Remembering Mike Webber of the Nip Drivers

By Jula Bell

Being an underground musician in L.A., I'm inundated with music. Everyone is up there rocking out, and trying their best to communicate with the audience in hopes of getting a response of respect and/or admiration. I have found that most musicians are either concerned with expressing themselves or just trying to make it big. Sometimes it's both. The desperation is so prevalent in so many bands that very often musical depth and insight are laid aside for what is perceived as an image. As a musician, this process always saddens me.

There are but a few singers of our time who have truly moved me emotionally. One of them was Mike Webber of the South Bay punk band, Nip Drivers. Mike, who died a year ago this month, was a brilliant artist and poet and one of the most unique performers that I have ever seen. His profound lyrics spewed out effortlessly and his singing style was all about reckless abandon. When he performed he would throw his guts on the floor, and delight in the mayhem of it all. He had his demons and drug battles, and his singing was almost like a sassy “fuck you” exorcism at times. He would do these spastic dance moves and run around naked or in dresses singing horrifying covers in falsetto. We all lapped it up. Mike did the best covers of pop hits, hands down. He always made them his own, and usually did it better than the original (which is really hard to do).

Best of all, he had fun doing it. He was also modest about his brilliance. I always thought of him to be a kind of a South Bay Darby Crash — but less into nihilism and more into the irony of our existence. He always had incomparable wit, was well read, and was very current on socio-political events. Add a sense of utter ridiculousness and rockingness; and the result was a plethora of amazing albums.

I feel very lucky to have worked with Mike in Marc Spitz Freestyle, the Bob Drivers, and Nip Drivers. I always had the up most respect for his talent, and still cherish the times we spent together. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Mike could play almost any instrument, and rock it the fuck out. He was an impatient guy – sometimes he didn’t have time to play the right chords and liked to make up his own funny lyrics – but you know what? It didn’t really matter. He was punk rock incarnate. He was an anti perfectionist when it came to music, and that is what rock is about.

Being friends with Mike, I always felt like he could go at any time. I think that anyone who knew him well didn’t expect Mike to live as long as he did. He was a bona fide hedonist and always threw himself into things headfirst. He had the craziest stories. He made other punks look like amateurs. Even though he was this musical genius and reckless pleasure seeker, he was always a good listener, loved his family, and was quite intent on being a thoughtful, caring friend. I never heard him talk poorly about anyone (even if someone had it coming). He would just give this sort of special smile and say some quirky, funny thing that he had made up that day, and all was understood. I really admired that about him. So many other older musicians in the scene became so bitter, but Mike just didn’t seem to want to waste any of his energy on any that. Instead he was more intent on cracking you up with some kooky little nonsensical inside joke.

I miss him terribly and hope that he is reincarnated someday to save the music scene from taking itself so seriously. It is also my wish that anyone who loved him can honor his memory by keeping his music alive. Mike would have loved that.

LA Weekly