Interview: Justin Pearson (Dead Cross, The Locust, Retox, Planet B, Deaf Club)

Justin Pearson

Hazy Eye Music Media is proud to announce the first interview in a series of interviews I’m currently conducting with some of my favorite artists. I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and have begun picking the brains of some phenomenal musicians. It’s extremely unfortunate that there will likely be no live shows to attend during the remainder of 2020, but that’s not going to stop me from interacting with my musical peers.

Anyway, check it out! I, Andy Jillson, was fortunate enough to interview Justin Pearson earlier this week. Justin is a unique vocalist and bass guitar player, and is also the owner of his own record label, Three One G Records. He has had a prolific music career thus far, and there seems to be no end to his creativity. He is currently a member of Dead Cross, The Locust, Planet B, and Deaf Club. Continue reading below for my full interview with Justin.

Photos courtesy of Justin Pearson

AJ: For those readers who may not know, can you tell us a little bit about who you are, the bands you’re currently in, bands you’ve been in, and the types of music you play? How would you describe yourself and what you do professionally?

JP: If you go to www dot….just kidding, sort of. Uh, I’m into annoying stuff and I work with rad people on a variety of projects. I don’t like describing myself or the stuff I do. So I try to go vague with any sort of description. Before I’d say I’m a musician, since I am part of a lot of musical things. Now I’d just say I’m an artist (if I can do that without sounding like a douche). I’m currently in the following bands; The Locust, Dead Cross, Planet B, and Deaf Club. I am also working on a project called Satanic Planet. Bands that I have been in are the following; Swing Kids, Some Girls, All Leather, Retox, Holy Molar, Head Wound City, The Crimson Curse, and Struggle.

AJ: A friend of mine has never heard Justin Pearson. Which album would you recommend and why?

JP: I would suggest The Locust, New Erections or I guess Retox, Beneath California. As for why, I don’t know. I just figured those seem like better known bands and albums that I am on and might be genuinely acceptable as suggestions for someone who I am not familiar with that is being recommended things to.

AJ: Any Dead Cross news/updates you’re able to share (rehearsals, new album, videos, live releases, collaborations, tour etc.)?

JP: We don’t function like a regular band. So as far as updates, things are constant with the band. We will do stuff in chunks and then there will be silence for a bit. However, we did record a new album, and are now waiting for our vocalist (Mike Patton) to work on tracking his part. I think he’s a bit busy with other projects so I’m not sure when that will be wrapped up. He’s also suggesting I dive into a decent amount of backing vocals and also dueling vocals, so I might be revisiting the new album and recording more on it in due time. Nothing is lined up for live performances due to the current pandemic. However, I have been working remotely with our drummer a bit on the upcoming Satanic Planet album.

Dead Cross

AJ: Can you tell us about the Satanic Planet album? How did you meet Lucien Greaves? Is there a particular concept behind the album? Do you identify as a Satanist?

JP: I had seen the film Hail Satan? in theaters when it came out, and it really resonated with me. Soon after, there was an article with Lucien choosing songs he was digging and Dead Cross was on the list. I commented on the article and Lucien wrote back. We then made plans to get him on the podcast I do with Luke Henshaw, Cult and Culture. Luke and I went out to The Satanic Temple, recorded the podcast and split. Once we got home, I presented the idea of doing something with Lucien in the realm of Anton LeVey’s Satanic Mass LP. I am a big fan of the Satanic Bible, and that album in specific, but not a Satanist, and not really a fan of Anton LeVey himself. Technically speaking I am an atheist which seems to fit in the realm of what The Satanic Temple stands for. Of course, Luke and I, as well as Lucien had no idea what we were going to do musically and it certainly is not turning out like LeVey’s album, but it seems pretty rad and legit in my opinion. I look forward to people hearing it.

Satanic Planet

AJ: Speaking of Dead Cross, how did you meet Mike Patton (Faith No More) and Dave Lombardo (Slayer) and what was it like recording and playing with them?

JP: I met Mike through Kid606. And then I met Dave when The Locust toured with Fantomas. Playing and recording with Dave is great. I love his energy and enthusiasm, and of course he’s a ripper. I’m glad that him and I have honed in on our ability to communicate via telepathy when playing live as well. As for Mike, we haven’t recorded with him, as he tracks vocals on his own from his home studio. But live, he’s rad. I appreciate his musicianship as well as the fact that he is a prankster and is usually not all that rational on stage. He’s certainly a performer and entertainer, and of course has the musicianship to back up everything he does.

AJ: Who was the original singer of Dead Cross and why were his vocals scrapped on the first album?

JP: Gabe Serbian (The Locust/Cattle Decapitation/Holy Molar) was the original vocalist of the band. He left after about 16 live shows and recorded vocals on about 7 of the 10 tracks. His decision to quit was due to his family obligations and that the band’s initial concept was to only play three shows. Those three turned into more, as well as an album. Since he didn’t finish the entire album, and was leaving the band, we decided to scrap his vocals and start over with our current vocalist.

