Jon Nix is a filmmaker, writer, and photographer based out of Cleveland, Ohio who is behind an excellent new documentary on Justin Pearson called Don’t Fall In Love with Yourself.
Based out of San Diego, California, Justin Pearson is a lot of things. Throughout the years, he's played in such bands as The Locust, Swing Kids, Dead Cross, Head Wound City, and currently fronts Deaf Club. Oh, he's also behind the long-running indie label, Three One G, and you might have seen his acting work in the 2014 Asia Argento-directed film, Incompresa.
Jon started working on Don’t Fall In Love with Yourself, and in 2020 took to Kickstarter to fund finishing touches. It premiered at Sound Unseen Minneapolis in November of 2022. No Echo founder Carlos Ramirez spoke with the director back in 2020 for his Anti-Flag documentary, Beyond Barricades , but I wanted to get the skinny on his latest project.
Jon, what was the drive to make this movie? Why Justin Pearson?
Jon Nix (director, Don’t Fall In Love with Yourself): The Anti-Flag documentary, Beyond Barricades, was winding down and I was looking for something to really throw myself into as a passion project. I was close to turning 30 and was getting very burnt out on freelance and a lot of projects where I felt like I was working as a cleanup crew.
I wanted something that I could fully invest myself in, so doing something about Justin just made sense to me. I had been a longtime fan of his and we had become friends by that point. So I decided to reach out about it and he was into it.
How did you come to discover Justin and his music?
(Jon): I discovered Three One G in high school. Through The Blood Brothers, I think. Which led me to Justin’s catalog. And everything about it just seemed fascinating to me. His bands had a ton of lore surrounding them and they all had such a sprawling body of work that it made it easy to fall down a rabbit hole.
The first time I saw him play was at an All Leather show at B-Side in Cleveland. My partner and I were some of the only people there and I just remember being blown away and going up to speak to him afterwards. Him and Jung were awesome despite the size of the show. And soon after that I wrote to him and we have kept in touch ever since.
What’s your history with punk? How did it lead to where you are now, especially with TurnStyle Films?
(Jon): I’ve always been into punk and metal. And really, any music that demands more effort to get into. And when you’re a filmmaker, you’re always looking for reasons to shoot anything. That way you can stay busy and keep a steady flow of work coming out.
And I really developed my skills by shooting and editing music videos for bands. And that naturally led me into the music documentary world.
Tell us about your book, The Right Side of Bad.
(Jon): Last year I started a publishing imprint called With An X to publish my first book of photography. It sold well, so I decided to keep going with it as a platform to publish my own work and other writers and photographers that I wanted to collaborate with.
The Right Side of Bad is a collection of interconnected short stories that sort of add up to a novella. It follows a group of characters living through the COVID-19 outbreak and was written during the first year of the pandemic as an outlet for me to process everything my friends and I were living through. It initially started with the short story, “Night Drive," published by Maudlin House.
Adam Gnade (who is featured in DFILWY) told me it was the best story I had written and to keep expanding on the world for a release through Hello America Stereo Cassette, his audiobook company. So I built the stories to be brief and punchy and add up to a sum the same way an album would work. So The Right Side of Bad exists as a cassette release with backing music by Ted Bizon of the band Orphaned and as a paperback book.
The books have been selling well. I announced the latest one in March, But God Made Him a Poet: Watching John Ford in the 21st Century by Scout Tafoya, who writes for RogerEbert.com. I think he does an amazing job unpacking the politics and influence of John Ford, who was a very complicated director and person.
If someone wants to book a screening of Don’t Fall In Love with Yourself, how can they go about it?
(Jon): They can reach out to TurnStyle Films on any of our social accounts. We’re trying to book as many screenings of the film as we can between May and July. We’re not being super picky about the venues.
I’m happy to have it play at small DIY venues or microcinemas. I’d just like people to get a chance to see it in a group setting.
What’s the plan for a wide physical release, if any?
