Hardcore in the Void: The Return of Anti-Matter

“A good opening question to ask somebody to get to know them in the hardcore scene, at least in the ‘80s was: ‘So, what fucked you up to be here?” says Norman Brannon. “And everyone had an answer, bar none.” This is the tissue that connects all generations of hardcore, a more aggressive subculture of punk, according to Brannon, the editor of renewed zine Anti-Matter. “It’s the reason why we scream at shows and why we jump on each other and like we’re getting something out. Well-adjusted people don’t need to do this.”

Brannon knows hardcore. He has a three-decade tenure in the scene, as guitarist for multiple bands, including seminal emo band Texas is the Reason; as creator of the original Anti-Matter zine; as a house DJ, label manager and real estate agent; and back to guitarist for Thursday in 2021.

The original idea for Anti-Matter came in 1993 when the popular punk zine Maximum Rocknroll began excluding bands for arbitrary reasons, worrying Brannon and his musician friends. Anti-Matter interviewed bands from all over, big and small. Rancid, Rage Against the Machine, Quicksand, Judge, Jawbox. The variety was intentional. “We were open to the idea of hardcore music sounding like anything we wanted it to sound like because that was punk to us,” he says. “I was pushing forward this idea that was very important to me, and still is, that hardcore is more than music.”

The first iteration of Anti-Matter ended in 1995 because he didn’t want to be “both critic and artist,” which he now regrets. With the resurgence of hardcore in the mainstream — Baltimore hardcore’s Turnstile was nominated for three Grammys in 2023 — and the 2019 dissolution of Maximum Rocknroll, Brannon realized there wasn’t anyone that went in-depth into hardcore. “It felt to me like there was a void that was shaped like Anti-Matter.”

Photo by John Lagucki

And he didn’t want to make a podcast or video channel. He wanted to make a zine — classic punk. Anti-Matter today is an interview-essay digital zine that updates two to three times a week. Artists interviewed range from Incendiary to Friendly Fires to Geoff Rickly – all people whose personal tie to hardcore Brannon wanted to explore.

“I’ve been playing music for over 30 years, there’s nothing you could tell me about music that’s going to interest me,” says Brannon. “So really, what’s interesting to me is who are you and how are you dealing with being alive.”

Intimate talks remain the zine’s primary characteristic, as they’d always been. Anti-Matter allowed Brannon to be open, a privilege he didn’t get during his upbringing. Intergenerational exchanges within the queer community and the hardcore community parallel for Brannon. “What I’ve learned about this particular conversation [on hardcore generations] is what I’ve learned from being a gay man. When I was young and trying to figure out who I was, and how I fit into this queer community, there were definitely times where I thought, ‘Wow, I could really use a conversation with someone who’s just seen it all.’”

You can read and subscribe to Anti-Matter at antimatter.substack.com.


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Hardcore in the Void: The Return of Anti-Matter

"There were definitely times where I thought, ‘I could really use a conversation with someone who’s just seen it all.’” Texas is the Reason's Norman Brannon discusses his reasons for reviving his '90s hardcore zine.