Interview – Abrasive Sounds & Themes, Retox Takes the Punk Scene by Storm

From JUNE 2013 Vandala Magazine Interview and Story By Lana Nimmons

Retox

Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Evans and Justin Pearson of Hardcore Punk band, Retox. What ended up being probably one of the most interesting interviews of my career, began walking down Mont-Royal street in Montreal to vegan restaurant Aux Vivres. As Brian, (Retox’s colorful character drummer) turned around to all of us after receiving his gyro, he declared: ‘this is horrible! where’s the meat?’ I instantly knew this would be an interesting night. Just last month they dropped their album YPLL and finished their documentary of the band. Just like their sound, their themes are abrasive, tackling important issues such as  police brutality and racism, and social stereotypes. Can music define a generation and make changes? See what Retox thinks.

Where are you guys from originally?

Justin:  We’re all from southern California. San Diego and Los Angeles respectively.

How did you all meet?

Justin: Brian and I have actually know each other from way back, but Mike and I (our guitar player) had this idea of starting a band. We were a band for a while with a different drummer and then he left the band and recommended Brian. Mike knew Thor from LA.

I would describe your music as punch-you-in-the-face-punk. There are musical lines that cross hatch with hardcore, metal, thrash- what are your musical influences?

Justin: I think our taste expands from the whole spectrum of music which is good thing. I don’t know though, I think it’s good when people can’t describe what a band sounds like. As for the punch you in the face thing I understand but I’m not quite sure if we want to align ourselves with that negativity or nihilistic aspect of what a lot of punk or hardcore bands end up having. I feel like there’s this sort of macho theme that ties into it that we would like to avoid. But I do understand it. It’s very aggressive and very punctual. With that being said, it totally represents the world that we live in.

I saw a video while researching you guys and fell upon a video on YouTube named: Justin Pearson (The Locust) + Scott Beibin prank Jerry Springer- is this really you? What’s the story behind this?

Justin: Yeah, it was me, it was just a joke. Pop culture sucks. Just a joke, a lot people ask me if it’s just a joke, and they don’t know. It’s just one of those things that added a  status around The Locust, and some of the stuff that we do. It was an added element of our art to a band. I was on it twice, it use to be really easy to get on it.

Was it filmed live?

Justin: No, and they actually edited out a lot of cool stuff. There actually this part on the commentary part where the audience got to talk and there was this guy that was threatening me, you know calling me faggot and stuff and I was like alright, lets f*cking go. We actually engaged in the audience, but we couldn’t actually touch each other. The security wouldn’t let you. But you know it was pretty rad cause we felt like it was a challenge against social stereotypes and homophobia. And there was this gentlemen in the crowd who later on ended up becoming a friend, he’s this filmmaker called Rusty Nails. He asked us so many questions, and he was like ‘I’m going to ask the rockstar what god would think of all of this’, and my answer was: there was no god.  The audience just went nuts, and at that point they all wanted to kill me, so it was pretty cool, but they cut out all that stuff.

I remember being a kid home from school and nothing was ever on in the afternoon, except for soap operas and Jerry Springer and I always thought- why would anyone want to be on that show, why?!?

Justin: {laughs} Some of that sh*t is real, some of those people on that episode with me were legit- which is scary.

Well that answers that! Just watched your new video “MATURE SCIENCE.” from your new album- that was intense. I mean it went from violent- to gruesome- to “f*ck yeah!”.

Justin: Well it depends, I think it depends on the viewers stance on the theme. I think that for me, I do not advocate harming police officers in any way, none of us do. It’s the system that is rotten to the core, some people say “not all cops are bad”- it’s the system, it’s what they uphold, it’s the government and it all trickles down to a known fact that there is a sub-sect that was part of the ku klux klan. And you cannot deny it there are racist cops and the way they treat citizens is pretty intense and sure the video is an extremity of that concept, or idea- but it’s an everyday fact for a lot of people of color, or inner cities. In the grander scheme of things, it’s not a new story, it’s been told my NWA, Black Flag, you know it still exist. I feel although that issue still exist we still need to be talking about it.

