Interview: Planet B
Where a traditional setting might be where a band writes an entire album then goes into the studio to record, we just worked on one track at a time, which pushed us to create new and better stuff for the next track. So far it’s been a constant evolution for us.
Planet B combine elements of hip-hop, hardcore, punk, turntablism and a series of more abstract influences to create the dazzling melding of sonic assaults that form their just released self-titled debut album. The duo that consists of like-minded creators Justin Pearson (The Locust, Retox and Dead Cross) and Luke Henshaw (Sonido De La Frontera) combine their influences and musical skill to create the abrasive mixture of Planet Bs music and the album, which features an array of varied guests from Kool Keith to Martin Atkins, is an abrasive listen.
To coincide with the release of the album, we caught up with Justin to talk about Planet B, both the band, the album, their stark new video and what is coming up in the future, hip-hop and it’s influence on Planet B, working with Kool Keith and all the other artists on the album, working on film soundtracks and his other bands The Locust and Dead Cross.
E&D: How did Planet B get together and what were your plans when the project started?
The project started when Luke recorded a couple tracks that Gabe Serbian and I wrote for Asia Argento’s film, Incompresa. When I was filming my scenes for the film in Italy I asked if we could take a crack at the score, and Asia agreed to having us work on a chunk of it. Once the film wrapped, Luke and I felt the need to keep working on stuff together which was what became Planet B and eventually lead to our new album.
E&D: Your new self-titled album is out soon. How did the creation and recording of the album go?
We worked on one track at a time. Where a traditional setting might be where a band writes an entire album then goes into the studio to record, we just worked on one track at a time, which pushed us to create new and better stuff for the next track. So far it’s been a constant evolution for us. The material that we have since written after the LP was completed is much better than what is on the album that is about to come out. Oops.
E&D: Was the album always going to be released on Ipecac Records and Three One G Records? That seems the perfect choice!
We really were never sure where the album would end up. Of course keeping it in the family is rad, and an obvious route. I think once the Dead Cross EP came out featuring a Planet B remix, it really brought Ipecac into the picture. There is actually more to come from the weird world of Planet B and its collaborative efforts that might fit in line with what we’ve been doing in the past year or so. So you all will have to stay tuned. But yes, I think both labels are very similar in what the vibe is that has been created, the ethics, and the community and cultures which it swims in.
E&D: The album features guest appearances from Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Martin Atkins from PIL and Killing Joke and Sonny Kay from Year Future amongst others. were they all artists that you wanted to feature on the album from the start?
Not really. As I mentioned before, we would work on one track at a time and for whatever reasons, certain things were easy to align when we weren’t trying to put together a full album all at once. We have a rad list of people we’d love to work with, and as things move along, we will keep trying to wrangle more of them onto our songs.
E&D: What did they bring to the respective tracks they appear on?
Great question, which is hard to answer in one specific realm. You know, each person we collaborated with brought different stuff. Martin Atkins brought his signature drumming. Joseph Karam brought his synth sound, as well as his vocals and lyrics. Sonny Kay and Kool Keith both brought their vocals and lyrics as well. Then of course, Nick Zinner rolled in with his ripping guitar style. I think each track that we collaborated with someone one took to a life that was only able o achieve with that additional person.
E&D: You’ve also got Kool Keith on the track Crustfund, how did you hook up with him?
The link between Planet B and Keith was Juan Alderete. He’s a good friend of mine, and we had him on one of Planet B’s Cult and Culture Podcasts, and since he plays in Dr. Octagon, it sort of put the two worlds together.
E&D: How was it working with him on the track?
It was pretty surreal. We did the work for the song via the Internet. He inquired about my lyrics I had already put on the track and managed to match the vibe that the song embodied. We later on met up in New York and worked on the video for the track. There should be more from our collaborative effort in due time.
E&D: Were you fans of Kool Keith/Ultramagnetic MCs/Dr Octagon/Dr Dooom beforehand?
I sure was and still am. When I first heard Dr. Octagon, it felt like I was listing to The Locust’s hip hop step brother.
E&D: What production influences were prominent for Planet B? It seems as if the mighty Bomb Squad would be, is that correct?
This would be a question for Luke more than me. Of course I was heavily influenced by stuff like Public Enemy as a kid. I think it’s safe to say that hip hop like that, as well as punk, allowed me to really focus on the more atonal types of sounds one could implement in music. For me, aside from stuff that Bomb Squad did, I think I also got really into trying to disguise instruments with a lot that I did on bass in The Locust, Some Girls, and even more recently in Dead Cross. But it was really when I was in All Leather, where I started to focus on electronic music and started drawing from a new world of influences, which turned out to not be that weird considering stuff that I was into at a younger age, like Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Lard, Atari Teenage Riot, etc.
