“It’s not musical and I like that,” says Justin Pearson.
For more than a decade Justin Pearson (Dead Cross, Retox, Head Wound City) and Joey Karam (One Day as a Lion) have attacked eardrums and melted faces with their deconstructed avant-grindcore assault as members of the Locust. We recently met up with Justin and Joey at an undisclosed Los Angeles locale to concoct some Plague Soundscapes of our own.
Pearson approaches the bass guitar more like a modular synthesizer than a stringed instrument, plugging into an Ernie Ball volume pedal to control the chaos before the famous Schumann PLL decimates his signal, which is then processed by a pair of Line 6 FM-4 Filter Modelers, Bit Commander, Rainbow Machine, and the Boss Drive Zone.
“It sounds like a frickin’ engine,” he says, stacking the Bit Commander with the Schumann PLL for an extra four octaves of gut-wrenching synthesized analog mayhem. As if those two pedals aren’t gnarly enough on their own, things take a turn for the better (and weirder) when he engages the Rainbow Machine. “Put a beat to that and some vocals over it and you have a pretty sick sounding weird piece,” says Pearson. “There’s multiple albums’ worth of music just in this one effects pedal with very little technical proficiency needed.”
The Locust synthesist Joey Karam takes a more holistic approach to sound design. “Sometimes I just want a pretty simple sound and I want to be able to shape it in a unique way,” he says.
Using the flexible routing capabilities of his Moog Voyager, Karam patches the Bellows and Afterneath between the oscillator and filter sections of the synth, incorporating the pedals completely into the Voyager’s internal signal path as if they were modules. “I use the Mixer Out/Filter In jack which sends the mixed oscillator signal out of the Voyager, through the effects, and back in through the filter. It gives me a lot more control over the pedal…and I can control the release, or gate it if I need to, and I can use [pedals] in a more controlled way,” explains Karam.
“I like to use distortion [because] it adds a layer of compression to the oscillators and gives it a little bit of gristle that I can hit the filters hard with.” The Bellows sharpens the attack of Karam’s synth, adding upper harmonics and applying subtle compression for a more organic-sounding tone. “I like the texture that it adds,” he says.