Monday, July 2, 2012

Looking Back; An Interview with Norman Brannon

It’s funny how you think you know someone by listening to their band or reading their fanzine. Though I had never met Norm I felt as if I knew him. I had read every issue of  his fanzine Anti-Matter from cover to cover. I fell in love with his band Texas is the Reason and poured over every lyric as if it were scripture. I had met numerous people who shared stories about him. But I never really knew him. Not in any sense. When I heard his fanzine
Anti-matter was being turned into a book I knew I wanted to talk to him. This was my chance to get to know Norm like he had gotten to know so many people through the interviews in his fanzine and the music he’s created over the years. He had given me his number to set up an interview at one time or another. Like with most people I put off calling for weeks. I put it on my “To call” list. This past weekend I rang him up to set up our meeting.

We met up at Chelsea Piers on the West side Highway to talk about life, music, spirituality and of course the Anti-Matter book. (due in November from Revelation records) We talked for about three hours over veggie burgers and fries. During those three hours we dealt with the occasional sounds of helicopters, delivery trucks and passing vessels. It was a well spent three hours for me. I finally got to know the real Norman Brannon. James Damion

(Originally posted on Unite Fanzine 06/15/2008)

James: Okay Norm, what’s with this Law & Order obsession of yours?

Norm: You know they film it here?
I used to like coming here because it’s so quiet. I found out they did a lot of the filming here.
 I wasn’t an old school watcher.
It didn’t really happen until I got into that car accident I was telling you about.
I was in the hospital for about a month and a half to two months. Even after I got out of the hospital I couldn’t really walk well. When I was in the hospital I couldn’t walk at all. Once I got out I didn’t want to walk. I had one of those walkers with the tennis balls on it. At the time I lived in a duplex townhouse. I didn’t really like going up and down the stairs. I just kind of laid in bed or went downstairs and watched TV for hours. It just so happens that Law & Order is on all the time. I started with Law & Order SVU. Then there was the original and Criminal Intent. Then Trial By Jury came around. I had all the DVD’s and I was well, obsessed with it. I kind of still am. I still think it’s the greatest show on television ever.

James: I’m with you on that. It’s definitely my all time favorite show. I just don’t have the DVD’s or the Board Game. I had a similar experience of being laid up because of brain surgery. I was also hooked. I think it’s on 24/7 365 days a year somewhere in the world.

Norm: There was actually a website dedicated to the series. Telling you where and when it would be on. It also told you which episodes. It was like a TV Guide dedicated entirely to Law & Order.

James: What is it that draws you to the show?

Norm: I think I just realized after a while that I really missed New York. The accident happened in San Francisco. I had been living there for about four years. I wouldn’t say I was in a rut. I had work that I enjoyed. I was helping to manage a website and I ran to House Music record labels. I was pretty busy in the House Music world. I was traveling to D.J.
I was spinning a lot. I was putting out records I loved. But at the end of the day I never really connected with San Francisco. I just didn’t connect with the people I met there.
(At least not in a deep way) That kind of bummed me out. I would watch the show and I would see the Lower East Side and the East Village. It was like watching  New York Porn.
It was everything I loved about work and it made me want to come back.

James: I had been trying to find you through the normal channels and I always knew you as Norm Arenas. You changed your name to Norman Brannon. I was wondering what brought about that change?

Norm: The name change was a long time coming. Something I had talked about for the last ten years. I always had a very turbulent family life. About two or three years ago I came to the conclusion that the name itself was just baggage I didn’t need. Every time I heard the name it reminded me of that or them. I didn’t feel connected to it. I felt that changing my name I was leaving the last vestiges of that life behind. I was choosing a name that was completely arbitrary and meaningless. It didn’t have any meaning attached to it. It was a name I created. (An individual expression) When I hear the name Brannon, if I feel bad about it it’s my fault. If I hear the name Arenas if I feel bad I know it’s not my fault. I had to work out a lot of emotions before I changed my name. That was a bit difficult. A lot of it was very therapy intensive. It’s really like figuring out yourself and making sure you’re comfortable with every angle of the issue you have. I came to a point where I thought,  “Okay, I’m totally in a good place with this. I’m at peace with this now.” Changing the name wasn’t out of spite which I’m sure at one point in my life was a large part of it. But at the time it wasn’t that way. It was a positive thing.

