I have wanted this tattoo since I was 15 years old. I’d always put it off for one reason or another, but now, it needed to be done. The first encounter I can remember with Gabe was while I was pissing in the Che Cafe bathroom. He came up behind me and asked me and my friend if we knew “the jack-off finisher move.” He proceeded to explain how it worked; I told him the only thing I’d ever heard is that “if you shake it more than twice, you’re playing with it.”
Some of the last conversations we had were about what music we were currently listening to; suggesting various bands and obscure rappers to each other. His final message to me was on a Thursday, just two days before he left this world. It was an article about the BLACK MOON eclipse. I assumed he sent this to me because of my chosen name, Bran Black Moon and TheBlackMoonDesign. I replied “fuck yeah!”. Gabe knew that I would think the name of the eclipse was rad. What he didn’t know was that his band has been an incredibly important part of my life and a large part of my origin story as an artist and graphic designer.
It’s the year 2001. I’m a freshman in high school. I’m listening to punk and crust punk at the time and doing a lot of skateboarding, though I’m not very good at it. I enjoy watching my friends, who are way better, shred super hard, rather than learning the tricks myself. I mostly just appreciate the art on the decks, the magazines, and most of all, the videos; the artistry of it all. We would spend hours cleaning out old drainage ditches and making our way across town to famous skate spots, where we would recreate moments from our favorite magazines and skate videos.
Growing up without any older siblings and parents who exclusively listened to country music (I’ll learn to love this later), I became fiercely influenced by the music I would come across in these skate videos. A kid in our group of friends, Lanny, who I’ve known since middle school (hands down the best skater among us), is telling us about a show he went to recently. He talks about these guys who played this wild music that sounded like techno and thrash thrown together. He elaborates further about their crazy, fuzzy outfits they wore, with tiny little shorts and goggles. He tells us their music was weird, different, loud… and I’m hanging on every word. I like the music I like, but this, this sounds more extreme, more weird, and way more my speed. Lanny was always locked into the local skate scene and later became deeply embedded in it. Eventually, he gets to travel the world doing what he loves. He tells us he first heard them on one of the Baker skate videos. I ask him the name of the band, he says “the Locust”.
I want more, I want to hear it – no, scratch that. I NEED to hear it, but that shit’s gonna have to wait until the weekend. Spin Records; the best record store around with two locations that are fairly easy to get to by bus with the least amount of transfers. One in Carlsbad, which, from the Oceanside valley that I lived in, is a two bus trip, or one bus and a really long skate. The other is in Oceanside, one bus trip from the valley and only two blocks from the transit center. The choice is clear. Carlsbad is fucking lame when you’re a dirty little punk. It’s Richville. It’s fancy. It’s not as wild nor as filthy as downtown Oceanside. I take my $1.50 bus fare and wait for the 303 to take me to my destination. I get off the bus and blast down to Spin records, skating past the homeless, the barbershops, the abundance of military surplus stores, and the cool gay bar. It was called something like “The Rainbow Cocktail Bar & Grill” (now, it’s a pirate themed bar for bros.)
I get to Spin. The record store sits between a closed down strip club and an adult book store with a military dry cleaner across the street. I walk in and realize I have no idea what section the CD is going to be in, no concept of genre, with only the words “techno” and “thrash” to go by. I have to resort to the dreadful task of asking the person behind the counter. It always goes exactly like the movies show. It’s shitty, and it always makes you feel stupid and uncool. Come to find, the CD simply in the “punk” section. I grab the photocopied jacket cover and proceed to the front to make my purchase. I’ve always hated this about Spin. Everything is already open, so they can store it and keep it safe, so you never get to feel the glory of cracking the seal! I throw the CD in my backpack and skate my way back to the bus.
This is my ritual whenever I buy new CDs. The first listen is always on the bus ride home. The first listen has to be on the move. To this day, I won’t listen to a new album until I’m in the car and have the time to drive it out, start to finish. This is the ritual. I’m seated now and the bus takes off. I take my Walkman out and place my headphones over my ears. Taking the CD out of my backpack, I start to examine the artwork. I pop it open and to my shock the CD isn’t all there! I feel tricked, I feel pissed, I feel sad. Wait, it’s not broken, it’s just a really small CD! I’ve never seen this before. Will it play? Ohhh… it plays. It fucking plays hard! Nothing will ever feel the way “Moth-Eaten Deer Head” felt as it burst through my ears that day. Musically, nothing will likely ever change me the way that changed me, again. What is this? Is this possible?! How does this exist and what happened before this?