E&D: Did you want any other rappers on the album?
Sure. But there were only so many tracks.
E&D: Which rappers would you love to work with on a Planet B track in the future?
I kept running into Ice T when I was on tour in Europe last summer, that would be pretty rad to work with him. Of course Chuck D, Killer Mike, Saborosa, MC Petty, RZA, MIA, MC Brinquedo… I’m sure there are plenty more. Let’s see what we can force the universe to align us with, in the limited time we have on this planet.
E&D: What were the hip-hop albums that got you hooked on the first place?
When the Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill came out, I was 11. That really set things straight for me. However before that album came out, I was obsessed with breakdancing and with that came stuff like Tommy Boy Records. I was probably 7 when I started getting into hip-hop and rap through the popularity of breakdancing.
E&D: What are your favourite hip hop albums of all time?
Paris The Devil Made Me Do It, Public Enemy It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, Dr. Octagon’s Dr. Octagonecologyst, M.I.A. Alular and Run the Jewels 3.
E&D: Are you feeling any current hip-hop and are there any acts you could recommend for us to check out?
Recently on tour, Mike Patton turned me onto MC Bin Laden. I also am really digging this cat from San Diego named Rick Scales.
E&D: You have released a scathing animated video for the track Disease Control. Can you tell us all about the video?
Sure. However we gave free rein to Eric Livingston to create whatever he wanted. He only asked for the lyrics and I think it’s safe to say that the content was a reaction to the world we currently live in. Even down to the point of sheer absurdity that we see in the video and in real life. I think the overall goal was to make the viewer feel something, be it feeling uncomfortable, annoyed, inspired, humor… whatever. We were just hoping for any sort of reaction.
E&D: What has the reaction to the album and the video been like so far?
It seems good. I wonder when the negative shit will kick in and I’m sure it will. But so far it’s been very welcoming. I guess that could be in part that the album was released on Ipecac and Three One G, which seem to destroy genre boundaries.
E&D: Will there be any Planet B live dates at all? Hopefully, you’ll hit the U.K.if there are?
Yes. We are currently working with a new agent and hope to be touring very soon.
E&D: You cover Never Let Me Down by Depeche Mode in the album. What made you choose that particular song to cover?
The only thing I can think of is that the original is rad. I just wish ours was up to par. But we give it our best.
E&D: How did you hook up with the Invisible Skratch Piklz for your split 7” and how was that experience?
That was all orchestrated by Luke. He’s friends with some of them for quite some time. The 7” idea came out in a weird way. Luke had me sing on one of their tracks and then we came up with the split 7” idea.
E&D: Who would you love to do a split with in the future?
To be honest, I’m not that psyched on split releases. But with that being said, I am pretty open to stuff. This is a very open ended question. I can think of so many artists who we would love to share a record with. More interestingly, I would like to do a collaboration with an artist or band and have it be one thing, not just a split. That seems more innovative or creative to me.
E&D: As you mentioned, you worked on the Incompresa soundtrack, how was that experience?
It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Even from acting in it, I learned that scenes can be set to a tempo. So the dialogue and movement of the characters might be applied to a BPM. Also with scoring, it was great to hone in on trying to use less and avoid a beat all together, just to create texture and mood that took a back seat and helped push the dialogue or action.
E&D: Would you do any soundtrack work again in the future?
E&D: Will there be any further material from The Locust at any point in the future?
That is a question for the others in the band. I’m always down.
E&D: What were the sheer highlights of being in The Locust?
It’s always easier to appreciate things efficiently in retrospect. Stuff like having 3K people boo you and throw trash at us on stage in England when opening for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, resulting in us being escorted out by police was a highlight. But it was also a lot of added effort. Other more traditional things like working with John Waters, touring with Fantomas, and just the simple aspects of traveling around the world meeting rad people are highlights.
E&D: What about Dead Cross, how was that experience and will there be any activity from the band in the future?
My experience so far has been great. And yes, there will be more activity. I think Dave has been on tour with Suicidal Tendencies since the last show we played at this summer. But we have started talking about jamming again soon.
E&D: Who would Planet B like to remix and what would you bring to the sound?
We are pretty open to anything. Of course, the less obvious and non traditional artists who would be remixed by someone like Planet B would be ideal.