It was well done, and message was crystal clear.

Justin: (laughs) I’m pretty sure we’re on a watch list now or something.

Brian: I hope we are!

Can you tell me a bit about how the song ties into the video & where the concept came from?

Justin: Well I wrote the lyrics and there were a bunch of tracks that we were considering doing a video for. We work with Simon Chan and were throwing back different ideas and we weren’t really sure what he was capable of and of course it was based off of the lyrics. I wasn’t really sure what style we were going to go for.

Well, it was really well done.

Justin: Yeah he did a great job. Simon is good at what he does, that was the first Retox one he’s done. But he’s done some of The Locust ones, and All Leather and lot of other bands.

What does YPLL stand for?

Justin: Year of potential life loss. That’s it. You can google that, it’s a common term, just referenced by us. It’s not like a saying or a term we came up with. But it ties into a lot of ethics that I don’t want to say have to do with punk, but has to do with life. I guess it ties into punk ethics, but not music. It’s basically saying that certain people like ourselves, by default or by the way life handed us: it equates to the years that we have loss, the longevity of life, how we grew up or whatever we are doing now, all that factors into some life quality.

Listening to your new album there are a lot of heavy themes, what is your message?

Justin: Well, there’s not just one simple message, but the concept of YPLL- is about the bigger picture, like the mature science, racism, and police brutality, or overstepping boundaries of LAPD, or what not. Each song has it own lyrical content or message. The same thing, it’s open to interpretation, there’s a lot of thematic stuff that I think I can’t write about- especially on this record. We talked a lot of metaphor of dealing with birds, and that all ties into l a bigger picture. The fact that there’s a girl biting a white dove, and the dove represents peace, you know- she’s basically taking a bite of this bird killing it. I reference flying rats, and pigeons, in a lot of the lyrics- creating a thematic piece of art. The whole album ties together.

Why is this important to write music with such themes?

Justin: Well it’s like, I don’t remember who said this, but is one thing to have the blues, than to sing about the blues. It’s like we sing about these things, or play this style of music because he have to. What comes out of us, as cheesy as it sounds, it comes out of our hearts. It’s like in our YPLL documentary, I reference Justin Timberlake’s song “bringing sexy back”- it’s a great song, I love it, but, I don’t think we can sit back and write that song. I cannot relate to it, I think this is something we can all relate to, it’s the world we live in and come from. We’re not privileged in certain ways like Justin Timberlake we don’t have that life. So the outcome of our art we create comes out like that, and it’s the things we’ve been exposed to and we’ve seen and things we’re aware of. A lot of people are blind to a lot of things that are happening on this planet, you know for me I cannot turn a blind eye to that. Therefore, I think these are issues that should be addressed until we can correct them. I think music is the best form of communication, beyond gender beyond class, race, beyond age, beyond whatever I think it’s the best form. It transcends language.

Historically, music has defined generations, provided anthems for revolutionary change, and inspired people artistically and intellectually. Do you think your, or music in general creates change.

Brian: Are we included in that change? I’ll speak for myself, I don’t know whether I’m trying to make a change. I know exactly what I’m doing but I’m not sure what I’m trying to do you know what I mean.

Justin: So it wouldn’t be pre-calculated.

Brian: It’s up to them (the audience).

Justin: In retrospect, oh we did that! If you think about in the early eighties when like punk shifted to hardcore it’s even more aggressive and even more nastier.  I don’t know if their concept was: I know what they were doing. I think they just did it and reflected afterwards- like this is what we were part of, or this is what we influenced.

Brian: Or they thought, who cares what people think.

Justin: That’s another thing too, I don’t want to come off as like we’re this awesome thing. Nobody gives a sh*t, we’re just part of a billion bands that have existed. But we do what we do because we have to do it for ourselves. And the outcome is whatever it is. If it’s positive or we can affect people or communicate with people or connect in some way or make life better we have succeeded. Simple as that.

You Can grab Retoxs latest album “YPLL”, view music videos, find out where the band is playing next plus more about the band online at www.uglyanimals.net and www.facebook.com/RETOXRULES

 

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