Doctor Nerve performed at the 2011 edition of the Zappanale
Festival in Bad Doberan, Germany.
August 4, 2011, Bobby Marquis did an interview with Nick Didkovsky on Canadian CKCU-FM radio.
from the Cuneiform website, August 2012:
NERVE is an eight-piece New York City band which injects the furious energy of
rock into tightly composed contemporary music. Playing what has been referred to
as "avant-metal-mutant jazz-rock," the result is an intense and
precise live show, infused with spontaneous improvisation and intricate
NERVE was born at The Creative Music Studio (CMS), in Woodstock, New York, at
the beginning of the 80's. CMS was founded in 1971 by KARL BERGER, INGRID SERTSO
and ORNETTE COLEMAN and was considered the premier study center for contemporary
creative music. It was there that mainman NICK DIDKOVSKY met the other soon to
be members - LEO CIESA in the fall of 1981, YVES DUBOIN in the spring of 1982
and JIM MUSSEN (original drummer). It was while in composition classes at CMS
that Didkovsky discovered the power of his own writing. The first NERVE
compositions were created while he was there ("Spy Boy").
band has had three incarnations. They started out as DEFENSE SPENDING and later
on changed it to CROW (Didkovsky and Duboin.).
second version called LETHAL INJECTION followed after the CMS period. This
incarnation of the band recorded in primitive conditions (in drummer BRIAN
FARMER's living room on a four track Scully).
third take on the band would ultimately release the first DOCTOR NERVE album,
Out To Bomb Fresh Kings. Four of the tracks were drawn from the Lethal Injection
sessions. The rest were recorded on 8 track in a studio near the Hudson River in
name DOCTOR NERVE was originally coined for a duo Didkovsky had with a German
improvisational drummer named ZOROBABEL. The track "Doctor Nerve" on
the debut album is based on an improvisational piece from that duo.
Nick Didkovsky's Punos Music label: http://www.punosmusic.com/punosrecords.html
One of Nick Didkovsky 's other projects is called Aural Dystopia. It's a
hardcore improvisational trio that also features Dan Romans (drums) and Tomas
Ulrich (cello). The band played a concert at 'Jack' in Brooklyn on September 14,
|doctor nerve: out to bomb fresh kings
(1984, 2cd, usa, cuneiform)
|doctor nerve: armed observation
(1987, cd, usa, cuneiform)
|doctor nerve: did sprinting die?
(1990, cd, usa, cuneiform)
|doctor nerve: beta 14 ok
(1991, cd, usa, cuneiform)
|doctor nerve: skin
(1995, cd, usa, cuneiform)
every screaming ear
(1997, cd, usa, cuneiform) - incl 'when it blows it stacks' (van vliet)
nerve with the sirius string quartet: ereia
(2000, cd, usa, cuneiform)
|doctor nerve: the monkey farm
(2009, itunes, usa, punos records) - also made available on cd
(2011, cd-promo, ger, arf society) - incl. various artists playing frank zappa compositions
the knitting factory, nov 14, 1991 (beta 14 ok era)
(2011, dvdr, usa, private release) - incl 'when it blows it stacks' (van vliet)
zappanale #22 - retrospectacular
(2011, cd, ger, arf society) - incl. various artists playing frank zappa compositions
2011/07 - a short chat with Nick Didkovsky, a couple of weeks before Doctor Nerve's Zappanale concert.
UniMuta : Hi
Nick, it's good to hear that Doctor Nerve will be at Zappanale. I know that
Doctor Nerve has performed all over the world already, but how does it feel to
come over to Europe again? Does Doctor Nerve get many opportunities to tour, to
perform in clubs or at festivals?
Didkovsky : It's an honor to be invited!
Thanks to Charly Heidenreich and everyone at Arf-Society, all our Kickstarter
supporters (over 100 people contributed to this effort), and the folks at
MidAtlantic Arts. We really worked hard to get all eight of us over here. It was
a huge effort and very satisfying to reach our goal with support from so many
done a lot of touring in Europe, and haven't been back in much too long... so
this feels both exciting and familiar at the same time. Nerve's been rolling for
over 25 years, so you can imagine the many layers of experience and memories
that an experience like this triggers!
keep moving forward, having recently recorded a number of new pieces in the
studio (you'll hear these at the show). We've got new musicians in the band, and
we just did some gigs before coming here... so there's a stream of creative
activity and forward motion that's apparent when viewed the inside, that may not
be obvious to people who know us only through our record releases and European
UniMuta : People with
the weirdest taste in music come to Zappanale, but they do have one common
factor they're all into the music of Frank Zappa. Will this be influencing your
setlist? What can we expect?
Didkovsky : You
can expect a seriously high energy cross section of the Doctor Nerve legacy!
