Before playing in Newcastle, UK on the Rock Sound Impericon Exposure Tour with Your Demise and Man Overboard, Punknews interviewer Faye Turnbull sat down with Justice, where he cleared the air regarding people's misconceptions, voiced his disdain for violence in the hardcore scene, and revealed that Justice Tripp is indeed his real name.
You had an altercation with a fan in Germany last year, have you had any issues with Germany this time round?
No, we had some of our coolest shows in Germany. Nothing weird. I'm sure some individuals have held grudges and that's fair, but for the most part, I feel like people are pretty understanding of life and that people make mistakes. It hasn't been a big issue at all since we've been over here.
Is it frustrating when you see Trapped Under Ice mentioned on sites like Punknews that people still comment about the incident?
Yeah, it's always brought up on the Internet, because those are kids that live on the Internet and they post on Punknews and this message board and that message board, but those aren't the kids that come out and support hardcore and punk rock shows. I don't really mind Internet shit talking so much. It's not something we strive for, but it's always been part of Trapped Under Ice since we started, because we've always strived to be different and stand out, and people are intimidated by what they don't understand and if you're a nerd that sits in the basement of your mom's house and you don't understand the world and you're fearful of what's around you, then I expect you to hate Trapped Under Ice.
How do you feel about people who regard Trapped Under Ice as some kind of meathead band?
That's like the obvious thing to think about us, because we're in shape or whatever, and I just did a video for Rock Sound and it was all for fun, me talking about exercise, but it's me being an asshole. I'm not insecure about who I am, I have no problem with making an ass out of myself to make people laugh. It's a very obvious and almost ignorant observation to think we're dumb meatheads. Like I said, I put myself out there, because it's all in good fun. Obviously, there's more to me than lifting weights and being a meathead. I've been in hardcore punk since I was 15-years-old, that's 11-years of me doing this. I've played in bands since I was 13 or 14, and touring since I was 15 or 16. There's a lot of young kids on the Internet that talk that probably have never been to a hardcore punk show. They're insecure in their position and this community. It's a way to make yourself more confident and comfortable, but I don't mind, it's what I've come to expect with being in Trapped Under Ice and wanting to stand out. Nobody's loved all the time, it's like The Beatles are the greatest rock band ever, but there's people who hate The Beatles. There's people who hate Metallica. I can only hope that people can hate us too.
Even your name, Justice Tripp, gives off a tough guy perception, is that your real name?
It's my real name. It's what my mother and God gave me. I think it's funny, I see on message boards where kids say, "That's a stupid name that he just made up for himself." but that's just my God-given name. If you don't like it, then I'm sorry. I can't really fix it.
I don't know about the US, but the tough guy mentality seems to becoming more popular over here, with fights breaking out at shows.
I mean, it's in human nature to fight. People feel threatened and then people feel the need to threaten other people, because it makes them feel more comfortable in social situations, but I hate that shit. It bums me out. One thing for me that really bothered me with the situation in Germany is that there's one video of me fighting on the Internet out of hundreds of shows that we've played and people just assume that's me all the time. That's not me. I don't start shit like fights; I hate fights. I try to avoid that shit and try to stop my friends getting into that shit. It's just not me and the idea that people would think that's me is just silly. Even more than that, I'd hate for some kid that likes Trapped Under Ice to think that's cool. I don't think that's cool. Our music is heavy, yeah, and some people might label it as 'tough', but I would say they're stupid if you want to label music as 'tough' or 'not tough'. That's stupid. You can say a band's heavy, but saying they're 'tough' is just stupid. Our music doesn't promote violence, I don't sing about beating people up. I sing about getting your heartbroken and stupid shit like that. I hate that mentality and it's everywhere where you go and some cities and states and countries, it's cooler and that sucks. For a lot of people, it's a whack trend and hopefully it'll die out sooner rather than later.
Especially with the last album, Big Kiss Goodnight , musically and lyrically, it's obviously still aggressive, but it definitely shows a softer side.
Yeah, if you look at anything we've done from the beginning, the music's aggressive - yeah, and there are songs about being mad, but I don't sing about fucking dudes up all the time, that shit's dumb. I see a lot of people on the Internet being like, 'Oh look, I'm Justice, I'm so tough.' Like where do I ever portray that image? I like rock, I wear half-shirts on stage, shake my hips and act as flamboyant as possible for a hardcore singer. I make myself look like an asshole as much as possible and I sing about getting my heart broken, where do you get 'tough' from? That's some ignorant view from someone who's never gave our band a chance.
