Chris OP Moore is a man that in my opinion needs no introduction, yet here I am writing an intro to this I interview I did with him recently. Chris was and sometimes is the drummer for Detroit’s own Negative Approach. He’s also a solo artist and plays with various projects in Brooklyn, NY. Read on.
You are Chris OP Moore, drummer from Negative Approach and solo musician, correct?
You and a handful of other people, like Earl Hudson, Jeff Nelson, Lucky Lehrer and Todd Swalla pretty much originated the form of “Hardcore Drumming." What are your thoughts on this? What inspired your playing back in the beginning of Negative Approach? Were you already playing drums or did you learn to be in the band? What made you want to play drums in the first place?
I started playing drums at about age 12, just a snare drum, and a year after, a kit…I would mostly try to play along with records in our living room between two speakers, Devo, the Clash, Led Zeppelin, whatever. That time when "classic" rock was fading and punk and new wave were emerging...later I started watching/jamming with older teens up the street in their garage.
Any thoughts on “Hardcore Drumming”?
Oh yeah, for sure. There is a swing to it, people make fun sometimes and say it’s like Polka style, but to me the great drummers of that time like the guys you mentioned had different styles but all had a swing, especially Earl. I loved the details those guys played too, the fills, and how they shaped the energy of the songs... It’s funny too, they weren’t particularly loud players, but they had great attack, so you "felt" it. Actually, Earl was pretty loud... Also, cred to DKs drummer D.H. Peligro and Bill Stevenson (Black Flag, Descendents), in my Top 10!
Funny side note here: in 2010 at a Detroit Negative Approach show with Meatmen, Todd (Swalla, Necros drummer) came out and was hanging and he watched from the stage the whole set and after said, "Chris I never realized how much of what you play reminds me of Earl!” It was such a compliment, but at the same time I was like, shit, I’ve been found out! Always got along great with Todd...
You were also into skateboarding, yes? Was skating any kind of "gateway" into punk and hardcore for you or was it kind of simultaneous?
I started skating a lot around then too and it was a great way around from the conventional high school scene peer trip…
How did you hook up with John Brannon and the McCulluch brothers?
I gradually met a lot of close friends in the skater scene, and we hung out beyond just skating, started going to shows, and it was natural, the folding in of the "punk"culture and the skate culture, both seen as outsider misfit type interests. Shortly after, I met the McCulluch bros and John (Brannon) and Necros gang, etc. We would come to meet folks from different scenes and cities, it was pretty interesting and fun.
Can you tell me any stories from the infamous "Process of Elimination" tour? You guys played CBGB's then right? I know one of the pics from Tied Down is from CB's.
The Process tour was a blast. Corey and the Necros guys did all the work organizing it. I loved it, playing NYC was so exciting and meeting and making friends with the kids in the different scenes...and also around then we started playing shows with Black Flag, DKs, DOA, Discharge, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, etc. It was an intense 2 years. I learned a lot about making things happen with very little and dealing with chaotic situations at gigs!
Who made your graphics for Negative Approach flyers and records? Were you all horror fans?
Larissa (Strickland, nee Stolarchuk, guitar player in Laughing Hyenas) did most of NA’s flyers, she was a super talented person, and was the singer in L-Seven, a very underrated arty punk band in Detroit. We were into horror stuff, I think Larisa used that ‘cause she knew all the kids dug it.
Can you tell me any memories from some old show flyers/ticket stubs?
Yeah, I guess, its funny...and yeah that was our first "big" show. The Damned were already seasoned pros, there was a rift going on between hardcore kids and the "first" wave, but the Damned (Capt Sensible) was making fun of us. My friend, Greg Bokor, who was a big fan and at the show, was in the first row and laid down a sheet, a setlist he suggested they play! Sensible loved that..they were great. I saw them two times after that and they were always good to great..
Just that I loved it, first time in NYC/Brooklyn on reunion run, loved the vibe and energy.
Do you remember that one opening band that did an extended dub version of "Ready to Fight"? Were you guys amused or annoyed or anything?
Yeah, that was funny/"punk”.
Jackie (my wife) threw a full beer at the singer while they were doing that hahaha! It hit him too [laughs].
