The Locust: Don’t call ’em grindcore. Don’t call ’em emo. By Matt Average

San Diego breeds hard-to-define, hard-to-beat bands if they can thrive more than five years. In flaps the Locust. The name’s appropriate. They’re a ravenous swarm. Yeah, notes are hit like a blizzard of wings. Each song is an instant, devouring deluge that comes quickly, strips meat off bone, and finishes before you can read the song titles all the way through. Claimed by many to be the future of hardcore, it’s hard to not like them just by the fact of how many nails they’ve got loaded into their musical bat. And that they’re not jocky metal heads doing push ups between songs. But it’s not all blast furnace beats. They set a definite, all-encompassing tone and make some – albeit brief – filigrees and keyboard interludes that hint to more ambling musical pastures. Make no mistake, though, they’re torture to emo kids and they’re all about the fucking burn.

Matt Average and Todd Taylor got to talk to bassist (and one of the singers), Justin, before their packed show at LA’s only consistent all-ages venue, The Smell.

M.Avrg: The Locust has lasted longer than your other bands, Struggle and Swing Kids. What is it about this band that makes it work for you?
Justin: Fuck, I guess the fact that we morph into another band here and there, kind of continues it somehow. The other bands would end because people would move, mainly to go to school, and this one, we’re all pretty dedicated to playing in a band. As far as the line-up changes The Locust has had, if we were to lose a member and break up, the rest of us would still play together, so we keep going. I’m not really sure why. It just kind of happens.
M.Avrg: Would it be something like The Locust or would it be something entirely different?
Justin: What do you mean?
M.Avrg: Theoretically, if The Locust broke up…
Justin: Our keyboard player, Joey, is in Le Shok and they went on tour, and for a month, me and Bobby and Gabe from The Locust started a band with Mark of Charles Bronson and Ron from Get Hustle and we recorded a record as Holy Molar. It kind of sounds a little bit like The Locust. It sounds different mainly because the drumming is more jazzy and freakier, but the music, somewhat, sounds like it could be. It’s more like rock. It’s not brutal, or whatever you want to call it. It’s catchy.
Todd: So how long before you get officially licensed Locust underwear?
Justin: I dunno. We kind of just stumble upon all of the stupid shit that we make, so if someone approaches us with a bunch of underwear then we’ll take care of it.
Todd: You guys have a marketing program – lots and lots of merchandise. How’d you get effective at it?
Justin: I think it’s just that we’re resourceful with what we come in contact with. It wasn’t like we set out to put out stupid merchandise or something or do dumb kinds of records, it just kind of happened. We’re kind of eager to do something different.
Todd: So, Locust toothpicks could be a possibility?
Justin: We’ve thought about some seriously stupid shit and if we had the means to produce fake Locust mustaches, we would. It just hasn’t happened yet.
M.Avrg: So where do you draw your inspirations for the music? It is a bit different, but at the same time…
Justin: I think, as far as the people who are in The Locust, everyone’s got really eclectic tastes, so therefore our influences are going to come from the whole spectrum. Literally, the whole fucking thing. You can hear this and that in our music. It’s not like a grindcore band or a deathmetal band, or speedmetal, or hardcore, or punk, it’s everything. If you went and looked through all of our record collections, you’d probably just think we were totally fucked. We probably have everything on the face of the planet, I guess.
M.Avrg: It seems that the mind frame is: “I’m pissed off. I’m more inspired to write a song.”
Justin: Definitely, our lives’ situations can influence the things that we write. I’m sure it will be more aggressive and hostile than if we were like a bunch of rich kids living in some bourgeois neighborhood and if we had mom and dad paying our rent and shit. So, yeah, we’re shitty punks and we’re poor and we fucking hate a lot of shit, so our music sounds nasty. That’s why it happens.
Todd: Where do you think your music is going to go? What type of influences are different members trying to push it? Are you going to go slower? Are you going to add horns? Are you going to get an orchestra?
Justin: I think with the newest change that we’ve had – we have another drummer – and so we kind of lost the more deathmetal edge. The four of us are really comfortable with that and we’re kind of more excited. Not that we’re going to become more slower or whatever you want to call it, I think it’s just going to get more fucked up and twisted along the lines of circus music or something.
Todd: I listened to your self-titled album yesterday for four hours, and one thing I didn’t realize before is the underlying creepiness and presence of Joy Division.
Justin: Yeah. I think some of us are fans of Joy Division, so that could be it. I really don’t think that subconsciously we set out to sound like a certain thing. When I write music, and I can probably speak for the other people in the band, that we don’t go, “Oh, I’ve been listening to this and now this sounds like this.” It’s like it just happens.
