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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Playing through the turmoil

Alternative rock/pop band Nuke Venus is made up of, from left, Jeff Wolcott, Robert Harmon, Mike Nielsen, Travis Graham and Nick Nielsen. (J. BART RAYNIAK)
Alternative rock/pop band Nuke Venus is made up of, from left, Jeff Wolcott, Robert Harmon, Mike Nielsen, Travis Graham and Nick Nielsen. (J. BART RAYNIAK)
Jennifer Larue

Mike Nielsen picked up his first guitar at age 9. He had one lesson when he was 11 and spent the next 35 years perfecting his personal style. He played in five bands and now his sixth band, Nuke Venus, is rocking the stage.

Nuke is a slang term meaning to intentionally delete something, and Venus is in reference to a girl in Nielsen’s past who suffered from a mental illness and had a major effect on his life. “Through writing about this particular subject, it’s helped me in the healing process,” he said. “I encourage anyone who has an inner turmoil, from past abuse, or bad experience in general, to write, journal, paint or whatever helps you to heal.”

Nielsen, 46, moved to the Spokane area about seven years ago as a single father. He opened a carpet-cleaning business and proceeded to fill his home with studio equipment and in 2009 recorded twelve songs. “I programmed the drums, played bass, guitar and sang. I was finished with the project in January 2010.” After that, he set out to find musicians to play the material live.

He found drummer Robert Harmon, 46, and bass player Jeff Wolcott, 53, through an ad. The band rehearses in Harmon’s Spokane Valley home.

Harmon started playing the drums at 11 as an outlet for his nervous energy. “I would literally play for hours a day as a young man trying to hone my skills,” he said. He took lessons as a teen and went on to play in many bands over the years. Harmon, a member of the worship team at his church, has a strong passion for music. “God has given me an incredible gift.”

Wolcott started playing the bass guitar at 13 and also played in many bands and is part of a worship team with Harmon. “When I met Mike I found a kindred spirit and found we have much in common,” Wolcott said, including single-parenthood and a love for playing music. “This band is a way of relating to kindred spirits, of creating our own expression of our life’s history, of experiencing pure joy in the moment of creation during the playing of our music.” Wolcott also makes art, builds bass guitars and boats, and runs a mobile furniture repair service.

Nielsen’s son Nick Nielsen, 21, plays rhythm guitar and 28-year-old Travis Graham sings. The sound of their music is alternative rock, pop, catchy and upbeat in contrast to the melancholy lyrics. Their collective goal is to keep playing, create new material, create a buzz, and find a following. Watching them play, their passion is undeniable. “The act of creation is a way to put one’s stamp on the world in a tangible way, to create your own world, to escape the humdrum, to make something new,” Wolcott said.

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