(Jon): The film is getting a physical release this fall. I can’t say by who, but it’s a company that I’ve been a huge fan of for a long time. They do amazing work and I’m really excited to be a part of their family of releases.
What was left on the cutting room floor we can expect in the special features? Several hours of stories from anyone specific?
(Jon): There’s a lot that ended up on the floor. Everyone from this scene has such crazy stories, and a lot of them. But they rattle them off like it’s nothing. So there is a ton of cool stuff that just didn’t fit into the story but that I’m hoping to include in the release.
Justin, has anyone offered to make a movie about your work before? What felt right this time with Jon?
Justin Pearson (musician): No. I'm well aware of my place in this world, and I doubt anyone else is as insane as Jon to want to do something like he did. However, at one point, a music supervisor friend of mine pitched the idea of making a film based off of my book, From the Graveyard of the Arousal Industry. But that never transpired.
As for Jon, I think it was just our friendship, our interactions when we would hang out in person, and also the fact that he made Beyond Barricades. So I assumed he could do something interesting and relevant based on my "career" and the stuff I was and am part of.
What’s your history with punk? How do you successfully stay relevant and keep up with things after 20 odd years of making music?
Justin: My answer to what my history with punk is may be an odd one. First off, I try to avoid the use of the word. I think over time it has been misused, mis-marketed, and is generally too vague of a description for most things. For instance, there is a huge difference between "punk" and "punk rock." Also, using the term punk can bring up all kinds of bullshit nihilistic ideas and thoughts.
Even as a child, before my dad was murdered, when I got into listening to punk bands through skateboarding, my dad immediately said I was going to become a heroin addict like Sid Vicious if I got into that stuff. Sure, that made me dive in even deeper knowing I was defying what I assumed my dad wanted me to do, but it was only a matter of time until I realized just how dumb Sid Vicious was. Not to fault him, but in 1985 or 86 I was not interested in becoming a junkie, I just wanted to absorb interesting stuff as a child.
In retrospect, throughout the time I got into punk and was playing music, I could reflect and see what punk was, to me. I was clear to me that I thought things that were punk were stuff like seeing Ian MacKay playing with Fugazi telling fans at shows to fuck off after they'd yell, "Play a Minor Threat song," and seeing him tell the venue to give the jerks their $5 back and have them leave so they could go home and listen to it on their record player.
But also stuff like, how I lived my life, where I spent my money, how I made a living, my education, how I treated people as well as myself, and so on. Punk was John Waters' films, organic farming, adopting a dog, pulling pranks on right wind Christian nationalists, dumping compost into a Navy recruiting center's mail slot when they were closed, single mothers doing their best to raise kids in this mean world, independent book publishers, etc.
Punk was more than a musical genre. It was partially the DNA of some of our lives, so if you lived it, whatever "it" is to you, there was no effort in staying "relevant". I mean, I hear I'm not relevant all the time. So perhaps I am in fact doing the right thing.
What would you recommend to people wanting to get into your work, where’s a good place to start?
Justin: If someone discovers or has any interest in anything I have been part of over the 30 or so years I've been "ruining my life", starting anywhere is flattering and fine with me. I suppose I'd say to start with the more recent stuff. I think that is the best as it seems modern to me.
However, I hear that what I do now isn't good or as good as say, The Locust or Swing Kids. So yeah, just start wherever and hopefully it grabs the person.
What’s next for Three One G? You just reissued Heaven’s Pregnant Teens, are we going to see more reissues? What about new releases/new bands?
Justin: I wish I could talk about a very special reissue Three One G is working on, but it's still a bit under wraps for now. But I'm very excited about it. There are new things coming out on the label, and we are repressing some of our back catalog now.
And as far as new bands on Three One G, I just started talking to Stress Positions, and I think we will be doing something with them soon, which I am excited about.
Follow the Don’t Fall In Love with Yourself Instagram page for more info on upcoming screening events, and news about the film's streaming plans.