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AN INTERVIEW WITH NERVOSAS MICKEY MOCNIK

First off, what were some of the first punk shows you went to growing up in Cleveland?

Well, let’s see…when I was maybe 14 or 15 I would go see street punk shows at the Rhythm Room, bands like A Global Threat, The Unseen, Leftover Crack, I think I saw a really awful version of Discharge there too with people from the Varukers. I was really lucky to grow up in Cleveland, where at age 14 I could get into the Rhythm Room, Peabodies/Pirates Cove, The Grog Shop (old and “new”), The Phantasy, The High Five (now the Foundry), Beachland Ballroom, etc. All of these venues would host the “bigger” punk bands and none of them were 18+ or 21+ shows. I saw The Adicts, The Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers, Marky Ramone, The Dead Boys (minus Stiv), Tragedy and a lot of other bigger punk bands while still in high school. I never realized how lucky I was until I was in my twenties and experiencing other scenes on tour. A lot of venues keep younger kids out of shows by having only 21+ shows. No one cared in Cleveland! It wasn’t until I met Josh from Insurrect that I found out about Cleveland DIY shows and Cleveland hardcore. My friend Sarah and I were at a guitar center on the westside and thought it would be funny to play guitar really loudly (and badly) next to these two metalhead looking kids (Josh from Insurrect, Sun God, Howl and Evan from Insurrect who now plays in Skeleton Witch). Well instead of getting pissed I think they thought it was funny too and invited us to some of their shows. I’m pretty sure Josh took me to see the Homostupids play at Moe’s, I was probably 16 or 17. Their record was the first 7” I ever bought and I had no idea (still don’t) what speed to play it on. I dragged Josh to see Alkaline Trio once and I think he said yes only if we went to this placed called The Tower afterward. A band called 9 Shocks Terror was starting to play shows again. When we showed up there I was shocked to find no stage, no door guy, no security. I was immediately handed a beer and Kristen (who ran the tower) gave me a shot of something delicious called pineapple upside down cake. I don’t think I was 17 yet. I remember seeing cigarette buds in the fish tank and thinking “these people are disgusting.” I finally made my way through the kitchen to where the band was playing and entered the most chaotic scene of my life so far. I recognized the sound of 9 Shocks as punk rock but the energy was totally foreign and new to me. People were going absolutely nuts, throwing things and being destructive, but at the same time, laughing! I remember seeing more backpacks than studded vests. There were no rules, no bouncers, no safe places to stand. I remember being relieved when the singer grabbed a crutch out of the crowd, thinking “oh good get that thing out of here.” But instead he chucked it back at the crowd. A wheelchair was in the middle of the pit. And the last thing I remember is a plunger hitting me in the head. After that I think I went to every tower show possible!

Cleveland antics are known to be wild. Do you think these shows defined your outlook on punk and hardcore?

Cleveland does set the bar pretty high. Seeing shows at The Tower was a definite turning point for me. It was my first introduction to DIY because it was an independent space ran by the people who lived there. It was a space where I could see way better bands for only $5. I could drink and smoke weed and throw fireworks and do whatever the fuck I wanted. It’s where I met my closest friends. It’s what inspired me to actually stay “punk” past the stage of Discharge back patches and spikey hair. I became a vegetarian, I became a feminist and I started to play my guitar a lot more.

Before Nervosas, what bands did you play in?

That is too embarrassing to discuss here. None of them were cool.

And when you moved to Columbus, is that when you started Nervosas?

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When I moved to Columbus I started playing in a band called Welcome to Concrete. We were sloppy pop punk. I entered a band lottery when I was 19 and got paired up with these clowns who eventually became my best friends and the bands Heath Deadger and New Creases. Heath Deadger played a pretty wild show at Now that’s Class once, which was my first time at that venue since I moved away. I remember feeling like “FUCK I should have never left.” I sang in that band and we were like 90’s mid tempo hardcore stuff. It was silly but we were pretty good and a lot of fun. I think I surprised a lot of people (maybe proved myself?) and eventually got invited to play tower shows with Masakari, Insurrect, Rid the World (one of my favorite hardcore bands from Cleveland) and Mad Minds. I didn’t start Nervosas until 2011 and I had already been living in Columbus for 5 years.

