Retox - December 2012

Retox Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: November 4, 2012
Posting Date: December 17, 2012
Artist Hometown: San Diego, CA
Links: Website, Facebook, Ipecac, Three One G
Recorded by: Michael Briggs

Modern Balls
I’ve Had It Up To Here, I’m Going To Prison
Boredom Is Counter-Revolutionary
ONE: Have you ever had any extreme reactions to your music at live shows?
Brian Evans: People breaking each other’s noses. That’s pretty extreme. And fucking loving it!
DJ: Loving their nose being broken?
Brian: Yeah, dudes coming up to us after the show, ‘Dude, my nose is broken!’ ‘Oh, I’m so sorry…’ ‘No! It was fucking AWESOME! I can’t wait to tell all of my friends!’ Street cred, man. And really, that’s just one example.
DJ: Do you enjoy when people get violent?
Brian: No, no…
Justin Pearson: No, I broke someone’s nose. I didn’t mean to break his nose, but I did.
DJ: …How?
Justin: I punched him. I didn’t think I was going to break it, but I just wanted him to stop what he was doing. I’m not into violence—
Michael Crain: No, not at all.
Justin: I mean, I think that there’s a time and a place for it, and I think there is…I wouldn’t say ‘progressive violence,’ but there’s justified violence, and I mean if we can avoid it, I’d say let’s avoid it, you know? And we could have avoided that at that time, but it was…a kind of a bit more complex situation, I think. But, no, I think that we’re all definitely not into violence— especially at a show, I mean, it doesn’t make sense. We’re supposed to be there on common grounds, you know? But there are times when we will play with bands that are not…well, their fans are not typically accepting of us, and can be…at least aggressive, you know?
Michael: Verbally. But, yeah, I mean, it’s art. It’s our art, you know?
Justin: It only takes a half an hour. If they don’t like it, they can just…I mean, I’ve sat through a lot of half an hours of shit that I don’t like, so…but, you know, people react, and whatever.
DJ: Some people definitely associate enjoying heavy or aggressive music with being violent at shows…
Justin: But that whole nihilistic kind of feel for stuff kind of stops with the Panteras and things like that. I mean— and I don’t want to call anyone out that’s part of our…I would say culture or community, but, you know, I think…I understand the aggressiveness. It’s relevant or justified to some extent, but at the same time, it’s like, I think you can really— there is a line. Once you cross it, it doesn’t need to happen. I think that it limits people, you know, based on size and gender and things of that nature, from enjoying the show. I think that that’s not cool.
Michael: It’s just that traditionally this kind of music has that history of violence. A history of violence. I mean, Justin and I are old enough to have been to some pretty…some pretty epic shows back in the old days of Southern California, when Suicidal Tendencies and shit like that, where every show was a fucking bloodbath, for no reason. I mean, I’ve seen some pretty horrendous shit happen at shows…
Justin: I’ve been to shows where people have died. Not any of my bands, but…
Michael: It was like…I don’t know how that tradition started, I don’t…you know, it’s not as bad as it used to be in Southern California, at shows, but I remember outside of the Country Club, I saw skinheads make a guy eat glass. It was so unnecessarily violent. Any shit like that happens at our— nothing like that happens at our shows, but if it did, we would put a fucking stop to it right away. None of us are down with people getting hurt from groups of guys. That shit…yeah, it ain’t gonna happen.
Justin: I mean, when I was growing up, at like 12 or 13, there was a skinhead issue in San Diego, and that was kind of what it came down to. It was even…even the SHARP skinheads were just there to be violent, you know? I think that was part of their culture, and it wasn’t part of the punks’…we were down for the more progressive stuff, but, it’s mellowed out. I don’t think it’s really an issue anymore, thankfully.
Brian: Music is an emotional outlet. Can we agree on that?
DJ: Sure.
Brian: And aggressive music is an aggressive emotion, and I personally used to go to therapy, and I quit it when I started playing drums every day, and I don’t need therapy anymore…I don’t think—
Michael and Justin: [Laughing]
Brian: OK, maybe I do! These guys know me better than I do sometimes. But, I think that aggressive quality to the music, where it’s a great outlet for me, and a healthy outlet of expression for me— I don’t have to, you know, punch holes in my wall or just…when someone cuts me off on the freeway I don’t get all road-ragey, because I have this outlet. But other people take that aggressive outlet and use it to fuck people up, because— a lot of music comes from a place of pain, I’m not saying all of it does, but a lot of it does, and I can definitely tell you that I go through a cascade of emotions, similar to when you take a hit of LSD. It’s out of your system pretty quickly. I don’t do LSD, but I know this, and it starts a cascade of chemicals in your brain that just keeps going. It’s very similar to music.
Justin: Yeah, most aggression is like you’re kind of gone for a minute. After you rationalize it…
Brian: Yeah, people just have a hair-trigger sometimes. We just want to have a good time, man, I think I can speak for everyone on that. Violence is not cool.
