Situation of Noise: An interview with Justin Pearson of The Locust

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In our Starbucks coffee driven fast food and reality based short attention span world, certain challenges arise to the creative minds of our generations. Sometimes these challenges are met with variant modes of creative outlet and of recent years it seems to be occurring in music. The base for era spanning communication has always had a home in that many of societal problems coexist in the ethereal world of sonic composition and creation of ART. Art is merely a means to an end. It can take many forms, painting, poetry, architecture, and most importantly for the purpose of this feature, music.

The Locust are in the trenches of their self-described “noise terrorism” war on contemporary and conventional thought. Formed in 1995 from the ashes of San Diego based noise core bands, Swing Kids, Struggle, Crimson Curse and about a dozen other notable bands, they have seen their fair share of current trends rise and fall with the fickle youth of America. Themusicedge.com had an opportunity to speak with Justin Pearson; the bass player of The Locust and his musical background is about as peppered as the bands laundry list of line up names.

According to J.P., “I’ve always liked music since I was a little kid, when I was 5 or so I was going to go see KISS but my mom said I was too young. We used to always pretend with tennis rackets and stuff. Then when I was ten or eleven my mom’s cousin let me borrow his guitar then eventually I picked up a bass.”

J.P. adds his history on lessons by saying, “I taught myself. When I first moved out to San Diego I took lessons from this guy and all he would do was show me how to play rock songs, so he’d show me this riff. But I never really learned how to play. I only took like three or four lessons from the guy and I thought it was a waste of time so I ended up messing around with other people. My friends and I that also didn’t know how to play, we didn’t know together so we figured things out that way.”

The Locust not only manage to destroy conventional thinking about how music should be arranged but they also have a tendency to create from that chaos some pretty technically proficient song structures. Their sound is somewhere between chaos and harmony, with an emphasis on controlled chaos. When seeing them live recently at their record release show (the new record is called Plague Soundscapes, its on Epitaph/Anti Records) at San Diego’s, Off The Record, playing to a packed house, it was noticeable to most in attendance that it was really hard to see them if you happened to get there one second late, like I unfortunately did.

Their sound is brutal and not for the faint of heart but one cannot deny the musician ship it takes to create such music. Not only does The Locust have an amazing zeal for creating music, but also most of their cleverness comes in the way they merchandize. Instead of your typical T-shirt, hooded sweatshirt fare, most Locust items consist of Skateboards, compacts with “The Locust” logo on the mirror and the standard aforementioned products.

J.P.’s musical tastes are as eclectic as his music, although he retracts his former fascination with KISS, “I think they are so lame. I hate KISS a lot now and I’m not into how misogynistic they are, but when I was a little kid I like the way they looked.”

Adding, “I really was into Styx and Boston when I was really, really little. Then I got into break dancing and early rap like Run DMC and Beastie Boys. It’s weird though because I grew up in Phoenix Arizona, it’s a total hesher state and everyone is into heavy metal. So I got into metal, I ended up living a couple blocks away from some of the guys in Slayer and that really intrigued me. The whole metal punk tie and I ended up getting into punk. The first band that got me really interested in music was the Sex Pistols. I stumbled upon some of the really early skate punk tapes that Thrasher (magazine) used to put out like Septic Death, but I didn’t want to limit myself musically so I take from everything.”

J.P. has played in some of the early GSL Records-style noise-core bands, like his first band which he states, “I got into my first band when I was about fifteen years old called Struggle, that was the first band I was in that was a real band. I was in a band called Swing Kids and The Crimson Curse and I’m also kind of still in this band called Holy Molar, it’s a weird project band. The Drummer lives in Portland and the singer lives in New York. I started The Locust about seven or eight years ago.”

The Locust has for all intensive purposes, felt their share of success. What could be construed as more successful than being used in a John Waters film (Cecil Be Demented)? And with their recent sign to punk rock powerhouse Epitaph and its subsidiary, Anti, The Locust have no choice but to prove that you can be aggressive in your approach when playing music without being predictable. And it’s unpredictability that separates The Locust from other bands. “A lot of people, especially drummers play the same beat, they obviously aren’t being creative. Whatever makes that band works is their deal,” says J.P.

As far as the writing process goes, J.P. says that its group oriented, “It kind of mutates over time and we all kind of write equal parts it just depends, someone will come to practice and they’ll have a couple parts to work with and we’ll build off of them. For instance Joey (Keyboards) will have these parts that are virtually impossible to translate onto guitar and base so it will force Bobby (guitar) and I to write around it and work with what he’s doing but not be playing the same exact riff which is good because it adds some great dynamics. Also Gabe (Drums) writes some insanely complicated beats on drums and we’ll work around those parts and Bobby and I will add some riffs that we add. And after we have a basic skeleton we’ll dissect it and take it apart and make time signatures weird and slow certain parts down and speed certain parts up. Make it a little bit confusing a little bit more creative and over time over a period of a week or two we’ll butcher it some more, then the last step is adding vocals to it and we’ll all decide what parts to sing.”

Beware of The Locust, their music will challenge and dare most people to rethink their concepts of what songs should sound like. Most importantly, The Locust are composing songs of the future and Plague Soundscapes is the vessel they are using to slowly bring in the fans from the conventional crowds.

the locust
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Done in June of 2003, without having a home I figured I’d post here and as such I haven’t changed anything from the original, just added this little footnote. Justin Pearson was one of my very first interviews for themusicedge, which is hilarious considering how conservative the parent company of the site was and is and the kind of ‘obscene’ content The Locust always get lambasted about. At a later time some ‘concerned’ perpetual meddler wanted me to take down the article, luckily I stuck it out and provided a compelling argument to the suits that if our ultimate job was to inspire young people to create music then who are we to sensor what kind of music is created? I also thought it fitting for a first feature, especially after my dour interview with Taboo from The Black Eyed Peas who had, at the time, just added Fergie to the group. Justin is one of the few people, aside from Ben Koller (Converge, Cave In) who supported the basic tenants of that site from the beginning and has always made himself available for interview(s) and linked to whatever it was I happened to be working on at the time. He suffers from being incredibly likeable, maybe that’s why I think of him as an artist more than I think of him as a musician. Maybe I’m just full of shit too. He’s doing a post called “From the Graveyard of the Arousal Industry” for HYPEzine.com. Its a tour diary.

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