Justin Pearson Interview

Justin Pearson, Y2K

The following article/interview was originally published on skatepunk.net in early 2000. The timing was key. The Locust had really hit their stride as a band, 31g was boasting a strong catalog, and the recent passing of Swing Kids and Unbroken guitarist Eric Allen was a bitter pill to swallow. Justin took the time to provide thoughtful and in-depth answers and the interview reflects that period of time very well.

As a longtime observer of the San Diego hardcore scene it was obvious that something had changed early in the new millennium, not long after this interview was done, and whatever the reason or whatever the reality for other people, things had just gotten to be not as much fun. The things that were still happening that were awesome almost all emerged from the Avocado 500 Club. One house in Golden Hill that seemed to keep a whole damn scene alive. And although there were rotating people and bands involved at various times, at the heart of that scene, and that house, was Mr. Justin Pearson.

Fade in to December 2008. I've been rebuilding this site, I've been emailing back and forth with Justin, and word of a Swing Kids and Unbroken reunion show hits like a brick. A good brick, an emotional brick, but a brick nonetheless. Both Unbroken and Swing Kids will play with one guitarist -- Jimmy Lavelle played second guitar in Swing Kids towards the end and will be playing guitar at the show, and from what I gather Steven Andrew Miller will be playing the lone guitar in Unbroken.

So now is a perfect time to republish this intro and interview from 2000, and I'm hoping to do an interview with Justin and possibly a couple other members of the bands involved in this show over the next few months.

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I first met Justin when Goldenrod was doing distribution-- I was working at Tum Yeto and Marshall (from 100 Watt Halo and ColdWaterCrane) was working for Goldenrod, and he told me that I should sell the Unbroken singles and some other stuff that 31G had put out. At the time Justin would ride his scooter over to my house to deliver records at night. I think I probably talked his ear off for five minutes every time he came to my door and my dog always mobbed him. The things that struck me about Justin were that he had his shit together and he was nice--he didn't have that air of superiority that a lot of the kids in San Diego hardcore had at the time. (The first wave of hardcore kids in San Diego was well-stocked with the typical indie-store record snobs who thought that if you didn't know that the first 222 Heroin records came in lime green swirled vinyl and the next 778 were on dookie brown and who used what size drum sticks and who had dyed their hair last week, then you weren't worthy of showing up at the Ché and paying your five bucks and enjoying the show just like everyone else. And after a while those lame-os made it kinda boring.) Justin welcomed my interest in the scene he was part of.

Not long after this, at the Swing Kids' last show, I did an interview with them for a zine called 'Smart Bomb' that never got printed. But my interest was sparked. That last show was amazing.

So now skip ahead a year or so. Justin asked me if I wanted to do a record with a new band that he was part of, and he gave me a "demo" that was recorded on a boom box. The recording was horrible, but was enough for me to realize that they sounded godlike. That and the chance to work with Justin were enough to get me to sign up. That became Goldenrod #57. The Crimson Curse. So over the three years or so that Goldenrod did the Crimson Curse record, I was very proud to be able to work with Justin. He had his shit together way more than me, was very patient with all the times that the record was out of print, and was easy-going and helpful, and fun to hang out with.

Recently, when Goldenrod turned over the Crimson Curse record to Three One G, I felt the urge to do a sort of comprehensive interview of Justin, as the singer and/or bass player of several bands I respect, and half of the powerhouse label known as Three One G.

The first part of this interview was done in January, 2000. The second part was done in March, 2000, while Justin and the Locust were on the road.

Struggle started what year? What did Struggle release?
> > Struggle started when I was 15, so that's 9 years ago. As far as releases, we put out an LP, 7"ep, a split 7"ep with Undertow, and songs on a bunch of comps. The LP and 7" ep were on ebullition. The split was on Bloodlink.

