“Energy Punk” – a discourse on Columbus DIY scene

10 mins read
Well, people like Alex prove that doing this webzine is well worth it. After all, it’s all about discovering new stuff, digging into foreign breeding grounds and love for the passion of music and youth inspored movements. For this and a lot more reasons, it is my pleasure to give you my insightful interview with Alexander Blocher of the band NUCLEAR MOMS, who will explain you everything about the current big things happening in Columbus, OH and tell us everything about his love for photography and his newest project called “Only Loud“, a photo blog which will showcase every Columbus punk band and different venues and house spaces. Be sure to check out the full interview below and a learn a lot more!

NUCLEAR MOMS played a week long tour between March 14th and March 21st and released and are about to unveil their new LP, a follow up to their impressive debut EP, availabel for streaming below.

Columbus is a budding wonderland of punk awesomeness and I just wanted to get the word out.

NUCLEAR MOMS photos by Corey Davis.

Hi Alex! Thanks a lot for reaching out and taking some time with IDIOTEQ. To start off, can you tell us about yourself and what you do?

Hey IDIOTEQ! So ya my name’s Alex and I play bass for the band NUCLEAR MOMS and have recently started a new big photo adventure with the Columbus DIY scene. It’s called Only Loud and can be found at this location. Things have been pretty hectic lately and I’m busier than ever, but in the best way. NUCLEAR MOMS is (at the time of writing this) still finishing up the full-length and we’ve been looking to some distributors to hopefully press it. We’re still a pretty new band so it’s definitely been a journey trying to figure all this shit out. Now with this photo project on top of the band, I’ve just been going nuts with constantly going to shows and really getting close with the scene. I love it. I’m hoping to get most of the bands documented by the fall. (At the time of writing this) I have over 20 bands currently on the blog with over 20 more still to capture. That’s also not taking into account the new bands that will surely form in the coming months. I joke around at the shows by thinking of myself as being this DIY grim reaper stealing all these bands souls and eternally preserving their remains. I’m fucking weird.

Ha! I’m glad I have the opportunity to interrogate an unearthly creature then :)

Tell me more about the origin of NUCLEAR MOMS, the idea for the name, and everything that’s important or interesting at the time of your inception.

Well, the idea for the name was actually pretty spontaneous and was thought of about 4 years ago. The main point I guess that I need to make is that I was not in a very healthy relationship with my mom at the time when I was in high school, which I find to be a common thing with youth at large. Our self-titled EP that we have out now is basically a complete unedited, uncensored catharsis of that deep-rooted frustration. The band was actually supposed to just be a two-piece with myself on bass and vocals and our drummer, Collin. Collin has been my best friend since high school and has been a godsend for my pent up anger and frustration with not only my mom, but with all the bullshit in the world in general. Tyler, our vocalist now, came around actually about a full year after recording was complete for bass and drums. It’s kind of funny how we ended up playing live. I won a video contest over this past summer that was about anti-prescription drug abuse. Tyler’s actually the main role in it. I instantly used the earnings to get my two 4×10 cabs, bass head, and a few extra pedals.

At the time of recording I was really into LIGHTNING BOLT, which is fairly understandable being that we were a bass and drum duo and I think that was probably my main influence in writing even though our EP doesn’t really sound a whole lot like LB. There really wasn’t much direction for the EP other than we wanted it beefy and full of energy. I really tried not to write riffs that sounded like any other band I’ve heard before and I just wanted to make sure it was loud as hell and fun to play. People ask what our genre is and I just want to say “energy punk” or something like that because we’re not necessarily hardcore as some people like to quickly point us out to be, but at the same time I guess it’d be ignorant to say that we have no hardcore elements.

How come you ended up being a punk band without guitars? Did you want to pay tribute to other artists like LIGHTNING BOLT or was more of a necessity?

