Roger Nusic Press Clippings 2

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The following article from BUNNYHOP #6, "The Normal Issue" Released December 1995 - 112pp Find Bunnyhop at

ROGER NUSIC an Interview by Jason Yakich.

Over the past six years, the Northwest has witnessed the evolution of a suburban thirty-something day-jobber into one of the more colorful cornerstones of Portland's music scene. Roger Nusic, a.k.a. the mysterious Roger T., is something of a would-be pop-cultural guru, fronting his three piece band and tirelessly promoting himself as a sexual/spiritual icon via his homemade cut-and-paste annual calendars and a personal telephone hotline. Nusic's 1993 debut record, Hello Lovers Roger Nusic is Here For You Only (Rainforest Records) was named Album of The Year by Fresno State University's radio station and has received much critical acclaim. The immensely likable pop/rock of Hello Lovers... documents well the integration of Nusic's two personal manifestations, the horny female-obsessed daydreamer, and his spiritually-guided Christian counterpart. Song themes range from the lusty workplace fantasy of "Can I Come In and See You?" to the reverent testimonial extreme of "Halleluyeah" and converge on tracks such as "She Was" and "I Want You" ("Every second, every minute, every hour, I want you all around the clock... I want you in the afterlife").

My own fascination with the man and his music began in 1992 when my friend Alissa introduced me to 1) a copy of that year's Nusic Calendar and 2) a 7" single, an unforgettable cover of "Silent Night" backed with a catchy, pseudo-apocalyptic hardcore tune called "Closing Down the Century". The photo of Nusic and band on the cover was the real clincher: Nusic, with flowing page-boy haircut, in a self-styled superhero outfit (complete with a gold lamé cape), balancing a Christmas tree on his head; the smile on the face of the man with the t-shirt proudly spelling his own adopted name in block letters marked a sense of humility rarely seen in the average pop star. We were compelled to call the hotline, greeted with an epic message several minutes long in which Nusic narrated an erotically-charged encounter between himself and a beautiful blonde woman.

Having familiarized myself with more of his music and witnessing the increased sexualization of the Nusic Calendar over the last few years (the latest entry focuses even more ardently on Nusic's crotch than its predecessors), I couldn't pass up the chance to chat with Nusic in person while visiting Portland. The question on my mind was, of course, Is he serious about all of this? After all, my former housemate Wesley, something of a self-made guru himself, had decided after intense contemplation of the song "What is the Name" and the 1994 Nusic Calendar that "this guy is on to something really big..."

Jason: I'd like to start by asking: "Who is Roger Nusic"?

Roger Nusic: What do you mean, "Who is Roger Nusic"?

There's more than one Roger, am I correct?

Yeah. Roger Nusic is a part in a movie that this other person plays. He is played by an actor who is both the writer of the script and the actor at the same time. Therefore, the script can be re-written "on the fly," or as we go.

Could I ask for the name of Roger Nusic's alter ego?

No. We put credits at the end of the movie, but we're still in the movie right now so we couldn't do that. How many times have you watched a movie and then all of a sudden in the middle of the movie they start listing the credits of who's playing who? Never!

Does the actor Roger do anything else for a living?

Yeah, unfortunately. Of course, it's a good thing because otherwise it would be sure death.

What does he do?

He's a computer programmer.

What prompted you to create Roger Nusic?

Well, there's this thing where people don't like to do things, because they don't feel the conditions are right, right? And the only problem with that is that the conditions are never right. I used to be that kind of person, always waiting for the auspicious moment... I thought it would be really cool to make an album or something, but I'd have to have money, I'd have to have this, I'd have to have that. At this particular time I was unemployed, and I'd been going to school too, and I thought, "Well, I'd like to do the music thing," you know? "But I don't have anyone to play with, so I guess I'll just start doing it by myself. Big deal." In the past, I was in bands, and you know, you practice, and you break up, and you get another band. That's what bands all have in common: they're always breaking up.

So you thought that you would seize the moment?

No, I just thought I would do, as opposed to not do. So I just decided to start playing music by myself because I like being onstage; I like being a performer. Not to say that it's been a great big success story or anything--in the beginning I was playing open mic things on a Sunday or a Monday. Sometimes, during the afternoons, the staff far outnumbered the clientele.

So I take it that Nusic is the Roger you would like to affirm. If you could somehow become Roger Nusic full-time it would be a good thing?