What would you say are the big differences between the Cleveland and Columbus scenes?

From my perspective, many people in Cleveland have a chip on their shoulder. It’s a hard place to live – with long winters, industry collapse, police violence, corruption and other Rustbelt city problems. This makes people tough, especially kids who feel even more outside society and turn to punk and hardcore. This is why, to me, it seems that Cleveland punk shows are crazier, more violent and out of control than shows in other cities. Because people here are constantly getting knocked down in their every day lives and need some sort of release. Hardcore is huge here, whereas in Columbus a lot of people and bands are inspired by more indie rock, art punk and noise stuff. Columbus is a transient college town. Academia is the main industry here and often there are people, bands and huge chunks of the scene that come and go. Not many bands stay together as long as Cleveland bands. I think it’s a much easier place to live than Cleveland and the scene is really welcoming. A lot of people discover DIY and punk by coming here to college, and realizing there are spaces for alternative people like them. Our scene is made up of a lot of women and queer punks, which is awesome. Cleveland feels a little bit more like a boy’s club to me, but then again I JUST moved back so I can’t really say for sure. Hopefully I will be starting my all-grrrl Cleveland band SLAG after Nervosas gets back from tour.

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Nervosas has been playing what has come to be known as “dark punk”. I can see the influence of post-punk, darkwave, and anarcho stuff in a lot of modern bands. It appears that you were possibly a step ahead of some of the newer bands. Do you think this is a trend in punk right now? Are there any bands you really like that play this style?

I definitely think it’s a trend in punk right now but one that people might be getting bored with at this point. I don’t think we were a step ahead. The dark punk resurgence started in Portland more than 10 years ago. It wasn’t until all of those Wipers records got reissued that I found out about all that stuff. I met Jeff and he was obsessed with the wipers too. Both of us have a long history of anxiety and depression, so combine that with constant listening to the Wipers and poof! you have a dark punk band. I had never used guitar pedals before and the chorus pedal was the first one I tried out. I liked how crazy it sounded and it made my riffs sound way cooler. Even though Jeff and I were both at dark points in our life, we appreciated melody and wanted to let some light in on our songs. And then we found Nick who is an incredibly creative and fast drummer. He made all of our songs much more interesting. I think partly because of him, we never really became that slower darkwave or gothy punk band. We play fast and I think that sets us apart.

Somewhat current bands in our genre that I love: The Estranged, Criminal Code, Generacion Suicida, Pleasure Leftists, Red Dons, Doom Town, Autonomy, Daylight Robbery, Population, Masshysteri and all affiliated bands, and many more.

Now that you have moved back to Cleveland, can the city claim Nervosas? Perhaps the band can be known as being from Cleveland/Columbus.

Not really. Nick told me he would move to Iraq before moving to Cleveland. I always correct people and mention that I’m from Cleveland because I am proud to live here.

How do you think the band has changed or progressed from the beginning ’til now?

We just practiced for two and a half hours, playing almost every single goddamn song. We definitely have stepped it up as far as instrumentation goes on the next record. All of us play way harder and more interesting parts. Our songs are more focused without becoming boring (to me at least). We still don’t really have a “direction”. And I hope we keep recording everything ourselves because Nick does an excellent job and it feels good to have complete creative control of our sound. We are more DIY than ever which is pretty cool.

You have an upcoming tour, correct? Where all will Nervosas be playing?

Nervosas will be touring out west and back from June 24th until July 18th. We also will be heading to Europe from August 27th until September 27th, arriving home just in time to play with Chameleons and Pleasure Leftists!

Any final thoughts?

I honestly think Cleveland is an oasis in a desert of boring punk scenes, sometimes even feels like an alternate universe. I was reminded of this after the recent Flyin Trichechos set at Horrible Fest. You can be mildly insane or weird as fuck and have tons of friends and fun at shows. You don’t have to look punk, most of us here don’t and don’t care at all. I’ve been around and there’s no place like it. It’s great to be back!

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PHOTO CREDIT TO Ashley Hohman, Daniele Petrosa, and Farrah Skeiky

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