James: I’ve had a lot of similar issues with my family. (Particularly my Father) I have thought numerous times about changing my name legally. I don’t feel any connection to him and his name only brings me bad memories and pain. I just thought it was too much trouble. You mentioned the term“Therapy Intensive” Did you ever seek therapy? I was having a conversation with someone I interviewed recently. We were just talking about similar experiences we shared. At one point he cocked his head and asked, “Have you ever gone to therapy”? I had thought about it at one point and kind of dismissed it as something a weaker person might do. I figured I’d handled it myself this whole time. Why do that?

Norm: Yes, I did after the accident. Part of injury was neuro psychological. Meaning I also had a brain injury. I had some issues I had to work with as well on a neuro psychopathic level. It became an issue of brain chemistry and science. One of the things that this kind of brain injury triggers is depression, which is something, I’ve always had. The depression the injury triggered was really, really bad. It was something I thought could be best served by with a neuro physiologist.  (Someone who understood neurology and psychology.) Once I started I began feeling good about it. Once the neurological aspect of the issue faded I continued to get therapy for my depression for another six months. I think it was helpful but it’s different for everybody. I can see where someone might be hesitant. I remember being really surprised when I was interviewing Richie Birkenhead. (Underdog/Into Another) The first question I asked was “Tell me something that no one would know about you. He said,
“Well, I just came back from therapy.” I was speechless. At the time I really didn’t know anyone who had sought therapy. My conception of what it would be was very different from what it turned out to be. The reality of it is you just it in a room and talk. You talk a lot. Essentially, it’s thinking out loud. Which I think is healthy. It’s a good way of organizing your thoughts and your objectives. It also puts you in a position where say something out load that you’ve been thinking. Maybe something that makes you angry. Then you think to yourself, “Wow, that sounds stupid out loud.”

James: How did the idea for the book come about and how did Revelation Records come into the picture?

Norm: Interestingly enough the actual book was conceived in 1998. I actually signed a contract with Revelation to do the book in 1998. I was living in Chicago at the time and I had just quit the magazine I had been writing for.
I thought the Anti-Matter anthology would be a fun project. A nice way to tie up loose ends. Because Texas is the Reason was so popular Anti-Matter received this posthumous attention that as rather strange. I used to joke with my friend Trevor about how Texas is the Reason was the only band with ex-members of a Fanzine. You would go to shows and see a flyer that said “ex-members of Shelter, 108, Anti-Matter”.
People would see that and during interviews would say, “I’ve never seen that. What was Anti-Matter?”. The idea of a book was for everyone to see what it was. I had moved to Chicago and during an eight-year period we hired around five designers who all worked on the project until they just dropped it. It was just too difficult. It was a difficult project. Doing it took a lot of work and a sense of compulsive mania to design a book. Especially to a point where I’m going to be psyched about it. One designer after another kept falling off.
I started thinking, “This just isn’t going to work. I’ll just give the advance money back.”. There were times when I really started to think like that. About a year ago I started hanging out with this guy Dan who I had met. He has this blog site that’s titled
“Ultra Sparky”. We became super tight super fast. We just became really good friends.
I realized that he’s designed books. Not only that but he had a fanzine back in the day. He was familiar with the culture and the aesthetics of the culture. He took on the project and he was the first designer that really put himself into it and was able to finish it. From there it all just came together. What’s interesting to me is I believe that this is the best time for this to happen. I think it would have been a mistake if we would have put it out in 1999, 2002 or even 2004. I think 2007 is the right time because now we can actually look back at the 90’s objectively. We can now look back at it as a time past. I find that the 90’s are unique era. (The bands and the fanzines that were a part of it.) The Internet happened during the middle of the decade. These are things that make the era completely unique. Because Anti-Matter never talked specifically about music it remains current. Reading those interviews last year
I realized that these interviews could have happened yesterday. That made me feel really great about the project. The idea that we could look at this book as a group of individuals that were operating in the same circle at a certain time. Whether or not they had great records at the time, which they did, becomes irrelevant. It’s about growing up.

