Nick Acosta, 35, began publishing New Morality Zine in 2014 to document hardcore punk in Chicago and beyond; two years ago, he made it a label too. NMZ has put out four releases in the past month, including A Hell Like No Other by local band Si Dios Quiere, Thank You for Being Here Pt. I by Oklahoma shoegazers Cursetheknife, and its 29th and most recent, a demo by Oklahoma posthardcore act G.I. Bill.
I grew up in Colorado; I lived south of Denver by about 45, 50 minutes. I lived in a pretty rural [area]–we lived on five acres. We didn’t have cable television; we barely got regular channels. [I] commuted to school, and my parents commuted to work downtown. It was always 45-minute, hour-long drives either way, so we were always listening to music a ton. In high school, everything I wanted to do was always far away from me. We didn’t live in the hub–I think that’s why music became something I was interested in, ’cause I could do that by myself.
I went to an all-boys Jesuit school. I had my group of friends. There were two or three people who were into punk; somehow we would start trading recommendations. Some of the punk music lent its way, to, like, “Oh, I like this band called Terror.” It was during the age of Napster, so I was like, “I will go home and I will log on Napster and, like, download this Nora record for five hours.”
I actually went from Colorado to Seattle, New York, and then Chicago. I don’t feel like I was part of any given scene until I was in Seattle, and then I delved headfirst into the quote-unquote scene.
I “claimed straight edge” my senior year of high school. I don’t remember the show I went to, but some girl had offered me a cigarette, and I was like, “Oh no, I don’t smoke.” She was like, “What are you, straight edge?” I was like, “Yes.” I had very little understanding of what that meant at the time.
When I got to college, I met another friend that was going to school with me that said she was straight edge–she was from Colorado, coincidentally–so then we started going to shows together, and I met more people. When I was living in Seattle, hardcore was big–it was the big northwest sound. You had bands like Blue Monday, Go It Alone, the Answer; it was a very strong local scene.
I went to college at Seattle University, so right in the hub of Capitol Hill, which at this point is so different.
I started my zine when I moved to Chicago. It was three years into living here–I’m going on my ninth year, tenth year here. I tried to start a band the year prior with some friends, but they all ended up moving away. I thought, “What is something I can do by myself yet still contribute?” I felt still very new in Chicago–I felt like this was a good way to keep active but also become more involved in the scene in Chicago.
It was fun to be able to go to a show and bring zines with me. I would try as much as I could to message a promoter and be like, “Hey, would you mind if I come with some zines?” Often they’re like, “That’s totally fine.” People started to know me a little bit from the zine. Chicago is a unique place; there’s a lot of people doing things at a smaller scale, so I never felt like, “Oh, he stood out because he does this.” It’s weird now to think people might only know me from doing a zine or a label.
My wife would say I’m verbose–she’s always a good editor. I went into doing the zine based off some of the zines I was interested in. There was a zine from New York called Rumpshaker by Eric [Weiss]. He did a great job of including really different band interviews, and also a lot of personal essays; I remember he wrote a very vivid article about what it meant for him to have OCD. Another zine from New York that’s older is Anti-Matter–I remember reading the anthology my first year in New York and just being fascinated by how in-depth and intentional Norman Brannon is with his questions, so those are things I tried to emulate when I was doing the zine as much as possible. A diversity of perspectives–asking a wide range of bands, getting personal stories that were not necessarily tied just to hardcore, but from people within hardcore.
I feel bad. I haven’t done a [full] issue of the zine–with, like, interviews–for almost two and a half years. I’ve transitioned more to focusing more on the label side of it. So I’m looking to get back to it.
Looking to the forefathers, I was like, “A lot of these zines went on to doing labels, so I could also do it.” I wanted to make sure if I was gonna do a label, could I find bands to work with within the wide umbrella of hardcore, but also have some nuance–or something that’s slightly different that makes them appealing to a different listener.
I’m working with a band called Si Dios Quiere; they’re from the Pilsen neighborhood, Little Village, some of them I think might have lived in Humboldt Park or currently live in Humboldt. I knew Louie Flores, the bass player–he’s one of the first people I met going to shows. And Ruben Garza Jr., who’s the singer–I remember going to one show he hosted in Little Village, outside in the patio space of somebody’s backyard. Predominantly the people that were in attendance were Brown, and that was cool for me, because I don’t think I’ve always felt as included–or at least represented–in hardcore. So that’s another big reason why I’m super amped about this specific release.
I did Chicago hardcore shirts, and somebody that was helping me with the design, he was like, “Do you want to put ‘NMZ’ on it?” I was like, “That’s kinda weird–it’s self-aggrandizing to put my own label on it.” I feel like it’s more for the people than it is repping a brand. Sometimes I feel weird about it. At this point, I feel like I’ve contributed slightly, and I’m always hoping to do more. v