It's poignant, too. Brand was only six months old when his father and mother separated. His dad and his dad's family stayed in his life, but his dad clearly didn't want to be married, or responsible for him, either emotionally or financially. He seems to have been, most of the time, pretty isolated and lonely, "For me happiness occurs arbitrarily: a moment of eye contact on a bus, where all at once you fall in love; or a frozen second in a park where it's enough that there are trees in the world."
He was one of those kids that are constantly in trouble. He had a compulsive need to do what was the opposite of what someone wanted, just to get a reaction, see what would happen. He's still doing it in his comedy today. One story he tells centers on a day when he was talking to a nice old house-proud man in his neighborhood who he had always been friendly with. The old man was admiring his garden and said, right before he went inside for a moment, that Russell wasn't the type that would ever stamp on any flowers, was he? That's all Brand needed to hear. Almost as soon as the old man's back was turned he jumped on the flowers, crushing and destroying every one. The old man was not happy with what he came back to see. "He glanced first at me, and then at his devastated flowerbed; all plowed up and butchered, like a Ripper victim — like Pearly Poll, lying gutted in Hanway Street, Spitalfields."
Brand realized that he probably blew it big time. This man could have been a quasi-father figure to him, but not after that incident. That same recklessness, sense of anarchy, led to his self-harming as well. "I get fixated when I'm bleeding — I can see why they went in for blood-letting in the medieval times because it makes you feel a bit better. When I cut myself, the drama of it calms me down." The biggest source of his unsettled childhood was his mom's multiple illnesses. She endured (and survived) three bouts of cancer — uterine (when he was 8), breast (when he was 9) and lymphoma (when he was 16). While she would be in hospital or undergoing treatment, he would be shuttled from his beloved Nan's house to his father and other relatives and back again.
He was constantly getting in trouble at school, but everything changed when he was cast in a school production of Bugsy Malone. He must have heard angel choirs singing, because finally a kid who belonged nowhere found his place in the world, on the stage.
"The light. The light is so bright that all that remains is you and the darkness. You can feel the audience breathing. It's like holding a gun or standing on a precipice and knowing you must jump. It feels slow and fast. It's like dying and being born and fucking and crying. It's like falling in love and being utterly alone with God; you taste your own mouth and feel your own skin and I knew I was alive and I knew who I was and that that wasn't who I'd been up till then. I'd been so far away but I knew I was home."
Brand's epiphany came at about the same time that his mother's boyfriend Colin moved in with them. Brand and Colin distinctly did not get along — to the point where Brand left home because he found it impossible to live under the same roof with him. His mother must have been too distracted and freaked out by her latest cancer scare to intervene. At this time Brand also discovered and started using drugs — first pot, and then gradually but steadily all the way up the scale — speed, acid, coke, crack and finally, heroin.