Erics Banderview – Nika of the Dungeon

At Darkfest 2009, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Nika, the owner of The Dungeon of Orlando. We discussed many things in this interview, but one thing that was not mentioned was what is, currently, being dubbed Josiefest.

A lot of you may know Josie, a lot of you may not. Josie was the bartender at The Haven for about 5 years, and she now bartends at The Dungeon. Doctors recently discovered a tumor in Josie’s brain. Those of you that know Josie, even slightly, know that she is an awesome, fun person who certainly didn’t deserve something like this brought on her. To help her in her time in need, Nika is working to put together an event for Josie to raise money for her medical expenses and such.

If you would like to help in anyway, please contact The Dungeon of Orlando at myspace.com/dungeonorlando.

Anyway, let’s get on with the interview!

Eric: This is Eric Mann with OrlandoBands.com and I am here with Nika, the wonderful owner of the Junkyard Saloon and The Dungeon. Right now we are enjoying Darkfest, which is a lot of fun. What brought about Darkfest?

Nika: The darkest of music from about four bands. Scorned was the first one, and loved the venue, so they decided to just keep on doing Darkfest at The Dungeon.

Eric: Now, The Dungeon is more known for their metal, hard rock, and hardcore scene, but that’s not all it does?

Nika: No, we play anything and everything.

Eric: Any shows you remember recently that have been really memorable for you?

Nika: A couple of months back with killwhitneydead, that was an extremely good show. There was one with Only Living Boy out of New Jersey, it was a rock show, and these guys could rock the house. It was funky, bluesy rock, and the whole Dungeon had their lighters out. It was amazing. From metal, to rap, to whatever, everyone packed that house and stayed with them. Last weeks show, it was on a Saturday. I had a five band line up, and it sticks in my mind pretty well. All of the bands decided to drop out but two. I was really disappointed and felt really bad for the two bands that stayed.

Season’s Lost REALLY stepped up to the plate. They played FOUR HOURS. Cover tunes, originals, whatever, they kept the party going. I gave them all the money, they deserved it.

But the thing is, I tried to tell them, one hand helps the other. They played about a month and a half ago and they were told that night you pay to play. They contacted me, and I was at the store buying shoes, and they told me “Nikka, we can’t afford to pay to play. We have forty people out in the parking lot.” I said, “Look, I’m at the other side of town, I’m shopping for shoes. The Dungeon isn’t open tonight, but the Junkyard is.” So, in they came, forty people. We moved the pool tables out of the way, and it was Season’s Lost and Obstrep.

When this happened to me, the three bands dropped out, which, what are you going to do. There is nothing you can do about that. But that’s when Season’s Lost said “We’ve got your back.”

Eric: What shows do you have coming up that you are REALLY looking forward to?

Nika: I’m looking forward to our October 30, which is our Creepshow, and I’m looking forward to October 31st, which is Funeral Of the Masses, and then, of course, the Moshfest, which is November 21st.

Eric: Now Moshfest, how long as this been going on.

Nika: This will be the third.

Eric: Now, last year it was a two night show. There was a night show, which was like a lot of the Dungeon shows, started about 8 and had 7 or so bands, and Saturday was an all day thing.

Nika: The first year we did it it was one day. The second year we did it was two, but we’ve decided we are going to do a pre-party the night before, possibly, if not no big deal, we just want to have a big bash the night before.

Eric: Do we have any bands confirmed yet?

Nikka: Yes. I have picked Cethkyn, Tub, Discordia, Fool’s Haven, and two national acts that I can’t say right now, it’s a surprise. Abdomen Canvas. Static…something. I can’t remember their name.

Eric: We’ll have to be watching that one, because that sounds like it’s going to be huge.

Nika: That is going to be a very large show with some pretty big hitters. This will be the third year and a surprise to everybody, so it is definitely going to be a big show.

Eric: Well, Cethkyn and Abdomen Canvas always tear the house down.

Nika: Oh yeah. And Discordia, they’ve been amazing. AMAZING.

Eric: Mind if I shamelessly self promote my October 24th show here?

Nikka: Go ahead.

Eric: October 24th, right here at The Dungeon, it is my birthday show, but don’t come for that reason, come because we’ve got Scorned, we’ve got Wysteria, Bleeding Inc., F Everything, because OrlandoBands.com is PG. I believe they just played recently.

Nika: Yes they did.

Eric: And Unexplainable. I believe it’s their second show ever, so come on out and give them some support. Also go to any show you see listed at myspace.com/dungeonorlando. Now, you usually book pretty big shows. You start about an hour earlier, but you book 7 bands.

Nika: The reason for that is you never know? You never know what’s going to happen. Death in the family, sick, car breaks down. I try to mix different counties and different states to blend together, so you never know what’s going to happen on the road. I bump it up to 7.

Just like one show I was getting ready to do, I bumped it up to 7 and 2 fell off. You never really know. I do like 7 bands, it’s hustle, they have fun, they’re competing with one another, it suchs a good vibe. I like putting on shows, rather than just “Oh yeah, we’re going to the bar, we’re going to see our favorite band, maybe we’ll see this one”, but if you pump it out, and if you have really good advertising as far as a really killer flyer and you tell all the bands to promote it, the flyers go out everything and people are like “Woah. It’s a show.”

If you do that, you can bump up the price a little bit, and in return, the bands benefit more.

Eric: So, you are not dedicated to being a club, you are dedicated to being a concert venue like the House of Blues or The Hard Rock?

Nika: Absolutely. The Junkyard is for cover bands and sometimes solo acts, but The Dungeon is my baby, and it’s been through a lot of ups and downs for what society dishes out to us, but we take it and we keep on going.

Eric: How’s the battle with the sign guy?