Fast forward through time a bit and I’m at a different record store, nearing my 15th birthday. I’m looking for some Three.One.G release (what exactly i was looking for escapes me now). I’ve become obsessed with this weird record label that feels like the land of misfit toys. Three.One.G is owned and run by two friends, Alysia and Justin Pearson. Justin is a member of The Locust, leading me to discover their label through my research of the band. Everything on this label either sounds like something you’ve never heard before or it sounds like music you’ve heard before but there’s something wrong with it, like it’s sick or growing. Once again, I have to ask the person behind the counter, but this time she knows the guy who owns the label. Let’s call her Hammy. She used to live with some of the guys in the band. She offers to take me and my friend to a show at the Ché Cafe and says that we can meet some of the dudes from The Locust.
My 15th birthday is a day I’ll never forget. January 25th 2002, my first meal at Pokez and my first show at the Che. She brings along this dude who’s kind of out of control, but super funny. Her friend Gabe, drummer of The Locust, was supposed to come, too, but he bailed. She was also kinda wild, in retrospect, hanging out with teenagers and offering to get me tattoos that I want because she knows the guy next door. I’m glad I didn’t take her up on her offer, as I wanted to get the anarchy and equality symbols, Crass style, on my wrists. Ideals I still believe in, but it’s kinda not my speed anymore, stylistically. I eat a potato quesadilla and wash it all down with a can of Dr. Pepper, Hammy lets me sip on her sangria. We leave pokez, where I will dine hundreds of times in my future and make our way across town to the Che Cafe. Hammy either bought me a ticket or got me on the guest list, I can’t recall. I don’t know much about Hammy these days, as I don’t even remember when I saw her last, but I am glad our paths crossed.
This place is so rad, spray paint all over, free zines, everything is stickered up, there’s a weird forest surrounding the back side of it and a kitchen that, at the time, was still serving food. I don’t know any of the bands playing tonight, but I’m excited to be here. One of the bands is The Flying Luttenbachers, touring their record “Infection and Decline.” At this time they were a three piece band, led by the crazed mind of Weasel Walter. They take the stage and they are off, fog machines blasting, their music insane. It feels like an apocalyptic orchestra. The bass player is playing a fretless bass, the other dude is playing a 4 stringed instrument that looks like a bass with smaller strings, and the drummer is rocking a bald head except for the hair in the front, like a skinhead Chelsea cut. Weasel Walter will later record an incredibly fucked and amazing cover of Queens “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the Three.One.G Queen Compolation. Only one other band that night stuck out in my mind. The guitar player was playing from the rafters and broke his strings three songs in. They ended their set then and there because no one else had any guitar strings. I’ve never been able to track that band down or find out their name. This is my first of 100’s of shows I’ll attend at the Che. Eventually, I’ll play The Che with The Usaisamonster, taking my journey full circle.
A couple months later, The Locust were playing at The Scene in San Diego with three bands I’ve never heard of, but I don’t care. I know what I’m here for. The day is October 24th, 2002. I have still yet to see The Locust play live since the day they first blew my mind. The show itself is a blur. All I can remember is a wall of sound. Their uniforms had changed from what had been described to me and what I’d seen in photos. This is the era of the military green uniforms. I remember Gabe throwing up several times, in a bucket, between each song. The only mech I bought that night was The Locust bar soap with a magnet in it. Wacky, but that bar of soap made me think outside the scope of your average band merch.
I talked about this show for months! I’m drawing their logo and their outfits in my binder at school, boring all the girls I have crushes on by talking about The Locust and what they sounded like that night. I basically lived on the Three.One.G message boards, back then. It’s where I would find out about bands, art, events, etc. I have met some amazing people through that message board, people I love and hold dear to my heart, to this very day! I was annoying as fuck, though! I bugged JP all the time like a little shithead on that message board. Asking all the same stupid questions you see people asking on instagram now; “Why didn’t you sign this band? Why is my package taking so long? When are you playing MY city? What’s coming out next? What kind of gear do you use?”. Shit like that.
When “Flight of the Wounded Locust” came out, I took the CD to Guitar Center and forced the guy behind the counter to listen to it. I asked him “How do I sound like this, what guitar pedals are they using?”. He responded “It doesn’t sound like guitars, it’s probably all synthesizers and drum machines”. I argued with him and told him “I’ve seen them live. They have guitar and bass.” He wasn’t having it and told me he couldn’t help me. Later, I emailed JP asking the same thing. He just told me. Unfortunately, my mom wouldn’t let me buy the guitar pedal called “Big Muff Pi”.
I’ve always liked to draw, analyze album artwork, band shirts, and skate decks. I never gave any thought about the process of creating said products, I’ve always just bought shit because it looked cool. My portfolio consisted of one thing; an album cover for my friend’s boyfriend’s band. I drew the cover, but I didn’t do anything else. I scanned it and gave him a copy. Soon, I discovered there was a printing class at my high school where you could learn how to make your own t-shirts. This is where I learned about printing presses, screen printing and most importantly, graphic design.
