Emotional Strings

Justin Pearson: “I’m too smart to do the things [my dad] did.”
  • Justin Pearson: “I’m too smart to do the things [my dad] did.”

“I’ve written songs that metaphorically address what happened to my dad,” says Retox mainman Justin Pearson, who was 12 when his father was assaulted, robbed, and died during a 1987 altercation with patrons he’d met and argued with in a restaurant bar. “I wrote about it more directly in my book [From the Graveyard to the Arousal Industry], but, musically, I’d rather keep it a little more broad. You can’t get into a lot of depth about topics like death, alcoholism, and bad parenting in a two- or three-minute song.”

Now 36, Pearson says his father’s drinking and aggression “probably provoked what happened. To me, he was kind of like the quintessential dickhead from John Hughes films, kind of like the preppy jock that everyone hated. He was really against the fact that I was into punk. He kept saying, ‘Sid Vicious was a heroin addict. You’re gonna become a drug addict.’ I didn’t want drugs, I just wanted to listen to cool music.”

Almost never a drinker, Pearson says, “I’m too smart to do the things [my dad] did...until around a year and a half ago, I’d never even played a show in a 21-and-up venue.”

The year after his father’s death, Pearson was living in Clairemont, where he met Eric Allen, with whom he later formed the 1990s hardcore/screamo band Swing Kids. Shortly after that group split in 1998, Allen committed suicide. “That was the other big heavy-hitter for me, as far as someone dying.”

Last year, Pearson (a vet of the Locust, All Leather, Holy Molar, and a dozen other local ensembles) joined several other former Swing Kids for a European tour under the name Blue Note, with All Leather guitarist Nathan Joyner in place of Allen.

“I would find myself onstage, and these emotional strings were being pulled. Even though I’m an atheist, in a sense it made me feel as if Eric was living on.... What he and I shared as musicians and friends, those elements have carried on into all my projects.”

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Huge Unbroken fan. Even now in 2014, so many years after they broke up. The one missing piece is that I've never known how the guitarist killed himself. pills? razor? gun? I'm not trying to be morbid, but inquiring minds want to know!

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