picture of Self-Titled LP

Dropped down amongst the knobs and dials of Penguin Studio in San Diego, rogue avatars Justin Pearson (Dead Cross, Retox, The Locust) and Luke Henshaw (Sonido de la Frontera) have created Planet B with the shared purpose of creating music both mischievous in sound and sobering in message. The two had worked together in varying capacities prior to Planet B’s formation, including Luke’s remix of Justin’s “A Pig’s Orphan”, contributions to the soundtrack of Asia Argento’s film Incompresa, as well as “Variations in the Key of Afterlife”, an otherworldly opus featuring Gabe Serbian and Luke. Planet B, however, marked the beginning of a full-on melding of these preternatural minds, successfully integrating key aspects of these musicians’ stylistic strengths and playing off of one another with purpose.

The duo’s music lays somewhere just out of reach of genre, with aesthetics rooted in hip hop, hardcore punk, turntablism, and 70s-80s horror movie soundtracks. It is catchy, heavily percussive, and eerie all at once. Henshaw’s fantastical sci-fi accompaniments utilize Justin’s whistling UFO vibrato, for example, and apply it to dark and distorted electrical hums, claps, and marching band drum beats. Here, no sound is beyond their experimental scope.

After releasing a solo 7” as well as a split 7” collaboration with legendary turntablists Invisible Skratch Piklz, Planet B’s latest album is the impressively imaginative outcome of all their interdimensional efforts and collaborations. Here, they have created their first full-length LP, with no shortage of assistance from a slew of incredibly influential and unique musicians including Kool Keith (Dr. Octagon), Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Head Wound City), Gabe Serbian (The Locust, Head Wound City), Sonny Kay (Year Future, creator of GSL Records), Martin Atkins (PIL, Killing Joke), and Joseph Karam (The Locust).

Track listing:
1. Crustfund (feat. Kool Keith)
2. [A] Not At All [B] Somewhat [C] Very Much
3. Join A Cult
4. Disease Control (feat. Sonny Kay)
5. Manure Rally
6. Mirror, Mirror, On the World
7. Big Karma (feat. Joseph Karam)
8. Brutal Evolution (feat. Becky Digiglio)
9. Never Let Me Down Again (feat. Nick Zinner)
10. Come Bogeyman (feat. Martin Atkins)
11. The Beginning is Near

“I Hung Around in Your Soundtrack” Part 98 by Justin Pearson

Planet B Self-titled LP

The whole idea of Planet B was never thought out and in retrospect ended up happening due to some interesting events, opportunities, and situations that presented themselves over a long period of time. San Diego is a small city so it makes sense that Luke Henshaw and I would have crossed paths quite some time ago, and it was only a matter of time until we would end up working together. He and I come from slightly different musical backgrounds but share so much of the same ideas, morals, and ethics. In the early 10’s I was asked to act in the film Incompresa, and before I was flown to film my scenes, part of what I had to prepare was a song that had a time specific feel as well as something to match my character. I needed to do something that seemed fitting for the 80’s when the film takes place. It was simple, and had little instrumentation. Of course I hit up my musical soul mate, Gabe Serbian, to work on a track with me. The instrumentation was vocals, bass, and drums. We knocked out two tracks and asked Luke if we could jump in his studio and work on the material for the film. Fast forward a few months, I went to Italy to film my scenes and the music we put together for the film fit perfectly. It was when I was there one night after filming that I asked Asia Argento, the director, if I could work on the score as well, beyond the two tracks that Gabe and I wrote. It was agreed upon that we could immediately start working on stuff to contribute to the film, which was what really put Luke and myself in the studio. The three of us starting putting material together instantly and submitted a good portion of the score in the coming months.

After Incompresa wrapped, there ended up being a slight void in what Luke and I had been doing, so we simply pushed ahead, working on material for ourselves, which lead to us creating Planet B as a band. In among me touring with Retox and Dead Cross, I would constantly find myself in the studio with Luke working on material. All of that time amounts to what Planet B is now. We knocked out a self-titled 7″ single, a split 7″ single with Invisibl Skratch Piklz, and a handful of remixes and random recording projects with people like Adam Gnade. We also managed to collaborate with some of our close friends on our own songs, that were set to appear on our debut album. It only made sense to have people like Sonny Kay, Joseph Karam, and Martin Atkins on the album. Luke and I were dead set on creating something new in our collective lives that would challenge both of us. We knew there was an alternative to the musical world we lived in, and I guess that meant creating another planet.