I've found the new album to be a lot more 'groovier' and accessible.
Yeah, like the vibe of the music? I can see that. That's to do with the lyrical content too, because other stuff we've done in the past has been more on the depressed side, about things that bothered me, but with Big Kiss Goodnight, it's more about solutions to problems and not just being an angry kid complaining about problems and I think the music kind of reflects that, it's more hopeful, I guess.
You recorded Big Kiss Goodnight with Chad Gilbert from New Found Glory, who's also produced records for your peers like H2O and Terror, and what struck me with Terror's Keepers of the Faith is that they wrote their first love song and really experimented their sound with him; what is it with Chad softening you hardcore guys up?
[laughs] I don't think it was so much Chad softening us up as we had most of the songs on the record written, to some degree. He didn't really affect the mood of the record as much as he did with helping us with song structures - like ideas we had, he'd make them stronger. With the more melodic songs on the record, we had that in mind and knew we wanted to do before the idea of Chad Gilbert came along. He just helped us see it through and we knew he'd be the best choice for helping us to do that, like he called me on the phone years ago and said he liked our band. It's funny, because I read all of these reviews when we first released our demo and people would tell me they heard this influence and that influence, but I felt that they never really understood where Trapped Under Ice was coming from and didn't get our influences, but Chad Gilbert, with very few other people, was able to see those influences and nailed it. I talked to him a lot about what I wanted Trapped Under Ice's impression to be on music and hardcore, and what I wanted to do with our band, and I've always thought he's had a good understanding of what Trapped Under Ice could be. We all thought it was an appropriate next step to go the direction we wanted to go.
What I like is the weird samples you choose, especially in songs like Believe and Reality Unfolds.
I think that some people pick samples that are too obvious, like corny shit. People want to use the most epic line from 300 and put that on the record - I don't know if someone actually did that, that's not a shot at somebody. [laughs] I bet three other bands have done that shit - just real obvious shit. So, using the Cry-Baby samples we used, where it's more subtle. I really liked the Cry-Baby sample where he's revving up his bicycle and he's talking to his mother and his grandfather, and he's like, "You guys make me the happiest juvenile delinquent in Baltimore, but I met a girl…" and that's cool, because it pertains so many aspects of Trapped Under Ice without being too corny, because obviously, we're a band that's centered in Baltimore and we sing about girls. It's one of my favorite movies of all-time, too. The sample on the last track, Reality Unfolds, is a remix Nick Jett did of Nina Simone, which is actually a cover, it's a song called Baltimore and that pertains us on some level as well. I didn't want to do anything too obvious.
You're obviously influenced a lot by New York hardcore; what do you make of the resurgence in the NYHC sound and this 'hard-style' image?
Yeah, there's definitely a lot of bands that are influenced by New York hardcore and we are too, but I kind of see that influence dying down, because there's so many new bands that are doing it bad and I think they're going to scare a lot of people off, and turn them off from that sound. Obviously, classic bands like Agnostic Front, Madball, Sick of it All, and all that are always going to be huge and always going to keep making great music, but I'd say there are too many young bands that aren't putting in enough time to write good music and I think it's kind of hurting the sound. There are a couple corny things coming in too, like the term 'hard-style' you just said. I just think it's kind of a corny term for a hardcore band, then there's a lot of weird fashion trends that come in with that and everything, that's going to die - that nu-wave of it. I'm not trying to say anything negative against New York hardcore or heavier hardcore in general, because that's obviously a huge influence of Trapped Under Ice and always will be. I'm definitely not saying that all new bands are shit, there are lots of new bands that keep popping up, but I see kids wanting something new, because there's so much garbage coming out now. People want to see something new and different. Obviously, punk rock and hardcore comes and goes in waves, old things become cool again, maybe youth crew will be cool again and I see that with bands like Mindset, which is cool, or maybe more melodic punk bands will be cool again, but shit comes in waves and I think there's a lot of garbage killing it right now.
With your older material, you wrote a lot about the streets of Baltimore and I read an interview with Rob from Ruiner one time, who I know you have history with, and he said, in regards to your lyrical content, "No one is growing up in hard cities." How do you feel about people who claim your lyrics aren't genuine?
