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Unfinished: An online zine with no expecations at all

Mitch Clem
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An interview with Mitch Clem, the author of Nothing Nice To Say, a zany online comic strip dedicated to the world of punk rock.

Huey: Mitch, first off. Thanks for allowing me to ask you a few questions. First off, you run Nothing Nice To Say, an online comic strip dedicated to the punk scene primarily, among other things. What inspired you to start the site?

Mitch: Well, I had been doing comics forever already. I was just kinda bored and I wanted to do a punk comic somehow, eventually I decided to put it online. I couldn't even say really.

H:
How long have you been reading comics, and how long have you been drawing? I can't draw at all. It's not pretty. And comics-wise, I haven't read a comic in a long time (:::looks to pile of dusty comics in my closet:::), and I gotta say, your strip is the first comic in quite a while that I have become addicted to.

M: I have been drawing since I was a zygote. Or something. I used to draw comics in second grade where the characters were the Number Munchers. Remember Number Munchers?  For the Apple II?  Yeah. I have been reading comics since I was a little kid as well.  I owned every Calvin and Hobbes book as they came out.

H: You live in Minnesota. What are your thoughts on the Minnesota music scene? Any bands we should watch out for?

M: The Minnesota music scene is pretty cool right now.  I would keep an eye out for the OffSet, Sweet J.A.P, Rivethead... There's a lot of cool punk happening here right now.

H: Ok, so to set things up for people reading this. The strip revolves around two friends, Blake & Fletcher, and each strip features their commentary on a current or random event involving the scene.  Blake is obviously named after Blake Schwarzenbach of Jawbreaker/Jets To Brazil fame, which are two of my favorite bands. How did these two characters come to you in the beginning?

M: I was drawing a flyer for a Ferd Mert, OffSet, Modern Machines show that was gona be at my friends' house, and I had this dorky joke about basement shows offering more punk street cred then a club show. I made up these two characters just off the top of my head, and when I later decided to start doing a regular comic strip, I figured I could just use the two characters from the flyer.  The flyer's actually on my site if anyone wants to see it.

H: The strip has only been around since February, but it already seems to have a pretty large following. Are you surprised with the site's success?

M: I am.  I was expecting it to get a few regular readers after maybe a year or so, but yeah, it just kind of exploded.  I had links on Penny Arcade one week, then Buddyhead the other, which are basically the two biggest comic and punk related sites out there, respectably.  But I'm not complaining. Now checking my email has a point to it.

H: Off the top of your head, five favorite bands of all time?

M: Give or take, Jawbreaker, Against Me!, Kid Dynamite, Buzzcocks, and Brother Inferior.  The list changes all the time, but those are the five bands I'm listening to a lot right now.

H: Weakerthans or Propagandhi? I say Weakerthans are way better.

M: Propagandhi got astoundingly better when John left the band, if you ask me. Well, their sound did anyhow. Their songwriting got worse. It's like, the good songs on their newest album are better than any of their older songs, but there aren't as many of them. The Weakerthans, on the other hand, have never recorded a bad song, which is quite a feat.  I would reluctantly have to agree with you there.

H: There's the emo fad. You've spoken against it many times. If you had to guess, when do you think this trend will end? I'm giving it a year. I'm pretty sickened by it. It's just like the ska revolution back in the mid to late 90's.  It will eventually burn out. But, hey,  there were a few good ska bands (:::clings to Slapstick:::). Yeah, I admit that I am guilty to listening to a few old emo bands here and there, and sure, I'm a bit sensitive and over-reactionary at times, but I'll tell you one thing, I'm not nerdy enough to sport a fashion that will soon be gone. People should just dress as they please. Oh well. Anyways, I'm rambling.

M: Ha ha, I'd give it about a year as well.  I'm pretty sick of it, as I've already demonstrated on my site.  It's funny, because emo right now is getting rivaled by the new garage rock fad, which is weird because I've never seen two flavor of the month trends compete for attention.  People are idiots, though, and will listen to whatever MTV tells them to, even if they're a punk.

H: Before creating Nothing Nice To Say, you also wrote a zine entitled Summer's Over. Do you have any advice for a struggling zine writer (me)?

M: Doing a zine is probably the second hardest job in the punk world, next to booking shows.  The only thing you can do is accept it and keep going.  The thing is, zines don't exist to make money, because they don't.  Zines don't exist to make you famous, because they won't.  Zines exist out of an indescribable need to write.  Zines exist because some people cannot think straight without satisfying their passion for writing.  Keep that in mind and use it.   And even though it might not seem like it at times, there are tons of people out there who recognize and appreciate the effort you put into what you do.  On that note, I think next time we all see a show that we like, we should find whoever booked it and thank them before we thank the bands. We should be nice people.

H: What's in the future for Nothing Nice To Say? Any thoughts or predictions?

M: I've got a few pretty funny arcs coming up, but I don't think I should say anything 'cause I don't want to spoil the surprise.  Let's just say that one involves Bill Keane and another involves prison.  The tension builds...

H: Any last words, promotion, anything?

M: If you kids like my site, you should check out Movie Punks and No Pants Tuesday, because they are my friends and they are wicked funny.  Also, keep following lame trends and doing what MTV and the radio tell you to like good little sheep.  Keep destroying any sense of individuality. Stop thinking for yourself.  I need the material.

Special thanks to Nothing Nice To Say for the picture.

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