AJ: Did the members of Dead Cross have other vocalists in mind before Mike Patton accepted the offer?

JP: We were talking to a couple other people. I had reached out to Alexis Marshall (Daughters), Dave Verellen (Narrows), and Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation), who all were interested. However, the others didn’t really know Alexis and Dave Verellen, so it was between Travis and Mike. Ultimately it all came down to the fact that Dave Lombardo, Mike Crain, and I all knew Mike Patton well, so he was the final pick. Plus, Travis was and is extremely busy with his full time band.

AJ: Speaking of The Locust, can you tell us about that band, how it was formed, and what the live performances were like?

JP: The band was formed when I was 19, back when life was a completely different type of weird than it is now. Bobby and our original drummer, Dave, both hit me up to play in a band that sounded like Crossed Out. We unfortunately did not achieve that sound. However, we needed up doing something that seemed like our own. It just took us a couple slight line up changes and shifting of instrumentation. And you ask about live performances…well, that is a sort of hard question to answer as we have been a band for over two decades and have played quite a lot of shows. Pretty much most things have happened at our shows…we’ve been maced, someone died, plenty of nudity, someone tried to sue us for hearing loss, we’ve played to a crowd of 2 once, someone lit a trash can on fire and threw it at us, someone hit us with a large Christmas tree and we somehow didn’t miss a beat (even though it muted the drums and altered how we were playing for a brief moment), my mom has see us live, we’ve been escorted out of a venue by police in fear that people would kill us, someone once threw raw meat at us, we’ve toured with some of the raddest bands ever as well as some terrible ones…and we still continue to play.

AJ: Someone died at a Locust show? That’s awful. Can you tell us hat happened?

JP: Yes, it was something we never anticipated. It technically had nothing to do with the band, or the performance. The young man had a heart condition, which resulted in his unexpected death during the show. We had later became close to the guy’s father over the years, since the band meant a lot to his son.

The Locust

AJ: What were the circumstances surrounding you to be escorted off stage by the police? What happened?

JP: We were on tour with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in England, where people did not like us at all. It was probably some of the most frightening and violent crowds we have ever played to. The specific show where we were escorted was due to Gabe picking up one of the many pint glasses that were being hurled at us during our set, standing on his drum seat, puking into it, threatening to throw it on the audience, but just poring it on him as we ripped into the last few seconds of our set. The crowd was freaked out and the animosity heightened to where the security had the police escort us out in fear that we would get beat up. People were trying to get to us on the stage as we were loading our gear off, but were unsuccessful. I wrote about this in detail in my book, From the Graveyard of the Arousal Industry if anyone wants to know more.

AJ: What were the circumstances surrounding you being maced while performing? What happened?

JP: People were total dicks to us, more so than ever during this one lame tour we did back before The Locust released Plague Soundscapes. People were showing up with knives and bats to threaten us. It was interesting because all we were doing was playing music. So it made our ability to play somewhat technical music even more precise. Anyhow, we have no idea who maced us. Most acts of violence are carried out by people who are too chicken shit for dialogue, let alone a situation where they might not be able to walk away free of harm. I had also been maced at a Some Girls show as well. Same type of shit really.

AJ: Audience members threw a Christmas tree at you while you were playing? When and where did that happened? How the fuck did they get a large Christmas tree into the venue?!?

JP: Yes. It was on New Year’s Eve of 2000. We have no idea where the tree came from. The venue was my house, also called Locust House due to the book by that same title. When we started playing there was no tree. After the set was over, there was no tree. So it was brought in, and then removed. I have no idea why.

AJ: Audience members lit a trash can on fire and threw at you while you were playing?!? When and where did that happened? How did the audience react?

JP: This happened at the More Than Music Fest in the last 90’s. It was some VFW type hall. I have no idea how people reacted.

AJ: Any idea how many times your mom has seen you perform live? Anything crazy happen at a show she attended?

JP: My mom has seen me perform a lot over the years. Starting when I was 15, in Struggle, she’d go hang out and see us play anywhere from an Earth Day festival at the beach to The Che Cafe where we ended up literally destroying all of our gear. She then has seen Swing Kids, The Locust and maybe some other bands over the years. She recently saw The Locust last year, and as far as “crazy” stuff happening, well, she’s pretty use to crazy at this point. Gabe did puke all over the floor during the set, which must have been a bummer. But my mom loves me, and my band-mates in The Locust so there was no disappointment from her. It’s not her thing, musically, but she appreciates what we do as a band.

AJ: How have you been staying active/keeping yourself busy since coronavirus altered our world?

JP: The main thing that has changed or been altered was the cancellation of four tours I had booked. That really screwed things up in a financial level. However, I have been working on new albums for Planet B, Deaf Club, and Satanic Planet in the age of quarantine. I am grateful that I work at Luke Henshaw’s studio which is close by my house here in San Diego. Other than that, there has been a lot of hustling to try to pay bills and make ends meet.