Rob and I are on better terms now. We actually grew up together and were friends, and after we started the band, there was a lot of weirdness, but we've kind of settled now. With that specific quote you're talking about, I remembered reading that and I was pissed, because we did grow up in the same neighborhood, but his father was the chief of police and my father is a drug addict. I don't want him to compare his life to mine, because obviously, it was way different. I'm not saying he's a spoiled kid, he definitely works hard for what he wants, but I was never given anything. He was definitely given a lot more opportunities than me, and not to hold that against him, but that was ridiculous reading him comparing his life to mine. I don't sing about growing up on the street, that's not me at all - read the lyrics to Trapped Under Ice - I sing about Baltimore, being the place I live in and where my family's from. Rob and I grew up in a place called Essex, which is 10-minutes from where I live now, I sing about being from Baltimore and the things I see and not wanting to be apart of it. I'm not a hood rat; I'm not a killer. It's like people who sing about politics, if Bad Religion sings about politics is that to say he's a politician? No. He sings about the things he doesn't like about in politics. I'm singing about the things I don't like about my city. I don't like drug dealers and killers and all of that shit. I don't like seeing all of that negativity and that's another misconception about Trapped Under Ice that you get from someone who's ignorant and has never listened to the band. Rob never really listened to Trapped Under Ice and couldn't tell you what Trapped Under Ice sounds like or quote lyrics, he just took what he wanted Trapped Under Ice to be, because he wanted to have a problem with Trapped Under Ice. He made this idea of what Trapped Under Ice was and shot it down, but he never really gave Trapped Under Ice a chance. He's into his own thing and that's fine, but it definitely bothered me, especially when it was public. That was his thing, any interview he did, somehow I came up. One of Ruiner's things was that they liked to be the band to go on stage and cut somebody down, that was their way of getting publicity and to get known. I want Trapped Under Ice's thing just to make music and tour, I don't want to get involved in drama. There's a million bands I hate, there's a million people I hate, but I'm not going to sit and talk to you about it all day, because in the end, nobody really gives a fuck and I just look like an asshole. Trapped Under Ice was an easy target, because Trapped Under Ice got real popular and more popular than Ruiner and Rob hated that. Any mutual friends of ours would say the same thing. Like I said, I'm not trying to cut Rob down. I like Rob as a person and everybody has their faults, but I just think that during that period of when Ruiner was a band and Trapped Under Ice was getting more popular, I just had to deal with a lot of his faults. [laughs] And I still find myself having to explain that shit and it's just kind of annoying. It's shitty that something like that would come between a friendship. We grew up in the same neighborhood and wrestled together in high school, and then competition in the hardcore scene got in the way of friendship, it's pretty corny to me.
Bands in the US seem to have a lot of pride in where they come from, whether Baltimore, Wilkes-Barre, New York, Boston, etc. Why is that? And what makes the Baltimore scene different?
I think with Wilkes-Barre, what's cool about that is that there's so many cool younger bands coming out of that area. New York has so much history, so it's cool to be like, 'This is where we're from and what we represent.' For Baltimore, there's not a whole lot of people that are representing Baltimore. Like I said, Ruiner was like the big band from Baltimore, prior to Trapped Under Ice coming along, but they didn't put Baltimore on their merch, because they weren't all born and raised in Baltimore. I remember Rob saying to me, ''You guys weren't all born and raised in Baltimore city, why do you have Baltimore on all your shit?" Well, my shirt doesn't say, "Baltimore city: born and raised." It says "Baltimore", that's where Trapped Under Ice is from and where we started and played shows. I think our drummer lived outside Baltimore, but we were a Baltimore band at the time and that's still apart of our band, and there were no other bands that represented that. It was like the Slumlords, they were around a couple of years before us and they put Baltimore on some of their stuff, and it gave me a sense of pride when I went to shows in New York or fests in Wilkes-Barre seeing kids in shirts with Baltimore on. It was so cool to me and made me feel apart of something bigger on another level. Then when Trapped Under Ice started playing, we all wanted to do that for younger kids and I think kids like that. It's funny to me, because Ruiner didn't represent that and Rob was like, "I'd never represent that, it has nothing to do with us." and their last record was completely Baltimore-themed - pictures about Baltimore, songs about Baltimore. I guess it was cool at that point to talk about Baltimore, I don't know. I think it's cool to push your band on something and for us, I wanted to do something that would kind of influence younger kids. There were no real Baltimore bands from the area leaving to tour and when I was growing up, I never thought I'd get to do that, so hopefully it influences younger kids to get out and do stuff. There are a lot of bands coming up, like Mindset and they kind of represent Maryland and that's their thing, which is cool, because they want to influence kids from all over Maryland to get involved. Evan, the singer of the band, he's got this zine called Free State that they're doing to influence kids from all over Maryland to start more bands and be more active, it's been huge. Hopefully, those ideas keep blossoming. I can say the same thing for New York, a band like Agnostic Front, they influenced so many bands and gave so many bands a sense of pride about being from New York. I'm not comparing us to Agnostic Front, but I'd like to do the same thing on some level.
