Brian Brannon (JFA)


JFA - Brian Brannon

  • 4th February 2023
  • Hi Brow, CA
  • Marcus Solomon
  • DC-Jam Records

Brian Brannon was interviewed after skateboarding legend Steve Alba‘s 60th birthday celebration on February 4th 2023 at the Hi Brow in Upland CA. JFA (Jody Foster’s Army) are the quintessential skatepunk band. For 42 years, vocalist Brian Brannon and original guitarist Don Pendelton have been shredding backyard pools, empty drainage ditches, ramps of every size and description, surfing whenever the ocean was in reach and performing their unique blend of punk, surf, and straight-up rock ‘n’ roll that runs the gamut from hardcore thrash to evocative surf. Over the years, Brian’s teenage caterwaul has evolved into a somewhat refined everyman’s bellow, but he also has a really good voice and he can sing with the best of them whenever he chooses. Brian is also a talented guitarist, and he is not too bad on the keyboard (his rendition of the Charlie Brown theme is a classic.) In addition, his devotion to music, skateboarding, surfing, and serving his country as a non-commisioned officer in the U.S. Navy is truly impressive and inspirational.


JFA has never been on hiatus, and continues to roll along, fast and strong. They are in it until the wheels fall off. It took only 13 years, but the band has a new album out entitled Last Ride, that is available via DC-Jam records. JFA still plays often, so if you get a chance, get over there and be sure to stage dive while wearing your Independent Trucks T-shirt. Brain and the rest of the band will appreciate it. 

Photograph courtesy Jeff Terranova

Marcus: Against my better judgment, I have accepted Brian’s invitation to sit in his truck. He says I have ten minutes, but I’m gonna get fifteen minutes or more. So, that show that just ended was great [Skateboarding legend Steve Alba’s 60th birthday party.] It was also great to see you perform with Salba and his Powerflex 5. I know it is a long drive for you to come out here from Huntington Beach to Upland. 

Brian: “It was worth it man. I’ve known Salba since way back. He used to come out to the empty swimming pool wonderland we used to call Phoenix, Arizona.”

Marcus: Why was Phoenix so laden with empty pools? 

Brian: “For a long time, the Interstate 10 Freeway stopped at the very west side of town, and it did not start up again for another ten or fifteen miles. They finally started completing this freeway and they just started knocking down blocks and square miles of houses that had all these pools. It was just an incredible mecca of empty pools. We didn’t even know what to do with them all. I got so picky, I’d be like [pointing at imaginary pools] no, no, no…hell yeah! I would then come out to skate with Salba and he would take me some of his spots, and I’d go…Dude, your pools suck.”

Marcus: I guess he eventually forgave you for that. So, JFA, how many years has it been now? 

Brian: “Well, we started in 1981, so in March [2023] it will be 42 years.” 

Marcus: 42 years. That just does not seem possible. 

Brian: “Yeah, I know. Luckily, I was only 14-years-old when we started.


Marcus: Funny thing…I can understand what you are saying now. Back then, I couldn’t. You know, like that lyric sheet from Valley of the Yakes where it says: “We can’t tell what Brian is says in the rest of the songs.” 

Brian: [Laughs] “Funny thing though. We have a new full-length album coming out in May of this year. It will be on vinyl and digitally. It’s really nice and Ed Colver took the photos.”

Marcus: Edward Colver, the iconic punk rock photographer. 

Brian: “The famous Ed Colver.”

Marcus: People, if you don’t know that name, you more than likely have seen the photo of the stage diver flip. The one with the guy with the Wasted Youth sticker on his leg. 

Brian: “Yeah, he’s the guy that did all those cool photos on the punk band’s album covers.” 

Marcus: So, Ed Colver did the cover photo for your new album?

Brian: “Yeah.”


Marcus: What is the album called?

Brian: “It’s called The Last Ride.”

Marcus: That sounds like the title for a final album. 

Brian: “It is not the last album. We want to make that clear. I wrote a song called “The Last Ride.” I mean…I never say: ‘The last ride.’ I never say ‘This is going to be my last ride,’ because it might really be my last ride, you know what I’m saying?”

Marcus: Yeah, and there is also a skateboarder superstition that you will jinx yourself if you say: ‘This is my last ride,’ or “One more ride.” If you do that, you will slam. 

Brian:  “Right! I would say: ‘Well, I’m gonna get a good one, then I’ll probably quit after that.’”

Marcus: When is the new album coming out?

Brian: “Probably in May or April, on the DC-Jam label. It’s got some killer tunes on it. I am really stoked.” 


Marcus: Will we be able to understand you? Remember the lyric sheet for Valley of the Yakes has the lyrics to a couple of songs, and then it says: “We can’t tell what Brian says in the rest of the songs.”

Brian: [Laughs] “You can actually understand me because I’m not really putting it out at full volume. You gotta get the lyrics [to the new album]. I want to do a lyric sheet because I am really fuckin’ happy with them. We got a song called: “Speed Wobble Blues.” Everybody that has skated has experienced the speed wobble blues at some point. We got a song called “Badlands,” it’s about the place where we’re at right now.”

