Ian Shelton is one of the hardest working people in punk right now. He recently released a tape from his new project: Regional Justice Center, in which he does vocals and plays every instrument. Ian owns Alternatives Label, directs music videos, and plays in Seattle's New Gods, Hiding Place, Self Defense Family, and countless other bands. He is one of my favorite people, and I'm so glad to get to pick his brain about RJC and his views on punk music as it is in 2017.
1.What are you so angry about?
IS: Haha, I'm not quite sure. I'm angry about different things on different days, more often than not just about the ways in which I have to interact with the people in my life that gets me stuck in my own head.
2.You wrote/recorded this all yourself, what instrument did you write the songs on, and what instrument did you record first?
IS: Which instrument I would start songs on would kind of vary. The first song I wrote for the band(which didn't make it onto the demo) was written drums up, then I made riffs to match. The first song and second songs on the demo were written on bass which I think led to me trying to cram more notes in because the freedom of not playing chords. The rest was mostly guitar, and then sometimes misinterpretations in the drums on the demo'ing process would make me reshape a riff and get a better product.
3.You told me this was the kind of hardcore band you’ve always wanted to be in. What took you so long to get a band like this going? Why the delay?
IS: I got really hung up in playing in other people's bands for a super long time. I got caught in really traditional youth crew and hardcore bands and was kind of made to feel like I was ridiculous for liking extreme music because I had no one to talk to or share in that interest with. Eventually I just felt like I had been bubbling up to do this band and just finally decided to do it.
3B. So then does this mark the end of you being in youth crew bands? Do you even like youth crew anymore?
IS: I think it has been tainted for me by being forced to be so traditional and not get the chance to explore much. The bands I've enjoyed of that style i still like, but it's never been anything that i've consumed 24/7, which is funny because that seems to be the impression of me from playing in those bands for so long.
3C. Have you had some sort of philosophical revelation caused by not waiting for others and just doing the exact band you wanted?
IS: Partially. Being in other people's bands I just felt I wasn't being allowed to be as creative as I wanted to be. I realized I've been doing bands for more than 10 years and it was time I made something that was 100% me.
4.On the next relase will you write/record the thing by yourself again?
IS: I'm not quite sure, the live band I've got together says they don't care about playing on recordings really, which gets me excited because I really enjoyed the process of doing this all myself, but I also want them to feel like they have ownership over the band as well. I would very much like to keep the people I have around instead of having my control freak nature cause me to replace the band a bunch of times.
5.In a world of punk saturated with bands, what would you tell someone who hasn’t listened to RJC why they should listen to your band instead of someone else’s?
IS: I guess I wouldn't say to listen to INSTEAD of someone else's music, I would just say "it's so short, why not just listen to it BEFORE you listen to the next record you were gonna listen to?"
6.Is fastcore/powerviolence about to be cool again?
IS: God, I hope so. I notice some things coming around that were cool the last time this style was popular so I'm hoping that people are just as bored of mid tempo as I am and start playing fast again. With that though, I imagine I would grow largely cranky with what people do because I won't feel it's quite right. It's lose/lose.
6b. Who are the kings of this style of music? Other than that it is more intense, is there a reason it is so much more nichey than like youth crew and metalcore?
IS: I would say the current kings of the style would be Wound Man, I think they are a band that is reinvigorating a lot of people's interest in fast music. I think it's niche because it's intentionally extreme and it takes a particular ear to appreciate it. Not very many people can approach a 30 second song with a bunch of parts and understand what is happening, let alone take away what is so cool about it.
7.Lots of tempo changes, do you just feel them out, or do you have a pretty intelligible/premeditated understanding of time signatures?
IS: A lot of it is feeling. I very intentionally wanted to make a lot of the blasts 4/4 and the driving breakdown sections 3/4 so they would be more of a waltz. It's not as groovy as it is kind of jarring. On upcoming material I've been trying to switch it up with 3/4 blasts and 4/4 breaks to have definitive tricks per record I make so they all can feel distinct even though being relatively similar.
7b. Who owns the blast beat? Is it a metal drum beat, is it a punk drum beat? Which blast beat variation do you prefer? Do you have a spiritual connection to the BB that is special to you? Tell me all your thoughts on the polarizing Blast beat.
IS: I don't think it's anything that anyone can own, the cool thing about it to me is that it's a similar thing that can be interpreted and applied in different ways across genres. If I had to pick a variation I prefer it would be the more "punk way", kind of simple and mechanical single kick with a lot of power behind it. I'm not a particular fan of the super soft bouncy blasts so I guess any type that isn't that I can get behind. I think blast beats is just that it imprinted on me at a certain age so I'll never be able to get out from under it.
8.What’s the goal for this band? How far are you gonna take it?
IS: I want to go hard for a short amount of time then break up and do a different band. I think maybe just an LP and a couple of splits with some touring then call it a day before I can ruin the legacy by making less cool stuff. I think hardcore bands stay together for far too long so I'm trying to do my part to change that.