Todd: It’s not like an iron-on. I was just surprised to find it underneath.
M.Avrg: So what are the ways that the music is being twisted? Mark (McCoy) was saying that you’re trying to move away from more traditional noise, traditional chords, and trying for something different.
Justin: Well, I think that Bobby, the guy who plays guitar, I don’t know what the fuck he’s doing half the time. It’s some weird shit. It’s cool. He’s created chords I don’t think have ever existed and it sounds great. With pitchshifters and harmonist pedals and delay pedals and stuff, you can make it sound even weirder. I guess we’re just kind of trying to get it so the tones aren’t so normal sounding, so it doesn’t sound like power chords and hardcore. It just sounds sci-fi, sick, psychotic – something that hurts or is uneasy and edgy. Breaking glass doesn’t sound comfortable. It sounds like, “ahh, fuck,” so maybe the music can sound like glass breaking. It kinda hurts a little bit.
M.Avrg: That’s the deal with the song “Sever the Toe.” When I listened to it, it’s kind of like sci-fi, doomsy sounds. Kind of like a knife, in a way, stabbing at you.
Justin: It sounds really robotic.
M.Avrg: Kind of like a robot spinning out. Sparks flying…
Todd: So, how does one land a gig doing a soundtrack song for “Toxic Avenger IV” and playing at the Playboy mansion?
Justin: I don’t know. We got a call, and they were like, “We want you to play. Can you come up today?” We just got home from Japan. The next day, we went.
Todd: Was there weird shit?
Justin: It was kind of stupid, actually. It’s cool to be part of something. Troma is a pretty influential, creative movie company, I guess. They have their bad parts, or… whatever. It was interesting, not to say the least. It was really cool to go there and there were, like, weird movie stars. We were in the Playboy mansion, which was fucking ridiculous. I think it was just set up half-assed. We didn’t get treated all that well. I dunno. It was weird. We still don’t know what’s going on with the movie. We’re in it, acting in a bunch of scenes, and we’re playing in it and no one will reply to us and tell us, “Oh yeah, it’s going to be out.”
Todd: Or you can rent the video when it comes out.
Justin: If it comes out. I heard it was supposed to be out in August 2000 and it’s going to be the next August.
M.Avrg: What about the John Waters film?
Justin: He just had his people contact us because he likes The Locust.
M.Avrg: He knows you guys?
Justin: He hand-picks everyone, from what I hear. We’ve never really met him, but his people contacted our people, and the next you know… That was a fucking dream come true.
M.Avrg: I was watching the movie and I was like, “What the fuuu, holy shit.”
Justin: I think it sounded really good, it fit really good to it, just the beat. I won’t complain about John Waters’ film making at all. That’s a privilege. We were so stoked on that. It was great.
M.Avrg: So, when you talk about music that hurts, I’ve read that certain tones can create bodily reactions.
Justin: That would be great. We actually used to have this insane siren. I don’t know what it was from. It was weird and it would make people just freak out and leave. We’d clear rooms. We cleared The Gilman. No one was in there after we were done playing the Fiesta Grande. It hurt. You could feel it in your stomach. I’d sit there, “Fuck, when are they going to stop doing that?” It’s, like, my band, and I’m crouched over, ready to throw up. It was insane. It was really bad.
M.Avrg: What about experimenting with low frequency noises that people can’t pick up but their body can?
Justin: That would be interesting. I don’t know if we have the instruments to do that. I would like everyone to shit their pants while we’re playing. I’d probably end up shitting mine, too.
Todd: But then you’d have your official Locust Depends undergarments to protect you.
Justin: The Locust, we’ve actually been playing in diapers a bunch, so that would be cool. No one would know why until they all shit in their fucking pants. I’d be all for it. Especially if we, like, were playing… we’re doing this tour with At the Drive-In and they’re pretty big, so it would be great to be playing with them and have all of the normal masses shit their pants. I’d love it.
M.Avrg: You could make t-shirts. “I saw The Locust and shit my pants.” I have a low frequency CD I was listening to yesterday. It’s really weird because these different frequencies cause your body to react and they’re not even harsh sounds. One frequency, like, your head feels all stuffy, your ears feel full of cotton. And there’s one, like, your stomach. If it keeps going, it feels like you’re going to puke. You start to feel nauseous. I thought it would be kind of cool to play in a band and have this kind of bleed through the music.
Justin: I’d be all for that. Someone should do it and make me shit my pants. That would be great.
M.Avrg: I’ve heard that there’s sound that even if you have the thermostat set at fifty degrees, you can make it feel like it’s a hundred degrees, just from the sound.