I think a lot of it is my infatuation with minimalism. Basically, I wanted to see how massive we could sound with the minimum amount of instruments. I guess it was also a necessity thing where I wasn’t in contact at the time with a lot of dedicated guitarists. I had a bass and that’s really all it took. It does get kind of annoying when people constantly ask us “Where’s your guitarist?” or “Hey do you guys need a guitarist?” No. We don’t need a fucking guitarist. I just really liked the idea of just me and Collin having this very intimate songwriting process instrumentally. I think creatively it just works out a lot better for us. It makes touring a hell of a lot easier being a three-piece that’s just bass and drums. As far as paying tribute to Lightning Bolt, I guess you can maybe expect a little more influence from them in our newer material. I also definitely don’t want to be known as that LIGHTNING BOLT knock-off band either. Rad dudes, though. I have a lot of respect for that band.

Here's Tyler, the vocalist of Nuclear Moms

Photo: Tyler, the vocalist of NUCLEAR MOMS.

Considering the raw and minimal nature of your art, do you feel you’ve somehow transcended the punk genre?

I guess you could put it that way in the sense that I’m just trying to test the limits of what the genre can provide. I don’t want to seem condescending about it at all, though because we’re just about being honest and always modest. But more importantly, I’ve actually been going through an ideology in my head that there really is no such thing as punk. “Punk” was just a term created by some music critics in the 70s (which I already don’t care too much for critics) to put a label on the things they basically didn’t understand. So, in my eyes, punk doesn’t exist. There is only pure human emotion, be it anger or fear or love, expressed by honest individuals. These are the real heroes of the scene.

Ok, so let’s break down your debut record. What’s the concept behind it?

The debut record is essentially a direct response to our perspective on the first EP we released. It’s really just about getting over your own bullshit. I have since made amends with my mom and I’m in the perspective now that I was really just an asshole kid and my mom was always just trying to help. The record dives into that a little bit. The album points no fingers except to us. While the EP was basically talking about frustration with other people, this album is pointing out the frustration with our selves. It alludes to looking inside your self for inspiration and for truth rather than having to rely on other people. There are definitely themes of paranoia in the record as well. We tried to get a little more experimental with the overall sound and have had some fun with some minor sampling thrown into a few tracks. It’s been a good time making this record, but it’s just taking a little longer than expected.

Considering listeners’ perception, was there a dreamed goal to fulfill through this effort?

In terms of other people’s perception, they’re gunna listen to what they wanna listen to. We don’t wanna force anything on anyone. If people like us then that’s awesome. No matter what people think we’re going to be honest with what we want to do with the band. If people don’t like us, who cares. We really just have the perspective of not caring what people think. We want our music heard to be heard by people, but not changed by people.

True :)

And Collin, drummer of Nuclear Moms

Photo: Colin, the drummer of NUCLEAR MOMS.

Ok, so it’s been only 8 months since the premiere of your debut release and you’ve just revealed plans to put out another record. Tell me more about this new joint and the future of NUCLEAR MOMS. Where do you go from here?

It’s pretty simple. Just keep creating. I’m already writing material for what might even be a third release. The band has been pretty fast paced since the beginning, which is cool. I like a fast paced lifestyle. But, ya it’s just going to be a matter of constantly not being content with what we have right now and constantly pushing ourselves to be a better band.

Ok, so let’s dive into the other thing you mentioned, your photo project called “Only Loud”. What’s the purpose of this undertaking?

This is pretty new project that I’m really excited about. I’m trying to get all the active DIY punk bands (and pretty much everything in between) documented in one place. I also make sure to try and get some sort of band page or place where their music is located so people can also have access to material. I’ve just really been falling in love with the Columbus DIY scene and have been making a lot more friends along the way, too. It’s a win win. I just wanted to organize all these great bands for my own sake, really. But I’m making it available for everyone and I think it’s already come a long way from when I started it about 2 months ago. The frustrating thing with Columbus is not that you can’t find shows to go to, but that there are too many things going on at once that you really can’t do it all and have to miss things. I guess that’s probably the best kind of frustration.

