Justice needs no introduction if you are into Hardcore Punk, he’s the leader of Trapped Under Ice and Angel Dust. I’ve never been able to catch Trapped Under Ice in a proper venue but saw them live a month ago at the huge french metal festival HELLFEST, and they killed it. I first met Justice at a show we played (Harm Done) with Higher Power in Berlin last summer. This show was not very crowded but Justice was here and came by the merch table at the end of the night to chat for a while. This interview was conducted by email in july 2017.
Let’s start this the classic way. Please introduce yourself, how old are you where do you live and everything!
I’m Justice. I am 31 years old. I live alone with my English Bull Terrier, Spike, in Los Angeles. We sleep in the same bed.
What do you do besides running the label and playing / touring with various bands?
Unfortunately i don’t have time for very much outside of that. I have a few close friends in LA that I do normal people stuff with.
How long have you been involved in Hardcore and music in general, and how did you get into it?
I became aware of hardcore punk music around 13 from my cousin and some friends i skateboarded with. Until about 18 I became increasingly more involved until it was the only thing I cared about
It’s a bit cliché but, what did Hardcore bring you? Like I know it helped me to define who I am and my values when I was a teenager. Not only being straight edge or vegan, but also the way I consider things and how to do them. Try to make as much as I can, on my own and not waiting for someone else to do it for me.
When I was younger it gave me a sense of self; a better understanding of whats important to me. Then after seeing the world a bit, music gave me a knowledge of different types of people and beliefs not as familiar to me. I think the most important thing that it gave me is a perspective of people, how much we have in common, and a desire to share that with others.
Trapped Under Ice just released a new 11 track full length. What can we expect and how do you feel about it?
The record is short and energetic. Everything I love about most of my favorite hardcore records. There’s no moment of the record that I feel like drags or takes too long; never a feeling of wanting to get to the next part. The record is written so that someone with a short attention span, like myself, can always be in the moment and appreciate what we were feeling at the time.
If you’re totally honest, is there anything you would change on this record now it’s done and you can have hindsight?
No. We wrote my favorite trapped under ice record and I think it was perfect timing for where we are as a band.
What were the reasons you called it a day with TUI and then got back together 4 years later?
We never called it a day. That would imply that we broke up. We publicly announced that we weren’t going to play shows for 2 years and that’s exactly what we did. We were tired from a lot of people pulling at us from all angles. The band got a lot of attention and had a lot of demand. At some point it didn’t feel good. So we took 2 years off from playing shows and spent 2 years focusing on other music endeavors but more importantly we spent 2 years just being friends without the responsibility of being somewhere at a certain time to perform, record or whatever bands do. It also gave us a cool opportunity to step outside of the band, see it from a different perspective, better understand the kind of impact it had, and have a clearer vision of what we wanted from it.
Because you went seperate ways with different bands and all grew up during that hiatus, are there any changes or evolution within the band or is it just like it was when you guys split?
To me the biggest changes would be internal things that a lot of people don’t see. Things like how we function as a band.
In a recent interview you claimed to regret a bit the violence TUI unintentionally brought at shows, with people moshing way too hard sometimes. When did you start to feel uncomfortable with this? Do you think it had an impact on the TUI songs that came after this awareness, either musically or in your way to write lyrics?
I’ve always been uncomfortable with the type of person who is at a show to flex and bully people. That happens sometimes and I don’t think it does or should represent the hardcore community entirely, but in the case of trapped under ice I saw that type of person becoming increasingly more involved. That’s sucks. That is by no means to say that I don’t enjoy genuine examples of people letting loose and going crazy. If you’ve been around enough, the difference between the two is clear. Through our music and the way we present ourselves I have no intention to alienate someone that loves hardcore punk music and wants to express them self in an aggressive way. I have every intention to alienate bullies and people that think a mosh pit is an excuse to hit women or smaller people than you with no repercussion
There has clearly been an evolution in TUI’s sound since Big Kiss Good Night: way more « rock » and less straight in your face than the first TUI’s records. Was it intentional? What were the factors that led to that new direction?
I genuinely think that “Big Kiss Goodnight” is rockier at times than anything on “Heatwave”. Songs like “victimized” and “you and I” had huge pop elements. The production was cleaner on that record. Heatwave has hooks but at the same time it faster, dirtier, and more raw. To me, “Heatwave” is all the territories we’ve explored in the past, with more energy and less “breathing room”.
What would say your influences went from (since the demo) to (with Heatwaves)?