Well, it would be nice to be doing the music thing full-time. (Changes subject.) The way that Roger Nusic came into being was that one time I thought it would be cool to have a band called "Newsic", like "New Music"... I decided I wanted to have a stage name, and I thought "Huh... why don't you call yourself Roger Newsic? It would be shorter than your other name." Then I discovered that I could achieve the same effect in saying N-U-S-I-C rather than N-E-W-S-I-C, which was the original spelling.

Are there a lot of differences between the two Rogers?

Yeah, I would say that Roger Nusic isn't as inhibited as the other Roger. The other Roger can be much more inhibited, whereas Roger Nusic is much less so.

What is your musical background? In terms of instrumentation, song writing, etc.

I've always improvised. Even when I was playing violin, when I was in grade school, I didn't ever like to practice. My parents wanted me to practice, but I knew that they had no idea what I was actually supposed to be practicing... So I used to start practicing, and I'd run off on a tangent, improvising about the piece that I was actually supposed to be playing, in the same style. I was making up these little tunes instead of playing what I was supposed to.

Let's talk a little bit about the religious aspect of your music. Do you consider your music to be "Christian Rock"?

One thing I might say is that now I've kind of changed my image. I'm not really doing the religious stuff [any more]. I still have the belief, but I'm not doing it because I wanted to get a broader audience. I've found that a lot of people object to it, and I want a broader audience. So I'm giving it a shot. (Mimes a gun with his hand and fires; laughs.)

My experience has always been that Christian-oriented music, especially rock, is really bad.

I understand what you're saying. What did you think when you heard [my] religious stuff?

I guess I thought about the dualism, about your apparent religious convictions and then your desire to be a sex symbol.

It's kind of funny because everybody that would write about it would say, "He seems to be pretty mixed-up, he hasn't quite figured it out." And I was always thinking, "How in the heck did you get that idea? How stupid." I'm not confused about anything. Maybe they're confused, but I was never confused. The way I see it is that there are two parts to life.

The body and the soul.

I have my religious beliefs. And none of us would be here unless somebody had desire for somebody else, right? So it would be kind of stupid to assume that, "Well, if they're religious then they couldn't obviously like sex." That would be pretty stupid.

Those two themes encompass the songs of yours that I've heard. Is there any interaction between the two?

Well, see, at first when I was going to do this, I had thought about doing only religious stuff. Then I thought that if I did that then nobody would want to listen.

There probably wouldn't be much of an audience for that.

And I didn't really want to spend my time playing in churches and stuff like that, even though that's not bad. I wanted to get out there more with the people. So I decided to introduce the other aspect, to have a catch, so that there would be something else in it. I wasn't trying to be an evangelist or anything like that, I was just basically singing about the things that I believe in. I think it's perfectly possible to have two forms of life. As a matter of fact I've played at some Christian places before and I was always kind of amazed at how they thought that this lust thing was a bad thing. I was always pretty amazed at that because I would take a look at these people and for the most part they were pretty big guys, and they're saying, "I don't think you should do 'I Saw Her Standing There' because it talks about lust," and I'm looking at them, thinking, "You look muscular and you're telling me that you don't want any lusting? You've got to be kidding... I don't believe you."

I take it that you don't identify yourself with the Religious Right.

I think they're coming across more pure than they really are. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't believe them. I don't believe they're that pious.

You work mostly with younger bands, punk/indie oriented?

That's the thing I've fallen into.

So that wasn't your goal?

Well, originally when I started this thing I didn't know anything about the punk scene. I played at this open-mic place really early on and I was doing my rock thing, shaking my ass, and the guy cut me off. (Laughs.) And he said, "I think you should go down to Satyricon (A club in Portland.)"; I didn't know what that was. And I thought, "Well, okay, whatever." (Laughs.)

Has that circle been accepting of you?

Yeah, kind of. That's the place where I ended up, in the underground scene, and I've been there ever since.

You want to break out of the underground though.

Well, I think it would be nice to get a broader audience, but that doesn't necessarily mean climbing out of the underground. After all, Nirvana got a really broad audience and I wouldn't consider them to have left, even though the purists think that [since] they got a lot of money they couldn't be punk anymore. I think that's a bunch of crap.

Why did you choose to portray yourself as a sex symbol?

It's fun. That's what rock 'n' roll is all about, right?

[Ted Nugent doesn't think so. --Noël]

Yeah. Well, that's what rock 'n' roll has traditionally been about... Commercial rock has not really changed but some people may be trying to "strip that off" if you pardon the pun.

Really? They're not into the sex thing?

I'm sure that they're into sex, as people, but I don't think that they, meaning the men, go onstage just to pick up girls. Actually, at least unconsciously, they probably think about it.

