Brandon Ferrell, a staple of the Rochester punk and metal scenes, passed away late last month. A prolific musician, Ferrell played drums, guitar, and sang in seemingly countless bands based out of both Rochester and his native Virginia.
Fans of Ferrell's tireless work-ethic remember him fondly for his tenure in bands such as -- but not definitely not limited to -- Municipal Waste, Direct Control, Obsessor, Wasted Time, and Career Suicide. And, Ferrell had just started a new Rochester-based band, Commando, shortly before his death. If the brevity of punk music allows its artists more room to be prolific, Ferrell took the idea and ran with it in a way few musicians have the ability to do.
On top of being a driven, talented musician, Ferrell was above all else a true lover of music: Even when one of his bands wasn't on the show (which was a rare occurrence), Ferrell's love of all thinks punk and metal could be seen in his pristine gig attendance record.
Ferrell is survived by his wife, Lauren, and two children. Recently, City Newspaper spoke with several of Ferrell's friends, bandmates, and fans to learn more about his life, craft, and dedication to the city's scene.
"Obsessor was a great experience," says Russ Torregiano, owner of Needledrop Records and bassist for Obsessor, a thrash-metal-meets-hardcore-punk band Ferrell fronted. "It was Brandon's band to begin with since it was purely a solo project when he moved here. But by the end, we were a fully functional band writing our LP."
Ferrell' original stomping grounds were the greater Richmond, Virginia, area, where he opened the record store Vinyl Conflict, a regional haven for all thinks hardcore and metal. While living in Virginia, Ferrell also played drums in Municipal Waste and Wasted Time as well as operating No Way Records, an acclaimed label that put out releases from the bands Impalers, Government Warning, and Chronic Sick.
"It was great watching someone with so much talent in the studio setting," Torregiano says. "I learned a lot watching him do his thing and he helped me be more confident in my playing. Being in the band made me realize playing potential I didn't know I had. Brandon helped push me to the next level."
Jon Garwood, a Rochester-based musician who played guitar in Obsessor, says his favorite memory of Ferrell "is going down to D.C. with him and his wife, Lauren, last summer for Damaged City Fest. We saw his old bands headline two of the three days while he wore his 'Whoop, There it Is' shirt.
"I grew up on records that he played on and records he put out on his label. I would go down to Richmond, Baltimore, and D.C. to see bands that he played in when I was 17. His catalogue is massively extensive. He would surprise me all the time by telling me about records he played on that I had no idea he was a part of, and sure enough I would go home, pull out said record and there it was: 'Brandon Ferrell -- Drums/Guitar/Vocals/King.'
"When we first started jamming together, I remember telling him that I wanted to do a band that sounded like Wasted Time because I was obsessed with their 'Futility' LP, not knowing that he played the f***ing drums on that record, too," Garwood adds. "After he told me that it was like, 'duh'; no one else could play like that."
Ferrell's music had an importance on the global level, stresses Christine To, a Rochester-based photographer who shot several of Ferrell's bands over the years.
"Brandon's music had a great impact on the punk and metal scenes throughout the whole world," she says. "His bands influenced a lot of people, yet he was always modest and kind enough to have a good chit-chat with anybody. Also, whenever I took photos of Obsessor I made sure to get a ton of shots of Brandon. He had such an amazing energy."
Oz Asbjorn, a talent booker at the Bug Jar and frequent metal show promoter around Rochester, remembers Ferrell for his generosity and immense talent.
"Brandon did a lot of good things to the music scene and helped me out on a lot of shows here," Asbjorn says. "The last time he was at the Bug Jar was for TSOL. He didn't have any cash so I put him on my guest list, and he stood next to me all night helping me put wristbands on people as they were coming in."
As a father, a husband, a friend, and a scene staple, Ferrell's life and music meant many things to many people, and his absence will undoubtedly be felt for years to come in a variety of ways.
But as Garwood puts it, there's one thing about Ferrell people should take special care to never forget: "How much less punk you are in comparison to him."
Click here for a GoFundMe page set up for the Ferrell family.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been corrected. Ferrell drummed in Wasted Time, not Double Negative.