One thing you can count of with a Justin Pearson project is that the music is going to something exciting. With his latest project, All Leather, Pearson and company push the boundaries on punk to a whole new level. Scene Point Blank got the details on new group as well as other happenings with 31G Records and the Swing Kids reunion show.
Scene Point Blank: How did All Leather come to be a band?
Justin Pearson: Nathan, the guitar player and I wanted to start a band. He's into the more electronic music, the DJ culture side of things. There's this song called "Let Me Think About It" by Ida Corr, and I work at this gay bar and they always play that song every night. That song is completely fucking rad, well the music of the song. So we talked about the song, the dynamic of it. And that is what got us to start gelling on the idea of what our band could potentially sound like. So we got this girl who we knew from San Diego to play for us briefly, and wrote the first record. And in the past The Locust had toured in Mexico with our friends in Maniqui Lazer, and we got the drummer from that band. So that's how things came together. And obviously it doesn't sound like Ida Corr's song, because it's more abrasive and has a lot of percussive elements.
Scene Point Blank: Was this all after the dissolution of Some Girls?
Justin Pearson: Yeah, Some Girls had already broken up a little while before this started. Everyone kind of did their own thing, and Nathan and I got together. I always really respected his guitar playing and I really wanted to do something with him again. And he joined the band after the last Some Girls album was written so we started to even change more at that point.
Scene Point Blank: Jumping back, the drumming, is it done live or no?
Justin Pearson: It's done live, it's just limited acoustic drumming. We have an electronic drum kit and our drummer plays everything live. We don't use an iPod or backing tracks. Most electronic music, like watching two dudes DJ, it's boring. So we have an actual drummer that plays everything. We also have a snare and a floor tam to add that percussive element. If you listen to more conventional music, like MIA for example, a lot of that stuff doesn't happen live, it's just in the studio. But we want to make it happen live so now we can pull it off.
Scene Point Blank: You've already released your debut EP and now there are plans for a remix record?
Justin Pearson: That's already done. I don't know what the label is waiting for. They've been stalling on physically releasing our EP. It's only out digitally at this point. Our LP is what we've been working on. It's almost done being recorded and it'll come out in either January or February. That's a little more developed. The EP represents our band, but I think it's a little bit premature. The LP is more aggressive.
Scene Point Blank: On the remix record, did you guys reach out to people yourselves for involvement?
Justin Pearson: Originally, the owner of Dim Mak, he's the one who came up with the idea and pitched it to us, got a bunch of people. He got people, Nathan knew who they were, but I wasn't really familiar with a lot of them. And we threw in our two cents. We got Otto Von Schirach, DJ Urine, and people that are more on our side of the fence. It's kind of an eclectic mix. And that's the thing, drawing from other elements and bridging communities is what we've been about. The remix EP is pretty rad, totally weird and interesting. The funny thing is that a lot of electronic artists weren't album to do remixes because of the drums.
Scene Point Blank: Have you thought about offering up the different recording tracks of the songs for anyone to do remixes?
Justin Pearson: A lot of people have approached us to do something. I honestly feel a little weird about it. I mean it's our art? It's like you are collaborating in this way and I don't want just anyone to be able to do it. I'd prefer to pick and choose. It's a cool idea though but I don't know if I'd want that to happen.
Scene Point Blank: How'd you end up with Dim Mak?
Justin Pearson: I've know Steven for over a decade. I would just see him periodically. I don't' know how it came up. When Nathan and I were writing, we were talking about electronic music and Dim Mak came up and we brought it up to him. I think we wanted to not take our typical route and he wanted to not take his typical route. And he said, "I want a real band back on the label." And we'd joke about it, he hasn't a real punk band on his label in, I don't even know how long. It was kind of funny merge, but totally rad. Hopefully we can appeal to people that wouldn't listen to us, The Locust and Maniqui Lazer. And the same for our side of things, hopefully people who wouldn't know about The Bloody Beetroots or S.P.A. or whoever else.
Scene Point Blank: Earlier this year you did some dates with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs?
Justin Pearson: It was just one show actually. We all kind of had various ties with some of them and they asked us to do one show with them. And I would love to do more but by the time we started to play out they already had everything set up for their new album. And Nick actually remixed some of ours songs, but it will be on the LP.