In this class we learned how to make screens, print plates and go from idea to design, production and to product. This computer aspect of this class got me thinking; can I design for bands I like? I emailed JP about an upcoming show at the epicenter with The Locust, The Flying Luttenbachers, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower and Battalion of Saints. I asked if I could screen print posters for it. He told me to go ahead if I wanted to, but that he wouldn’t be able to sell them or anything. I thought these posters were the shit! I made a million of these fucking things. I made them multicolored. I stayed late after school to make them. I got down to the show and NO ONE HAD TAKEN ANY! It was devastating when JP gave them all back to me at the end of the night. I had posted them on gigposters.com, which sadly sold and now it’s just bullshit prints for sale. It used to be a concert poster archive where people could talk about each other’s art. I got absolutely gutted on that site for my poster looking like shit, for having no technique, etc. In hindsight, I was probably getting gutted because I couldn’t take constructive criticism and went into full defensive mode. So, the people started telling me how they REALLY felt and I got gutted all over.
At some point, I lose myself here. High school is sucking, my parents are getting divorced and I’m having relationship problems. All that considered, I can’t remember when this started, but somehow JP and I became friends of sorts. I started going to his house to help him out with making band buttons, pins, packaging releases, etc. Soon after, I decided to go to the same college my ex-girlfriend wanted to go to, just to spite her. She doesn’t know this. (She’s a lawyer now and not the shitty kind, so she wins this round!) It’s a fashion college that also offers degrees in graphic design.
February 22nd, 2004. I am on my way to meet up with the college counselor in Orange County. Who do I see on the side of the road with a flat? The Locust! My mom’s driving too fast and she definitely won’t stop. I think “Is this an omen that I won’t get in?”.
I got in.
Most of my art projects are related to The Locust or Three.One.G. I made a short video using After Effects for the release of “New Erections”. Now, my friend Andy, who I met through Three.One.G, made a real video advert for their albums recent re-pressings. So, I’m learning and honing some skills in school and starting to feel more confident in my work. I share some of these projects (the less embarrassing ones) with JP. The first graphic design projects JP asked me to work on were some center labels who’s files had not been saved, redrawing the long lost artwork for a band, and lastly, the first REAL thing, redesigning the Swing Kids Discography CD. He asked me to beef it up a bit and give it a more dimensional feel. This is a life changing moment. The first time you see your name in print is a high you won’t feel again! After this, JP started throwing more things my way. Yeah, I still had to do boring shit, like fix center labels, make buttons, and watch “8 Mile” with Sal while packaging records, but it was all worth it. I gained a new family at Three.One.G. I was taught new skills, I learned new techniques, and I was pushed creatively. I got paid and I got to lay out my first 12″, my first 7″, and my first book! No matter how many times I’ve tried to pass on a project or give up entirely, JP just says “Nah, you got it.”
I’d always wanted to design for The Locust, be it merch or an album. One of my first attempts was taking a shot at the Molecular Genetics LP, but it didn’t land for the guys. The shirt I designed for the band was of a swarm of locusts; buzzing in a blob on the front, with the words The Locust knocked out of the middle of the swarm. My second Locust shirt design came about because I was unemployed and watching too much “Ancient Aliens” at home. It’s a depiction of Egyptian pyramids as nuclear power plants, blasting energy out of them, with a giant locust being powered by it. The next were simple recreations of The Locust’s logo with a circle around it for the Desert Days festival in 2019. The last Locust shirt I designed was for their 2021 California tour. I worked with Gabe on hashing out an idea of his. He envisioned one of those cheesy state maps with all the tourist hot spots drawn on it, but a fucked up version of that. Gabe stole some art and drew on it. I took that and drew on it some more, piling on one stupid idea after another until it was perfectly irreverent enough and agreed upon by all the guys in the band. The shirt sold out its first night. They had to emergency order more for the rest of the tour. I’m incredibly proud of that design and happy to have been able to bring Gabe’s vision to life.
Through all of this time, spanning 21 years now, one of my biggest life goals was to design an album cover for The Locust. This year, I finally got to do it! The design was for a limited edition variation of “Safety Second, Body Last” released by Three.One.G and Brain Dead. Good luck finding one! I am forever thankful to my Three.One.G family for supporting me and for supporting each other. Enjoy your friends. Enjoy their stories. All of this came to be, for me, because a kid I admired for his skating talent shared a story about a band he liked, and that story changed the course of my life.
I told Adam Gnade the day he got his Locust tattoo that I had set up an appointment to get one, as well, but it was two weeks out. He’s proud of me and stoked the way only Adam Gnade can be. I send him a text of the finished tattoo, and he tells me “I think The Locust is officially a culture now.”
“Black Moons Over My Hammy”
Written by Bran Black Moon
Edited by Reira Rose