Joelle Meyer conducted this interview with Kevin Ardito, a Milwaukee native who was involved in the local punk rock music scene for several years.
Kevin Ardito was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During his early childhood, he took guitar lessons from his neighbor. At the age of sixteen, Kevin started a punk rock band with his three best friends, called Fear No Evil. After playing together for three years in the local punk rock scene, Fear No Evil split up and Kevin shortly joined the band Wax Astro.
JM: Hey Kevin, thanks for talking with me. I was curious to find out a little bit more about the Wisconsin music scene, especially Milwaukee. You have spent a great deal of time in Milwaukee so I was wondering what it is like. I have been to Summerfest but otherwise, I don't really know much about the music scene.
KA: It's been years since I personally toured the local area but I can tell you the local music scene is thriving. There are still a lot of house shows, bar shows, and local venues. There’s even a practice space above my apartment that is always jamming.
JM: Very nice, can you tell me a little more about the vibe that comes from these local venues? What kind of bands do they usually book?
KA: With the music scene growing nicely in the last decade along with gaining more exposure outside of WI, there's a lot of great places to see local bands, most are 21+, but not all, so you'll have a few options. The A.V. Club has a good calendar listing lots of upcoming shows, album and show reviews, videos and news stories, as well as links to stream albums by local bands.
The Rave and the Pabst consistently pull national bands and The Rave often has opening spots available for local bands. There's also a lot of small venues as well as bars which host bands. The DIY house show circuit, however, is definitely where you’ll see the local bands. Bands from all over the country tour through the Midwest often and play at several established venues. Usually, these venues book local bands as openers.
JM: The DIY house circuit? What is that?
KA: Basically when a band works completely on their own, with no record label. This what I did with my first band. We did all of our own writing, recording, promoting, booking. We did almost all of our shows in basements, occasionally performing in the basement of a local church even though we were heavy metal/punk rock band. This is still a widely popular part of the music scene in Milwaukee.
JM: Interesting. From what you have experienced, where would you say the “scene” is.
KA: Where the "scene" probably depends on the music you listen to/intend to play. For example, I've attended a lot of shows at the BBC, and a lot of the shows have been very different from each other but in a similar genre. There is a lot of hardcore, metal, experimental noise, and so on. But there is also pop, pop punk, even a lot of country bands in the area.
JM: Speaking of country bands, have you ever heard of Rebel Grace?
KA: Can’t say I have.
JM: That’s okay, I am focusing on them for my MMP100 class. Anyway, is there any advice you could give to a band trying to make in the Milwaukee scene?
KA: I've always thought Milwaukee had a cool music scene. I think Milwaukee excels in variety and talent, but bands don't seem to support other bands the way other scenes do. My advice for bands would go see shows. Yes, there are many great bands, but the problem is getting people to the shows. You can’t expect fans if you aren’t a fan.
JM: Very true. Thank you very much Kevin.