Interview with Luke Henshaw: November 2018

Justin Pearson: When we first met, I was intrigued with your musical background. Can we talk about that aspect, such as who you are and what you draw influences from? I think that your instrument of choice, which seems to be the MPC, in conjunction with your roots in hip hop, punk, cumbia, etc. make for an interesting output in your work. Do you care to walk me through the early discovery of music in your life and how you got to where you are at now?

Luke Henshaw: My parents bought me a bass for my 11th birthday. A few friends in the neighborhood wanted to start a metal band and since I was the youngest, I was assigned the bass. That band never saw the light of day, but I decided I wanted to learn how to play. One day my dad was about to take me to my 2nd or 3rd bass lesson, when this guy who was just moving next door to us noticed me putting the bass in the back of my dad’s truck. He said he was a bass player and he was willing to teach me for free. I never made it to that bass lesson and spent the next 2 years learning how to play the Iron Maiden catalog (because Steve Harris was a god to both of us). After moving away in junior high, I decided to play in the school jazz band, and learned how to walk the bass, read sheet music, and be open to various styles of music.

My oldest brother was into punk at that time, and still is. He would pack us all in and take us to these all ages punk shows at a place named Spanky’s in Riverside on the weekend. That’s pretty much how I got exposed to punk. Seeing GBH at the Country Club really stood out for me. Ska was really big at the time too, but I couldn’t “pick it up”. Too corny?

Right before high school we moved to San Diego. Punk was big out here at the time. We were at house parties and shows all the time. The Locust, Chicken Farm, and Rice(?) I believe was actually my first show here in S.D., at the Che Cafe. However, my heart wasn’t into punk. I loved what it stood for, but musically I was searching for something else. I was now 14, teaching myself how to play the guitar and one day I was sitting in my friend’s room listening to Pink Floyd when his dad came in and said, “You guys should put this on”. He handed us a cassette tape of King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King. Holy Fucking Shit!!! My mind was blown away, I found it. They were and remain one of my all time biggest influences. From there I discovered Yes, ELP, Mahavinshnu Orchestra. I spent the next 2 years or so in isolation. I hardly went out. Dropping lsd, listening to prog rock, reading existentialism, and playing guitar was pretty much how I spent those days.

When I was about 16, I decided I needed to crawl out of my shell and get some fresh air. My other older brother got into graffiti and naturally hip hop came with that. I had picked up on Hip Hop at the time, but it was just background music for me. It wasn’t until one day he took me to Pengone’s (aka Disko Rick) (RIP) place on Thursday night when I really discovered and fell in love with it. We were in his Ford Ranger and he put on Raekwon’s Built For Cuban Linx. I was very into the nitty gritty, dark aspect of where this cassette was going. We arrived at Pengone’s, walked in his garage and there were a bunch of people, who are now my family, standing around turntables, passing a mic around while he mixed beat after beat. This was my first freestyle mic session. Pengone and I hit it off immediately. I would take my bass and head up on the trolley to his house every time I got a chance. He’d spin drum breaks and I’d improvise bass lines. Shortly after, he introduced me to Boom Bap and that let me to getting a sampler. We both did. I got a EPS 16plus and he an SP1200. We then pretty much locked ourselves in his garage (which we turned into a recording studio) and made beats night and day. We only left to get more records to sample and re up on beer. Pengone’s crew was the First Power Crew, which consisted of writers and mc’s. Stuntdouble, one day said they wanted me down and I didn’t think twice about it. Peng, Zillagod (who was another beat maker & who wore the open mic crown every Thursday) and I put out our first break album in 1999, A Fat Package Of Chiropractic Procedures. We made 3 volumes and a secret Pyramid record.

After Pengone passed away, the world sort of stopped. I continued making a few break albums, but it was weird without him. For the next few years, it’s either a big blur or too hard to talk about.

Fast forward a couple of years and me still searching for something new. Landlord Jim’s was the place to be on Saturday nights, and DJ Unite was the resident. Next door to Landlord Jim’s was Voz Alta. One Saturday, Unite finished one of his sets and told me he was pulling double duty headed next door to dj an art show. After finishing my beer and a few pocket shots in the bathroom, I went to join him. I remember this so fucking clearly, too. The door to Landlord Jim’s slowly shut behind me and immediately I hear these hypnotizing shakers and heavy bass creeping through the open door to Voz. When I reached the door, the music he was spinning blew me away. Right away I went up to him and asked, “What the fuck is this?” “Cumbia,” he grinned. I made my first Cumbia beat the very next morning. It wasn’t any good though, but a few days later Unite brought me some Cumbias to reference. A few days later, he was like, “Yo, I know the singer of the B-Side Players and I bet he’d be down to sing over this. A few days later Karlos Paez came prepared with lyrics and we recorded our first track and us three started Sonido De La Frontera.