8B. So if making a career band isn’t a goal, what drives you to start bands? Is there some sort of cathartice creativity energy? Also doesn’t it block your motivation for a band if you know it’s gonna break up in a year or two? Can a legacy be achieved in such sort of time, and if not what is your motivation beyond that?
IS: Don't get me wrong, I would love to be in a career band, I just know this isn't going to be that band. The motivation behind starting the non career bands is definitely just feeling like I want to do my interpretation of a style I enjoy, there's also some ego in there as well. Always the hope someone will listen to it and tell me good job.
Breaking up quick is something that is a newer goal of mine and I think it's making the whole thing feel more urgent so that I get it all out ASAP instead of feeling like it'll always be there. I don't know if a sense of "legacy" will be achieved but I know that for myself if I feel like I've only written good songs and left it at that then I will have achieved the goal I set out for, and hopefully it would be remembered as such(or remembered at all).
9.What kind of things are you talking about in the lyrics? If you had to write a summary for the message of your lyrics what would it be?
IS: I would say the general theme of the lyrics is inability to change. It's about embracing and rejecting that, It's good and bad, but for the most part it just won't ever change.
10.How do you want people to react live to RJC?
IS: I'm so used to people standing cross armed glaring angrily as if they hate what is happening that anything other than that is cool. If people physically reacted that would be awesome, but I'm also cool with people standing there hopefully thinking the musicianship is cool, which is the way I choose to enjoy most bands.
11.You used to be a front man, but you’ve switched to drums for years, how is it going to feel to be a front man again? What things are you gonna do different this time around?
IS: One thing that i was into the last time I was a front man was long winded speeches which is not a path I'm interested in going down this time. I've noticed anytime a singer seems to talk for more than 3 sentences in an unprepared fashion they end up contradicting and watering down whatever their point is as well as make the audience bored uncomfortable. I'm also not really interested in being as didactic as I once was, I would prefer people make their own conclusion about whatever it is we are doing.
12.What is the intended usage for RJC music? (AKA should I listen to it when I’m working out, should I listen to it when a cop hassles me? Should I listen to it when I’m happy?)
IS: It's so short and fast that it seems like you can't do much while you listen to it. My friend Mat told me he ran his fastest time to the new Power Trip record and I think our BPM is even faster, so maybe listen to it while running? It's just over 4 minutes so it would be cool if someone got a 4 minute mile while listening to it.
12b. What is your vision for the imagery of the band? The first release had punk aesthetic looking
cops on the front. I’m assuming linked to the RJC bit. But what place does imagery have in RJC’s music? Where do you want the imagery to go on future releases?
IS: Originally my vision for the band was super traditional with the imagery. Historical photos with a boxed logo on it but then as I was trying to lay it out for myself I was underwhelmed and didn't feel any ownership over it. Then I took a picture of the actual place "Regional Justice Center" and tried to put a logo on that and it was too on the nose so finally I had this guy Augie draw a version of a picture I liked of a bunch of sleazy cops standing around and I thought it was perfect. For the future releases I might just do a similar approach of having him or someone else draw a photo I like and see how it turns out, I kind of won't make any decision on that until I can listen to the tracks and look at the art at the same time.
12c. And finally, with powerviolence/fastcore genre what is the role of imagery, what are some album covers that stick out to you, what could be improved in this genre art-wise?
IS: I think as far as historical record covers I wouldn't change anything. It's a strong format taking amazing pictures and putting your logo on them, I just found it didn't work for this specific record otherwise I would have done it myself.
13.is it gonna be hard for you to let other people play your drum parts?
IS: Extremely hard, so that's why I'm not gonna make anyone have to deal with that and I'm opting for drumming and singing. I figured I would be too much of a control freak and there's not many drummers I completely trust that don't already play in a thousand bands so this is probably the best way for now.
13b. Hold up, you’re going to Aaron Gillespie (http://img2-ak.lst.fm/i/u/arO/48762ce99a664d6a9e988f50eefc0ec7) this band?
IS: I don't know who that is.
13c. Having a singer play an instrtument too usualy changes the band to more of a spectacle to watch rather than a physical demonstration. (though typical of PV bands.) are you prepared for that, do you think it will damage the live presence of the band? Will it make people respect the band more as a sort of talent exhibition?
IS: I guess I hope that it would make someone respect it instead of hating it. I'm fairly used to no one moving around or going crazy during a set so an added layer someone can have to appreciate just musicianship is fine by me.
14.You said you already have new songs written, what is different about the new music and what do you wish you could change about the songs already written?
IS: I'm pretty happy with the songs on the demo and wouldn't change much. There was one song I recorded that didn't make the demo that I was mainly unhappy with vocally so i figured I would rework it and put it on the next release. As I mentioned earlier I am trying for some more triplet 3/4 blasts to mix up one of the most consistent parts of the songs. I'm going to rip off "The End" by The Beatles super hard and I'm excited if many people notice it, and if they notice it if they think it's an abomination.
15.What movie would you allow RJC’s music to be on the soundtrack for?
IS: Pretty much anything really. It's fairly unmarketable so it would have to be like a scene where they go to the punk club or the record on in the background as the young punk kid accidentally dies while doing auto erotic asphyxiation.