To celebrate the release of The Anti–Matter Anthology: A 1990s Post–Punk & Hardcore Reader and the imminent book release show/Snapcase Reunion/Callum Robbins benefit, we are publishing a two part interview from hardcore vets Norman Brannon and Rob Fish.
Norm put together a lengthy interview for us so we're splitting it over two days. Check it out and be sure to visit The Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York this weekend to check out the book, watch Snapcase play and help out Callum and J. Robbins.
If you need to catch up, you can check out the previous chapter here.
NORMAN: I really do believe that if you took the names out and put a Snapcase interview next to a Shudder To Think interview, youâd have to really think about who was talking.
ROB: I believe that.
NORMAN: Itâs funny. I think that direction was influenced by something that most people donât know about me, which is that I had already sold my entire hardcore record collection in 1991 âÂ two years before Anti-Matter. When I lived with you in 1992, I didnât own anything. And that basically meant that, honestly, I didnât listen to hardcore music. So in 1993, when I started the zine, all I had to go on was the personal experience: Who was at the shows? What bands were playing? Who did I think was cool? Who did I think had something good to say â even if I didnât necessarily care for their band? There were totally bands in Anti-Matter that, honestly, I was not necessarily a fan of musically. I was more of a fan conceptually, you know? So I think the reason why I never talked about the music in Anti-Matter was because I didnât really listen to the music that much. I went to the shows. It was about the community and the scene and the people I was meeting. And obviously, some of those bands were incredible; they are still some of my favorite bands. But I didnât want to relegate the fanzine to my personal tastes in music. I wanted to figure out who had an interesting story to tell.
ROB: Thatâs a lot like how I relate to bands today. I mean, there are bands that I love to watch. Are they on my iPod? Some of them. Do I listen to them much? Not really. But when I see them live, I know the people a little bit and I can really sense how true the music is to that person, and it makes me absolutely love the band that Iâm seeing. The majority of bands that I promote a lot are bands that I can see are really investing their very being to the music theyâre playing. So even if I donât necessarily want to listen to it in my car all the time, I can still absolutely love the band and love what they do. That goes back to the whole nostalgia thing: Like, I got to see that whole American Hardcore movie, and Iâd say that everything up until the last ten minutes was cool. But when it got to those last ten minutes, I wanted to break my fucking computer. I walked away going, "I hate these people!" Theyâre so bitter and disillusioned and they just think the whole punk rock world revolved around their silly little band. And itâs like, yeah, your band was cool, but Iâll never be able to listen to it the same way now because youâre such an egocentric piece of shit about it.
I want these shows to really reflect something that I cared about â not out of some weird â90s nostalgia thing, but because these are good things, whether itâs 1994 or 2007. Talking to each other or breaking down that artificial wall, those will always be good things.
NORMAN: I didnât see it. I kind of refuse to. What was in those last ten minutes?
ROB: Oh, you know, some dudes basically saying, "Oh, hardcore died in 1986 and these kids just arenât the same!" And Iâm like, yeah, itâs changed, you idiot! And yeah, the musicâs changed. Even as much as I love Black Flag, if all I heard were bands trying to sound like The First Four Years, I would have left the punk scene fifteen years ago. Who the fuck wants to hear that again and again?
ROB: To me, when I look back at those bands, itâs not the music that was so amazing as much as remembering how I felt the first time I heard it âÂ and how I still relate to that today. Thatâs whatâs important. Sometimes Iâll be at a kidâs house on tour and Iâll see these old records that I used to listen to when I was younger, and Iâll be like, "Oh, I used to love this record!" And then Iâll hear it and be like, "What the fuck was I thinking?" But then I realize that it was because of the people and the places and what it meant to me at that moment, and so I can appreciate it on that level. There are a bunch of bands now that are reunited, that weâve been playing some of them, and honestly, I donât always feel a kinship to some of these bands because they seem so bitter and disillusioned about how things are "so different now." Iâm like, fuck. Itâs gotta be different.
NORMAN: 108 took how much time off from breaking up to reforming?
ROB: Almost ten years.
NORMAN: Right. And thatâs a long time. Surely, you and Vic didnât think you would be walking back into whatever you walked out of.
ROB: And the thing was we didnât want to. The whole thing was that if it was just going to be about playing those old songs and trying to rekindle that â none of us were into that. We canât emotionally invest ourselves in that. Because, really, doing this band is not easy for us to do between all our kids and careers and the fact that we all live in different parts of the country. So we all felt really strongly that if we couldnât write a record that meant more to us than our old songs did, then why would we even bother?
NORMAN: When we were doing those Texas is the Reason reunion shows last year, obviously, the big question we were getting was, "Are you going to stay together?" All of the sudden, there were precedents set â specifically with you guys and Lifetime. And Iâm not gonna lie to you. We talked about it. We were having fun, even before the shows, and I think we sounded better than we ever did. But most of my personal reservations came from the idea of making new music under that name. I didnât like the idea of being chained to a blueprint that I made ten years ago, you know? That terrified me. So I really wondered how you guys were gonna deal with that. And I was so psyched to hear [A New Beat From A Dead Heart] because I donât really feel like youâre writing songs like you did back then. To me, the new 108 record is very fucking different. Itâs like a different band.
