By Larry Olsen
Mike 1/2 Nelson arrived in NYC from Iowa 15 years ago and quickly gravitated towards an underground scene populated by drug addicts, prostitutes and scoundrels. “They were nice to me when nobody else would be,” he remembers. “And I loved the drama that they brought. They were fun, and I have a soft spot for people who struggle, because I have struggled myself.”
Mike learned important life lessons, like to never judge and to accept all people the way they are. “My world’s a big tent,” he explains. “All are welcome.”
Hence, the name of his gritty e.p. (All Are Welcome), being released this month. Pulling from New Wave and glam rock influences, his songs explore topics of resilience, hope, and heroism. We spoke with Mike 1/2 Nelson from his NYC apartment.
The e.p. draws influence from legendary NYC clubs CBGBs and [the weekly party] Rock ’n Roll Fag Bar. Did you experience them in their heyday?
Sadly, only in my imagination and through stories from my friends.
What was NYC like when you came here?
I arrived in 2005. It was pre iPhone and I hate to say it, but New York was more fun then. The East Village and Chelsea were still gayborhoods. It was also the Electroclash era. Ladytron, Avenue D, Dirty Sanchez, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fisherspooner and Scissor Sisters were all happening. The Misshapes were up and running. The Dazzle Dancers were a thing. It kind of felt sloppy and fun…or, maybe I was just more sloppy and fun.
Were you mentally equipped to take on NYC?
(Laughing) Having a screw loose is required for survival in New York City. I moved here because this is where all of my heroes are and all of them are a bit insane. But to answer your question directly, no, I was not equipped and I am still not.
Is that why you dated the junkie you sing about in “Crazy World”?
Yes. This e.p. offered me the opportunity to look at myself and the behaviors that led to the madness.
What did you learn from your opioid addicted ex?
I learned to not leave my credit card sitting out. I also learned the importance of setting boundaries in relationships. It’s amazing how much drama is removed from a situation once drugs are not present.
What are you most looking forward to doing after the pandemic ends?
I can’t wait to see New York reinvent herself after Coronavirus. I really hope the artists and the people reclaim it. It is disheartening to see all of this new construction go up and it’s obviously for money laundering. I can’t wait to see Scott Ewalt spin at the Cock again or DJ Lina at 3 Dollar Bill in Brooklyn or Bill Coleman at The Ritz.
What’s your message to fans this pride?
Focus on the stuff that isn’t canceled this year: Your friendships, your passion, your love, the magic that exists inside of you. Queen out as much as you can with fabulous quarantine selfcare: bubble baths, champagne, a home spa day….Nobody is seeing your body, so allow yourself to indulge and take care of your needs. I’m counting on my fans to stay healthy and strong so I can see them once we’re able to play shows again.
Mike 1/2 Nelson’s “Crazy World” is available now with e.p. pre-order. The All Are Welcome e.p. will be available for purchase and streaming on June 12. Follow Mike 1/2 Nelson on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @ mikehalfnelson