Negative Approach

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Negative Approach
Negative Approach.jpg
Negative Approach at St. Andrews Hall on July 31, 2010
Background information
Origin Detroit, Michigan, United States
Genres Hardcore punk
Years active 1981–1984, 2006–present
Labels Touch and Go, Reptilian , Taang!
Members John Brannon
Chris "Opie" Moore
Harold Richardson
Ron Sakowski
Past members Pete Zelewski
Rob McCulloch
Graham McCulloch
Kelly Dermody
Mike McCabe

Negative Approach is an American hardcore punk band, formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1981. The band is considered among the pioneers of hardcore punk, particularly in the Midwest region.[1] Like most hardcore bands, Negative Approach was little known in its day outside of its hometown. It is now idolized in the Detroit rock underground and the punk subculture, considered to be one of the elite bands of the "old school" era, and continues to be influential.[2] Negative Approach initially broke up in 1984 with singer John Brannon moving on to the Laughing Hyenas, and later Easy Action, but the band has reformed as of 2006 and continues to tour sporadically.[3]


Main career (1981-1983)[edit]

Negative Approach was formed in August 1981 in Detroit, Michigan by John Brannon and Pete Zelewski, supposedly after seeing a Black Flag/Necros show. The first NA lineup consisted of Brannon on vocals, Rob McCulloch on guitar, Pete Zelewski on bass and Zuheir on drums. Not long after, Zelewski left the band to form the Allied and was replaced by Rob McCulloch's brother Graham.[1] Zuheir Fakhoury was later replaced by Chris "Opie" Moore. The lineup of Brannon/McCulloch/McCulloch/Moore would remain unchanged until NA disbanded.

John Brannon.

NA's first gig was in the basement of Necros drummer Todd Swalla's mother's home. Soon after, they recorded a demo, and followed that up with an appearance on the Process of Elimination compilation 7” EP, released on Meatmen frontman Tesco Vee's fledgling Touch & Go label, named after his fanzine of the same name. The comp also featured the Necros and the Meatmen, among others. NA, the Necros and the Meatmen then embarked on the Process of Elimination tour. Though this “tour” consisted of a mere three shows (Boston, New York City and Washington, DC), it is cited as being a key event in the early spread of hardcore.

The first proper Negative Approach studio release came in 1982 with their self-titled 7” EP, also on Touch & Go. It contained “Can't Tell No One,” “Ready To Fight” and “Nothing,” which is considered by many to be the quintessential NA song.[1]

The following year saw the release of the Tied Down LP, also venerated as a hardcore classic.[1]

The classic line-up fell apart in 1983. Rob McCulloch claims that the band had grown weary of the group's reputation for writing negative lyrics but that John Brannon was not comfortable writing differently.[4] Also, Rob has stated that John's involvement with Larissa Stolarchuk from L-Seven was another source of tension for the group.[5] The band re-grouped long enough to record the Tied Down LP, then split for good.[5]

Afterwards, Brannon assembled a new line-up with members Kelly Dermody (guitar), Dave (bass) and Mike McCabe (drums). This version of Negative Approach played a series of live shows throughout 1984 which featured some new songs, such as "Obsession," "Tunnel Vision," "Kiss Me Kill Me" and a cover of "I Got A Right" by the Stooges. This line-up can be heard on the Live at the Newtown Theater bootleg 7" and some live tracks recorded at Boston's Paradise club that appear on the Total Recall discography CD. The new line-up of the band split during the first week of their tour in support of Tied Down, playing their last show in Memphis.[5]

Post-break up (1983-2006)[edit]

Brannon with Easy Action at Mac's Bar, Lansing, Michigan on November 8, 2008

John Brannon went on to front the punk blues band Laughing Hyenas with his girlfriend Larissa Stolarchuk (then calling herself "Larissa Strickland") from L-Seven,[6] and currently sings for Easy Action. In 2008 John Brannon recorded vocals for 2 songs on Vitamin X's album Full Scale Assault, recorded by Steve Albini.

Opie Moore moved out from behind the drums to front '80s/'90s alt-rock act Crossed Wire along with Rob McCulloch. After Crossed Wire, Rob McCulloch attended college and has not pursued a career in music, although he maintains a home recording studio. Currently, Moore enjoys a respected solo career as an edgy roots-oriented singer and songwriter. His current band, Moore & Sons on the UK's Triumphant Sounds/Drawing Room label, features Lambchop member Dennis Cronin.

Graham McCulloch moved to Washington, DC and joined the Meatmen before forming Earth 18 with John "Bubba" Dupree (formerly of Void). Earth 18 released several albums and toured the US, opening for Nitzer Ebb. After Earth 18 disbanded Graham played for several years in Mother May I.

Reunion (2006-present)[edit]

It was announced in May 2006 that Brannon and Moore would play a Negative Approach reunion show, of sorts, for Touch & Go's 25th Anniversary show on September 9, 2006,[7] as well as two later shows in the UK - London on December 7 and at All Tomorrow's Parties on December 10. Despite repeated efforts by Rob and Graham McCulloch to be a part of the reunion and have the classic NA lineup play, John refused. It was instead announced that Harold Richardson (of Brannon's current band Easy Action) and Ron Sakowski (formerly of Easy Action, Laughing Hyenas, and Necros) would complete the lineup.