Michael: But that’s exactly what we’re doing. This is…this is leading into something that’s important to talk about. It’s like, this is our art. I don’t know what any of us would be doing if we weren’t doing this, because this saves my life. I wouldn’t be alive if I wasn’t playing music. I would have self-destructed a long time ago. And so, I think for the listener, maybe someone who doesn’t play an instrument or have a creative outlet, they’re obviously going to hone in on it. They’re going to pick up on it, and that’s just how they react. This is aggressive music, ‘Fuck yeah! I’m gonna fuck shit up!’ or whatever, but for us, this is just it.
Brian: But, I do want to say that if two dudes want to break each other’s noses and feel great about it, this is a free country, and they should be able to do that, as long as they both want to do it.
Justin: I think it’s an interesting thing, though, talking about aggression in music, because you can reference Antony and the Johnsons, that song ‘Cut The World,’ and, you know, sonically it’s not aggressive at all. It’s very…it’s a very beautiful song, but it is so fucking evil. Like, when I watched the video, man, I got a tear. I was like, ‘I can relate to that for sure.’ And it definitely ties in with issues that I can…I feel like I can understand, or at least sympathize with, like gender issues and things of that nature, and the workforce…and so, I think for people to go like, ‘All punk is aggressive!’ and all other forms of music and art are not, I think that that’s…I think that people who are aware of what’s happening in the world are reflecting that, and it’s art, and what you create, be it music or a painter or an architect, whatever you want to pick. A writer, anything.
Michael: That’s a good fucking song and video, by the way.
DJ: Do you ever worry that that artistic reaction gets lost in translation?
Justin: Yeah, I think it’s not really our goal to like, spell it out, you know? We’ll do it for ourselves, and if people react to it how they react to it, that’s how it is, I guess. Once we’re done with it, we wash our hands of it, like, ‘Oh, we did that. That was us.’
TWO: What is your creative process like?
Michael: Typically, I’ll come up with some riffs, or some parts, and then assemble it or whatever— maybe I’ll come up with what I think is a whole completed song, or not. Generally just parts. For the record we just did, and even the one before that, Gabe and I would get together, and Thor was around, so the three of us would get together and we’d just work it out. For the last one, Brian and I would get together a lot. I’m used to writing with the drums, guitar and drums. It kind of helps. It’s different, I think, and then Thor will come in and it’ll get even better and tougher, and then Justin will hear it and be like, ‘Okay, let’s…maybe this, this…’ and Justin will have his say and change stuff, and write lyrics. I don’t know, I think that’s kind of the process.
Brian: Yes, it’s a pretty simple equation. It’s like jamming, just for fun. Taking the parts that sound good and trying to make them in some kind of uniform order that we come up with, and then totally scrapping that once we either meet with the producer, or think about it longer, and…and not over-thinking it either. Just, you know, jamming, and it turns into a song. It’s really almost improv that turns into repetition of that improv that turns into a song. Is that fair to say?
Michael: Yeah. Just playing, really.
DJ: How does your upcoming album differ from your most recent one?
Justin: A lot more effort.
Michael: Absolutely.
Justin: I mean, we put a lot of effort into it— not that we didn’t put effort into the first one, but it was rushed, and I think then we were just starting, and now we’ve kind of figured out our own skin. It’s just a more well-rounded album.
DJ: When is the new album coming out?
Justin: We’re still dealing with a contract and stuff, so we’re not really sure on the release date, but we’re probably looking at four or five months away.
DJ: What’s it going to be called?
Justin: YPLL.
THREE: What do you see happening over the next few years with Retox?
Michael: The album, and touring it a lot. Start working on new stuff, too.
Justin: A lot of it probably depends on how the election turns out. Things like that, I think, will probably influence our band for the next couple of years.
DJ: How do you mean?
Justin: Oh, I don’t know, socially? I think it affects the world. Unfortunately, America is the pig of the world, so what happens here kind of seeps through the borders, into other countries. I think that the world reacts in a certain way, making things copacetic or not copacetic depending on how things are here. I don’t know, it’s pretty…I mean, I feel like it’s a pretty pivotal time, but I guess it is every four years. Yeah, I think it will affect…certain things about how we react to society and the world at large.
DJ: And that’s going to change the band, or the writing, or what?
Justin: Well, like he said, we’ll be touring and stuff, and think, like, going around the world as a band from the United States can definitely have a different effect depending on…
Michael: How we’re received…
Justin: Sure. People hate Americans in certain countries. Or love Americans, I suppose, but I think it can affect what we do on a level— on a physical level, like going out and playing, or even writing, that will definitely affect the way we write and what we write about.
Michael: Definitely lyrically. For sure.
Thor Dickey: Look at the Reagan era. There was a lot of good music made then.
