Negative Approach were formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1981. The band is considered among the pioneers of hardcore punk, particularly in the Midwest region. Like most hardcore bands, Negative Approach was little known in its day outside of its hometown. It is now idolized in the Detroit rock underground and the punk subculture, considered to be one of the elite bands of the "old school" era, and continues to be influential.
NA's first gig was in the basement of Necros drummer Todd Swalla's mother's home. Soon after, they recorded a demo, and followed that up with an appearance on the Process of Elimination compilation 7" EP, released on Meatmen frontman Tesco Vee's fledgling Touch & Go label, named after hisfanzine of the same name.
The first proper Negative Approach studio release came in 1982 with their self-titled 7" EP, also on Touch & Go. It contained "Can't Tell No One," "Ready To Fight" and "Nothing," which is considered by many to be the quintessential NA song.
The following year saw the release of the Tied Down LP, also venerated as a hardcore classic.
Negative Approach's musical style was based on Detroit proto-punk/rock & roll icons The Stooges. Of The Stooges' guitarist Ron Asheton, John Brannon said, "So much of what NA stands for; our sound and lyrics were based on the music which he helped to create." NA were also influenced by high-octane British punk rock (especially Discharge) and Oi! music (Blitz, 4-Skins, et al.), although from the start their sound and demeanor were considerably more aggressive and brutal than that of their influences. NA's brand of hardcore was savage and nihilistic, exuding frustration, pessimism and rage. This was personified in the band's vocalist John Brannon, an intimidating and intense young man with a shaved head, piercing stare and belligerent attitude. His vocal style and stage presence set the standard for those that followed.