James: Is being obsessive-compulsive part of your nature?

Norm: Well, I’ve never been diagnosed and I don’t do rituals but….

James: From reading the zine I was always under the impression that you did everything 200%.

Norm: It wasn’t as much a percentage than it was a feeling that I really don’t want there to be accidents. This is something that resonates through me. I really enjoy doing things very carefully.  That’s like saying the right word or describing something with the right word. Playing the right chord. Whatever it is I’m doing I don’t want it to feel as if it were an accident. I want it to be a very deliberate expression.

James: Do you ever regret  being so careful in life? Maybe obsessing over the perfect chord?

Norm: Not when it comes to art but maybe in life. I think that can sometimes hold you back in life. I think when it comes to life I’m in a different place than I was back then. I feel that now I can experience things and take risks. I think that’s a by-product of being a Hardcore kid. Especially being a Hardcore kid in the 80’s. Being a Hardcore kid meant over thinking everything to death. I don’t regret it. I think it was a decent way for me to live as a young man. I feel that now I can make educated risks.

James: Your interviews spoke to me on a different level than most. When I was doing Unite I was asking a lot of formula questions. Reading Anti-Matter made me want to get closer to the subjects I was interviewing. You were doing what I always wanted to do.

Norm: I had my own inspirations. The fanzines that I looked to were No Answers and Suburban Voice. Suburban Voice influenced me in more subtle ways. Al Quint used to give out his phone number in his fanzine. I called him up one day when I was seventeen and just started talking to him about…stuff. When I started Anti-Matter I called him up and talked about other…stuff. He always took the time out to talk to me. I loved the fact that it came out regularly. I could count on Suburban Voice. It was a subtle influence but I loved the magazine. No Answers was more personal. It helped me take the interview to a place where I was more comfortable. No Answers influenced me on that personal level. He started something and I think I tried to take it to a different place that was closer to my personality. No Answers put conversations in print that I felt were conversations I’d like to have in general. I felt that if I hadn’t recorded those conversations and put them in my fanzine.
I would have had those conversations with those people anyway. That was really my objective.

James: Do you feel that  being in bands and touring with a lot of you subjects help you to gain more access and intimacy with them?

Norm: It created a common ground. I think being in bands put me in a position where I could be more empathetic to their situations. I felt that I could talk to them in a way that musicians talk to each other. I do feel that there is often a divide between musicians and journalists. As a journalist writing for magazines where the people I was interviewing had no idea who
I was, who I played with or where I came from. As far as they were concerned I was just a hack with a computer. I was definitely treated in a different way. I’m thinking of one situation where it was uncovered that I was a musician that they were aware of. All of the sudden or interview took a different route. I was being treated like shit by this band that considered themselves artists above all artists. I ended up walking out on the interview. I didn’t do it. They were just really pretentious.

James: You’re leaving me guessing here. You’re not even going to tell me are you?

Norm: (Laughs) It was Tool. I agreed to do the interview because I appreciated their context. I Norm: appreciated that they were doing something that was somehow operating on a mainstream level while being in complete opposition to the mainstream. That was interesting to me and that was the story I wanted to talk about. It just turned very ugly and I walked out. What I’ve learned is you don’t have to be a nice guy to be a great musician but it helps.
It helps when you feel the music is coming from a very sincere place. In the end it’s not what I’m looking for as a listener. As a human being I think it’s important to respect everybody. If you’re a band like Tool maybe you just shouldn’t do press at all.