Planet B? Fuck…….. Now that I think about it, on my end this project is really a mix of all of my musical influences and experiences up until now. I always wanted to do something in this direction, but never had anybody to do it with. Then we met….

JP: It’s crazy to think about all of the styles that you mentioned and how they intertwine and run in conjunction with one another. Especially in San Diego. I think it’s safe to say that we here have no real guidelines or restrictions. Well, I guess some of us do. But for me, growing up with bands like Crash Worship, Drive Like Jehu, Crossed Out, etc, I always felt like I could do whatever I wanted to do, artistically. Granted, it wasn’t headed for success in my circumstance, but we could all be as creative as we could pull off. What is that quote by Marshall McLuhan, “Art is whatever you can get away with”. That resonated with me. So I never felt the need to seek out a proper education, which I guess looking back is a drag for me. I wish I could read music now. It would make my life easier. But it was a lot of rehearsing, and a lot of discovering things on my own, which I think is similar to you.

It’s so weird though, how things intersected for us. It’s a small city and we are all bound to cross paths if we are in the general realm of one another. But years ago, I was reading No More Prisons and Bomb the Suburbs by William Upski Wimsatt, and his correlation between punk and hip hop, and even graffiti or street art, that showed up here and there resonated with me. I also grew up listening to a lot of hip hop as well. At the time, I was working at People’s Co-Op in Ocean Beach, where Unite also worked. He had this rad hip hop act and him and I started talking about having Three One G release something by them. Unfortunately it never panned out, or fortunately depending on how you look at it. But it was ideals like that, which are very “San Diego” to me, to have a label release stuff by bands like Cattle Decapitation and then throw in hip hop just for the hell of it. If it’s good, its good, as far as I can tell. Plus, we all have more in common than not. So fast forward a handful of years and you and I start working together and Unite showing up at the studio only strengthened things in my opinion.

What do you think about that concept of blurring genres, which I think is a San Diego thing? Especially with something like Planet B, people seem to trip out on what it is. But to me, it sounds like something totally reasonable, and something that should have happened. Perhaps you, and I, can both look back at all the shit that influenced us over the years and see why we are at this juncture. And in relation to asking about this sort of non binary musical or artistic view, do you think it’s important to also factor in non musical or non artistic aspects into what it is that you are creating? Things that are not as obvious, such as social politics, economics, and geographical culture, all play into what you end up creating and putting out there in the world. Do you think that comes out in your music?

LH: I totally agree with you about Planet B sounding reasonable. To other people it sounds new, but I’m like “fuck, I’ve actually been doing this for years”, but then I think, “well maybe I haven’t”, maybe it’s all in my head. I’ve always wanted to do something like this, but could never find someone to merge ideas with. About 90% of everything I’ve done musically has led to Planet B. Hell, You and I just working together is blurring genres. And yes I do think it is a San Diego thing…sort of.

In running a music studio here in San Diego, I encounter 2 types of people. And I know people are going to think I’m a dick for saying this, but I’m not here to boost your ego, I’m here to help you express what it is you want musically. The first type come in with all these ideas and vocally express how great their new album is going to be. They’ve already patted themselves on the back and are ready for me to hit the record button so they can record their masterpiece. After the recording and into the mixing phase they sit on the couch and start infesting my ears with crap like, “This is going to be Billboard magazine huge” and  “This is definitely going to win a San Diego Music Award.” Fuck, I’ve even had a band convince themselves they were going to win a Grammy. And who the fuck is to say it isn’t award worthy? But this all leads me to constantly refilling my flask. These people don’t go in the studio with the idea of creating new and/or different music, they come in with a dream of what their music is going to do for them. It seems that learning how to play the guitar is just an assignment they need to complete in order for them to be famous and rich. Then there’s people like us who come in with no expectations and create. We are willing to say fuck it, and do whatever we want and this sort of leads to blurring genres. I don’t think you and I said, “let’s mix your hip hop beats with your punk, and sprinkle it with this and that”, we just used our freedom and did what we wanted. The end result just comes out like that and gets labeled this way and that way.  And San Diego does have a lot of people who aren’t scared to do this. Dj Tenshun, for example, doesn’t give a shit and that makes him and his projects so dope and unique. Ric Scales and Stuntdouble are the same way too, and fuck man I come across San Diego Punk bands at our monthly Hip Hop VS Punk Rock that are great at this.