Is the scene in Baltimore cliquey? I've heard that if Soul Control plays Baltimore no one will turn up, because of some issues you've had with them.
I don't think Baltimore is cliquey, really. One thing that's kind of cool about Baltimore is that everyone appreciates all the bands in the area, like there are so many different bands and everyone shows love. It's tight-knit, everybody's friends, so in regards to the Soul Control situation, when somebody from the outside kind of steps in and intrudes, everyone, on some level, is loyal to one another and don't really appreciate their friends being pushed around.
You're probably one of the biggest names in modern hardcore, but you still maintain a very DIY-ethic - even arranging this interview, I just had to go through the band's general email address instead of going through a PR. Is that so you have complete control?
Yeah, absolutely. Jared runs the email and then we all do Twitter and Facebook. We don't have any real manager or anything like that. We've had people help us with manager things in the past and we have a booking agent - we used to book our own shows, but now we play so many, that shit gets crazy. On some level, everything that happens with Trapped Under Ice it goes through Trapped Under Ice. Obviously, I like to grow as a band and do bigger, cooler stuff, but we'll always be a hardcore punk band. We'll always play the Charm City Art Space when we're at home and little clubs, and do cool stuff to help influence the punk rock scene. With that being said, I do like the idea of doing cool, big tours, but we're never going to make a fortune off this band or become rich and famous, that's not our intent.
Are you happy at the level Trapped Under Ice is at?
We're not too good for anything. If I get to a big ass show and there's 600 kids who want to see us and want to be apart of what we're doing, and there's a barricade, then I'm not going to deny anybody the opportunity. If somebody loves our music, I don't care if you're cool. I don't care if you're hardcore. I don't care if you're a boy or girl. I don't care if you're gay or straight. I don't care what you are. If you can buy what we're talking about, then that means the world to me. If I can do that in a little room with all my friends at home, that's great, or if I can do it with a barrier on a big ass stage in France or wherever, that's cool too. I like the dynamic of being able to play different types of shows. I can understand preferring the smaller, DIY shows, but sometimes the big show with a barricade is part of what you do and I'm not going to say I'm above that. It's been a bummer at these shows, a lot of the shows have had barricades and they're always a little weirder. I'd like for kids to get on stage and sing-along with us and jump off, as long as everybody's safe and nobody's hurting each other, but I guess the barricade serves some sort of purpose. I've definitely seen clubs get fucked up, and that's what they're worried about, they're worried about their speakers getting broken and shit. We did our video for Believe and a bunch of speakers got broken, and we got in trouble for that, so I understand where people are coming from, but I obviously I prefer the smaller, DIY environment. It's more comfortable.
What's up with Trapped Under Ice after this tour?
We've got more tours lined-up and come back to Europe this summer, some fests at home this summer and then we're taking a little bit of time off to be with our families and go to the beach. Hopefully, we'll go to Japan and south east Asia later this year, those are our goals. Then we're going to do a Reaper Records east coast package tour, there'll be a couple different Reaper bands, I'm not sure who's doing it, but we'll do a week of that, so that should be pretty cool. No plans to record anytime soon, I think some bands beat themselves up to write records too fast. We spent a little over two years writing and recording Big Kiss Goodnight, and I want every record that we do to be better than the last. I want to make sure we put out something that people can appreciate more, hopefully. That's a hard thing to do, to always one up yourself.
Do you have anything else you'd like to finish with?
I like the idea of this tour a lot. I like the idea of diverse line-ups. I've mentioned this a couple of times on stage and we've all talked about this within the band, especially with Jared. Getting into music and seeing diverse line-ups was so cool to me. I don't want to see fucking five Trapped Under Ices in a row, fuck that shit. People are always putting limits on everything and it's just whack, it's so far from what hardcore is to me. People want to define hardcore as one thing and kids have got into this state of mind where every band on a bill should sound the same, and that's just whack. It's cool doing a tour like this and seeing how successful it's been, so hopefully we can do more stuff like this in the future. I just want to say I appreciate Your Demise, Rock Sound and Impericon for putting us on, and I'm glad it worked out the way it did.