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Wounds of imprisonment: an interview with REGIONAL JUSTICE CENTER

Photo by Jonathan Velazquez
Three months after the premiere of “World of Inconvenience“, an angry, intense and emotional statement from Seattle, Washington’s REGIONAL JUSTICE CENTER, we have teamed up with the project’s mainman Ian Shelton to learn more about its back story. The record was inspired by Ian’s brother’s harsh experience with a year and a half long sentencing process and channels a mix of frustration and determination into an explosive outburst of metallized hardcore and powerviolence. We asked Ian about the lessons and conclusions drawn from experiences, and here’s what we got.

REGIONAL JUSTICE CENTER‘s debut full-length, World of Inconvenience, was released on June 15th via To Live A Lie Records and Forever Never Ends in the US, and Adagio830 and Straight and Alert Records in the UK/EU.

Hey there Ian. Thanks so much for taking some time with us! I guess it’s been a wild ride for you since the record release, and despite the gloomy nature of its message and lyrical content, you must be both relieved and excited it has received loads of amazing press. How are you doing and how does this all feel for you?

It’s been awesome and also weird so far! I started the band and always knew what it meant to me but never really shared the story with people publicly before, so having it all be out there and talked about can also feel weird. My favorite thing about the reaction so far is hearing people share their similar experiences and relating to the project closely in a way beyond the music, but at other times it can also bring me back down because it serves as a constant reminder of the reality of the situation.

It’s extremely hard to skip the inspiration and the harsh story behind this release. Please take us back to 2016 and explain the story that later became an inspiration for ”World of Inconvenience”.

Basically my little brother, Max, was just a young dumb kid wrapped up in small town drug politics and got himself into an altercation that ended up changing his life in the way of sending him to the Kent Maleng Regional Justice Center for a year and a half just to wait to be sentenced.

What thoughts and emotions motivated you to channelled the story into a hardcore band project? Why choose a platform like that?

Around that time I was at wit’s end with a handful of other projects I was doing. I didn’t feel like I creatively identified with the output I was involved so I was going through the process of thinking I should finally create something like the stuff I’ve always loved. For some reason it just naturally blended to. The imagery of Power Violence and Hardcore of this nature has always been heavy on the prison imagery so it made sense to do an actually motivated version of that.

Weren’t you afraid to publically point out the injustices, the cons of bureaucracy and all the senseless legal stuff that lay the foundation of the prison system?

The thing I am most afraid with that is to come off as uninformed. My biggest thing is to make it clear that I’m approaching this from an emotional place more so than an outright political one. I research everything I talk about but at the end of the day my actual viewpoint more than anything is that it just hurts and is confusing to love someone who is capable of doing bad, especially when which it then also exposes other people to the injustices of the for-profit prison system.

Can you sched some light on some of the most obvious problems with existing correctional system that appeared to you as particularly evident and jarring? Which phases of the whole process were the worst for Max and your family?

The most relevant issue to this record has been talking about Securus Technologies. Securus is the company that runs the phone system for most jails and I started looking into them when my brother first got in and was calling me collect and it was 15 dollars a call, no matter how long we talked (for a maximum of 15 minutes). This is a company that makes about a half a billion dollars a year and is in a profit sharing model with the prisons they work with, as well as the sheriff’s department. The people in charge of this company and these prisons have a literal investment in the idea that people need to keep coming into the system. Securus even bought up their competition, a company called JPay, which has just as prolific of a hold on the prison system.

I would say the hardest part was the intitial weeks and months of him being in. It was a hard adjustment and we had no clue what was going to happen. It was a process of all of us having to realize this wasn’t going to be a small part of our lives. It would stretch on for years and years and that’s not an easy thing to settle into.

What did Max learn about his experience after he experienced so much during the last 2 years, and how is he doing now?

I went and visited him yesterday and it was the first time in the past two years that we were able to see each other not through a sheet of glass. He looked great and we had a good time, mostly playing monopoly deal and chess for almost six hours. I hesitate to speak for him on what he has learned, but when we talk it is clear to me that he has a better scope of the world now that he isn’t the 18 year old in a small town anymore. My biggest hope in this is that he just continues to be able to find himself as an individual in a system that tries to take away individuality.

Do you think the educational aspect of this band has appealed to your listeners? What can you do to boost this effect now that the record is out?

I think it has. I think so often the way that hardcore is talked about in music press is just “listen to this BRUTAL song” and it is discussed in such a surface way that when there’s something else to grab onto people want to go towards it. Like I mentioned before, a lot of people have reached out to me sharing their stories of being the family member on the outside and for those people I’m sure it feels good to feel something that represents a part of themselves they can’t talk about with most people. I know if I didn’t do this band and someone else was talking about the same thing I would really latch on.

For trying to boost the effect I’m slowly working on a collaboration with a clothing brand that has a similar moral barromiter to do a benefit shirt and do something to either benefit prisoners directly or prisoner advocacy groups. As far as musically pushing it forward I’m currently also slowly starting to work on our next record which I want to be focused around being co-written lyrically with my brother in a focused cohesive way that tells a complete story.

Ok Ian, so what’s coming up next for this project? Touring wise, you still have a couple of Summer live dates left in your schedule. Tell me about your live setting. Who’s helping you out and how were your first shows with REGIONAL JUSTICE CENTER?

We are winding down the summer with some small tours and then gearing up for a Fall Euro and U.K. tour, a lot of touring in the states in 2019 and hopefully recording the next LP before too long. Now that I think I have the record out there that says what it needs to I don’t feel the need to rush, but I also have a hard time stopping writing.

My main guy who has helped me out has been my buddy Alex Haller. He is there with me 100% of the time, I use him as my sounding board for everything and for sure the band wouldn’t be as quality without him. Our lineup has been kind of fluid with how active we are so not everyone can get work off all the time but I have an amazing core group of musicians also including my friend’s Che, Kristin, and Alex(a different Alex than previously mentioned). Our live show has evolved a lot since our first shows, to me it’s just a process of figuring how to effectively play the most songs we can without under selling the material by doing too much. I don’t know how to describe it beyond that, but I would say it’s worth seeing live at least once.

Regional Justice Center

Is there anything else you’d like to share before you go?

Fuck Securus Technologies, love the people in your life even when they fuck up, don’t accept mediocrity, appreciate and acknowledge your privileges and try to use them to help others.

Thanks so much for your time Ian. I wish you and your family tons of strength and all the best for the rest of the struggle. Feel free to drop your last words and take care. Cheers from Warsaw.

REGIONAL JUSTICE tour

Wounds of imprisonment: an interview with REGIONAL JUSTICE CENTER
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