Swing Kids was pretty political--not world or national politics, but critical of ideas, thoughts, or situations. Did Jose write a bunch of the lyrics or was it all of you guys, or you, or what?
> > As far as Swing Kids, I thought it wasn't all that straight forward political. It was weird because Jose, Eric and myself were all in Struggle and that band was a very political band. I think in Swing Kids we wanted to do something different besides say fuck the pigs, and other political rantings. Not to say that the politics that were expressed in struggle were not important and still aren't, we just wanted to say other stuff. I wrote all the Swing Kids lyrics. They were more on a personal basis, but i think that the personal issues expressed are political. The lyrics were at times pretty abstract, but it was all influenced by social political issues. As far as Jose writing stuff for Swing Kids, he wrote an essay on the militarization of the US/Mexico border. That was at the time a big issue, with Proposition 187 and the fascism spewed out by politicians such as Roger Hedgecock, SDPD, and other people in the media and the public eye. That essay came in the 7" ep for the first 5 thousand or so pressed.

Are you comfortable talking about Eric's death, how he died, and the emotions and lessons that brought about?
> > About Eric Allen. Well this is a tough one. I was friends with him since I was 13: we went through a lot of fucked up stuff. I saw him go through some crazy shit as well. Towards the end of his life he was dealing with issues that I wasn't aware of and problems that a lot of his closest friends didn't even know about. It kind of started with his drinking. He was straight edge for a long time. He played in Unbroken and was expected to be this role model or stay true to whatever. I personally don't want to make an issue out of SxEx. I'm not sure what caused him to not be straight edge or why, but when he told me that he was drinking I kind of found it funny. I kept thinking of how all the kids would talk shit and how it would be a big issue. I love to start shit, get everyone talking. so I was amused. But as time went on I found out that he was drinking a lot, maybe every day. And the worst part, it was by himself. So I saw a lot of weird stuff happen with him. He started having problems at work, but also problems with some friends. In particular, people he was involved with as far as relationships. He also started taking prescription medication, some sort of pain killers. It got really bad. The last time I saw him, he came over all fucked up on medication. He laid on my bed and was talking about his central nervous system and how he needed to rest. I tried to help him, offer him help, try to reason with him about his finances, his work, his relationships, etc. It was no use. I told him that night that I didn't want him over until he got his shit together. So he just split. He was looking for this girl who had gotten him some drugs from Tijuana. She was shooting dope, etc. and I was pretty lame towards Eric mostly because he was hanging out with this girl. I think at the time I was just fed up with all the help I tried to offer him, advice, emotional support, taking him to the hospital, and so on.

So a week or so later I left for tour. A few days into it, I found out that he was dead. It turned out that he took about a hundred pills of some kind of pain killers, and that was it. He knew what he was doing. It's pretty fucked. It was hard but I guess that is what he had to do. This world can be fucked, it can also fuck you up. As his motto goes, "viva hate," That was it. He died like a rock star: a drug overdose. It's fucked because I think he was way beyond that. That kid has serious soul. But i have to look at it as something that he had to do. I tried to help him the best that I could for the situation that I was in. So did all of his friends. But I flew back from tour and made it to the funeral. I'm glad that I did because I saw that Eric lives on in all his friends, in his music, and in me. I appreciate that. Not a day goes by when I don't think about him. He is such an important person in my life, through music, through getting arrested for curfew, for politics, for emotional support, for being crazy and fun, for hooking up with, for everything. That kid ruled and as far as I'm concerned, he always will.

Swing Kids started about the same time you started 31g, right? What does the name mean?
> > As far as three one g goes, it started when I was in swing kids. Its from a joy division song, "Warsaw." Swing Kids covered it on the 7"ep and CD discography. I don't really know the exact meaning of the 3-1-g part, but Joy Division is a band that I'm into, and kind of played an important part in my life. So I thought a reference to that band in the name of a record label that I do would be cool.

^Swing Kids - Intro To Photography^

Have you ever consciously felt the results of the styles and patterns you've been a major part of starting? The whole Spock rock thing, the latest wave of San Diego hardcore?
> > The trend thing as far as "spock rock," lets just say I don't care. I don't really think I looked like Spock, more like a Rolling Stone or a Beatle. I wish I was more spacy looking, pointy ears and eye brows would be pretty cool. As far as trends go, I was doing what was comfortable. I don't really have much to say. Spock is a lame label. I think asshole fits me better. So maybe if I dress like a big asshole I can be part of the asshole rock trend. Thats it! I'm going to do that. I'll just say that Jerry Springer was true and I'll get the word out about me doing lots of coke and getting in fights. Cool.