ROB: Right, well, back then Vic was the primary songwriter. With this record, there were four people who wrote songs on it. There was no main songwriter. But when I really think about, I think it goes back to what we were talking about before. Back then, we were really living on our terms. We could do whatever we wanted to do in our personal lives. But, for me, right now, I would say that my life is more manic and desperate than it ever was before. And I would say that Trivikrama would echo that, and I think Vic would echo that. Thatâs translated into the songs, too. I mean, we practically wrote the new album in three practices [laughs]!
NORMAN: I think weâre both at a point where weâre looking into our pasts with new eyes and trying to figure out how itâs relevant to us today.
ROB: Absolutely. You know, a lot of how I judge a band these days all boils down to one question: If this person wasnât playing this show tonight, would he be fucking devastated? Thatâs the standard I hold for myself. Thatâs what I mean when I talk about the whole American Hardcore movie. These pompous pieces of shit are on there, and just because it doesnât mean as much to them now, they project that on the entire world. I resent that.
NORMAN: So is there anything you want to ask me?
ROB: God, I was just thinking about our old interview. What the fuck did I say?
NORMAN: [Laughs] Most of it was about your motherâs death, which I think was a very present topic in your mind at that time.
ROB: Itâs going to be a little surreal to read it, I think. Lately, my son has been asking a little bit about his grandmother. But I really donât remember much. I remember a lot of traumatic or negative or sad things, but yeah, it kind of sucks. I donât remember a lot of the good things.
NORMAN: I remember at the time feeling like you didnât talk about it that much. I knew that you seemed fairly uncomfortable about it, and I knew that Ressurection had that song "Fuck Your Sympathy." I remember reading the lyrics to that song before I joined your band and feeling weird about it. Like, I understood the grief, but I didnât know where the anger was coming from.
ROB: That song is still very vivid to me in terms of why I wrote it. But remembering the person is not really easy for me.
NORMAN: And going back to what I was saying before about getting other people to tell my story, so to speak? Obviously, to me, when I think about our interview, I was essentially trying to talk about my best friend who had died in a car accident the same year that your mother passed. I was also dealing with that grief, and talking to you about your mother was my attempt to reflect on that.
ROB: Shit, I gotta read that interview now [laughs].
NORMAN: So I guess we could end by talking about the Anti-Matter Anthology Book Release Parties coming up [on November 24 & 25 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY]. You guys are playing with Snapcase, Triple Threat, and Soul Control.
ROB: The one thing that I think is really cool is that you are doing this show to celebrate the book, but even more important than that, youâre raising money for Cal Robbins by doing it. I mean, when I think back to that time period, there were so many great benefits. There was a point for Ressurection when it seemed like every show we played was a benefit for homeless people or something [laughs]. But that to me is really cool. Going to a hardcore show is great, but itâs even better when you go to a hardcore show to support a really cool cause. These shows, the entire environment around the shows, the bands, the people involved â it just seems like a very fitting way to celebrate that book, to talk about how punk rock is a community. Like Iâve never met J. Robbins. I donât think a lot of kids in the crowd will know too much about Government Issue or Jawbox. But thereâs definitely a genuine feeling that J. is a person who is important to a lot of people and important to punk music, and this is a way to give back and be grateful about something.
Some dude's basically saying, "Oh, hardcore died in 1986 and these kids just arenât the same!" And Iâm like, yeah, itâs changed, you idiot! And yeah, the musicâs changed. Even as much as I love Black Flag, if all I heard were bands trying to sound like The First Four Years, I would have left the punk scene fifteen years ago. Who the fuck wants to hear that again and again?
NORMAN: I totally agree. I mean, obviously, J. Robbins had a huge impact on my life. He made the Texas is the Reason album for, like, $500 or something. Ours was the second record he ever produced. I know what itâs like to be an entrepreneur or have your own business and barely get paid. And heâs here, heâs still making records. He gets paid a little more now, but heâs out there doing it for himself. And I donât want anybody to ever feel like thatâs the wrong decision. I want people to feel like they can pursue their passions and still take care of their families. So if that means that they receive a little help from their friends, then thatâs what Iâm here for. I want to help. That was a huge part of it, because that theme of community is kind of what makes the book important to me.
ROB: As a father, I couldnât even imagine being in that situation, so it means a lot to be able to contribute something towards that.
NORMAN: Itâs exciting for me because there are so many great objectives with these shows. For one, we get to raise money for Cal. But after that, I want it to feel like a party. I want people to walk in and smile and be happy and feel like itâs a celebration. I want the audience and the bands to have some fun with it. The Music Hall is big enough to feel like youâre at an event, but itâs intimate enough to feel like you could introduce yourself to someone or maybe make a new friend. I plan on being out in the audience as much as I can, personally. I want these shows to really reflect something that I cared about â not out of some weird â90s nostalgia thing, but because these are good things, whether itâs 1994 or 2007. Talking to each other or breaking down that artificial wall, those will always be good things.