A founding member of hardcore heroes Struggle, he’s constantly reinventing himself starting avant punk projects The Locust, Some Girls and All Leather since then. You
could learn a lot from Justin Pearson. State caught up with him last week to get the low down on his latest venture ‘Retox’ and his autobiographyFrom the Graveyard of the Arousal Industry.
You’re currently touring with new band Retox, how did that come together? How did you did you meet your Retox bandmates?
I knew Gabe from back in the day, and over the years we have played in numerous bands and projects, The Locust, Holy Molar, Some Girls, and Head Wound City. I met Mike in the parking lot of a strip mall while he was trying to score dope back when he was in The Festival of Dead Deer. Lastly, I met Thor when he delivered a pizza to All Leather at a show in Los Angeles. As far as how it came together, I think it was one of those things that the universe handed to us, also known as chance, or chain of events.
You’ve collaborated with many artist over the years, how did the collaboration with The Bloody Beetroots come about? Do you have plans to work with them again?
I was asked to sing on a couple tracks by Bob Rifo via Steve Aoki. I have no interest in working with Bob again.
What do you enjoy most about running your label Three One G records? Is it difficult juggling the label, your personal life and your individual projects?
Where I do enjoy the label as an entity and as a historical documentation of art, it’s actually not very enjoyable running it. As for the juggling of the label and my personal life, I tend to be a workaholic and have tuned the way I live to accommodate being able to execute the things that I do musically.
Just got my hands on your autobiography From the Graveyard of the Arousal Industry it’s an incredible read. Was it important for you to write (without the aid of a ghost writer) and release it yourself?
Thanks for the compliment. In retrospect, the entire process of writing the book and it being published just sort of happened. I never set out to do what I did, or when it started to come together, thought it would pan out as well as it did. I am not a writer, so with that, I would not even how how to work with a ghost writer. For me, I think If I could not take the time to write what I did, there would be no reason for a ghost writer. As for releasing it myself, it was technically released by Soft Skull. Three One G was just a tagged as a co-publisher since the book has a lot to do with the label.
How was the writing process, did you find it tough or therapeutic putting your childhood memories, particularly those of your father, to paper?
I’m sure it was somewhat therapeutic, but for the most part it just happened. I mean, It was not hard or painful to write about certain topics, as they come to mind often. I think with the later stuff, like my short lived marriage and divorce, put things into a more comical perspective when written. But over all, I think even since I wrote the book, I have developed my writing skills and become a better “writer”.
How have your family and friends reacted to the book?
The reactions varied. My mom hates the book, which is ironic since I do give her quite a bit of praise and forgave her for everything in our lives. Most of my friends dug the book. Some have never commented on it to me. So over all the reaction seems mixed.
In the book you mention starting Struggle when you were only 15 years old, what was the scene in San Diego like back then? Being underage was it hard to book gigs or did you organise all ages events yourself?
Luckily for me, being from San Diego, the idea of a “scene” is so skewed. I think in most places, you can’t get away with having shows like Struggle and Three Mile Pilot, or The Locust and Rocket From the Crypt. But when I stated playing music, there was never a question of all ages vs. age restricted shows. The shows we played were only able to happen at all age venues. It was not till later on that it was an issue or even brought up. San Diego is a very conservative city, so artists had to think outside the box. Even in more recent years, San Diego had shows in the sewers, living rooms, parking lots, restaurants, parking garages and so on. All of which would be all ages. I think that with the booking aspects, things just started falling into place. I remember putting on shows when I was fifteen for fairly known artists such as Sleep, The Offspring, Jello Biafra, Blast, etc.
I’m curious as to why you’ve never moved from San Diego? Is it because you thrive on the conservative nature of the city, that it challenges artists, or as you put it ‘forces artists to think outside the box’. Is that why many of your projects (particularly The Locust/Some Girls) have such a unique style?
I’m sure that has something to do with the art that comes from there. As conservative, racist, and transient as it is, I think it lends for some of the most creative art I have heard and seen in my life.
I never moved from San Diego because I do feel it’s “home”. As much as it has its negative aspects, I think the positive outweighs it by far. Plus, everywhere has pros and cons.
What was your first bass like, do you still have it? What sort of set up do you have now?
My mom’s cousin loaned me a guitar when I was 12 and I messed around with it for a couple years. But when I was 14, I really wanted to play bass. I stumbled upon Nomeansno and really was drawn to the way the bass was a prominent instrument in their music. I had hustled here and there making a bit of money and started getting into illegal scams to make money. So my mom took me to get a bass and of course I had to get the cheapest one they had, which was a Washburn. It did the job for my entire time in Struggle. At the last show we played, I destroyed it along with the band. After that I started singing in bands for a year or so, until I started The Locust. I got more into playing bass and had a better knowledge of gear as well as technique. So I started playing Rackenbacker basses. A couple years after that I stumbled upon a Dan Armstrong and was sold on those basses. The feel of the bass was more like a guitar and with The Locust getting more technical and faster, it was fitting for what I was getting into. With the Dan Armstrong, I use Ampeg SVT hears, a cab with two 15” speakers. Also to define my sound, I use effects such as Boss, Line 6, and some botique effects like Trogotronic and Schuman.
Most music lovers have an all-time favorite album, one that has really influenced them. What’s yours?
This is a question that is so hard to give an accurate answer. As I mentioned Nomeansno previously, I think when I was about eleven or so, and got Never Mind the Bollocks by Sex Pistols, I was drawn to punk. But even with that album, which is one of my all time favorite albums, when I got a hold of the first Suicidal Tendencies album, I was blown away. I think both of those albums are relevant as far as all-time favorite. Later on, another all-time fav is the first Arab on Radar LP.
Who are you listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?
I listen to a lot of talk radio actually. But I have been really into Antony and the Johnsons, Buraka Som Sistema, Marnie Stern, Melvins, Otto Von Schirach, Rats Eyes, Past Lives, Pissed Jeans, Zs, Secret Fun Club.
When can we expect to have you in Ireland again? Any tours planned for your other projects?
I hope to. Both times I have been to Ireland have been great. Nothing is planned at the moment but I assume something will come up in the future.
Lastly, any advice for those starting out in music?
This is a strange one to answer. I suppose I would suggest not to limit oneself with “proper music education”. In my opinion some of the best music has come about on accident, or by being creative with limited resources. I’m a huge fan of doing what is considered “wrong” in musical terms.