James: Did you ever regret not finishing High School?

Norm: I actually ended up getting my GED. in a sense to throw a bone to my parents.
I quit school when I turned sixteen. It was something I realized I could do legally. 
So it was always sort of a count off. My reasons for dropping out weren’t so much scholastic as they were social. I grew up in Woodside, Queens. When I was in
Junior High School my parents abruptly decided to move to Long Island. I had some serious problems with that. I don’t really know what Massapequa is like in 2007 but I know what it was like in 1989. It was so white that on several occasions I had people asking me if I was black. Because they had never seen a person of color before. It was hard and
I hated it. I didn’t really connect well with people there.
Looking back in retrospect it was essentially good for me because it gave me more of a sense of isolation and perhaps pushed me further into Punk Rock. (More so than I would have had in Queens.) Most of my friends in Woodside were Hip Hop kids. While I still love Hip Hop and the culture Punk rock spoke to me on more levels when it came to the issues
I was facing. Dropping out of school was part of a series of events I needed at the time to establish my independence from my family. I knew that if I dropped out of High School that they would ask me to leave the house.

James: You were really happy to go?

My experience with Shelter gave me enough money to put out the first issue of Anti-Matter. I got to do Texas is the Reason because of Anti-Matter.”

Norm: Yes!!!

James: The first thing I thought of when you mentioned Woodside was  Z.O.W.
(Zombies of Woodside was a crew that predated DMS)

Norm: It’s weird but I don’t believe in fate or anything mystical. I do believe that all coincidences are just random. I do feel that my connection to Punk Rock is so deep rooted because of different things that existed in my life. My fourth grade teacher who’s name was Lisa Koncz. Ms. Koncz was my favorite teacher in the whole world. I just remember being completely in love with her. I never had more respect for anybody but her. She was so interested in the fact that I loved music so much. I had an older brother who turned me onto some stuff. He was really into Heavy Metal. I was kind of somewhere between Judas Priest and Krush Groove. She had asked me if I ever wanted to play an instrument. I told her I wanted to play drums. She told me her bother played drums and maybe they could teach you. She gave me a tape of her brothers’ band. I heard it and I remember not really liking it. About two or three years later when I started to get into Punk Rock I was reading about
New York Hardcore bands and somewhere it mentioned Kraut in the article. I thought, 
“That was Lisa Koncz’ brothers’ band.” Sure enough I did my research and found out the drummers name was Johnny Feedback and his real last name was Khans’. “Oh shit, I could have learned to play drums from Johnny Feedback.” I met Z.O.W. around that same time.
I used to hang out at this park across the street from my house. They hung out in a part of the park that everyone knew as “the back of the park”. At the time there were three neighborhood gangs that we all knew. There was the 52nd St. Crew that was predominantly a Black and Hispanic crew. Then there was Z.O.W. which was predominantly White. There was this one guy Charley who was really cool and kind of took me on as a little brother.
I had really good memories of this gang. Then later on as I got into Hardcore I saw that everybody knew who they were.

James: I could say the same thing for DMS. I never thought of them as a gang at the time. They were just friends that I hung out with. (People who looked out for me) I had gotten jumped on the train. One of my friends found out where the guy lived and was going to fire bomb his house.

Norm: It’s really part of the culture of living in certain cities.

James: There’s a stigma attached to not having that piece of paper.