We talked about how you came up with the name Three One G, but didn't really talk about why you decided to start a label?
>> I started three one g to put out music that I was into. After I put out the unbroken single I ended up doing the Swing Kids 7" that was originally on Kidney Room. I repressed that because I was unhappy with the packaging and the availability of the record. so at I made it a point to put a lot of emphasis on the packaging as well as the music. I think that it's an extension of the music, and the final product can be looked at as art, not just music.

What records have you liked doing best, and which ones have sold the best?
>> I don't think I liked doing ones better than others. There are some that are a pain in the ass to put together, like the Locust/ Jenny Piccolo 5". I also don't like some of the material on a couple of records that much. I think it could be better. But over all I like all the releases. As far as ones that sold the best, its the first two releases. I think it might be just because they've been around the longest. Also at times it would be hard to get the money together for a repress or a new release. But there is a new company that we are working with called IMD. Basically three one g has a press and distribute deal. This means that we can now press whatever we want and we won't have to worry about things going out of stock and having to worry about finances. So I think that things will be a bit different as far as numbers that we sell.

Do you do any limited edition records?
>> Well as far as limited edition records we never let stuff go out of print for good. So there are no releases that are limited to only a specific amount. There is often different colored vinyl, and limited packaging for special events, but no music is limited.

Do you have a number at which point you consider a record to be successful, or a goal which you want it to sell?
>> No. I just want to put out music that I think should be heard. We haven't had any problems yet with any of the releases as far as not being able to sell them. So far we keep selling the records, but some have died down as far as sales.

What has been the best part of doing the label? The worst part?
>> The best part of doing the record label is that I know that cool music is being created and is available to people everywhere. Another good part is that things are kind of paying off. All the hard work is starting to get easier and I hope to have three one g be my only job. The least favorite part probably is being broke a lot. Also dealing with flaky kids.

Have there been any problems with bands after you've done a record?
>> Yeah, but nothing too bad. There is a band that had a member with a really bad drug problem and I found myself having this individual trying to get money for a "recording" and the others in the band were saying that it would not go to the recording if this person got the money. So that was a drag, that I couldn't trust this person but overall the label has not had any big problems with bands. I think that for the most part I am close to the members of the bands that we do records for. So it turns out to be more of a personal thing and not such a business thing.

Justin and Allysia, 1999

You have a partner in the label now, Talk about Allysia; how did that partnership come around? Are you still doing Buttonheads? Is that the same people as always?
>> Allysia Edwards is my partner. Well that came about because she was a friend of mine. She had similar interests and had some money and a drive to run a business, and to invest in three one g. At this point the label would not work as well as it does without her. She takes care of business. I seem to flip out from time to time and she kind of holds down the fort. Plus she takes care of the dirty work that I won't touch like taxes and bills. We still do SoCal Buttonheads. It kind of became part of three one g, but we only do buttons for the label, Bottlenekk, GSL, and friends and others that we are into and affiliated with. Buttonheads is not the same people who owned it before. Now its just Allysia and I. Sometimes my roomate Miguel helps out.

Talk about starting the Crimson Curse and the path to destruction that the band followed.
> > The crimson curse starting... Well Jimmy Lavalle (who was in The Locust at the time) and myself wanted to start a shitty band with no seriousness, no real message. Just rock n' roll. Just to be shitty, start shit with stupid kids, try to play with bands that were assholes, jocks, straight edge, whatever. Just as long as we didn't fit. Make punk threatening. Push people's buttons. Get beat up. I think that whole seriousness in punk that we experienced from bands like Struggle or Downcast started this whole thing. At first it was important: people were saying interesting stuff, being informative, and so on. Then it went in some weird direction where it was so white-middle-and-upper-class. So safe and contrived. It was boring and nothing real was happening. I guess we just wanted to see something cool, something with fire and anger. But at the same time, test people.

