Last month, “terrifyingly brilliant live band The Locust,” masters of synthesizer-driven grindcore, announced from their hiatus that they will perform at London’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror” showcase. It’s been a dream to see them live.
Now, I know, that’s no where near the Twin Cities, but I got thinking about The Locust again today when a friend sent me an email wondering if I wanted to check out the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ show at First Avenue in a couple months. The Locust, a genre far flung from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’, toured with the indie band in 2004. Perhaps a bizarre pairing musically, the tour showed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ appreciation of noise and pushing an audience’s ears.
And The Locust pushes ears.
It’s difficult to full comprehend how quickly they move live, surging forward without hard, song-length restraints like key and meter.
And if only they’d fully come out of hiatus and tour our fair land, it’d be easy to see them. They’ve long boycotted Clear Channel-owned venues, favoring all-ages shows, like this show from the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. They’re idealists in their actions and the sheer mania of their music.
The website M3 interviewed The Locust bassist/vocalist Justin Pearson last year. It’s an interesting perspective from a member of The Locust on vinyl vs. digital, politics of the digital age SOPA/ACTA, their pernchant for cultural critiques, as well as their resistance to the corporatization of music–specifically, boycotting Clear Channel-owned venues.
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Justin – I’m Justin Pearson. I play bass and I am one of the three vocalists for The Locust. I also do a number of other things, such as run Three One G and sing in Retox.
What inspired you to form The Locust? What are your own musical backgrounds?
I had already played bass and was approached by Bobby Bray to start a new project, loosely based on sounding like Crossed Out. But I think it’s safe to say that my inspirations come from many facets in life, not just pertaining to music. As far as musical background, there is not much to say. I just started playing bass when I was 14 and stuck to it ever since. Over the years I started signing, and occasionally playing drums. I have had no proper musical education.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
This is an interesting question. I would say vinyl. However with technology’s advancements, I am not certain that my decision is entirely based on the overall sound of a recording. At one point, I wanted to consider myself an analog purist. But that has since been thrown out the window. Mainly due to lack of finances, pertaining to recordings I have been part of. But I do find a sense of nostalgia (even though I tend to frown on that concept) with vinyl. I think it could be a generational thing coupled with me being stuck in my ways. I am just used to holding an album, playing the vinyl, and the effort, and extension to the actual music that comes with the packaging of records. But there is still that over all audio warmth that comes with playing an analog recording, which is what I really appreciate.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
For some people, yes, it has been forgotten or maybe never known. However, there are still fans of music and art that want to enjoy a piece of work in its entirety. For me, an album can tell a whole story, and even with albums that I have played on, consideration has gone into the placement and order of the songs, creating something more than a single track, which is often known as an MP3. I like to hear how a collection or work fits together, telling more than just say, the “hit”.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
This is probably a two-part question. See, one part deals with issues like file sharing, or even the lack of interest in music, or how it’s created, how it is marketed, etc. But the other part ties into economic aspects and the fact that online shopping is at times much cheaper and easier for consumers. But over all, I don’t think the digital age has killed the record store. I think small business has struggled more so in recent years than in the past, but I also think there might be a shift back to being more human, actually going outside, and living life. Now getting back to the question here, this might mean going into a store, looking at records, appreciating the art, the packaging, supporting local and independent business and essentially showing appreciation for art in general. However, I’m not holding my breath for this shift in the way we humans are “evolving”.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
I think this question might be hard for me to answer correctly. I have found myself on the side of the tracks which tends to not really sell a lot of units. Partially due to the fact that I have generally tried to invest more into packaging and so on, which has let me remain fairly underground, or certainly broke. And even with making money, it usually goes back into the hard work put into the project(s). I understand that money is to be made by music at times, but it seems that profit comes from ties to things like placement in television, film, etc. Or even corporate sponsorships.
The Locust have a very unique stage presence, what do you feel this visual element brings to your shows?
Of course. I think when bands would tend to “rock out” we get more technical, or at least have more to physically do to pull off a live set. For me, I would have to play bass, hover over a pedal board and still deliver my vocal parts. So I think uniforms just made the stage presence and live show feel a bit more interesting.
Do you feel that the abundance of recorded music that is easily available on the Internet has played a role in causing people to place more importance on the live experience as the ‘authentic’ way to hear music?
Not really. I think at times people tend to be either lazy and just result in seeing live music online, or maybe something as obvious in the US, like the economy affecting both touring bands and the fan base being able to afford live performances. Over all, part of me thinks that the Internet has over saturated people with content. So there seems to be a lack of specific elements that I had experienced in the past (pre Internet). Anything from having to seek out new music, to going and seeing a band perform life, to word of mouth and making the experience and connection to music a bit more special.
Do you think traditional copyright laws are still enforceable in the digital age, or do you think we will have to rethink the concept of copyright itself?
No, they are not enforceable. Ironically enough, I have had my vocals from a previous project, All Leather, on a track by Religion, which was released without mutual consent. They simply took my vocals and placed them on their own track and released it as a new song. The vocals were from an All Leather song that Religion had remixed so they had the vocal stems. However they placed them on a track of their own, while managing to get the words wrong when titling their track. So coming full circle, bands like All Leather make very little money and therefore can’t afford legal assistance to deal with copyright infringement. I think with the digital age in full effect people have become lax about “borrowing” material from other sources.
What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I think any idea such as what SOPA/ACTA embodies is littered with bureaucracy and has alternate motives in what is being sought out. I don’t think the Internet can be regulated and controlled like some want it to be. The issue I see here is who gets to decide on what is acceptable and what is not.
Why did you decide to boycott venues owned by Clear Channel Communications, and has this decision adversely affected you in any way?
The initial stance on boycotting CC was due to the monopolization of music venues and how art is available and by whom and for whom. But the fact that CC had its true colors showing, being right wing Christian fundamentalists, and anti free speech steered us even further away from them. But since CC was an issue for The Locust, it has seemed to have backed down from the power it was trying to obtain. Of course it affected us in the past. We had to pass on tours, offers for shows, and play venues that were free of sponsorship and affiliation, therefore agreeing to less pay.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Where shall I start? Honestly. Take your pick, anything from the above questions.
Finally, what does the future hold for The Locust?
We are currently on a hiatus. However Bobby and I have been working on remixing and remastering the entire catalog released by GSL and reissuing it on Anti as “Molecular Genetics From the Gold Standard Labs”.