Detroit hardcore legends Negative Approach are arguably the quintessential Midwestern hardcore band. Their warp speed take on British Oi harnesses a power that few have matched. Brannon’s “throat full of broken glass” vocals as well as his intense demeanor make him one of the most imposing figures in punk.
Through his years fronting Negative Approach, Laughing Hyenas, and Easy Action, Brannon’s intensity level has remained constant. If there were to be a Detroit Rock and Roll version of Mount Rushmore, Brannon’s face would deservedly be placed beside Iggy Pop, Rob Tyner of The MC5, and Alice Cooper. Milwaukee Record took a moment to interview vocalist John Brannon in preparation for Negative Approach’s first Milwaukee appearance ever, at this Saturday’s Dummerfest.
Milwaukee Record: How has the atmosphere of shows changed since Negative Approach’s initial run?
John Brannon: When we first started, it was anywhere from 50 to 200 hundred kids. Now sometimes, if we’re playing some crazy festival, it could be thousands. The violence comes and goes depending on the show and what assholes wanna start some shit. We are here to play and have fun. You never know what will happen.
MR: How have the songs changed for you over the years?
JB: Well, with NA we had a definite original style. With [Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action] we always tried to take it to the next level and do something equally as creative.
MR: Are there any songs you hate or would rather not play?
JB: Can really say I still love all the NA songs and never get sick of doing any of them. Plus, we took 25 years off so this sounds fresh to us today.
MR: Are there any plans for new material or new releases?
JB: The most recent thing we did was for AmRep [Records], a comp with Mudhoney, Melvins and a bunch of others. We recorded a cover of Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout.” We’re always writing new stuff. Some we do live but haven’t recorded yet. We wanna put out a new record, but it has to be totally brutal to put the NA name on it.
MR: What keeps you doing Negative Approach, or playing music in general?
JB: When we first got back together, it was for the Touch and Go Records 25th Anniversary show. We thought that was gonna be a one off, but then we started getting other offers, like going to England to open for The Stooges and MC5 at All Tomorrow’s Party Fest. How could we say no that? It was childhood dream come true. That was in 2006 and we still get asked to play all the time. We’re having fun so why not? Playing music with NA or any of my other bands is not a chore. It’s what I live for. I’m a little too deep in this thing to do anything else. It’s the life I chose.
MR: What’s your favorite Negative Approach show, or favorite moment connected to the band?
JB: Favorite shows, I have four standouts: Opening for The Stooges and MC5 in England, playing with Minor Threat in Detroit ‘82 at the Freezer Theater, playing in Antwerp, Belgium when Discharge warmed us up in 2007—that being the second time NA went to Europe since we got back together—and The Great American Music Hall show in San Francisco. Those are the most memorable ones, but then again we’ve never played Milwaukee. [I’m] looking forward to it!