Puberty Wounds at Legion of Doom
Photo: PUBERTY WOUNDS at Legions Of Doom.

Is it a one-man show? Who else is involved?

As of right now it’s just me taking the photos. Like I said, it’s kind of a personal thing I have with each individual band right now. I really don’t plan on having like a team of photographers or anything.

What is it that attracts you to photography?

I’m actually a film student at The Ohio State University and I’ve just always been attracted to well shot photographs and I guess films for that matter, too. There’s just something about having photos that immortalizes an event. What better set of events to immortalize than some awesome shows and bands? The project started spontaneously too when I shot the first couple bands. I was just trying to help some friends out with giving them some photos to show other people. Then all of a sudden, I had this great idea to just keep going. I didn’t even really consider myself a “photographer” either at first. I’m just helping some cool bands out, but I guess at this point it’d be stupid to say I’m not a photographer.

didi at Shout Out Loud Prints
Photo: DIDI at Shout Out Loud Prints.

Ok, so is this project more about the visual aspect of photography, the form than the music? Do you see this project as a work of art in itself?

Well I would say the visual form compliments the music. It gives an added depth and perspective to the bands’ music. I guess you could definitely call this project a work of art in itself. It’s a constantly evolving project that technically will never actually be complete because of new bands forming. So in that sense alone, I consider it an interesting art form. I’ll always be close to getting all the bands, but the project being “finished” will always be a temporary thing.

Minority Threat at Legion of Doom

Photo: MINORITY THREAT at Legion of Doom.fminor

How do you discover these bands?

There’s actually a monthly show calendar and online message board for all DIY spaces called Columbus Sucks Because You Suck (CSBYS). This keeps everyone informed on everything going on for house shows and the like. It doesn’t include bar venue shows, though which are usually found out through social media. Being friends with a lot of people now in bands in Columbus makes it easy to find out about all the shows happening. Word of mouth is still god.

Would you imagine your work as printed portraits? Wouldn’t be cool to see an exhibition displayed somewhere outside the Web, huh?

You know I actually thought about printing weekly zines for this project. There’s a lot of zine makers in Columbus. But ya, I would totally think this would be cool to maybe turn into a book or have a full photo exhibition. I’ve got extra photos of shows that are not actually on the blog right now.

Nasty Habit at Used Kids Records

Photo: NASTY HABIT at Used Kids Records.

By the way photography, what are your thoughts on the current documentary and photojournalism in the hardcore /punk rock scene? Are there any photographers that inspire you?

I’ve been noticing more and more punk documentaries being released, which really excites me. I feel like it’s on the rise. Documentaries I know of right now that I’m trying to watch are Salad Days and Destroy Cleveland. With photographers, I was actually just recently introduced to Glen Friedman’s work with FUGAZI. That’s some really cool stuff and makes me want to just follow one band around for a long time and watch a story unfold. I just really like photographers that aren’t afraid to get into the action.

Nervosas at Berserker Fest

Photo: NERVOSAS at Berserker Fest.

How about venues? Can you drop us a couple of lines about some of your favorite venues in your area and other cool spots in the country you visited?

There’s a lot of different spaces in Columbus that are pretty cool. Some of my favorites are Ace of Cups, Double Happiness, Spacebar, MINT Collective, Strongwater Food & Spirits, and Skylab. There are also houses that do shows pretty frequently like Legion of Doom and 15th Haus. I know I’m probably forgetting some essential places, but I think this is at least a good starting point to find shows. There’s always some random spots that shows will pop up, too. In terms of other parts of the country, I honestly haven’t been to many other places than Ohio. I plan to do some extensive traveling and discovering cool venues as soon as I get out of school.

Gelatinus Cube at Ace of Cups

Photo: GELATINUS CUBE at Ace of Cups.

Ok Alex. Thanks a lot for your time. What else would you like to add before we sign off?

I’d like to thank you for your time as well and let’s make things happen.

Great. Cheers from the distant land of Poland! :)

[email protected]
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