^The Crimson Curse - Psycho 75^

I think we set out to do something like the Dead Boys or something along those lines. We got all these fucked up kids together, made some punk music. That was it. But as a band we didn't get very far. We all had differences, so it was hard to keep it together. But it was cool while it lasted. We are all assholes, well except for Damien, so it was crazy. I'm surprised we didn't beat each other up. That would've been fun though!

The Locust has come a long way the last few years. When did the band form? Has the songwriting process changed since the beginning. If I remember correctly, it seems like you're singing more now than you did when I saw you the first time, about 3 years ago. Is that right? How does the songwriting process go?
>> The locust started about 5 years ago. Wow, its been a long time. The songwriting has changed a bit with the different line ups that we had. But its been similar after the split 10" and split 5". I see it as two noticeable changes, but the line up now has been the same for a while and it will stay the same. If it needs to change again it will probably result in a break up, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. Sorry. As far as me singing, I sung 1/3 on the 7" and 1/4 on the 12"/ cd and the new split Puddle record. The songwriting process starts with Bobby, Gabe, Joey and me bringing parts to the band and working off of that. It usually gets picked apart and shortened, then we add the drums and vocals. I guess its more complex but i can't explain it in detail.

One of the coolest things about seeing The Locust is the imagery: besides all the merchandise, you guys have the camo amp covers, you set up differently than most bands, you 3 guys all sing into the one mic... I know it must be conscious, but how did all these things come about? I guess what I'm asking is, is there a master plan?
>> There was no master plan. It just turned out that way. Its kind of like, we didn't know that we would sound this way when we started. It just happened. It's the chemistry of 5 fucked up kids.

OK, here comes the heavier ones... you can lump these all together... Lately there seems to be so much negativity towards scenes coming from 'zines, and on the internet. Because the economy is good, people aren't as angry as they might be if things were horrible, as they were in the early 80's, and as I'm sure they will be again. The result is that youth in general, and even some punks, are only doing things that don't require a stance, or guts, but when I go to your shows, the sense of community is still there: there's still so much hugging, kissing, people know each other and are glad to see each other. So I guess my questions are: Do you consider yourself a part of a community? Has the hardcore "scene" gotten to be just another click of people doing something that is socially safe? Are the kids you talk to at The Locust shows involved, or just on the periphery of political or social action?
>> Well I think as far as The Locust, we are not a "hardcore" band or a whatever band. I mean we have hardcore and punk ethics but as far as the music and who is into the band it seems to be all genres of people. So I'm not sure how it turned out this way but it's nice to see people who are into heavy metal, straight edge, punk, whatever at the shows. I think it also comes from how we play with all kinds of bands from Go Go Go Airheart to Murder City Devils to Melt Banana to Rocket From The Crypt. It's all good with us.

I see some people involved politically or socially but it's not everyone. I really appreciate people being active and I hope that our band attracts or promotes that activity. We definitely support that. But I think also as far as community, we don't have fascists and jocks threatening people at the shows that we play. If it comes up, it won't fly. So I think it's different nowadays as opposed to the 80's and 90's when we were bombarded with shit like the Gulf War, Prop. 187, and things that such that a lot of people were fighting for. But don't get me wrong, there is a lot of bullshit going on these days. I just think people don't see it as such an urgent thing to be so overtly political. As a band we want to be able to have fun and let the audience have fun but at the same time we want people to know that there are serious issues that need to be dealt with and educated about. So I think what I'm trying to say is that thing are more positive in general and this is showing that people are more open minded and accepting, for the most part.

And finally, talk about how you got the chance to go on the Jerry Springer show, the whole experience.
>> Well, the whole Jerry Springer thing came about by Scott Beibin from Bloodlink Records calling up those jackasses with a story, and what do you know we did it. Oh, it was totally real. I was beat up pretty bad during a commercial break by one of the "security guards," for blowing snot on the carpet. I guess the security is for the carpet, not the people on the panel. I'd like to say that all the promoters are spineless, the security are total assholes. It's such bullshit. But hey, I promoted The Locust for free. And Jerry Springer is all shriveled up and boring.