There is a lot to learn about music for alternative rocker Justin Symbol. As a self-taught artist, his education continues with each person he works with. Touring with bandmate Will (drums), as well as Nox Cult members Soda (guitar) and Fox (bass), he has had the opportunity to incorporate their influences into the music he creates. Currently on The Punishment Tour with William Control, Justin Symbol has been wowing audiences with a smooth blend of electro/industrial/goth/rock music that defies classification. But don’t get too comfortable; Justin Symbol has more genre combinations in store as he explores coupling old and new styles of music for exciting new sounds.
Everything just sucks. Justin Symbol is the self-proclaimed King of Negativity, quite at odds with the intelligent, articulate man I chatted with at the Agora Theatre in Cleveland. Much like the recurring symbol of double crosses in his tattoos and album art, Justin is the definition of duality. He explains, “I think I was the King of Negativity. I think the King of Negativity is my ego, and the ego is what I personify live as a performer. So, the King of Negativity is actually something I do a lot of work, on a daily basis, to not be. So, I can be that character only on stage.” Similar to leaving your work at the office, Justin has found that by keeping negativity on the stage, he is a much happier and more positive person off stage.
Oh my! Often described as shock rock, the music of Justin Symbol is as visually compelling as the music itself. But shocking is a misdirection, because the live performance was as cinematic as any Shakespearean production. At one point, Justin donned a mask and hat, instantly reminding me of the costuming used for the three witches in Macbeth. In another segment, a woman in black led him around the stage with a dog collar, similar to how the prisoners of war were treated in Coriolanus. With a minimum of stage props, Justin Symbol creates a theatrical backdrop to each of his songs, engaging the senses in a total immersion of the story. Justin believes that the nature of taboo art is that it often forces people to confront parts of themselves that they do not want to acknowledge is there. He says, “Some people react really positively to it though. It’s like now they feel they can access this new part of themselves. The performance is like a ritual and it allows them to sort of break free from something they can’t access on a daily basis.” While all music has the ability to evoke meaning and emotion in listeners, Justin Symbol offers a way to consider concepts outside of the box.
Try it, you’ll like it. It may be considered taboo to some, but I believe it is musical theatre from a fresh, new perspective. The stage show was mesmerizing, captivating all senses at once. My eyes darted back and forth, my ears strained to hear every note. I was clapping, bobbing my head, and screaming in the same moment. There is a distinct soulful quality in Justin’s vocals that transmits emotion through the crowd like an electric current. Haunting guitar rhythms paired with powerful bass lines complement the accuracy of the impressive drum beats resulting in a cohesive, irresistible mix. Their debut album, V O I D H E A D, is available now as they continue to thrill audiences on tour and finish the next album already in the works.