This includes tunes from each of our albums, some conducted improvisation (one
of my favorite parts of the set), and five unreleased pieces which are all
conducted improvisation uses a compact set of hand signals that lets the band
respond quickly to where I want to take them and enables me to respond very
quickly to where they want to go. Some of the new tunes follow the heavier
direction that our record SKIN ushered in. And a couple of the new pieces were
composed by software and are pretty freaky. One of them is going to require some
audience participation, so watch for it!
think Nerve fans are going to dig this show because we're playing a healthy
cross section of our existing repertoire, but we're not just look backwards, as
we've got a lot of new music in the set. I hope we'll make new friends with
those in the Zappanale audience who've never heard us before. I certainly think
Zappa fans will relate to the model of a composer-guitarist leading a band that
plays complex rock music. But there's a meta-similarity that sort of stands
above these kinds of comparisons, where I think a deeper connection will be
felt: something like an iconoclastic "we do what we want" commitment
that I think we share with Frank and his fans.
I'm at it, I'm also proud to introduce two new band members: Jesse Krakow on
bass and Ben Herrington on trombone. Some of your audience might know Jesse from
the Beefheart cover band "Fast 'n' Bulbous". And Ben's been a member
of the venerable Meridian Arts Ensemble forever, who are some of the world's
finest interpreters of Zappa's music. Ben tells the story of when Meridian
visited Frank when he was too sick to travel, and played them their arrangements
of some of his pieces, and he was very touched by it.
UniMuta : You're a
computer music program developer, so I guess you're quite well-acquainted with
the digitalisation of the musical world. What do you think of the recent
developments in the music industry with downloadable albums, iTunes and the ikes
versus the old-fashioned vinyl or CD. Do you think that the CD will disappear
how do you feel about that?
Didkovsky : Well
first I should say that my use of computers in music is focused on writing
software that creates compositions. So I am no digital music industry expert!
But I do have some thoughts about it.
experiencing recorded music, I think few things are cooler than the tactile and
visual experience of a vinyl record! Staring at the cover art while listening to
the music. Reading the liner notes, flipping the cover over, studying all the
details of its design. There's also the wonderful notion of an A side and a B
side, and how bands used to take creative advantage of that format; as a
listener you'd have a favorite side for a while then at some point your tastes
might change and the other side would become your favorite. There's that great
sound when you turn up the stereo and first put the needle down; you hear that
loud "thunk" when the needle hits the vinyl and then slips into the
groove, and you brace yourself for the sonic assault. That's delicious. And of
course the spinning label when viewed from above, and the optical illusions
there... I love vinyl. But honestly
I don't miss it much from the point of view of releasing my own music. Mastering
a vinyl record's a pain. Out of phase signals are a disaster (we had some cool
deliberately out of phase signals on the first Nerve record and it wasn't until
the music was re-released on CD that I could hear the sound as it was originally
intended). And vinyl hates to get louder as the needle moves closed to the
center of the platter, and that may not jibe with the artist's musical intent.
And there's no random access on vinyl (you might be familiar with the 44 Nerve
Events on our "Beta 14 Ok" CD, each on its own CD track. Listeners can
program their CD players to drop these odd little mini compositions between the
longer tracks, or put the whole record in shuffle play so you'd get a few of
these short pieces between the longer ones). So really I don't miss vinyl, but
as a fetish object, let's be honest you can't beat it. As for CD's, it's a very
odd feeling for me to buy a new CD, rip it into iTunes and then hold that CD in
my hand and feel that its nature has somehow changed. It feels like a dry empty
husk, like I sucked everything out of it and now it's not useful any more except
as backup storage. Some bands spend a lot of energy on making the CD something
special with creative booklet design, and I appreciate that as well as the high
resolution audio you get from CD's. But I think the CD object is threatened even
more by digital distribution than vinyl is.
I like about digital distribution is that for the first time in my life I have
just as much "shelf space' as any other artist. I mean, you can search for
"Doctor Nerve" in iTunes Music Store, and you'll get to my music just
as fast as you can get to any other artist. There's no hierarchy. My record is
never out of stock. There's no warehouse, no shelf space to compete over, no
leaving some CD's on consignment and hoping you get paid for them. These are all
I don't like about digital distribution is the fragmentation of the body of work
that constitutes an "Album". I wonder if the notion of an album will
disappear entirely. I think it's almost a little melancholy to think of somebody
downloading just one or two tunes based on a few seconds of a preview, instead
of experiencing the entire body of work. When I think of all the time and energy
I put into sequencing tunes and how they flow into each other, it's a shame that
this musical arch is so easily dismantled by selective downloading. I think if
we had track-based digital distribution when I was a kid, I'd probably have
missed some great music, like the more obscure tracks on a record that tend to
grow on you over time. And downloading will never be as rich an experience as
going into a small record shop run by music aficionados. Both from the point of
view of supporting a small business as well as the relationship you can develop
with the guys in the shop who can turn you on to new things every time you enter
the store... the small record store run by music fans is a precious resource
that I hope can hold on in the face of digital distribution.
UniMuta : Talking
guitars, have seen pictures of you with different guitars. What guitar do you
usually play? Is that the one that you also take out on the road? what
kind of effects & amps do you use.