Norm: I’ve never been in a situation where I needed to show my diploma. I was always asked, “What have you done for the last couple of years?” It all came down to just surviving. What was I going to do to pay my rent and keep me from sleeping on people’s floors and couches? I knew Mark Ryan (Supertouch) and Chaka (Burn) who worked at Prana.
(a vegetarian grocery store on the Lower East Side) They gave me a job with no experience. In a lot of ways they were like guardian angels to me. I was also lucky. One of my friends, (Rob Fish) and I lived with him at his Father’s house out in New Jersey.
Later Rob asked me to play in his band. After playing with Ressurection I was asked to play in 108. I got asked to play in Shelter because of my experience playing in 108.
My experience with Shelter gave me enough money to put out the first issue of
Anti-Matter. I got to do
Texas is the Reason because of Anti-Matter. It was just a case of wherever my needs took me I followed.
I do think that a lot of it was just luck for me. Being in the right place at the right time. That said, I worked really hard on everything I’ve done. Especially the stuff that I did in the Hardcore scene. I really did work my ass off. If you look back making a living doing a fanzine seems crazy. I don’t think I realized just how crazy it was at the time. I was working twelve hours a day in my bedroom. In the end it didn’t feel harder than having a day job.

James: How did you become interested in Krishna?

Norm: A lot of times before and after the matinees at CBGB’s we would hang out at Tompkins Square Park. At that time a lot of Krishna’s were out in the park giving out free food to homeless people and punks. That was the first time I came face to face with a
Hare Krishna. “Free food, You can’t beat that.” There was also the Cro-mags and later on Ray Cappo. There was an article in Maximum Rock n Roll in 89 with Ray Cappo. I was obsessed with the article that followed. I must have read it a thousand times. It was about how this family member had their boyfriend or girlfriend deprogrammed. How Krishna was a dangerous cult. How they were brainwashing people. The article just dug up every possible argument against this cult. At the time I thought that it was very unfair and biased. I’d like to decide for myself. I went to a Hare Krishna temple for the first time in 1989. I remember buying a book and it didn’t really leave that much of an impression on me. In May 1990 my best friend died in a car accident. I was seventeen when that happened and I was devastated. This was a person that meant everything to me. (A person who knew me best in the world.) Feeling that sense of mortality at such a young age I wanted answers. I started going back and started reading. I was reading about Krishna Consciousness, other Theologies and trains of thought about death and God. By the summer of 1990 I had become a devotee. I was finding my way in that culture. I moved into the temple in the summer of 1991 and stayed there for a little over a year and a half.

James: At the time I had read the books and listened to what some of the Krishna’s had to say. I agreed with a lot of the principles and could even practice some of them in my own life. My main issue was the whole idea of completely changing your lifestyle. Moving into a temple and giving up everything in the process. That seemed  downright kooky to me.
I always wondered what would make someone take that extreme of a step?

Norm: It was simple. At the time I had always been an all or nothing kind of a person.
So in a sense my conscience dictated it. On a more rational level I was young. I was eighteen at the time and I felt I really had nothing to lose. I should move into temple and dedicate my time to this and see if this is something I feel comfortable with. Is it something I truly believe in? If it isn’t then I can leave. If it is then I am lucky that I found it so early on in life. I just wanted to take that chance at the time while I had the time. At the time I didn’t think I would become a writer or a musician. I was a kid on the street. If I could live with friends, eat free food and be involved with something I believed in. That’s what I was going to do.

James: Is it something you still practice or apply to your life?

Norm: When I left I really didn’t think my life had changed that much. I always thought I was a decent person. My moral outlook wasn’t anything different as a Krishna. I think now I fall more along the lines of being an agnostic as opposed to being a true theist. I think I’ve always been a “live by the golden rule” kind of person. “Due unto others” I always felt that if I followed the golden rule I’d be okay.

James: Was being gay ever an issue within the Krishna community you lived in?

Norm: No, it wasn’t because devotee’s are supposed to be celibate. So whether you’re gay or straight is sort of a moot point. The only thing it affected was my opportunity to deal with my sexuality in my own head. When I was able to deal with it in my own head I was okay with it.Before my initiation I told my group that I was gay. They were okay. “The same rules apply to everybody.”

James: What is the actual initiation process?

Norm: You take vows to practice the four principles. (No intoxicants, No meat eating,
No gambling and a vow of celibacy) There’s also a certain amount of hours a day spent chanting on beads. You make these vows to a spiritual guru. He then gives you a spiritual name.