Marcus: The Badlands refers to the Upland, Rancho Cucamonga area, where the original Pipeline Skateboard Park and Baldy Pipe can be found. Back when the Dogtown boys were doing their thing, we Badlanders were doing it out here also in a different style. It’s called the Badlands because it gets hot, and there are just a lot of rocks and desert. 

Brian: “You gotta be hardcore out here. You know punk rock.”

Marcus: The Dogtown guys were more surf style, but the Badlanders were more punk rock barge. 

Brian: “Yeah, and also…punk rock these days…there’s all these different kinds of punk. There’s this pop punk, which to me is like…that’s two different terms. It’s like jumbo shrimp, you know?”

Marcus: I agree. Pop punk is an oxymoron, and I don’t believe in it. 

Brian: “Yeah, hardcore in the ’80s was really hardcore because if you were a skater, you were a hardcore skater because everybody hated you. Back then, there was really no place to skate, everything will illegal to skate, no trespassing, cops would be on you, and if you were also a punk rocker, god forbid man, they would beat the shit out of you. [It was the same with] the cops, the cowboys, the heavy metalers [sic]. Back then, no one dressed punk rock to try to impress people” [Laughs]. 


Marcus: No, but I did learn to revel in my outcast status. 

Brian: “Yeah! But you earned it!”

Marcus: Different topic. You are in the United States Navy, and most people would not have thought: “Oh Brian Brannon, JFA vocalist, punk rock skateboarder would join the military. Recently, there was a Navy recruiter in my office, and I showed him your Facebook profile page and he said: “Oh! He has the highest possible ranking of a non-commissioned officer!” What exactly is that?

Brian: “Master Chief Petty Officer. I joined up after [the terror attacks of] 9/11. I wanted to do something more than just drive around with a flag on my truck. I’ve done like seven months in Afghanistan.” 

Marcus: Did you see any action?

Brian: “I did not return any fire, but we got shot at a couple of times. We did a lot of convoys. I remember when I was in Kandahar, [The Taliban] would shoot rockets into our compound all the time. They were totally unguided rockets, but you were standing right there where they hit, then…you know.”

Marcus: It was like rolling dice. 

Brian: “Yeah, but you know, I joined because I believe in what this country stands for. I believe in free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom in everything man. That means a lot to me.” 


Marcus: I do a lot of tutoring for the military entrance exam, and some of my punk rock friends give me hassle about it because they say that is not a punk rock thing to do because the military is a fascist thing or whatever. I tell them you could not live your punk rock lifestyle without the military protecting our way of life. 

Brian: “Yeah. Try being a punk rocker in a Taliban controlled town.” 

Marcus: Or in Russia…well, maybe a little bit. 

Brian: “You could be a pop punker in Russia if you said what the government wanted you to say.” 

Marcus: When you are deployed by the navy, do you take your skateboard with you?

Brian: “Most of the time. Whenever I can.”

Marcus: I have seen pictures of you skateboarding in the most unlikely places.

Brian: “Oh yeah man. That’s what I gotta do.” 


Marcus: The locals must trip out on that. Some U.S. military guy riding a skateboard in a war zone. 

Brian: “There is actually a group called Military Skate, I just got turned onto recently, and they have a shirt that says, instead of like the Thrasher Magazine shirt “Skate and Destroy,” it says: “Skate and Deploy.” [Laughs.] That shit’s cool. Those guys were like, you were on the cover of Thrasher? I was like, ‘Yeah, I was on the cover a couple of times, April 1987, and April 1989.”

Marcus: I have those issues. How long have you been in the navy? More than 20 years now. 

Brian: “Yeah, I’m coming up on 21 years, because I came on in 2001.” 

Marcus: Are you full active duty?

Brian: “No, I am in the reserves. I was mobilized when I went to Afghanistan.” 

Marcus: Does anyone in the navy ever recognize you from your punk rock life?

Brian: “I try to keep the separate. Another good thing about the navy is it’s [comprised of people from] all walks of life. It’s people from all over, with different levels of education, different backgrounds, and we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all on one team, and you rely on the person right next to you to do their job. That’s what it is. Believe it or not, it brings people together. When people who have never served are talking shit about how that the military is all this or its all that…they don’t know.” 

Marcus: When you get right down to it, people are people. Have you found that in your travels? 

Brian: “Yeah. Everybody’s a human being.” 

Marcus: Like you said in the Santa Cruz Video [Speed Freaks, 1988] everybody should just live. You remember that. 

Brian: “Yeah I remember that.” 

Marcus: You dropped into a backyard pool by riding down the slide! And you are still putting out JFA boards! 

Brian: “Yeah, there are some production models on AZPX, that’s Arizona Punks, which is Factory 13 does some more custom ones and no two boards that Danny Creadon does is the same, so they are works of art. We just did some with a group called Bifocal Media and the guy gets artists to draw T-shirts, and they’re all really cool, they’re all one-offs. So we did a board with them and this guy named Jer Warren. He’s a cool artist. He did our original paisley logo, but he made it into empty swimming pools.”