Scene Point Blank: Last update suggested that The Locust were on some down time.
Justin Pearson: We're just writing. Our guitar player decided to go to school full-time so it really slowed down the pace. But we are definitely writing, we have more than half of our new record already written.
Scene Point Blank: Earlier this Summer Swing Kids did a reunion show. Just curious how the whole notion got going, was it originally planned to be a part of the Burning Fight book release show?
Justin Pearson: It was kind of weird. Originally, Brian Peterson that did the Burning Fight book had approached Unbroken to do the show. Let me back up a little bit? I might be wrong, and I'm not trying to toot my own horn? but I think I'm one of the first people that Brian got in touch with about the book. And I was like, "It's about time. I'm kind of sick of The Clash books, let's start writing about our generation." So I was just like, here's all these numbers: Matt Anderson, Eric Wood, Rob Moran And granted, not of all of it was your typical hardcore stuff but I think me and Rob did a lot of footwork for that. So we were always in touch with Brian. And Brian pitched the idea of this show to Rob and Unbroken about how he wanted a few bands from the book getting back together and doing the show in Chicago. Rob was hesitant but interested. And somehow the show in Chicago turned into this big festival with all these new bands as well. And I think Rob kind of got kind of discouraged but they had already committed to doing it. So he asked if we would do a California show. And I really didn't want to do it because our guitar player Eric had passed away, so I was completely opposed to it. I lived with Rob Moran at the time and we discussed it a lot and it took me, not that he had to convince me, a while to understand why it should happen. It took me a little while to find justification in why it should happen. I thought it was morally wrong at first. And then I realized that Unbroken was doing it and I realized it was for this book that came out that I think was a pretty good representation of our culture and that community. And I figured a lot of people weren't ever able to see us. And once we broke up, that's when people started to hear about us and get into the band. And right at the end of our band, right before Eric passed away, we did a few shows with Jimmy LaValle on second guitar, so it wasn't like we were going to replace Eric. So for me, and everyone in the band, it was like a proper funeral for Eric. So we agreed to do the show and added a Southern California feel to it and it was more punk than hardcore. Our show had The Festival of Dead Deer and Portraits of Past.
Scene Point Blank: I thought it was interesting how each show had its own feel, the California show, the Chicago one, and the Seattle one.
Justin Pearson: That one hasn't happened yet? we're not playing. I think people thought we would play because of the Undertow tie. Which is kind of interesting because my band before Swing Kids had a lot to do with Undertow, we did a split 7" with them. I just wanted to do the one show. I didn't want to do any more. For me personally, I didn't want to do anything that seems cheap. It's funny that a lot of the people involved in these shows aren't financially stable. And here we are raising all this money and giving it away to charity and I can't even afford to get my cell phone fixed and I'm having problems paying rent. And I wanted to cover my bases. A lot of people were saying, "You're getting back together, you're cashing in." I wanted to be totally removed from all the stigma of that. We did this show for justified reasons. It's cool for Unbroken to do the other ones, they can do whatever they wan. For me, for Swing Kids, without Eric it's not the band.
Scene Point Blank: Apparently there will be some Swing Kids reissues coming soon via 31G?
Justin Pearson: Not reissues. When Swing Kids were originally around, there was a song that we recorded on our record that we never really finished. So we finished that song and we wrote another new song. So we're going to put those out as a 7" release.
Scene Point Blank: 31G has always been pushing the boundaries of underground music, releasing music no matter the genre and obviously not considering what will make a dollar. Just curious what your thoughts are on the current climate of the indie music world given the digital music craze?
Justin Pearson: To be totally honest, we can't put out anymore music right now. We can't even put out that Swing Kids 7" actually. We don't generate enough money and we're so far in debt. Nothing sells anymore. Maybe that's because our catalog is all back catalog really. Everyone is folding. It's not that we're going to fold; we're just at this weird standstill. Our distributor doesn't give us checks that even warrant us paying our bills. Every month Sal, who I run the label with, and I pay out of our pockets just to keep it afloat. It's pretty frustrating and I don't know what to make of it or what to expect. It is what it is though. It's just a weird time. Even with The Locust being on Anti and All Leather being on Dim Mak, everyone is kind of feeling it. The industry is totally fucked up and I don't know how it's going to sustain itself. And if you factor in this economy and how the whole country has turned to shit, I don't know how we're going to get out of it. I don't want to sound dramatic like, "It's The New Great Depression," but it's a weird ass time. Unfortunately, the arts suffer. It's even hard to get people to come out to shows. I don't know what's going to happen to the label though. We're going to put that Swing Kids release out. And I wrote a book that I'm publishing through a publishing company, but 31G are going to be a part of that as well.