James: Mouthpiece and Resurrection are two bands that for one reason or another I always think of in the same breathe. You played for one of them. Can you tell me about your experience with Resurrection and your friendship with Rob Fish?

Norm: You know I’ve always done the same thing with Mouthpiece, Resurrection
and Lifetime. Because at that time those three bands were all on the same record label. They were all pretty popular in the scene. They all shared members of some sort. It was somewhat incestuous. I remember the first Resurrection single had Dan Yemin and Ari Katz on it. Then Ari and Dan started Lifetime. Then Resurrection took Lifetime’s first drummer, which was
Chris Daily. Then Resurrection and Mouthpiece shared guitarist Dan Hornecker. So it was very incestuous. I was living in Edison New Jersey with Rob Fish at the time. Lifetime and Resurrection both practiced in his garage. Mouthpiece was from Trenton but always seemed to be around. We always played shows together. The typical Jersey show at the time was some touring bands Resurrection, Mouthpiece and Lifetime.
It was interesting because all those bands were completely different from one another. Mouthpiece was very much a revivalist Straightedge Hardcore band. Lifetime were very
mid tempo. I used to call them more of a Rock band and they would get so mad at me. Resurrection was really trying to push the boundaries of being a dirty Punk band that were Straightedge.

James: I wasn’t living in New Jersey at the time but I remember going to so many great Hardcore shows there. There was the Pipeline, Hiltz’s House, Middlesex College and City Gardens.

Norm: In the early nineties New Jersey was New York Hardcore. Especially after CBGB’s closed its doors to Hardcore shows due to all the violence. What was happening in
New Jersey in the nineties is as close to what was happening with New York Hardcore in the eighties as I can tell. It was just a bunch of friends hanging out and having fun. When I was asked to play in Resurrection I was really psyched. I got to play guitar in a band I liked. People I liked. I had never gotten to play in a band like Resurrection musically before…Never. I remember when we went on tour I don’t think we ever tuned our instruments ever.
I just remember Chris and I would tune our guitars as low as they could go and still make a sound. There was just enough tension to make chords. I remember touring for two months and never changing my guitar strings. I appreciated that our sound appeals to the older sound of Punk. The other great thing is I was playing with someone who had become my best friend. Rob and I lived together for two months at his Dad’s home and then we went on tour. When we had gotten back his Father had sold the house and I didn’t have a place to live anymore. Rob’s dad was the coolest. He loved having everyone over. I remember coming off that tour and being dropped off on someone’s lawn because I had no place to go.
I was homeless again and I begged my friend’s mother to let me stay with her.
She didn’t want me there but in the end she relented.

James: I loved Youth of Today but when it came to Shelter I was turned off.
Maybe it seemed insincere in a sense. He seemed to love the sound of his own voice.

Norm: Not then he wasn’t. When I joined Shelter I raised a few eyebrows among the people I was hanging out with at the time. Shelter was a pretty big hardcore band at the time. In comparison to today’s standards it’s not as big. Back then we all thought they were rock stars with mansions. I had lived in the same temple for a few months as a monk. I got to know Ray very well. I spent a lot of time with Porcell. I trusted them. There was a feeling that I hadn’t seen since the 80’s. It was as if they were on a mission from God. In the eighties there were bands like Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Bold who at times seemed like they were on this mission from God.
Shelter, in a sense, was on a mission from God. I felt that at the time they were totally sincere.
Being in Shelter for me was a no brainer. I was with people I really liked. I wasn’t exactly playing the kind of music I wanted to play but I was getting closer.
I also got to travel the world, which was something I had never gotten to do before.

James: Fountainhead…Why did you leave the band?

Norm: I was living in Jersey at the time and I just couldn’t make the trip to practice. It wasn’t anything dramatic. I really liked being in the band. It was my first stab at writing songs. Looking back it’s hard to listen to the record because…it’s not that good. I think it’s pretty cool that I helped to write some of those songs and I played a role.

