By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
To combat nerves and make it not only tolerable but even enjoyable, Dziurgot did what countless other natural and unnatural performers before him have done: he drank. "When I was wasted, I would enjoy performing a lot," he says. "But when I wasn't, I didn't enjoy it. I was just really nervous. I mean, after four years of playing, I wasn't as nervous about playing the music and singing, but as far as putting on a show, being a showman, I wasn't good unless I was drunk."
Dziurgot says several of his band members suffered this same affliction. "When everybody would drink, we were hams. But when everyone was sober, we were really kind of boring," he says. "There were times when people worried that drinking was going to be the downfall of our band."
It wasn't. Or, maybe, in a roundabout way, it was.
You must understand that Mike Dziurgot is trying to clean his shit up. He's trying to quit smoking and drinking and cussing. He doesn't even want to say the word "ass" anymore. "He says 'butt' instead of 'ass,'" says Ferreira. "It's awkward for him, like you see him slow down, and you can tell he has to think before he talks."
For four years, Dziurgot silenced the voices in his head that were telling him he was a hypocrite. He considered himself a Christian, professed to others that he was a Christian, and yet indulged his hedonistic side. In no way was he that wild; in fact, Dziurgot's AA-style story of drinking and discovery suggests he and the rest of the guys were fairly tame. Ferreira concurs. "Some of the people drink, some of them smoke, and everyone cusses," he says. "We're all normal. It's not out of hand."
But still, Dziurgot felt he was going in the wrong direction. Drinking isn't a sin, he says, but getting drunk is. He couldn't find a way around that. "There are some things that just disagree with me from the depths of my soul," he says. "There was always that internal battle going on."
A couple of years ago, Dziurgot came close to quitting when the band's original guitarist, Sonnie Johnston, and trumpet player Chris Rush quit the band. The band had just returned from a tour with Christian ska band the Insiderz—a band whose members held Bible study every night, which Johnston and Dziurgot attended. Rush quit JFC because he wanted to concentrate on school, but Johnston, who went on to join Christian ska band Five Iron Frenzy, left because, according to Dziurgot, "He's weak. He couldn't do both—couldn't be a Christian and be in JFC. He said he'd rather not be tempted."
So two years ago, Dziurgot told trombone player Chris Colonnier he was quitting. Then, after a show one night at the Fly Theater in Victorville, he "pulled a complete 180," Colonnier says. "He told us that he changed his mind and that [since] we've spent this much time and energy on the band, we may as well see if we can keep going." They did for another couple of years, but from that moment forward, Colonnier knew the end was coming.
Dziurgot's parents, his construction-worker father and school-supervisor mother, both Christians, tried to talk him out of quitting the band. "I wanted them to be proud of me, and they were proud of me and the band," he says. "My mom loved the band. She would always talk me out of quitting."
So much so that it begins to seem as if Dziurgot stayed in the band for a bit to appease his mother. Then he heard a sermon at his church. The minister was telling his own story of struggle with God, how he was opposed to his son-in-law going to England to work as a minister because it meant his daughter and grandchildren would move there as well. The son-in-law said to his father-in-law, the head of the church, "Regardless of what you want me to do, this is what God wants me to do, and I'm going to do it." Dziurgot says he "realized I'd been giving a lot of weight to my mom's opinion rather than my own. I felt that God was telling me, unequivocally, to get out of the band, and I'd been holding back, but that was exactly what I needed to hear." And his father? "My dad is, you know, money, money, money. He was like, 'You're stupid: as soon as you quit, you're going to get a big deal, a big major-label deal.' But he lives in his garage, so . . ." Dziurgot cuts himself off with a big, uncomfortable laugh.
For a while, he decided to stay in the band and try to live a more wholesome life. But it was a struggle. During practices, when others took a smoke break, Dziurgot would remain behind the studio, strumming a guitar and singing Christian songs. One night, he went to get coffee with Johnston, who'd just returned from a tour with Five Iron Frenzy. That night, he made his decision. "I went home and decided, 'That's it, I'm not going to be a hypocrite anymore. I'm not going to say I'm a Christian and then live like I'm not. I don't want to be a bad example of a Christian anymore. There're too many bad examples of Christians out there.'"