Justin Gossman From The Toy Guns tells us about Growing up, writing poetry, and why he loves knives
Imagine if Mick Jagger would’ve grown up along the breezy coast of San Diego and spent all his younger days surfing and skating, writing grungy poetry, starting his own band and rebelliously growing his hair out a la mid-century androgynous rock star while launching a successful modeling career - at the same damn time. That’s Justin Gossman. It’s almost as if a rad vintage polaroid picture found in a 70’s concert backstage area has come to real life when observing Justin and his effortlessly nostalgic look. We chatted with Justin about his childhood, his band The Toy Guns, hair styles and his unexpectedly fascinating obsession with knifes.
Tell me how it was growing up in San Diego. Did the garage band scene influence you as a teenager?
Growing up in San Diego was a skateboarding & surfing haven. My generation was the last of an era, before everything got so commercialized. Living by the beach in Del Mar, surfing on the off days living was easy & the weather was breezy. Good homies & good weather while it lasted. Ché Café was always a random fun thing to cruise out to and see some bands play that you'd never heard of - some that actually made it places as well as everything in between.
When you were young did you think you were going to be a model/rock star? Or did you have other plans in mind?
Honestly I thought I was going to be a lawyer or a professional baseball player. I found myself around motorbikes for a while but then my dreams pushed me towards skateboarding. 11 broken bones later I'm now a model & musician. You can't predict the future - you can just embrace it or fight it. Either way you'll find yourself all alone if your mind is not in it for the real reasons of hype, passion or love. Follow your gut and only time will tell - if you don't try, you'll never find out...
How did your band, The Toy Guns, come together?
The Toy Guns came together after I started coming up to LA from San Diego. Every Wednesday night I would stay at Troy Braunstein's house. He was in a band called Aqua Rhythm back when I knew him in high school and we used to be a part of a big group of friends. We weren't super tight at that moment in time but he ended up breaking up the band and made a new one called The Hollow Suns. I would come out to all his shows and film them with my cell phone then send them to him since nobody at the time was recording or taking many photos. And after a while I started to show him some of my poetry and asked him if he could help me make a song that I was working on at the time. I mainly did poetry but started integrating it into acoustic grungy poetry haha if I can ever call it that. […we totally think you can!]. After a few months of jamming around and getting used to each other’s vibes...we were the Yin to each other's Yang. What at first started off as just Troy helping me make a few of my own songs for my own music portfolio soon turned into being a full blown song writing team, like John Lennon & Paul McCartney.
What is sort of the creative experience like with The Toy Guns?
It's basically many writings. Poems or songs however you want to look at them. Lots of verses and little idea rid bits for choruses. Then I'll usually have some sort of rhythm or melody that I have in mind that I’ll record on my phone, and when I see Troy I show him what I came up with. He will then go and come up with some groovy guitar work that plays well with it. He usually helps me finish off writing the chorus then we start acoustically playing it, humming it, or even muttering it until we figure out what parts we love & hate to then find what's missing together. We don't have a system like Metallica do where they go to a white board. We kind of just go by ear and it always just seems to work itself out. Troy is very talented and I am honestly honored to know him and having him as a band mate. Let's just say it still feels like it's all a dream.
When you write are you writing from personal experiences or is it more general?
When I write, I write from emotions. From anger. Exaggeration and desperation. I write every song as if it were my last. Because you never know what this life will bring you or take from you. I had bronchitis and stomach pains last year while shooting an editorial in Paris and ended up in the hospital after the shoot. I never let anyone on set know I was sick. I even got naked and took a bath while the giant French doors were open and the freezing winter winds coming in. After that I flew to New York to do the biggest campaign of my career and the bronchitis turned into pneumonia. That lingered around for quite some time, and a few months later it finally turned into walking pneumonia - all while my stomach issues just couldn't be solved. I eventually was under 110 pounds and as I started to recover I have been handling that and using all this pain and misery to help me write. It's taught me how to fight for what I want and that's why I faded away from the scene for some time. Now that I'm getting back to normal I decided it's time to start working again. I just signed with Fusion Models NYC as my mother agent, had my first live performance with my band in Los Angeles with The Hollow Suns opening for us. The time is right - The show is about to begin...
Can you talk about how the single “How Long has it Been” was created?
So I wrote this poem. The first words that made me realize I had got something were: "Ain't got no money, I'm all alone". As I finally figured out the rhythm, which was only three chords played in an odd strum pattern my band mate told me it won’t work. But I insisted it could. I came back with "No Chaos, and No Misery - I won't let death be the stop of me, cuz we ain't got no money I'm all alone." Several sessions later Troy and I made our first master piece! He helped me write the chorus and God damn he can play that guitar like a ring in a bell!
Can you tell me about your look/ haircut and sort of how it came to be?
My hair was military style cuts all my life due to my fathers’ nature. So once he was gone for around 46 months I started growing my hair out mid length and before you knew it he came back home – he couldn't believe the mop that was on my head. For the next two and a half years I grew my hair out as long as I could. But then one day my old man sparked up a deal with me that included $400 for me to cut my hair. I did it - I cashed in knowing my hair would grow back. When I started getting into modeling I just kept cutting my own fringe like in the old photos of the musicians I really enjoyed. For the next 2 years as a model I didn't let anyone cut my hair. I just became a master of my own fringe/bangs. My first real hair cut didn't come until I met Luigi Murenu, when we had a two-day shoot for Vogue Germany. At the casting I told him that that I have a hair appointment one of the days of the shoot and that in order for me to do the shoot - he must cut my hair. Long story short he loved my hair the way it was but I wanted to take advantage of having one of the best in the world shape my hair. And the best part about it was, it was free haha.
What is something that people tend to get wrong about you?
Everyone thinks I'm mean. Or like a super hard person to approach and talk to. Just because I have a knife doesn't mean I'm a villain nor should I be vilified by the media for my choice in arms.
Where did your interest in knives and guns come from?
My father was a government man so he always had the cool gadgets a kid would go crazy over. It started as a way for me to make money - I'd buy knives with my mum at this GI Surplus store and then sell them to kids in my neighborhood that were in high school & middle school. They would sell them for double what they bought them off me for. A 15$ butterfly knife sold for 100$. But kids got in trouble for having knives at school and over time it just started to become a collection type of thing. I find it so strange how most people are either afraid of knives and guns or they’re extremely drawn to them. But I have been yet to be proved otherwise that there truly is a median.
Modeled by Justin Gossman (@justingossman)
Photographed by Storm Santos (@stormshoots)
Styled by Blake Hardy (@blakefromohio)
Makeup and Hair by Samuel Rodriguez (@sr12style)
Written by Emma Nicole Aderheim