I know that most of the band members I've been involved with have all been trying to pick up girls. And they're all much better at it than I am. (Laughs.) The guys I went on the tour with, everywhere we went they were picking up on girls.

So a part of the reason you're in this is for "the chicks."

No, I'm not into casual sex. For one thing there's this thing called AIDS. And the thing is that now, from playing around, you don't just get VD, you get death. The thing I say to people is "Would you be willing to put on a condom and have sex with a person you knew had AIDS?" I don't know. Unless they're totally insane, I would say no. And how do you know the person you're going to bed with doesn't have AIDS?

Do you have a significant other right now?


There's no Mrs. Nusic.

(Laughs.) No. I wish. Relationships are hard things to acquire... [Theoretically] I think that desire could be fulfilled by a cloning process, probably... each person would probably be the happiest with a clone of themselves. That's the person you know.

That's why masturbation is in some ways better.

Well yeah. Nobody knows how to get you off better than you do. I have this song called "I'm Home", which is a newly recorded song, and I count it as my cure for AIDS. Meaning that if people would play around with themselves more, as opposed to jumping into bed with everybody that comes along, maybe there wouldn't be any AIDS and we could go back to life as normal.

Why the cape and superhero outfit? (Nusic's costume from a few years ago.)

Well I started wearing the bathing suit thing to accent my hip movements. (Laughter from both of us.) Because I was shaking my hips I thought, "It would be nice to have an accent, there's no spotlight, so I could wear the gold bathing suit, because I have this thing at home... it has been sitting in this drawer forever, so why not use that?" Now it's starting to get worn out.

So now you've moved on to the sexy Seventies outfits?

Well, no... Somebody, that happened to be one of the owners of the former X-ray--which is no longer around--suggested to me, "You know Roger, you should probably change your image... you should get into a fashion thing, because nobody else is actually doing that right now." I just thought it would be cool to do a color thing rather than the black thing... most everybody else is into the black thing.

You didn't want to be death rock.

No, I'm not into death. I'm not into that.

What inspired your creation of the various calendars that you put out?

I used to do press releases, a long time ago, and I used to tell people to "mark these dates on your Nusic calendar" as kind of a joke, you know? I thought, "Huh, maybe I should actually give them a Nusic calendar, because it kind of rhymes with music calendar."

This new one seems to be a little more revealing than the last ones.

Yeah. (Laughs.) See, I can do these things in private, whereas I wouldn't do them in public.

Who takes the photographs?

(Indicating the new calendar.) These pictures here were taken by a friend of mine at work. The other previous calendars' pictures were taken by this guy at my church.

What are some of your longer-term goals in being Roger Nusic?

Well, it would be nice to be successful with it.

Financially successful? In terms of audience, or all of it, the whole shebang?

The whole thing, yeah.

Is your family supportive of your musical endeavors?

Well, in a way, but in a way not.

Care to elaborate on that?

Various members tell me, "Oh, you should settle down, blah, blah, blah," and I think, "Yeah, I could probably stop doing it. Do you remember what I was like before I was doing this, how I was always depressed, how I was griping and complaining, 'Oh, my job, blah blah blah, life, blah blah blah...?' I could do that again, remember how much of a pain I [was]?" (Laughs.)

Are you evolving as a live performer?

I hope so.

How big can you imagine your stage act becoming? I can see you onstage with go-go dancers, your band in outrageous costumes, the kids clapping...

Tomorrow I guess we're going to have a couple of dancers. Female dancers.

To close things down, what is "Closing Down the Century" about?

It's about a bunch of things. The biggest thing is about changing from 1900 to 2000, that's the main thing. It's also about the changing of a really major number, 19 to 20. Finally, it's about the human race coming of age, and all the implications that go along with that. Maybe it's about time we grew up, that is, the human race.

Do you have hope for the future?

I hope so. But there's also the thing about "We have seven years left to go, will we make it...?" Or will we blow ourselves up? Who knows? One threat dies and another comes up.

It's interesting in the light of all the recent commentary on the various cults around the world that all view the year 2000 as being connected to the world ending.

Why should they think that? Anytime you hear people talking about that, all these signs pointing to the end of the world, you should know they're full of it. Because for anybody that knows what the Bible says, that's where they get all this junk anyhow, the Bible says that nobody knows. So if anyone tells you that [the world is ending], there's one thing that you know: That they don't know. Because nobody knows.

Well, it's been a pleasure being a part of your movie.

It's been a pleasure being a part of your movie.


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