I’m not sure if people can detect my non musical views in my music alone. I do tend to work with musicians who write ideas that I can relate to and agree with. Like you. I did Boom Box Brutality with MC Unite and his lyrics were so hard hitting and in your face, pretty much like yours, and I stand behind what both of you say. I mean hell, you and I just turned down working with an artist because his lyrics were foul towards women.

JP: It is interesting to hear about you working with people who think their work is Grammy material. Or even the ability to mention it out loud to you in the studio. I’m completely opposite and I constantly question my own work, and think it can always be better. I know it can, which is interesting in itself. I wonder what it is that gives someone the idea that they deserve a level of something that is holding real estate in their mind. I’ve always been told that when I am doing is bad, wrong, or just talentless. I think the point that I’ve managed to focus on was that I enjoy it, I enjoy creating things with the people I work with, and I’m honest. If it’s good or bad, that is another question, which perhaps has no definitive answer. I’m aware of music theory to an extent, I’m aware of artistic cultures, I understand industry standards, relevant artistic history, etc to certain extents and I use that in making my decisions. I could always do better and find that if I set my expectations low, I will succeed. If I live life knowing I will never won a Grammy, I will always succeed. And the idea to go into something, even if it’s more minute, like winning a San Diego Music Award seems lame. For one, the outcome isn’t an award or some sort of seal of approval. And two, why only arrogantly aim at San Diego? I applaud you for having the patience with people, myself included.

I do like trying to challenge you, but not from my specific personal standpoint, but more so, from a cultural standpoint. You know, when we started working together, I couldn’t musically justify my annoying and aggressive vocals over some of the more chill and less abrasive pieces you had worked on for me to sing over. So redefining things and making them a bit more sonically harsh was cool to see happen with the initial tracks we were doing together. Even working with Brent Asbury (Panicker) on our LP was me pushing you a bit. But at the same time, I trip out on the various worlds of timbre and the purposes that things serve with their respective genres. Taking sonically jarring and minimalistic aspects of EDM and meshing them with the sort of softer less jagged traditional hip hop aspects was something that I struggled with when we started working together. So it’s something to reflect on, having knowledge of certain artistic and culturally relevant elements in music and making something else from our sources. I suppose that is why I insist that punk isn’t music, it’s a lifestyle. I see people like Tenshun, Unite, Rick Scales, etc as punks and not something else. Do you agree?

LH: It’s not like it happens all the time, but it does happen. The Grammy thing was once but it made me sick. And I’m not against The Grammys or music awards and what not, if these bands do get them then cool, congratulations. To me it’s like…for what? To be famous and labeled? Or to expand your network? Look at when Jean Paul Sartre rejected the Nobel Peace Prize. He did not want to be labeled “Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jean Paul Sartre”. But then he also knew he was now going to be labeled as “The Guy Who Rejected The NPP”, he was fucked, he knew it and all he wanted to do was write. Look at Karlos Paez, the singer in Sonido De La Frontera. His band wins a San Diego Music award almost every year. What does he do? He goes on stage, thanks San Diego, then turns around, gives the award to someone else, and hits the studio the very next morning. He doesn’t give a shit. It’s all about the music for that guy, it’s in his blood. Me? I’m with you on setting the bar in shallow waters. I’m never satisfied, hell, I literally tweak on songs until the point of someone grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking the shit out of me, telling me to stop. In Planet B’s case that you.

I actually like accepting most of the challenges you bring to the table. They are frustrating as shit, but once I give it time to breathe I can dive in and approach as I see fit. When we started, I was always pulling out my hair trying to figure out what you meant when you would try to explain your ideas. But then is was a terminology issue between us. It was like Run DMC’s “not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good” . We had different definitions to the words we used to the studio. But once we figured it, out the album started flowing better.  As for Brent, that was my biggest challenge for the album. To have someone so far away who wasn’t familiar with my stuff, handling my stuff, gave me anxiety. But once I could hear what he was doing I was able to calm down a bit and then when we flew to him for those last sessions I felt glad we went with him. And Brent is pretty punk, too. I see that non musical punk lifestyle in a lot of people in my circle, especially in the hip hop world. Here in San Diego, there is an underground hip hop scene filled with punks. I see alot of non punks in the musical punk scene as well. To me that lifestyle is all in one’s attitude towards life and their surroundings. The fact that some of these people can express that musically is a bonus.

JP: Welcome to Planet B.