Justin Pearson Releases New Book, Looks Back on Provocative Musical Career

Retox bringing the noise (photo by Becky DiGiglio).

Justin Pearson has had an interesting musical career, to say the least. From trolling Jerry Springer to collaborating with Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo, Pearson—best known by Decibel readers for being in The Locust, Dead Cross, and Retox—has been through a lot in his 27 years of loud, loud antagonism.

Now, he’s looking back with his latest book, The Race to Zero, which collects lyrics from throughout his career (which stretches way back to the political hardcore of Struggle, a name that may ring a bell for any other greyhairs out there). And today, we asked Pearson—also the founder of the excellent Three One G label—to go down memory lane with us and pick a few songs from the book and talk about what their meaning is for him.

Read on to find out why a former mayor of San Diego had a bone to pick with the band, why negativity actually has a bit of positivity to it, and much more.

Kill Roger Hedgecock

The lyrics to this song are pretty mediocre, if that. It was early on in my writing when I wrote the lyrics to this song. Part of the issue might be that the song is 48 seconds long, but also I had no idea how to really write lyrics then. However, the thing that sticks out about this piece is the reaction that The Locust got from Hedgecock himself. Roger was a pretty prominent political figure in San Diego for many years, as well as the mayor of the city at one point, who was charged with several felonies in relation to his campaign funding, among other allegations. Most annoyingly, he was primarily responsible for the “Light up the border” protests where racists would go to the San Diego/Tijuana border and literally light it up with their vehicle headlights, as well as any other lighting they could muster up, in attempt to bring “light” to illegal immigration. It was pretty ineffective, however it certainly feels like it was the precursor mindset to the garbage we currently see with the alt-right antics. Roger found out about our song, probably because we had made stickers that said the song title which we gave out at shows and plastered around town. The stickers made their way to “regular” progressive people’s car bumpers eventually. Roger had a talk show on a local conservative station, which felt a little like the baby brother show of the one hosted by the neo-fascist, absurdist Rush Limbaugh. Nonetheless, I’m sure the message traveled well in San Diego, which landed a full-on roundtable discussion on his radio show about our band and the song. To Roger’s credit, and luckily for The Locust, he did not try to seek legal action for our antics, and kind of had that shithead punk spirit towards us, which I can appreciate, even from a person of his creed. Anyhow, he had this discussion on air, which I wasn’t able to hear since we were on tour when it aired, where apparently he and a linguistic expert on the show got people to call in and tell about how they all were seeing the bumper stickers around town on people’s cars. Some were offended and worried about Roger’s well-being, and others were just plain offended. Roger and crew were not aware that we were on tour in Europe at the time of the discussion. Actually, they couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that people actually listened to our band, let alone around the world. At some point in the discussion they decided we were a homosexual band; I never could understand how they reached that conclusion as none of us were technically gay. So the few lines of the song, which are pretty vague at best, hold an amusing place in my soul. But nobody ever killed the dude.

Old Age Lasts too Long

This is an interesting one since its sort of multi-layered for me. [Locust drummer] Gabe Serbian and I wrote the song in a couple minutes, initially for something to use in Asia Argento’s film Incompresa. Gabe is my non-biological brother and I feel that him and I work well together and are usually on the same page with things when it comes to music and art. Since it was written as a bass-, drums-, and vocals-only song, and even thought it was for Asia’s film, I wanted to have the lyrics reflect who I think myself and Gabe are, and our existence in this world. I also think Asia fits in to that lyrical content as well. With that being said, there is an obvious references to Gabe and I in the lyrics, which is learning how to fly with one wing. The song later on somehow morphed into a Head Wound City song, with a slightly different title, slightly different lyrics which [Head Wound City vocalist] Jordan Blilie re-worked, and essentially ended up becoming a completely different piece due to the players, the instrumentation, and the structure changing to accommodate a full band and straying away from it originally being a short piece for a film score. So for me, to listen to what Head Wound City did with the basic track, and then to look back and reference where it came from, it has a lot of interesting aspects to it.

Radical Humiliation

This was my take on the concept of how hate is not actually the opposite of love, it’s apathy. It addresses negativity, and in my mind I wanted to show how negativity goes somewhere, which is at times better than apathy, or being stagnant. It presents movement, even by negative elements. I tried to utilize a couple basic ideas and topics, like burning bridges, in light of negativity bringing change in one’s world. But then I also wanted to address some sort of boring and pathetic elements, such as getting a C as a grade, and half committing to things, which a lot of us humans seem to do. The two verses end on words that don’t finish, and the last one is a play on words, that is, if you consider “Shhhhhhhhh” a word. Perhaps I still don’t know what I’m doing lyrically, but I amuse myself at times, this being one of them. Humiliation is something we should all embrace, and omit the ego in our collective worlds if possible. Then perhaps hate and love can be seen on a progressive platform.

The Beginning is Near

I think most of my lyrics are fairly dark, and over time I hear that I tend to write in the realm of dark humor, which I think is a compliment. I see that here, since this piece was about my life from childhood up until current times, as it’s part of a song by Planet B that has yet to be released. It addresses my childhood and the odd parenting that I received, and broadens to a general view of the world, and, moreso, man in general. Where it probably comes off as completely pessimistic, I meant for it to be the complete opposite. I see humor in some of the phrasing, and some of the words and descriptions that I used, which add that element of humor… in my opinion. The chorus says, “The beginning is near, now watch man disappear.” Take it as you will, because as arrogant and shitty we humans are… The thing is, where I was coming from when I wrote this was me addressing the loss of one of my best friends, and how she will live on in this world forever. I’m an atheist, but her energy is in me and her friends and family. And that energy changed me, and those changes transfer into how I live my life and that affects things around me, and so on and so forth. Perhaps this is my piece about “spiritual awakening,” or perhaps it’s just a middle finger to us humans since we might not be capable of pulling this shit off like we think we can. Either way, dogs are better than humans.