[Laughs] No way!
Black Flag destroyed! Henry crawled around in the audience, a big crowd. They were so intense, Dez was on 2nd guitar then. It was deep, like trippy almost, it wasn’t really hardcore. They were morphing into something different. NA and Necros seemed rigid in comparison. They were older and more into jamming and dialing weirder sonic territory. They did the "hits" too of course, but it was heavy as hell, emotional, they were a force, totally committed. They came back to our practice space after and we skated around and chilled out around midnight in Cass Corridor (neighborhood in Detroit where NA rehearsed). They thought it was gnarly, the hood... Larissa made that flyer, that’s her typography/handwriting, the date and location part of flyer. I loved her hand script, you can compare it to Laughing Hyenas stuff she did on Crawl.
That show ended up a mess, a big fight, cops, etc. The show was intense as hell, Minor Threat were like the tightest group, an inspiration for sure. We were friends with them. They were very serious on stage, but off they were looser and goofier dudes. I actually don’t remember playing! I remember we were pretty strong and tight that period as well. I think I just wanted to get our set over with and watch MT. Larissa also made the MT flyer, more of a cut and paste vibe.
I only really remember being in front row for ‘Fits singing along to "Skulls" and other songs, and just being a fan! Super rowdy crowd, I think this was a UofM campus event! In Ann Arbor! I don’t know who did the flyer...
What was it like seeing the Misfits back then? What were they like?
I really liked the Misfits tunes a lot, and they were super friendly actually. I loved that they had melodies! Their live shows were kind of a mess, but in a good way. Some people didn’t like the costuming and posing and stuff, but I think they just were staying true to their vision to stand out a bit from the other bands. I think the tunes totally hold up.
I know you were you friends with fellow Detroit and Midwest bands like Meatmen, Necros, the Fix etc, were there any kind of rivalries?
Rivalries were there, but I don’t remember anything dramatic coming from it band-wise, pretty low key. I’m sure people got nasty but I didn’t see too much of that…The scene got pretty splintered though, once it started getting more popular, more fights, more macho vibe.
What did your parents think of all this stuff at time?
My parents didn’t exactly know what was going on but they never gave me a hassle or told me to stop hanging out with so and so. I never came home wasted or hurt really, so I guess they thought I was with an ok gang, so to speak.
It’s a little known fact that you wrote a lot of the music for Negative Approach. How did the songwriting process work with you guys?
Writing tunes was fun. John wrote the bulk of the early stuff and I started picking up guitar and coming up with stuff that those guys liked and we all would suggest little tweaks. I was very influenced by the Bad Brains/Minor Threat vibe, but I was trying to sneak in some arty/metal shit too [laughs], different changes etc… Also we tried to have "hooks" every now and then…either a riff or lyric or both. John was good at that.
Can you talk a little about why you left Negative Approach and what you were doing after? And did you stay in touch with any of the Negative Approach guys after the band split up?
Rob and I quit to form CW, a less severe sounding band, that had a pretty long lifespan and John kept NA goin’ for a few months after as we’d just released Tied Down. He wanted to tour but it didn’t hold together and he went on to form Laughing Hyenas with Larissa.
What was CW?
Crossed Wire (post NA band). I fronted it on guitar with Rob from NA. It morphed from Stiff Little Fingers/Buzzcocks influenced power pop/punk to a more Jangly R.E.M. trip, to a rootsy, Americana, singer-songwriter vibe. Corey (Rusk, Touch and Go Records owner and original Necros bass player) booked our first big date, opening for Butthole Surfers. It wasn’t a good match. We were trying to do something more subtle to run contrast to our past and the Buttholes were doing the same but being more extreme with their art/music. It was cool though, experiencing those changes and contrasts. A lot of inspiration/information.
You moved to Brooklyn in the mid-'90s, correct?
I moved to Brooklyn in the late '90s for a change-up. I loved NYC so I wanted to try to get it going somewhere else.
What are you up to now and do you keep up with punk and hardcore at all?
So, I’ve pretty much been doing a variety of stuff, releasing periodic solo records and playing with a group of players in various side-projects, making artwork, having a family, teaching music, and on occasion jamming with NA...