Justin: Whoa, that’s a trip.
Todd: If you could sell your record as a diet aide (because it makes you shit), that would be so rad.
Justin: That’d be good. We’re always getting shit. I don’t know if you guys saw that forum in Hit It Or Quit It magazine about The Locust and how fucked up we were and how we make it impossible for heavier kids and hardcore to succeed. Some bullshit. “They’re all skinny and they make it impossible because everyone wants to look like them.” We don’t, like, diet. We all happen to be in a band and we’re all thinner. It’s kind of weird, though. Bobby, our guitar player, has got a big belly and shit, and I don’t know what they’re talking about. But, yeah, that’d be cool, then they could be mad at us and talk shit ’cause we’re trying to make everyone diet by buying our records.
M.Avrg: Since you guys have been around – I’m not saying you guys are responsible for it – but I’ve noticed that people are picking up and liking or hating bands for meaningless reasons, such as fashion. I notice that a lot of people who like The Locust, they dress like you guys.
Justin: It’s funny because the people that are saying “Fuck those guys, they wear these clothes” or whatever. Seriously, I probably say that 90 percent of those assholes probably spend twice as much as we do on our clothes. All of our shit is stolen or free or whatever. Thrift stores or something. If I could afford nice fucking clothes, I would. I’d love it. I can’t so I buy shitty clothes. And that’s it. But, whatever. I just wear what’s comfortable. I would say, “fuck those guys” if we were spending all of our money on designer clothing; 400 dollar pants. But we can’t, so why are they mad that we wear Levi’s and shit? It’s cheap.
M.Avrg: That’s another thing I’ve always wondered. What do you think when you’re at a show and you look up and you see the crowd and they have your hair, your clothes. To me, it’s weird.
Justin: Yeah. I got a mohawk and everyone was making a big deal of it, but whatever. You know who copied me? Anthony Keidis. I’m just joking. But he got a mohawk. I said fuck that. I cut that shit off because I don’t want to have a haircut like that guy.
Todd: What’s the difference between a locust and a grasshopper?
Justin: A grasshopper is the first stage of its life and they kind of mutate into a locust and start flying and killing crops and stuff. So it’s kind of like more of a demonic grasshopper.
Todd: Actually, a locust takes bodily form in a group. It’s a regular grasshopper, but since it’s part of a swarm, it doesn’t have to adapt for defense as much. It just devours.
Justin: That’s interesting. It’s a cool bug and I think it’s a cool thing to name your band after.
Todd: You’re the third band to be The Locust.
Justin: There is three?
Todd: There’s the trance/ambient guy. Lo.cust, the Dutch punk band, with the dot in the middle.
Justin: There’s an old rock band, Locust. Sleazy ’70s rock’n’roll. They’re really good.
M.Avrg: So, in your opinion, why do you have more appeal than bands like Capitalist Casualties or Dystopia? There are some similar styles, aside from the keyboards.
Justin: I don’t think we sound like them.
M.Avrg: Really?
Justin: I don’t think we do.
M.Avrg: The speed, the tweaked-out sound. I’m not saying you sound exactly like them, but there’s like…
Justin: I think that those bands are okay. I don’t really like them too much personally, but for other people, I don’t know. I don’t really like a lot of grindcore or hardcore that much. I don’t know why people do that. Maybe because we’re not all “guy” guys. And we’re not threatening in that sense, so littler people can get into it. We’re not up there going “Fuck yeah,” and rockin’, and we’re not dudes. We’re just normal, smaller people.
Todd: A question about lyrics: “That damned Saint Nick with chocolate flavored razor blades”?
Justin: Yeah.
Todd: Explain that.
Justin: I think that he’s there to harm people. It’s this myth of this good thing, but it kind of ties into Christianity and money and traditional bullshit family values, and it’s kind of like saying St. Nick’s going to give you these chocolate-flavored razor blades which are going to kill these kids, so it’s an attack on old values.
M.Avrg: Things that appear well on the surface, but underneath it’s harmful.
Justin: Santa’s here with these chocolate candies but they’re razor blades. But it’s used hypothetically, where it’s talking about all the values and morals that are instilled in Santa Claus, religion, and the birth of Jesus Christ.
Todd: So, there’s actually a lot of thought behind the lyrics?
Justin: Yeah. A lot of people don’t understand it. I like to think we’re all well educated and we’re all trying to say something but we’re not just saying “fuck the pigs” or “burn the government,” or whatever.
Todd: That was for your previous bands.