Marcus: I need one of those. I need a new deck with a proper square tail. 

Brian: “There you go then.”

Photograph courtesy Jeff Terranova

Marcus: Nine inches wide?

Brian: “Eight and three quarters.”

Marcus: Good enough. I will get one. Hook me up. When is JFA going to tour again?

Brian: “We are going to start moving around a lot. I will email you the thing. We are playing all over Socal and up into Norcal.” 

Marcus: Is the band headlining or supporting?

Brian: “Headlining mostly I think. We will support, but it’s just kinda how the chips fall.”

Marcus: Now its just you and Don Pendelton who are the only original members?

Brian: “Yeah, we’re the original members. We got Cory Stretz on bass, and he’s played with us longer than any other bass player…he’s super good. And we got Jamie Reidling on drums. He is a killer fucking drummer. He played with us before on a recording of Skateboard Anarchy. That was on a Duane Peters compilation called Concrete  Waves [2002].” 


Marcus: Do you still keep in touch with the other two original members, Bam Bam and Michael? 

Brian: “Oh yeah, we’re all still cool with each other. I love those guys man. They are doing their own thing.” 

Marcus: What were you telling me inside Salba’s party about the garden gloves you were wearing on the cover of the JFA Blatant Localism EP? 

Brian: “Those weren’t garden gloves! Those were Hobie gloves man!”

Marcus: Were they too big or something? 

Brian: [Laughs] “No man, I was accessorizing for the cover.” 

Marcus: Well, you have always done a lot of hands-down powerslide kind of stuff. 

Brian: “Yeah, but I skated the megaramp one time in Mexico City. Danny Way had something going on down there and he asked me to be a judge. I didn’t jump the gap, but I did the roll-in…however tall that thing was…like 40 feet or something.”


Marcus: How high did you get on the quarter pipe section.

Brian: “I grinded it.” 

Marcus: WHAT? You grinded the top of the megaramp? 

Brian: “Yeah, I think it was like 40 feet high. It might have been 30. I don’t remember. The Arizona pool rule is you gotta grind on the first line.” 

Marcus: My god, that is insane. What did that feel like? Was it unreal? 

Brian: “You are up there for a while. The thing is, if you fell on that, and you do the knee slide, your hands would invariably go against the Masonite and they would burn like a mother fucker. The funny thing was, they said [to me], “You’re gonna need a different board.” I said: “No I don’t I ride Indy 215s. [Independent 215 mm axle trucks]. I’m already set up. Gloves was a mandatory thing.”

Marcus: How big were your wheels? 60 mm? 

Brian: “60 mm, 62 mm. Something like that. After the contest, this cute Mexican girl asked me, “Can I skate on the ramp?” I looked around and said, “Yeah, go ahead.” She just does one push and all of a sudden like 30 Mexican skaters come out onto the ramp! [Laughs]. This one dude, he was the sketchiest mother fucker ever…he had like the loosest trucks.”

Marcus: They let these people onto the megaramp?

Brian: “No, I let them out there! [Laughs] There was this one guy with the super loosest trucks of all time, and he was getting speed wobbles way the fuck up there on all that vert!” [Laughs]

Marcus: Was he wearing any safety gear?

Brian: “No gear whatsoever. It was rad.” 

Marcus: Have you ever taken a really hard slam? I know I have.

Brian: “All the time.” 

Marcus: I used to be in the hospital so much they would say: “You again.”

Brian: “It builds character man.” [Laughs]


Marcus: That is true, because skateboarding taught me to stand up for myself when I was being bullied in elementary school. I wasn’t afraid of pain anymore and I had developed confidence. 

Brian: “Yeah. I can see that.” 

Marcus: Are we done? What else do you want to say?

Brian: “Well…new album, we got some surf songs on it. We got one about Fort Point, which is the surf break underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s a really big current there and you can get sucked right out into the sea where the incoming freighters are at. It’s an instrumental. Me and Don surfed it one time. We actually surfed outside of the Golden Gate, so we were on the ocean side of the Golden Gate Bridge, hugging the rocks. We were catching waves going all the way underneath the bay and around the corner.” 

Marcus: Did you know Dick Dale?

Brian: “No, but I met him and he was pretty fucking cool.” 

Marcus: I got to spend a whole day with him at his house in 29 Palms when I interviewed him for Skratch Magazine in 2004. I still have it on tape. Hey Brian! Thanks for doing what you do, and please keep doing it until the wheels fall off. 

Brian: “We are going to keep doing it until we are not having fun anymore and we’re having more fun all the time. One more thing. Let me put out a little public service announcement: I work for the Orange County Vector Control, and mosquitoes love standing water. Dump your standing water and empty your swimming pools. If you need any help, call me, call Salba, we will help you. It’s a public health issue. I will need to inspect it, and it might need a little urethane cleansing, and some coping grinding just to scrub away any mosquito eggs that could be stuck on there.” 


You can grab a copy of JFA‘s new album Last Ride from DC-Jam Records and grab a new JFA skateboard deck from AZPX