Negative Approach - Biography
By Oliver Hall
Negative Approach is the iconic Detroit, Michigan hardcore band fronted by John Brannon, one of the genre’s most distinctive screamers. The 21 muscular songs NA released between 1981 and 1983 dramatize the agonies of alienation as powerfully as any hardcore band’s catalog, but in particular it is Brannon’s maniacal stage presence, delivery and image that gave the band legendary status among hardcore fans.
In 1981 Brannon was inspired by the Necros and Black Flag to start a hardcore band. He left his Stooges-influenced band Static and formed Negative Approach with guitarist Rob McCulloch, bassist Pete Zelewski and Iranian drummer Zuheir, though the original rhythm section did not last long. In Forced Exposure #4’s interview with the band, Brannon explained, “Pete quit so we thought we'd get a new bass player. We got [Rob’s brother] Graham then we said, well, why don't we get rid of Zuheir cause he's an asshole and we got Opie.” Zelewski played guitar in the Allied after leaving Negative Approach. In 1982 NA built a stage at the rehearsal space they shared with Brannon’s girlfriend Larissa Stolarchuk’s band L-Seven, transforming the practice room into a punk and hardcore venue called the Clubhouse.
Negative Approach made its first appearance on record on the Process of Elimination 7-inch compilation (Touch and Go 1981), contributing the 40-second blast “Lost Cause,” the only NA recording that features Zelewski and Zuheir. Other than that, NA released two records during its brief career, both recorded by the Brannon/McCulloch/McCulloch/Moore lineup: the 7-inch Negative Approach (Touch and Go 1982), recorded in Touch and Go chief Corey Rusk’s basement, and the album Tied Down (Touch and Go 1983). A close-up of Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist stares out from the sleeve of the self-titled 7-inch, which contains ten songs short and fast enough—“Pressure” lasts 14 seconds—to fit on a single. NA stretches out just slightly on Tied Down, also a collection of ten songs, with one you might even call slow (“Evacuate”).
Rob McCulloch and Moore quit in 1983. In a 2000 interview with Game of the Arseholes, McCulloch said: “The main reason Chris and I quit was that we read a review of our 7-inch that said something like ‘good music, with lots of lyrics about us hating them, and them hating us’ which we had been feeling ourselves but reading it brought it out into the open, and we talked to John about maybe writing about some other stuff. John was living a very different life than the three of us. We were living at home with our parents and John who was a little older than us was living down in the Cass Corridor in Detroit with his girlfriend Larissa. His life and experiences were a lot harsher than ours and he was writing about what he knew at the time.”
Brannon formed a new lineup of Negative Approach with guitarist Kelly Dermody. The names of the bassist and drummer survive only as “Dave” and “Mike” in a late interview from Fish #4, transcribed at the Kill from the Heart hardcore archive (http://homepages.nyu.edu/~cch223/). This lineup broke up in the middle of a 1984 tour and did not record. Brannon and Stolarchuk subsequently formed the Laughing Hyenas, after whose mid-90s breakup Brannon formed Easy Action. Total Recall (Touch and Go 1990) collects NA’s entire discography on one CD and supplements it with previously unreleased live recordings from 1982-1984.
Brannon and Moore reunited for a Negative Approach performance at Touch and Go’s 2006 25th anniversary festival in Chicago. Brannon told a Variety blogger that he had asked Rob McCulloch to participate in the reunion, but that McCulloch said he hadn’t “picked up the guitar in 15 years.” Easy Action’s guitarist and bassist, Harold Richardson and Ron Sakowski, replaced the McCulloch brothers in the reunion band. The DVD releases Fair Warning Vol. 1 (Negative Approach 2006) and Fair Warning Vol.2 (Negative Approach 2007) compile the existing video footage of NA live in the early 80s, while Can’t Tell No One (MCRNR 2008) consists of reunion shows. Negative Approach continues to perform in the United States and Europe.