Michael: Some of the best! Some of the best, for sure.
Justin: I think people got soft— people are soft, now. You look at the 80’s, and you look at like, what Reaganomics brought to art, I mean, people were fucking furious, you know? That was like, when you could really identify with direct action. I mean, there were obvious other waves, you know, like the Weather Underground and things like that that came previous to it, but musically, and more artistically, the 80’s…it was like hardcore, you know? And now people are just kind of lazy.
DJ: So, from what you’re saying, you could say that bad times socially might actually make your art even better.
Justin: I also feel like the positive stuff also creates good art, too. I mean, I don’t want a negative, crappy world, you know? Maybe if we could alleviate all of the things that we’re fighting for socially, we would write more positive, or more outwardly positive music? Or happier music, I suppose? But, at the same time, once we get to that point, the world will influence us in some direction. I don’t know what it is. Maybe we’ll have longer ‘jams’ or something, you know? It’s just hard to speculate on something like that. It could be…
Michael: It would also just be more accessible to people. Fans, music lovers, it would be easier for them. Like he was saying, if everything shifts in a positive direction, then it gets positive for everybody— more jobs, more money going around, people able to buy cool stuff, go to cool shows, travel. I can definitely understand that. But, a lot of the writing is not only from what’s going on today in society, but also inward, you know, turmoil. Inward stuff. I mean I, and Thor also, he does really…like, folk, right?
Thor: I don’t know…like dark country…
Michael: Yeah, it’s fucking cool, and I also do acoustic stuff, and Justin obviously has been in a million bands. So, we’re always expressing ourselves, and we won’t ever stop, and this band is definitely just one particular direction, one vehicle, for expressing ourselves. It’s definitely the funnest, as opposed to acoustic, for me. Getting to play with your band, loud, it’s fucking awesome, but it’s definitely an important vehicle for us to be honest and to be who we are.
DJ: I’m guessing none of you are going to be voting for Mitt Romney in this election, are you?
Brian: That’s a good guess!
Michael: No.
Justin: I mean, I think that the system is rotten to the core, but the point is there are really important things, one of them women’s reproductive rights. That’s definitely steered me in the way I voted, you know? But, it’s still a façade of what a democracy is. We don’t really have a proper democracy, so it is…it’s interesting. And the thing is, if people are going to get let down by what the outcome of this election is, they’re not going to go out into the streets and change that. That’s sad in itself, because in the past, that’s been part of human nature. Now it’s not. We’re on lock down, you know? Which is, going back to the Occupy movement, that was something that came out of nowhere, and it…people say it’s gone or it’s dissipated or whatever, but that concept and that spark of hope, or inspiration, definitely affected the world. And I think that, who knows, maybe there’ll be another version of that. I hope so, if we need it.
DJ: It’s sometimes difficult convincing people that it’s worth it to vote when there is such a lack of options…
Justin: I totally agree. But, I mean, I don’t know…It’s pretty crazy hearing a candidate just outwardly saying the most absurd stuff, like talking about a huge portion of the American population being lazy. And that guy can still maybe win? That half of this country is going to be like, ‘Oh, it’s cool, he called us lazy, but let’s still vote for him!’ You know, I think people just need to get their fucking ass handed to them at that point, and they’re not. That in itself is a pretty interesting thing.
Michael: I don’t think it will be like the 60’s again. Or the revolution. I don’t think that will ever happen again. In the 60’s, I think the government got scared, because people were standing up and uniting and being like, ‘Nope! Fuck you! We’re down to bleed if we have to, for our rights and for equality.’ I don’t know if that will ever happen again.
DJ: Yeah, once they start deploying drone surveillance aircraft over here, it will be harder and harder to organize like that.
Michael: Like he said, we’re pretty well on lock-down. There’s federal supermaxes in this country that you’ve never heard of, where they will put you and you will never see anybody again, and it’s scary. Look at what they did! Look what they got away with in the 60’s. Murder! Black Panther Party, everyone. They just fucking killed them.
Justin: But one thing, I think— and this may come off negative, and it’s not. I think it’s a very positive thing, but I think change comes one funeral at a time, and we’re going to weed out the older mindset and we’re going to be like, ‘Okay people, now we’re going to progress.’ Younger people typically are a bit more open, and little bit more left and accepting of things. It’s like same-sex marriage, it’s like that’s the same sort of thing that we were dealing with with interracial relationships, and that was illegal, you know? It’s kind of crazy to think about that kind of shit.
Michael: Change is good. We could definitely use it.
Justin: Real change.
Michael: Yeah. But the arts, I think the arts help. Art can definitely influence people also. I’m sure if Justin Bieber was like, ‘Hey everybody! Fuck this!’ something would happen, but is that ever going to happen? No, of course not. But it would be rad if it did.
– Interview and transcription by Dale Jones