The Cease Is Increase: Remembering Milwaukee's punk past
When most people imagine punk music, they expect it to be a young man's game. They picture a teenager or 20-something with hole-filled clothes and crazy hair, energetically rocking out and showing the world who's boss.
Steve Nodine doesn't fit that image. He's entering his 50s, his voice in regular conversation is rather soft-spoken and he doesn't dress in a manner that screams for attention. If you searched punk or punk rock on Google, you wouldn't find many photos that look like Steve.
However, ask him one or two questions about punk and Milwaukee's punk history, and it's easy to see a passion and excitement that hasn't aged a day or lost a step.
"I think we're all a bunch of teenagers in adult bodies," Nodine joked. "We're all a bunch of guys who didn't want to grow up to be 30, let alone 20 years after that. We go to rehearse, and it doesn't feel any different."
If anything, Nodine's passion has only increased, resulting in "The Cease Is Increase," an oral history of the Milwaukee punk and alternative scene that exploded during the '70s and '80s. The book compiles hours of interviews in order to tell the story of the era and the people who lived it.
Nodine hopes to release the book this upcoming March. In order to help hit that date, however, Nodine is throwing a benefit concert at Shank Hall tonight. All the proceeds made at the door will go toward the costs of the self-published book, as well as a DVD featuring all of the local video interviews compiled for the project.
The benefit also serves as a reunion for some of Milwaukee's most popular '80s punk bands, like the Crusties. In fact, singer Tim Cole is coming in from Texas to join his bandmates on stage. Joining them are Sacred Order, Cream City Gypsys, Trance & Dance Band and Magic Bullet Theory, for which Nodine himself is the lead singer.
Nodine's interest in punk rock started back in the original days of the Milwaukee punk scene, watching bands like the Haskels and the Lubricants at Zak's on Humboldt and North. He also credits "Downstairs" Dan Hansen and his last night on WZMF.
"He closed the whole thing with the last show, playing Sex Pistols, Devo, the Ramones, you name it," Nodine recalled. "I was just like 'What is this stuff? This is so cool,' but my friends were saying 'This sucks!' I had to leave and listen to it in my car because my friends were like 'That's punk rock; that sucks."
After that, Nodine began hanging out in record stores and finding others who shared his interest and passion in the growing punk scene, eventually becoming a member of a band himself, Dark Façade. However, it wasn't just the music that brought punk fans together.
"Anybody who felt like an outcast in high school could come together with his love of music and have this community," Nodine said. "That was the biggest part of the whole scene. Anybody could do it, and anybody could be a part of an entourage. There were people with mohawks and safety pins, and then there were people with just jeans and a T-shirt. They were both as accepted as anybody else."
Unfortunately, Dark Façade eventually broke up, leading Nodine down a new path. He got married and ended up going back to school at UWM, earning a degree in computer science and becoming a web developer and IT guy. However, after a long period of time away from the music scene, Nodine recaptured his interest, as well as reconnected with his old punk scene friends, with the help of Facebook.
"I discovered just about everybody I once knew was on Facebook, so we started talking again," Nodine said. "Then [Mike Podolak of Sacred Order] started the group Lest We Forget, and we all started remembering this and that and finding pictures and posters. It ended up getting over 1,000 members."
At that time, Nodine had already started the book, but finding out all of his former punk rock friends and bandmates were on Facebook helped connect with others and push the project forward. It became even more helpful as unfortunately time became a big motivator for completing "The Cease is Increase."
"I said to a friend that in the last year, three people that we know passed away," Nodine said. "We need to get this story down while we're all still here. It added a kind of urgency to the project."
One of the people most interested in contributing to the book was Mark Shurilla, who sadly passed away this past May. It was actually only about four days after their interview for the project when Nodine heard the Milwaukee music legend was in the hospital.
"He said he had a whole bunch of stuff to give me and a bunch of information, which I unfortunately never got," Nodine said.
Nodine was still able to collect interviews and content from tens of Milwaukee punk rockers from across the globe, all the way from Australia to Holland. After a while, Nodine recalled his research eventually "snowballed to the point where people were asking 'when are you going to interview me?'"
Most of the stories Nodine received through his countless interviews are enlightening. On the other hand, others are just entertaining, especially when a single event has multiple, conflicting versions.
"There was always a rumor that Damian Zak [the owner of Zak's] blew up Presley Haskel's car," Nodine joked. "But then another person said that they were smoking pot in the back seat, and they dropped it and some seeds and stems must've smoldered, so there was no foul play or firebomb or anything. And then other people tell me that the whole story is fabricated."
The result is a compilation of stories that aims to help readers relive and rediscover the once thriving Milwaukee punk scene. And for people like Nodine, "The Cease Is Increase" has helped prove that their passion for punk shows no sign of age.
"This whole thing has got me back into music big time," Nodine said. "I can't see stopping now."
I think the radio station you were referencing in Menomonee Falls was WZMF, not WQFM. WQFM was located in a building on Wisconsin Ave. downtown.
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