The influences in the beginning of TUI were pretty straight forward. We wanted to emulate Biohazard, Next Step Up, and Breakdown. Maybe less conscious but more impacting was Crown Of Thornz. I went a 2 year period around then where I almost listened to nothing but COT. I think around “Secrets of the World” we were more into madball, stigmata, stout, and maximum penalty. I listened to a lot of prince then. We became more aware of the way pop sensibility could be used in hardcore. Simple hooks that made something fun and memorable. That became a much bigger focal point on “Big Kiss Goodnight”. Again I think “Heatwave” explores all those same influences, but through a more direct filter. More to the point. In that sense I would say that a band like the Ramones are an influence. I had a conscious thought that I wanted this to be our “Lowest of the Low”. Brendan and Sam explored some rhythmic ideas that we haven’t in the past that are pretty cool and unique to how people see hardcore.
What’s the writing process in TUI? I know you also play the guitar so did you contribute in bringing riffs?
I definitely bring riffs to the table. We all throw in ideas and we all have input on what we like and what we think sucks. Some of the songs for this record were ideas as long as 6 years before. We’ve all written hundreds of ideas and shared them with each other in between the time we weren’t playing shows. In the last few months before recording, Brendan flew out to Los Angeles to finalize ideas with Sam and Me.
What are your 3 favorite TUI songs and why?
“Reality unfolds” because it’s the first song we ever wrote and it doesn’t make any sense. We were just confused and weird. The song reflects that.
“Pleased to meet you” has a cool energy and it’s fun to play. The lyrics draw a clear line about the people we are and are very relevant to everything we do as a band today
And as of recently “Move” because it sounds alien but very relative to the things I love about hardcore. I think it will be fun to play live.
What is the thing you got to achieve with a band and that you are the most proud of?
Learning about the world from people that are different than me because we have something to relate to through music
What’s the next big step you would like to take with a band? And on a personal level?
Keep challenging the way people see each other and what’s acceptable in terms of music and art. I hope to do that with the band and anything I’m involved in.
If I’m right you’ve been spending some time in Europe outside of touring and music. What are the main differences you’ve spotted between living here and in the USA? Where would you choose to spend your old days?
I think about this a lot. Europe and the US are complete different worlds. I’m very comfortable living in Los Angeles but there is a few cities in Europe I could see myself growing old in. I move to different cities a lot because I’m a crazy person. Who knows where I’ll be next year, let alone where I’ll retire to.
Where do you feel the most comfortable : singing with Angel Du$t, playing the guitar with Warfare or screaming at the top of your lungs with TUI?
It’s hard to say! I genuinely get something special out of each band. Sorry that sounds like the easy answer. I will say that I appreciate not spitting blood after angel du$t and warfare shows.
Are you involved in any other bands?
Unfortunately not. I aspire to play in 10 bands at least.
By the way, what’s up with Warfare? That demo tape was sick!
Warfare is mainly Sam Yarmuth’s creation. Although he’s very open to ideas and the other guys contribute a lot. I know they have some new songs in mind and I have a few ideas to share with them as well. So hopefully we will record something dope and soon. 3 of us live in Los Angeles, and the other 2 live in Boston. We have a distance the size of the US between us so that kind of slows the process down some.
Any plans for Angel Du$t?
Angel Du$t is always writing music. We’ve taken a good bit of time from playing shows this year and focusing more on writing. We’ll do another record at some point and hopefully it will confuse people.
You are running Popwig records. Could you tell us more about it? Is this a one-man operation?
Pop wig was started by Daniel Fang, Brendan Yates, and myself. We have a small team behind us which consists of a few employees of Run For Cover. They have been very helpful in guiding us along our dumb ass little way. We’re very fortunate to have very cool bands that let us put out things for them and contribute to the cool dynamic of Pop Wig. There is a lot of cool releases coming up from Bugg, Razorbumps, Bib, And Big Bite. I think it’s cool that each of those bands stands alone and couldn’t be even compared to each other, but all represent the same idea of creation as a means of bringing people together.
What bands are you currently listening to and that everyone should know about?
Milk Music is the most original and cool punk bands. I love the energy of the Primitive Blast self titled ep. Tyrannamen put out my favorite record of last year. Exit Order is a newer obsession to me. New Higher Power kicks butt.
The Love – Hate question: What pisses you off / makes you happy? At the moment or in general.
People who are to lazy to discover new sounds in the world of punk music piss me off. People who think that something sucks because it’s not what them and their friends were doing 5 years ago. That shit sucks. Also tired of people thinking that they get to determine what is or is not “hardcore” or “punk”.
What makes me happy is seeing a lot of mostly young people who are willing to put themselves in vulnerable positions to meet new people and learn more about the world, music and art.
Thanks a lot for your time. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Advanced perspective is a cool ass record label and represents a lot of what I love about hardcore music. Thanks for interviewing me and doing what you do!