Scene Point Blank: Finally, you've always been adamant about boycotting Clear Channel owned venues? Thoughts on the Ticketmaster and Live Nation conglomerate in the making?
Justin Pearson: Initially, the reaction was to the monopolizing on a facet of the music industry, which is fucked up for a number of reasons. But initially our reaction to Clear Channel was to the Christian fundamentalist policy they were implementing. Even ties to the Bush administration and how they used them? and we didn't want to be a part of that. Not that there was anything special about us or that we would make a dent, it was just a personal thing like, "I don't want to shop at Wal-Mart" or "I don't want to eat genetically altered food." And now, Clear Channel isn't really this huge threat that it was. It was taking over and it backfired. I don't want to say it is not an issue or say that we don't care about it anymore. But honestly, its just doesn't affect us at this point. It's a weird thing to think of now, if you think about the ethics of bands, like Fugazi or something, and that's something I can attest to being drawn to as an influence. In a sense, maybe everything in the music industry getting fucked up and destroyed in the way that it is, is making it more DIY oriented.
Scene Point Blank: In theory its kind of reverting back to how it was?
Justin Pearson: Yeah. When I first started playing music, it was like that. Then, a lot of bands started getting management. Not that that is wrong. There is a place for all of that, and it makes sense. Not that I want to be DIY, because a lot of DIY ethics are sort of elitist, like, "This is mine." And I'm like, "Fuck that." I want to be able to play to everyone, still keep my morals and values and dignity and integrity. I don't want to be like, "This is mine, and we're underground." Not that I want to be huge, but I want to have the opportunity to play with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and say, "Listen to this. You live in Tempe, AZ and you only get to listen to the radio. Here, this is something else." That is my whole qualm with traditional DIY ethics; I think its very limiting. If you can be able to not limit yourself and hold onto your ethics, that's the most successful path to take and that's what I've personally chosen to do. So going back to the original question about Clear Channel, back when The Locust was touring and Sage Francis had the "Fuck the FCC Tour," that seemed like a big deal. I think Clear Channel got a big "fuck you" and it backfired on them. We'll see what happens when the next huge tour come around. Which is funny, because there is this thing that Dim Mak asked me to write for, it's a publication, it's sort of like a zine but its going to be distributed to the not-underground. And Live Nation pays it for. When they pitched it to me, they wanted me to write about music culture, "Whatever you want." And I could basically say whatever and they're paying for it. "Is that weird or selling out if I do that?" I don't want to be that one-dimensional nihilist punk that says, "Fuck this" and "Fuck that." I am writing in this publication and this is my reason for this, this is why I am against that, and this is why this is affecting art in general. Because it is beyond music. And I think that's a really progressive step. And if you think about traditional DIY ethics, people would not want to be a part of that. I think its just how you think about it though and I'm willing to hear the constructive criticism.
Scene Point Blank: I agree. If you've given these outlets and you're not comprising who you are and what you believe in, I wouldn't' consider that selling out.
Justin Pearson: Right, like this opportunity came up when All Leather was signing to Dim Mak and Steven asked me to sing on this Bloody Beetroots track. And I said I don't know who that band is but Steve said they're all big Locust fans and they really like All Leather and they want you to sing on this song. So I said to send me the song and I looked into who they were and I thought that's cool. They turned out to be really awesome dudes and I've been learning more about that world and becoming more aware of it. They're huge and they just pitched this tour to me and they want to do this live thing with them. And I'm totally stoked on it because they're taking this thing - the two DJ guys that wear masks deal - but they want someone to interact with the crowd. Through working with artists like that, maybe a small percentage of their fans will check out The Locust and All Leather and vice versa. I think collaborations like that trickle down, which is cool. It's an honor to work with other artists like that.
[Editor's Note: Given the fact that Justin had his debit card eaten by an ATM just minutes prior to this interview, his patience and willingness to answer these questions was deeply appreciated.]