Didkovsky : The
guitar on the first Nerve record was Gibson L6-S with a Dimarzio dual sound
humbucker in the bridge position. 24 fret neck, really liked that guitar, it
screamed. Although the neck was ridiculously narrow at the nut and I consciously
tended to avoid playing down there since it was so crowded! The L6-S was stolen
and I bought a Gibson Les Paul from my friend Steve MacLean who worked in a
music store at the time (you might know Steve from the first Nerve record, or
from his own records on ReR). The moment I played the Les Paul I remember saying
to myself, "This is the guitar I should have been playing all my
life". It felt that good, that natural. The sustain was awesome. That red
Les Paul was the main Nerve guitar for about a decade (in fact I recently
"rediscovered" this Les Paul, and it's become my main guitar in my
metal band Häßliche Luftmasken). But at a point I felt like I wanted some
changes to achieve a variety of sounds, specifically 24 frets, a whammy bar, and
coil tapping. I got turned on to Paul Reed Smith guitars (again by Steve!). My
PRS Custom 24 is a great instrument, very versatile. I played that starting with
the Doctor Nerve SKIN record, where I was exploring a heavier guitar tone. This
is the guitar I'm bringing to Zappanale.
recently I scored a 1967 Gibson SG Special (with P-90 pickups, similar to the
one Pete Townshend and Tony Iommi played), and this is probably the single most
inspiring guitar I've ever played in my life. For over a year, playing it was
the first thing I'd think about in the morning and the last thing I'd do before
going to sleep. I'm still obsessed with that guitar (you can see it on all my
YouTube Sabbath lessons). More recently I grabbed a '92 SG, this one with stock
humbuckers which I think I'll replace with Fralins, and I recently inherited a
'65 Gibson Melody Maker that has a very unique tone and feel. All have strong
personalities. But I can only bring one guitar on tour and that's the PRS, since
I need the versatility.
have been a real head trip. I am in a state of almost continuous
dissatisfaction. I crave an amp that will give me a pedal friendly clean tone
with a high gain channel that can reach into metal territory, and be able to
cover the rock vibe as well. I used a Line 6 Flextone amp for a while, and with
its modeling capabilities, I've been able to get a wide range of tones out of
it. I recorded the Bone record with it, and have used it live with both Nerve
and Bone. But the arrival of that '67 SG broke open an amp quest that's really
spun out of control... I've been looking for an amp that will deliver some
serious sonics, respond quickly and feel like it's in a tightly bonded
relationship with the guitar. I've bought, returned, and sold a lot of amps over
the last couple of years... the list is embarrassingly long and is marked both
with disappointments and happy discoveries. My current stack is comprised of two
Marshall Valvestate 8100 heads and two Harry Kolbe 1x12 closed back ported cabs
(some of your readers may recognize the 8100 as the sound of Chuck Schuldiner's
guitar in Death). I tune one of the 8100's bright and the other dark and run
them in parallel and the sound is pretty intense. Surprisingly the 8100 cleans
up well too. But there's some issues with it, so I'm thinking my next amp might
be a two channel head built by Ben Fargen, with a Marshall side and a Fender
blackface clean side. Fargen's Marshall design solves some problems associated
with the original Marshalls, adding more gain on tap, more bottom end, and more
discrete eq controls. One amp I really enjoy is the 15 watt Vox Night Train. Not
enough teeth for Nerve but it responds to the guitar in a beautiful and
intuitive way. I love that thing and won't ever sell it.
I used it to record the bonus track for the Hugh Hopper benefit CD The
Gift of Purpose (Cuneiform Records), and some beautiful tones oozed out of that
UniMuta : And you're
not just into composing and playing. My friend Danny Mathys told me that you
produced the Ornithozozy album by belgian band Fukkeduk in the early ninetees
(which I fnd fascinating because I live in Belgium). The band only made one
album (and featured the great Bart Maris on trumpet). Do yo have any
recollections of this project?
Didkovsky : Well
I remember laughing a lot. The sense of humor in that band was absurdist and as
we got to know each other it got more and more colorful. Fukkeduk was an
interesting band because it had such a wide range of personalities in it. Some
truly astounding talent in that group, very strong compositions, very strong
solos, wide open mind about music... great people, and hilarious too. One of the
most rewarding experiences was working with Frank Ghysels on his guitar tone. He
was a very intuitive player who could run hot or cold depending on his sound,
and I was very satisfied that I helped him achieve a tone that opened his
floodgates. He did some great soloing on that record.
was also the first time my PRS was recorded. The band invited me to do a solo on
Jan Kuijke's tune, and as I'd brought my new PRS along to Belgium, I premiered
it on Ornithozozy.
Other recollections include Nic Roseeuw having just gotten a kitten and this little thing was so intense it single-handedly chased a couple of big neighborhood cats out of his back yard... we'd hear this chorus of cat screams and kitten wailing during the great territorial conquest. Later I bought a toy for the kitten but it overstimulated that thing too much and Nic threw the toy away because giving it a toy was like injecting caffeine into a chihuahua. Freaky little cat. Anyway, working with Fukkeduk was a great experience, and I'm very proud to be a part of that record.
UniMuta : That's a great story. I'm glad to
hear that you had a good time working with Fukkeduk.
Really looking forward to your Zappanale concert.
Thanks for the interview & see you in Bad Doberan.
Doctor Nerve will be performing at Zappanale
on Friday, August 19, 2011.
Better be there !!