Justin: It’s been done. We’re just saying other things and hopefully people can get it and can interpret it how they want. But, I think as The Locust, we do have a strong anti-religious message. A lot of our newer song titles like “Get Off the Cross, Wood Is Needed.” That’s pretty obvious. There’s another one that’s “Priest with the Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Get out of My Bed,” those all have a political undertone because it’s attacking a religious segment of humanity.
M.Avrg: Why would you go after religion as opposed to…
Justin: Oh, we’ll go after whatever we don’t like.
M.Avrg: But you said that most of your lyrics…
Justin: I don’t know. We went after Roger Hedgecock, who was the mayor of San Diego. He’s a total Nazi and way fascist against people coming across the border to work and better their lives and stuff. And being that we’re from San Diego, close to the border of Mexico, we’re always dealing with fucked up shit. It’s a pretty conservative town. So, we have a song about him. He has a radio show and he’s a really respected asshole in San Diego and he’s actually got this really nice steak restaurant and he got ahold of our record and played it and was talking all of this shit. It was great publicity. I went into his restaurant and was going to give him a CD but he was busy with customers, so I just left him a CD. We’ll go after whoever.
M.Avrg: When you mention San Diego being conservative, I’ve noticed that ever since I’ve been living in California, I think that all of California being accepting is an illusion. I find that California is as conservative as The South. Small-minded.
Justin: Think of places like San Francisco that has a very large gay community. Not that San Francisco is accepting, but there’s a big community within itself that’s safe.
M.Avrg: A little more tolerant.
Justin: There’s a lot of fucked-up shit that’s come out of there. A lot of fascist organizations. A lot of hate groups. KKK, Hell’s Angels. None of those people are accepting of homosexuality, but it’s still from San Francisco. I think it has a large population there. It’d be good to make it all gay and kick everyone out that’s not.
M.Avrg: I even see it in LA, that there’s this idea that LA’s not as forward thinking as San Francisco, but at the same time, I see it being a little bit more forward, a little bit more easy going, but at the same time, there’s also the conservatism. I see that all through California. I’ve heard that San Diego’s just as bad.
Justin: I think that Southern California’s bad with the black community and the Latino community with the cops and stuff. It’s just fucked up. Especially in Los Angeles. It’s obvious. Shit is always going on. It’s more in the communities here. In San Diego, it’s more centered on the shit at the border. I think every progressive city has a lot of fucked up aspects.
M.Avrg: I think that somewhere like the Bay Area probably practiced their racism through economics. Make it too expensive for minorities to move there.
Justin: Totally. That’s how it is in San Francisco and it’s getting like that in Los Angeles and it’s getting like that in San Diego, and pretty soon it’s going to be stupid, fucking white people with their computers.
M.Avrg: I think it’s like that all over the country and it seems like that all over the world. There’s a class war that’s silently being fought and won by the rich while everyone else seems to be asleep or something.
Todd: Or scrambling to just live.
M.Avrg: People don’t seem to be aware of what’s really going on. “Oh, they’re fucking raising my rent.” That’s about it. They’re not doing much else besides complaining.
Justin: I don’t know what people are going to do. Sooner or later something would happen. I actually thought a lot of crazy shit would happen when Bush became our President. I thought people would be fucking pissed and they weren’t. It was kind of a drag. I can’t personally organize the masses. I guess we’re trying, being in a band and stuff. I thought the shit was going to hit the fan. Not like I was hoping he would be our President, but if he was, I was hoping that people were going to get fucking pissed and do something about it.
Todd: He’s got four years to royally fuck up. Shifting gears – ever been beat up because of being in The Locust?
Justin: Two nights ago. Someone put a cigarette out on my neck. It was fucked up.
Todd: Why?
Justin: We always get assholes. They were heckling us, we were heckling them. I think we’re pretty sharp and pretty witty and we were a pretty good match for these fucking jackasses. And so the next thing you know, they’re throwing these danishes or pastries. Some of them had meat in them. I dunno. They were fucking hitting us in the head. It was like 50, 60 of these things flying at us. It was funny at first. I was ducking and playing behind the drums. Shit was flying at us. And then I don’t know what happened. I turned around. I saw this guy throw it at my face and I just fucking attacked him. And he’s huge and he had me in this crazy hold and the next thing I know, Bobby’s the only one playing guitar, and everyone else in The Locust is on this fucking guy, and I’m grabbing his balls and biting him and shit and someone put a cigarette out on my back and it fucking hurt so bad. It just stopped. Everyone went outside and they were waiting for us to come out. It was just a fucking joke.
Todd: Where was this?