Negative Approach closed out the No Fun Fest in Brooklyn, New York on May 20, 2007. Thurston Moore played guitar on two songs at the start of their set.

Negative Approach did a brief reunion tour in the northeast United States in April 2008, performing in Brooklyn and Providence. They also played the wedding of Anal Cunt founder Seth Putnam. The band did a lengthier tour of Europe in June 2008, and later that year a concert in Los Angeles. In 2009, they played a string of shows in the US.

From left: Richard Bowser of Violent Apathy, Scott Boman of the Degenerates & Spite, and John Brannon of Negative Approach. Picture taken at the St. Andrews Hall show on July 31, 2010

On July 31, 2010 Negative Approach played the Touch and Go Fanzine-The Book Release Party, at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit, with Tesco Vee's Hate Police, Sorcen, Violent Apathy, and Hellmouth. The show featured bands from the formative years of the Midwest hardcore scene and launched the release of the book, Why Be Something That Your Not, by Tony Rettman. The book shares the title with a Negative Approach song, and includes interviews with artists from the Detroit hardcore scene. The tour also featured the signing of the book, Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79-'83 by Tesco Vee & Dave Stimson which was edited by Steve Miller.[8][9]

In 2010 Brannon discovered several unreleased Negative Approach recordings which contained the lost 1984 sessions of unreleased studio tracks. After meeting Curtis Casella of Taang! Records, Casella offered to release the recordings, which include "Friends Of No One", "Cargo Cult" "Kiss Me Kill Me", "Obsession", "Genocide" and a studio version of "I Got A Right". The tapes were brought to Jim Diamond to restore and preserve. Taang! released an album containing the recordings called "Nothing Will Stand In Our Way" in November 2011 around the time the band played the Fun Fun Fun Festival in Austin Texas with Anthony DeLuca sitting in on drums in place of Moore.

Influences and style[edit]

Negative Approach's musical style was based on Detroit proto-punk/rock & roll icons The Stooges.[3] Of The Stooges' guitarist Ron Asheton, John Brannon said, "So much of what NA stands for; our sound and lyrics were based on the music which he helped to create." NA were also influenced by high-octane British punk rock (especially Discharge) and Oi! music (Blitz, 4-Skins,Sham 69, etc.), although from the start their sound and demeanor were considerably more aggressive and brutal than that of their influences. NA's brand of hardcore was savage and nihilistic, exuding frustration, pessimism and rage. This was personified in the band's vocalist John Brannon, an intimidating and intense young man with a shaved head, piercing stare and belligerent attitude. His vocal style and stage presence set the standard for those that followed.[2]

Band members[edit]


  • John Brannon - vocals (1981–1984, 2006–present)
  • Chris "Opie" Moore - Drums (1981–1983, 2006–present)
  • Harold Richardson - Guitar (2006–present)
  • Ron Sakowski - Bass (2006–present)


  • Pete Zelewski - Bass (1981)
  • Zuheir - Drums (1981)
  • Rob McCulloch - Guitar (1981–1983)
  • Graham McCulloch - Bass (1981–1983)

Touring musicians[edit]

  • Kelly Dermody - Guitar (1984)
  • Dave - Bass (1984)
  • Mike McCabe - Drums (1984)
  • Anthony DeLuca - Drums (2012)
  • Chuck Burns Drums (2013)


Studio albums[edit]



  • 1st Demo (5/81)
  • Lost Cause Demo (8/81)
  • EP Demo First Version (late '81/early '82)
  • Tied Down Demo (6/83) [a.k.a. Rice City Demo]

Compilation albums[edit]


  • Fair Warning, Vol. 1 (2006)
  • Fair Warning, Vol. 2 (2007)
  • Can't Tell No One (2008)

Other appearances[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Kantor, Matthew Isaac (2008). "Negative Approach". Allmusic (Zvents). 
  2. ^ a b Rettman, Tony (2008). "The Detroit hardcore scene". Swindle (issue 12). 
  3. ^ a b JC, Sammy (August 27, 2006). "F Yeah Fest Preview: An Interview with John Brannon of Negative Approach". The Set List. 
  4. ^ Arsehole, Stuart (2000). "Negative Approach Interview from Game of the Arseholes No. 4". KILL FROM THE HEART. 
  5. ^ a b c Rettman, Tony (2007). "The Detroit hardcore scene". SWINDLE Magazine (Issue 12). 
  6. ^ Christe, Ian; Ira Robbins (1995). "LAUGHING HYENAS". Trouser Press. 
  7. ^ Hay, Edwina (September 12, 2006). "Touch & Go 25th Anniversary Block Party, Day Two". BrooklynVegan. 
  8. ^ BBG (May 12, 2010). "Tesco Vee, Negative Approach & others playing Detroit hardcore book release shows & other dates". BrooklynVegan (a member of Spin Music). 
  9. ^ Jackman, Michael (July 28, 2010). "Teenage wasteland: Detroit's first-wave hardcore finally gets its due". Detroit Metro Times. 

External links[edit]