?

Don’t do it. Seriously. I do this because I have to. If you don’t have to,
don’t do it. To better explain what I just said and to answer a fairly large and open question I would suggest people check out the film I was part of called YPLL Documentation. That pretty much sums it up in an hour.

3.Despite their short discography, your two early bands, Struggle and Swing Kids, has attained nearly legendary status in the hardcore community. During your stint in those bands was it apparent to you at the time that you were a part of something special?

I am not sure if they are legendary in my opinion, but thanks nonetheless. As far as them being special to me, well yes, it was stuff I was part of and was from my heart and was genuine. But in retrospect, I had no idea what I was doing most of the time. But I certainly had to start somewhere. I just ended up coming to the conclusion that it was good for someone who was in their teens and early twenties during the 90s. But I am not sure the material holds up. However, I am glad I did what I did, which got me to where I am at now.

 4.In relation to the previous question, during the early-mid 90s in San Diego much of the most exciting music in hardcore was coming from your bands as well as such bands as Antioch Arrow, Heroin, Unbroken and the other bands associated with Gravity Records, were you aware at the time of the impact you were making on the national hardcore punk landscape?

Again, not really. It all happened during part of my early life, and over time,
I think it may have manifested or morphed into the perception that you have of the stuff that I was linked to in some way or another. I am certainly glad I grew up the way I did, as part of the community that I was part of. I am grateful and appreciative of that for sure.

5.When Locust first started you had more of a powerviolence sound; you did a split with PV legends Man is the Bastard as your first release, but your sound has evolved with each subsequent release and could be described ,arguably, as the weirdest grindcore you’ll hear. Was this a conscious decision or something that developed naturally with time?

Never once have I identified with a genre or label for music or art. Generally I would use terms like “punk” or “hardcore” because it simply was more than a sound, it was more a lifestyle and a mindset than anything else. When the term “power violence” was coined, it was amusing and sounded interesting. But to me, I would rather not identify with a genre that would have parameters for the art that is created within it. To me, The Locust is not classifiable and that is something I am proud of and coincidentally, I think it is part of growing up in San Diego. Nothing I or any of my comrades have done in the projects is question here were even laid out as what they would manifest as. I think we all were open to the ideal of letting whatever was going to come about in a more organic manner. If it sucked, we dropped it or scrapped it. If we enjoyed it, we pushed forward and tried to be calculated as best as we could with what we came up with.

Photo Credit: Adam Degross Subculture Photography

6. There are some that have claimed that Locust is “fake” grindcore. Is this something you take issue with, do you even consider Locust a grind band at this point in your career,or do you not even care about such criticism?

First off, I am not sure I would consider what I do a “career”. I also don’t give a shit about what people think in relation to the claims that you mentioned here. But I can appreciate one thing, the fact that people get bent out of shape and have a need to discuss something like this. One thing I have learned is, bad publicity is probably the best publicity one can get.

7. You’ve been involved with many projects over the years; Struggle, Swing Kids, Locust, Crimson Curse, Retox, just to name a few. And yet each band has their own unique sound. Has it been a struggle to attain such creative autonomy?

Not really. I see similarities here and there, but I think it’s partly due to the
people I surround myself with. We all generally progress and push forward with ideas and such. The projects are each a product of the people involved as well, so they would naturally be different from one to another hopefully.

8. After a prolonged period of inactivity for Locust you recently became active again with your recent appearance at FYF Fest and your upcoming appearance at Fun Fun Fun Fest. What spurred your decision to return to the stage?

I’m not sure I am the correct person to ask this question to. I for one would
love to have The Locust be fully active. But the rest of the band has things
that are more pressing, like careers, children, and so on. All are extremely
valid reasons, so we collectively decided to do the few things that we have done and hopefully will consider to do in the future. I’m just grateful that the band is not being put to rest. Viva Locust.

9. As a musician, what form of expression do you prefer: Recording in the studio or performing live and why?

Both hold the relevant reasons to create art. Both have pros and cons. And
fortunately for me, I get to do both and enjoy doing so.

10. You famously refuse to perform at Clear Channel owned venues and play only all ages shows. What is the motivation behind making such, potentially detrimental, career decisions?

In the early 2000’s avoiding CC was a pressing issue, but has seemed to subside in my opinion. Boycotting CC definitely hurt our “careers” financially but I would rather be poor and have dignity than do something that I felt was morally wrong for me. The Locust still only plays all ages shows.

11. Your label, Three One G, definitely goes for music on the weirder end of the spectrum. Was it a conscious decision to do so?

No, it’s just what I like, or stuff that I am part of.

12. Who are your favorite deejays and emcees and what new hip hop artists have caught your attention as of late?

The term DJ leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I would prefer producer I suppose. Some of the cats I currently dig are people I have had the benefit of working with or playing with, such as Ill Saint M, Nathan Joyner, Alec Empire, and Luke Henshaw. As far as hip hop, I am a huge fan of older hip hop. Current hip hop typically is not my thing.

13. You had quite a tough go of it in your formative years. How has this influenced your work as a musician?

In every way imaginable I assume.

14. Back to your anti-corporate stance on matters concerning your bands, What do you think of Scion’s involvement in the hardcore/ metal scene and would you ever choose to associate with Scion in any way?

I’m not sure. It is what it is. I’m certainly not a fan of the vehicles, but
speaking to artists like The Melvins, collaborating with companies like that
have given them the opportunity to do a lot of stuff, and there was no musical or artistic compromise on their part, so I see no real reason to get bent out of shape. I for one, assume I would decline from any involvement for myself, but it would depend on the details of a said situation I suppose.

15. Do you ever get over-heated performing in your Locust uniform?

No.

Photo Credit: Adam Degross Subculture Photography
16. If you could perform live with any 4 bands/artists past or present, who would they be?

Gyuto Tantric Choir, Antony and the Johnsons and if I can pick acts with
deceased members, The Birthday Party, and Queen. But let me ask you, who are four artists you would interview, past or present?

Zack: Henry Rollins, Ian Mackaye, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix

17. Some of your bands’ lyrics have reflected your own socio-political opinions, What are your thoughts concerning America’s current socio-political situation?

I honestly can not answer this question. Asking this is pretty massive of a
topic, and expands over all kinds of subjects. I would like to just sum it up and say I listen to NPR more so than music, when I have the option to do so.
You can catch Justin ,along with his bandmates in Retox and Locust , at Fun Fun Fun Fest this upcoming November 8,9,10.

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