Justin: It was in Phoenix. That place fucking sucks anyhow. I’d fucking lived there for twelve years and that place is a shit hole and most people there suck. And they were all like Phoenix pride. It actually doesn’t get that violent, it gets kind of hostile. It gets to the point. I have a fucking mouth and I should chill out because I’m always having friends backing me up and shit, which is good, but someday they’re not going to be there, and I’m going to get my ass whooped. I used to get beat up by skinheads all the time. When I was in Struggle, they’d just jump me, hit me with skateboards, bust my head open and stuff. Whatever. It’s only a flesh wound. It’ll heal. I’ll just be more pissed and talk more shit later.
M.Avrg: I’ve always heard that San Diego has had a problem with skinheads.
Justin: It comes and goes. And it’s coming again and I don’t know what the fuck is going on. It’s a joke. As far as I’m concerned, the only good skinhead is a dead skinhead. And when they start coming around saying, “Oh, we’re not racist.” But they’re homophobic and they’re nationalistic and they’re womanizers. It’s like, fuck that. They might as well be a goddamned Nazi.
Todd: [joking and pointing to the close-shaven Matt] He’s a skinhead.
M.Avrg: I got that at the boxing gym today. Some guy said “white pride” when I walked in. He was this big guy: tall, huge. I was like, “Whatever, man. I’m not going to fucking argue with you.”
Justin: What were you doing in a boxing gym? Do you box?
M.Avrg: I just train. I don’t fight.
Todd: Where did the keyboards come from? Was it an intentional thing right off the bat?
Justin: The first version of The Locust had a little bit of keyboards in it and when the guy – he was one of the singers on the ten inch – when he quit, we were really interested in getting a full-time keyboard and we did that immediately once the band changed. From the beginning, it’s been like that ever since. There’s not a lot on the first recording. There’s some here and there, but the rest of us in the band wanted them to be prominent. As time went on, more and more.
Todd: So, you guys are like Devo in two ways. The keyboards and the cool merchandising. They had energy domes and hazard suits.
Justin: Yeah, I guess so… We’re going to be interviewing them for Skyscraper, which is really cool.
M.Avrg: Ask Mark Mothersbaugh about the $350 post cards of his artwork that he sells… I was listening to all of your old records. It seems like they’re more noisier. White noise type stuff.
Justin: I think we’re getting better equipment over time. Selling all of our stupid merchandise, we can afford better equipment.
Todd: Can you afford to live off of The Locust and your label?
Justin: No way. I have a regular job. I work at a food co-op. I receive. We all have day jobs. I go to school, too. I think that if I could live off the band, that would be really nice, but it’s not feasible. I wish. I’m fucking poor. I’m fucking shoplifting and shit, trying to make ends meet, paying for broken down cars.
M.Avrg: What’s a popular misconception about The Locust?
Justin: That we’re all assholes. We’re not. People go, “Whoah, you’re really not an asshole.” And I’ll go, “Well, yeah.” I mean, if you’re not throwing shit at my fucking head and aren’t calling me names or making fun of my hair, then I will be nice to you. I think that’s the thing. They’ll see a few, select assholes talking shit to us and so we’ll ruin ’em with all of our verbal abuse and we’ll look like a bunch of assholes in a band and I think we’ll all pretty nice people.
Todd: What do you want to do if you get big?
Justin: We would ruin people. We’d ruin music. We’d ruin all kinds of shit and have a lot of fun with it – just destroying things. If we were to do a video, it would be something that would bum people out.
Todd: Like the Butthole Surfers showing vasectomies and penis splitting?
Justin: Totally. Something’s that going to hurt someone’s imagination. I would like to challenge people, challenge music. That’s the thing. I don’t know how marketable our band is because we’re not going to be safe for the kids in the shopping mall. It’s for the freaks and the fuckups and stuff. If someone wants to market it, then cool. We’ll make a living off our band and we won’t have to be poor. I’d like to challenge the industry and have them give us an opportunity to do something like that but I don’t think that those corporations would take that risk with us. We’d just be fucking assholes to them. That’s who we’re going to be assholes to.
M.Avrg: Corporations won’t take that risk, but so-called artists and musicians don’t want to take that risk, either. They don’t want to fuck with people’s sensibilities anymore.
Justin: I don’t want it to be safe. The whole ethics behind punk – it’s not supposed to be a safe thing. Having a mohawk is supposed to be fucked up and you’re supposed to be beat up for having one and you’re supposed to be a lunatic and a real person and now all the stuff that punk was based on has been fucking marketed and ruined.
Todd: I think the sheen has been ruined but its heart’s still beating.
Justin: Oh yeah, I mean all of the characteristics of it. Obviously, bands like Blink aren’t punk. They may have spikes and shit, but they don’t have the ethics.