Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Negative Approach - Rob McCullough

Double Cross chief contributor Tony Rettman caught up with Negative Approach axeman Rob McCullough not too long back and picked his brain on the legendary powerhouse of a band we all remain unconditionally indebted to. Big thanks to Tony, and expect to see more from him here soon, as he will continue to talk to the people we want to hear from.

Tony Rettman -- Give a brief description of how and where you grew up and how you think the environment you grew up in factored in on you getting into Punk.

Rob McCullough -- I was actually born in England, and moved to the U.S in 1975 when I was 13. My aunt lived in Detroit, and my mom was sick so we moved here so she could be closer to her sister. I think being from England was one of the main things in discovering and associating with punk. I felt very alienated from most of the kids in high school and my friends back in England would tell me about these bands they were into.

When I went back to visit England with my dad and brother in August 1977, we visited my best friend. He had a Sex Pistols 7" with "No Fun" I think on the "B" side. When I heard the raw sound and Johnny Rotten swearing on a record, I was hooked!

TR -- What were some of the first Punk records you bought?

RM -- The first bands I got into were pretty standard and quite tame really. Back then if the local records store didn't carry it, you weren't going to be exposed to it. ‘Night Flight’ on the USA network used to show some Punk/New Wave videos and they were so different than what everyone else was listening to that even some of the New Wave bands sounded pretty raw. The first kind of bands I got into were Devo, Sex Pistols, Clash, 999, Blondie, Gary Newman, the Dickies and Sham 69.

TR -- Describe what the Midwest music scene was like at the time before Negative Approach started playing out.

RM -- I didn't know too much about any Midwest scene until about a month before I joined NA. I was into hanging out at the Endless Summer skate park in Roseville, Michigan and listening to a bunch of California bands that we read about in skate magazines. I had a Punk Rock cover band that played various backyard parties. We sucked and changed our name every time we played, but we had a great time. We would play two or three songs, some jocks would show up and then there would be the very stereotypical jock/punk showdown and the party would break up.

I discovered the Detroit scene at the end of the summer of '81. Black Flag came to town and played at Bookies in Detroit. I couldn't make it to the show, but the next day everyone told me about this group of kids from Maumee who had a band (the Necros) who were very cool and had invited us to another hardcore show. The first show I went to was in Canada at the Coronation Tavern in Windsor. The bands were Necros, Minor Threat, and another one I can't remember. I was struck by so many things that night. The music was so raw that it just grabbed you. Also, someone heckled Minor Threat and the DC kids that drove up just dropped this guy with such a show of force…it was awesome! Then after the show we met Brian Baker and I bought Teen Idols, SOA, and Minor Threat singles. I couldn't believe that guys like me could put out records, and were really cool to talk with.

TR -- Did most of Negative Approach skate?

RM -- Everyone in NA except John basically lived at the Endless Summer skate park. We read about Alva in the mags, and a lot of those guys came to Endless Summer on tours. Alva, Steve Olsen, Lance Mountain and a few more came through. I think I had been skating about a year before magazines like Thrasher started writing about the punk stuff going on in L.A. I took an interest as soon as I read about it. I think the skate and hardcore scenes were outside the norm at the time, so I could relate to both. Back then both were so looked down on that you stuck up for anyone in either scene. I didn't meet any skaters through the music, and I guess once I started playing I really hung out at the park less and less. I had a bad motorcycle crash when I was 15 and my left leg was pretty destroyed so I was never good at skating, I just enjoyed it and felt a great bond with all the misfits who hung out at the park.

TR -- How did you get to know Tesco Vee?

RM -- The first time I met Tesco was at the one of the first Meatmen shows at the Coronation Tavern in Canada. It was pretty amazing. I was a couple of years older than most of the people at the skate park so I could get into clubs to see bands that not all of them could. I was actually there that night with the 1st NA lineup (John, Pete, Zuheir, and me). After the show the Necros introduced us to Tesco and based on them telling him that our band was really cool he interviewed us for his Touch & Go fanzine right then and there!

TR -- How did you become aware of the slam dancing/stage diving ritual of Hardcore?

RM -- I had read about it in skate mags and it honestly intimidated me at first. Going to my first show I was nervous about what the hell was going to happen. Once you got involved though it was a very cool scene. It wasn't like what was portrayed in ‘The Decline’ at all. The Detroit scene was very tight. If you fell people picked you up. Nobody was just punching wildly, it was well choreographed and there was room for anyone who wasn't an idiot. We were nearly all straight edge, so if some drunk who you didn't know just stormed in swinging, he would get taken down so hard and fast it was frightening. Todd and Corey from the Necros were scary as hell in the early days and I felt like we sort of followed their lead a lot of the time at first as far as what was and wasn't good slam dance etiquette. I know that sounds stupid now, but the Necros really were the model that most of us were looking up to in the summer/fall of '81.

TR --When and how did you guys get to know the kids in the D.C. scene?

RM -- We met them briefly at the Minor Threat / Necros gig at the Coronation, but we really got to know them when we hung out in D.C during the ‘Process of Elimination’ tour in the summer of '82. They were the only other scene we met where people had fun hanging out. Guys like Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson were way too serious or intense to hang out and have a good time with, but Brian Baker was a riot and he introduced us to a lot of cool people, some that I still talk with to this day.

Not new, not rare, but still awesome and worth another watch.


Grandnagus69 said...

Well, it's been over 25 years and Ifinally know some of the back story of Negative Approach! Good Job...

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