Nika: He started today, which I had to speak with the police, and everything is fine. He tried to shut down my Darkfest, which is not going to happen. I go to court on the 15th, so hopefully it will be a really good turn out. Definitely gonna have a party for that one.

But let me explain to you about the Moshfest, because it’s not just about music. Moshfest was created by people who love art, music, and people in general. My saying is this. When you go into an art museum, you can’t explain or define the picture of an artist. What you feel that picture is and what I feel that picture, the point is is that people get together and speak about what they think the picture means. So, I feel that music, that art owes no definition to anyone. That is what I feel, and The Dungeon stays total underground for that reason, whether you are a rap artist, a tattoo artist, a painter.

I created Moshfest for that reason. All these bands eating out of ravioli cans, sleeping in their vans, coming state to state just to get their music out, this is my thank you to them. All year long, you kept the Dungeon going, so right now, this is me saying thanks, and I’m going to give you everybody in one area.

The Dungeon has contacted a trailer company, and I’m hoping it goes over really well, because I want to raffle off a trailer for the bands. One band will get picked to get a new trailer.

I’m going to be giving guitars to the bands. The surprise, which nobody knows, will probably be one of the biggest gifts the bands could have. I’m also working with Sam Ash cuz I want to get guitar strings and different things like that.

To me, Moshfest means unity and a circle of all forms of dance, music, or whatever. You need to become one.

Eric: Well, it sounds like a fun time, and you happen to read this article, and you are playing this show, don’t drop out, because, it’s going to be big, and you could win things. DON’T DROP OUT

Nikka: Definitely do not drop out.

Eric: Okay, as a booker, promoter, and venue owner, who do you see in the Central Florida scene as the band that, in a few years, really breaks out of the local scene and becomes a national metal/hard rock act?

Nika: Mature, who has it together, I do feel that the top three would be Cethkyn, Abdomen Canvas, and Bulletwork. I’m gonna add Discordia.

Cethkyn I feel is it. I don’t know why they haven’t been signed already. Their personality, their stage presence, their heart, and their style of music is very very good. EXTREMELY good.

Discordia, I feel, has grown tremendous. When I went to watch them the last time they played here, they backed me up on a band that dropped off, and the energy they put up on that stage was unbelievable. I feel they are going to be the next thing. The good thing for them is that they are young. They can definitely play with the big hitters.

Bulletwork has opened for OTEP. They’ve had their hard times, but they’re together, they’re very tight, and when it’s time to play.

I love Abdomen Canvas. Just their energy. They remind me of, have you ever seen an old wooden frame house bounding open? It’s like breathing of music. When you go in there, it makes your hair stand up. They are a lot of fun, and they just kick off. If you put them in the middle of the show, they just go.

Eric: They open a show the way they close a show.

Nika: Exactly, and very laid back. They don’t scream, they don’t holler, they don’t say anything, just very honorable people.

Eric: Now, I noticed you didn’t pick anything mainstream. I find it interesting you picked really heavy bands.

Nika: To me, I feel that, in the metal scene, it needs to pick up a little bit, as far as radio time or larger venues like House of Blues or Hard Rock. They need to give these bands time, because to me, it takes WAY more energy to be into metal. It takes a lot. It’s like, heavy heavy metal, they just push them aside and tell them to stay underground. I can get on the political side of it. Hey, you’re a radio station. Why aren’t you putting these kids out there?

I think there are a lot of metal bands, very young bands, like Occidio, have a huge following. Fans are fans, fans are what make you or break you. They bring the people out there, and it may not be your style or preference, but they kill.

They’re young. I think they’re oldest person is 16. They are young, they go to school, they play music, and they stay off the streets. Let’s help them out. They aren’t doing anything that bad. That’s what the Moshfest is all about. You know, you have your strong hitters, but you have to let what I call my baby bands get out there. It takes some time to build them up, but once they’re there? You’ll see.

Eric: Well, I feel the need to throw out No Circus. Not heavy by any rights, more like Stevie Ray Vaughn type music, but I saw them open for Shinedown, they are high school, straight A student kids.

Nika: It just really bothers me when people sit there and stereotype people. Oh, you’re playing death metal, metal, or rock and roll, and you have your earrings and you wear black, so you must be a drug dealer or a really evil person because of what you do.

Well, if you go back over time, take it back twenty years, take it to Jimi Hendrix, or take it all the way back to Elvis, when they thought Elvis was weird, but they look at what they did in their lifetimes, and what of that really matters? They could mesmerize ANYONE with their guitars and their music. They’re off the street, so leave them alone.

Eric: Speaking of stereotypes, do you feel The Dungeon sometimes catch a bad wrap because you are on OBT.

Nika: I get it because we are on OBT. I get it because we are not in a strip mall. I get all kinds of different things. Oh, The Dungeon looks like a shack, but open up the doors, feel the love and hear the music.

Heeby Jeebies up in New York was half the size of the Junkyard with blood on the walls, dirt on the floor, it was nasty. The best played there. Rolling Stones, Blondie, and even with the punk scene back there years ago. It doesn’t matter where you ‘should be’. I have gotten a bad wrap for that, but I don’t care about that, because, to me, it’s not where you’re at, it’s who you are and who you associate yourself with.

Eric: Well, this was fun, so, I guess this is a good place to bring it to close. Final words?

Nika: Orlando, get ready. It’s gonna hit, and let’s pray to god it’s not hot.

Eric: I don’t think you can hope for that.

Nika: Come on, November 21st, it’s gonna be some kind of cool breeze.

Eric: Well, go to Moshfest, it’s going to be awesome. Come to the Dungeon, it’s awesome. I’m Eric, with OrlandoBands.com. I was with Nika, the owner, bartender, and all around awesome person of the Dungeon. And…uhhh…keep reading. Thanks for sticking around!

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