AJ: Have you written any new music or worked on any other projects during 2019-2020?

JP: Yes, quite a lot. I mentioned the sessions I have been chipping away at for Planet B, Deaf Club, and Satanic Planet. There have also been weird one-off smaller projects as well. I’ve assisted with part of a film score called Sk8Face that Luke Henshaw has been working on. I also tracked some stuff for a couple friends who are doing things.

AJ: What’s the film SK8face about? How did you like scoring a film?

JP: The film isn’t out yet. I’m not sure there is even a trailer. But it turned out pretty rad in my opinion. It’s also an honor to be on a film with some of the coolest skaters I grew up obsession over as a kid, Mark Gonzales, Neil Blender, Natas Kapas, etc. I do quite enjoy working on film scores. It’s almost like just writing stand alone riffs, and not having to fully structure a song. You only have a certain amount of time to do what is needed, and you have to make it impactful in what you add to it. So trying to find the feeling in the dialogue, or visuals, and make it speak to the viewer by adding to the vibe or emotion is really interesting to me. Luke and I have worked on a film score previous to this, for the film Incompresa, which I also acted in. I learned a lot about scoring when I filmed my part and then got the chance to work on the film’s score. I wish I had more opportunity to work on films actually.

AJ: When and where was your last show? What do you remember about it? Anything particularly interesting about your last live performance before coronavirus?

JP: The last live show I played was with Planet B. It was our first show with two live drummers, and I’m glad that we did it, in order to wrap our heads around how to pull things off. We opened for Lydia Lunch’s Retrovirus (oddly named that in relation to what we are going though now). As an opening act, it’s always a bit weird, trying to push the audience a bit and get them to open up, and also help them not be as reserved as they would be with an experience that they are not familiar with.

AJ: I mainly cover shows in DC, MD, and VA; and most of my readers attend shows in the DMV. Any particular shows and/or venues in this area you’re fond of?

JP: I enjoy the Black Cat and the 930 Club in the greater DC area. And if I can lump the Ottobar into the mix, I would certainly do that.

AJ: What have you been listening to? Any particular artists and/or albums you’ve recently discovered or rediscovered?

JP: I listen to a lot of talk radio. I realize that it adds to my already present anxiety but I find the need to stay on top of things as best as possible. But recently I just discovered Fulu Miziki and Cinemartyr, both seem really interesting to me. As for rediscovering stuff, I just revisit things from my past often, and would not consider it a rediscovery. I guess off the top of my head, today I listened to Echonochrist, and yesterday I dove into the recent Geronimo LP, Obsolete.

AJ: Favorite bands you toured with?

JP: There has been so many over the years. A lot of what is Three One G’s roster are some of my closest friends, and people who I have toured with and made connections with which have lasted for decades. Artists like Warsawwasraw, Doomsday Student, Cattle Decapitation, Silent, Zs, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Zeus, Orthrelm, Narrows, Jenny Piccolo, Fast Forward, Ex Models, Black Dice and on and on and on and on. There are so many amazing people out there doing stuff that I’ve been lucky to tour with over time.

AJ: Least favorite bands you toured with? Willing to say?

JP: I’ll refrain from being a dick and listing those bands. Even though those bands are actually the ones who are dicks.

AJ: Most embarrassing and/or awkward moments playing live?

JP: None are embarrassing and plenty are awkward. This might not apply but once All Leather played on a boat in NY and we could not get through a single song. It wasn’t because the guitarist was wasted, it was because the power was tripping after only a few seconds of each song due to the amount of gear we had as well as an electronic drum set that required its own PA. That was bullshit and totally frustrating. And once The Locust headlined a stage as some festival in Sweden and we were walking out to play and one of the others tripped on my instrument cable and my bass fell over and the G string tuning peg broke right off. So I was not able to play that string, which I needed for almost every song of ours. The only band around who had a bass was Testament and they would not let us borrow theirs, so I need up using this piece of crap bass with some punk rock stickers on it and a sticker that said, “Fuck the Police.” It was difficult to play, not because of the stickers, but the action was so high on it, I just could not get around the fret board like I needed to.

AJ: Any advice for struggling musicians?

JP: Do everything and have no expectations. Things can and will suck for a long time, maybe forever. So having lower standards is always a good tool to get though stuff that isn’t rad.

AJ: You’re able to have your own personalized “I’d rather be” bumper sticker. What does yours say? I’d rather be…?

JP: I grew up with one on my first car when I was 16 that said, “I’d rather be smashing imperialism” which I got from Groundwork Bookstore in San Diego. I’d prefer to just have that, then make one of for my personalized one. It’s just enough high brow to not have some butthole mess up your car and just obvious enough so people will get bummed of they are on the other areas of the political spectrum.

AJ: Thanks Justin! Fin.

Much gratitude and respect for Mr. Pearson. Hazy Eye Music Media appreciates his willingness and openness. Stream Dead Cross on Spotify below:

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