James: Playing music vs. writing and journalism. How do you balance the two?

Norm: It’s not really about balance. I get really bored of things. My problem is I will do something for a while. I’ll really focus on it. But eventually I’ll get bored. The good thing is when I get bored with one thing I can focus more on the other. I can go back and fourth.

James: What’s happening with the Thursday Documentary? Is the band breaking up?

Norm: I was basically brought in to help them to create a narrative.
(Something closer to a documentary than one of those typical DVD’s that show interviews and live footage.) We wanted to tell a story. I’ve known Steve forever. I know him because he wrote me a letter when I was doing Anti-Matter. Later we traded mix tapes. (Remember those days?)I didn’t even realize he was in Thursday until a few days before that truck hit me. I was in San Francisco with Steve Reddy (Equal Vision Records) at a Coheed and Cambria show when Steve approached me backstage. He was like “Do you remember me?” I said, “I do but your going to have to help me out.”
When he told me who he was I remembered right away. Steve kind of brought me into the fold. I did interviews individually with the band and talked to about twelve people who had something to do with the band. We’re in the editing stage right now. It’s got some great concert footage of a show they did in New Jersey about a year ago. The DVD has tons of footage from the past ten years from basement shows and just hanging out. Great stuff they’ve collected over the years. I feel very positive about this project. The band is not breaking up. Their writing stuff for the new record and they’ve got some new songs on the DVD. Their definitely the best songs they’ve ever written.

James: I read on your profile that you're a Cancer. One more thing we share. What's your birthday? (Mine is July 7th)

Norm: I'm on July 13. I'm a fairly typical Cancer in the generic sense, but I never really got all that into horoscopes. A friend of mine introduced me to this thing called the Enneagram about ten years ago, which is this study of personality types that I think the Jesuits had some part in developing. I'm not sure. I've also read that Gurdjieff had something to do with it, too. But yeah, the Enneagram is a nine-pointed star, and each point of that star represents one of nine major personality types. On top of that, each major personality type is further broken down by what they call "wings." It's like having a major and a minor in college. Like I'm considered a 4 with 5 wing — which basically means I'm a moody creative-type who is constantly being derailed by a tendency to analyze everything. I'm usually skeptical about anything that seems to draw a box around me as an individual, but these descriptions were just so right on that I couldn't ignore it. It's just very eerily detailed,
I guess.

James: How does Norman Brannon handle and deal with stress?

Norm: Not very well! No, seriously, I don't know. I don't think about it too much, to be honest. The things I do to relax are more non-active than pro-active. Like some people will go for a jog or do yoga or something. I'll just turn off my phone and go somewhere by myself. I don't do it very often anymore, but I used to love going to movies by myself.
That kind of thing just feels good to me for some reason.

James: If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

Norm: Fuck, that's tough. I don't know. Because honestly, I did a lot of internal work after that car accident I was in a few years back. I mean, I was literally in a bed for two months.
I had nothing to do but pick myself apart and identify the things about myself that didn't feel right and make the conscious effort to purge them. I think the biggest thing is that I was harboring a lot of negativity at that time, I was becoming a bit too misanthropic — even for me. But right now, honestly, I'm pretty satisfied. There's always room to be a better person, of course, but there isn't any one thing that I would change. For the first time in my life,
I think I can say that I'm basically happy.

James: Last and I hope not least.....Your all time favorite HXC record.

Norm: I don't think that I have one favorite, so you're gonna have to let me cheat. Because when I feel like listening to hardcore these days, I almost always go to one of three records: Bad Brains' "I Against I,"
Kraut's "An Adjustment To Society,"
and Negative Approach's "Tied Down."
That's it. That's like the holy trinity of punk rock to me.

(Interview James Damion. Images provided by Norman Brannon.)

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