Many readers are probably well aware of Justin Pearson, seeing as his artistic career spans over two decades and his music, whether you love it or hate it, encourages individuals to reconsider what defines the hotly contested concept of "punk." For those less familiar with his background, Pearson's musical endeavors include Struggle, Swing Kids, All Leather, the Locust and most recently, Retox. In addition to being deeply involved with the punk community he also has published two books and continues to run the Three One G Records record label out of San Diego, California. Staff interviewer Andrew Clark spoke with Justin Pearson via e-mail about reflecting on 2012, using humor in shitty situations and the future.
You seem to be quite the busy person these days between your musical endeavors, writing, and running a record label. As we approach 2013, how has the past year been for you and what are you looking forward to in the coming year? Any regrets or things you wished you had accomplished?
I am looking forward to getting this Dec. 21, 2012 date past us. Threats of the "end of the world" are boring. I would rather just get it over with or move on. Of course, I am looking forward to more and more collective progressive thinking, which I think we are slowly but surely seeing. And as far as regrets, I would not chalk up my mistakes to things as easily classifiable as regrets. That seems to be a cop out. Situations, good or bad, I would rather just reflect and push forward.
Outside of your activities related to music, what else do you do to keep the creative process flowing and prevent you from repeating the same proven formula in your art?
I tend to never have down time, which can be bad I suppose. But there is always a "to do" list I try to tackle but never seems to go away. Anything from reading, hustling, discussing, contemplating and taking risks, if my mind is constantly going, I could never be stagnant. So the life I live essentially affects art that I am a part of in every way.
Turning back to music specifically, it appears that many of your musical endeavors incorporate a diverse group of individuals, which I could imagine being both very beautiful and volatile. How do you feel Retox fits into this pattern?
That is an interesting perception. Thanks for saying that and giving my comrades such the compliment. I suppose I surround myself with people who I feel are interesting, weird, progressive, and so on, and then the outcome is sitting for how you see things Iā??m involved with. With Retox, the other members are so talented, and with that, draw inspiration and drive from all sorts of avenues of life, but never the obvious.
Is there anything in particular that you or the other guys hope to accomplish through Retox as compared to your associated bands?
There is always a similar underlying goal if you will. But as much as things differentiate from project to project, with sound, people involved, attitude, style, etc., I think there is always a general challenge that we adhere to, and with that, a desire to be irritating, punctual, relevant, calculated and so on. For those readers not too familiar with your work they may be surprised to hear that you have published a book! What encouraged you to write versus put these memories into another format, e.g. lyrics?
Interesting question. I donā??t know that I have limitations as to what I put words and thoughts to. So as I had been writing lyrics and performing vocal duties for various projects, I found my down time on long drives being used to write chunks of text, which eventually became the two books I have published as well as other various things I have written for other places too such as Touchable Sound or online publications. At the end of the day, itā??s all a means of communicating and with that, I constantly learn how to become a better writer, formulate thoughts, challenge myself as well as push myself.
Do you think you will write a follow-up since the last book ended before you began Retox?
Iā??m not sure. I wrote a second book, How To Lose Friends and Irritate People which chronologically took place after the stories in From The Graveyard of the Arousal Industry took place. Currently I am working on a book about Three One G Records and its releases, which will feature interviews I have been conducting.
Delving more deeply into your autobiography, I noticed that you often talked about what might seem like difficult times with a sense of humor, including family issues and touring in bands that some people reacted violently towards. Do you feel like this was consciously done or not? If yes, why is that?
It could always have been worse. So I just laugh at things. You have to, really. Itā??s a means of closure, or getting over stuff, or addressing it and drawing some sort of positive from a negative.
Again related to your writing, I personally could relate to some of the anecdotes you shared in it, particularly those when homophobic epithets were thrown your way because of how you dressed or the music you created. I wanted to offer my thanks for being open about that stuff and it helped me process times where I have been subjected to those things as well. As someone who experienced homophobia and other unsavory aspects of "punk," in your opinion has much changed since you first got into making music?
I do think the world is changing socially, for the better. Not fast enough, but certainly change is occurring. Iā??m shocked at times that in the year 2012, stupid shit still subsides. But I am well aware that change comes one funeral at a time.
Once again I would like to thank you on behalf of the site and answering some questions. Per my tradition I will let you have the last word; use it wisely.
Ehā?¦ I'm not a fan of endings such as this for interviews I do. Here is a quote by some French dude, hope this works for you… "Science says the first word on everything and the last word on nothing."