Slogans, t-shirts and references to family, community and PMA (positive mental attitude) abound in the world of hardcore. But how often does it amount to more than words? When Nate Gluck was diagnosed with stomach and esophagus cancer this past January, he witnessed first hand those words put into action. As the bassist for a number of hardcore bands including Ensign and Strength 691, Gluck had plenty of notoriety in the scene, despite being a pretty quiet, private person off stage. There's no way he'd ever expect that just days after his heartbreaking diagnosis that he'd be the recipient for hardcore help from friends and fans around the world.
Since his diagnosis, A Go Fund Me Page raising money for his sky high medical bills garnered over $120,000. Most amazing of all, a few of his friends and bandmates got together to produce Nate Fest in his native New Jersey last May, a two-day event full of some of the most preeminent hardcore acts in the country. This Saturday, Natefest is throwing a West Coast run together at Chain Reaction, packing the all-ages venue with a ridiculous lineup including Good Riddance, H20, Adamantium, Death By Stereo, Ensign and more. We recently got a chance to talk to Gluck about the surprising amount of support he's received in his fight against cancer.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): How is your health these days?
Nate Gluck: As far as the treatment goes, I went through all of the chemo that the doctor felt that I needed to do and all the follow up tests have all come back clean. I finished chemo back in May and a couple weeks ago I had my first follow up with the doctor to see how things are looking. The tests that have come back have all been clean. So at the moment my cancer is remission and my next follow up with the oncologist is in November. But I've had to go every three months to get scanning and blood work done to make sure everything looks good.
What were some things going through your mind when you were first diagnosed with cancer?
I had been feeling sick before the doctor I saw for treatment told me I had cancer. I didn't expect that to be the answer for the ailment I was having. But then I'm just like of course it's cancer…it was all digestive issues I was having and the cancer was found in my stomach and my esophagus. So of course it wasn't just really bad heartburn. I was told it was bad, it was aggressive and I needed to start treatment immediately. I didn't have a lot of time to process it. I had one test to confirm that there were cancer cells. Within a month's time from that test to starting, there was a barrage of tests to confirm whether or not it was benign or malignant and exactly how bad it was. When the doctor to me I was like "shit, that's not good, but there's nothing I can do about it. I can't change the fact that you're telling me that this is what's causing this problem. That being said, what's the next step and where do we go from here?" That's the type of attitude I've always had, I'm a very positive person.
Were you actively playing shows at the time?
I didn't have any shows right around then, but the last show I had played [with Ensign] was the week before I got the official diagnosis that I have cancer. If you talked to anyone that saw me when we played those shows, if we weren't on stage playing, I was huddled in the corner. One of the shows was at a bar called St. Vitus in Brooklyn and I was in the backstage area downstairs in the basement and there was a chair down there and I was coiled up in it because I was in so much pain before I could go on stage and just pass out again right after.
Were you surprised at how swift the hardcore community reacted to the Go Fund Me page that started talking about your condition?
In a million years I never would've imagined it having that impactful of a response. The person who set up the Go Fund Me was my friend's wife and he and I play in bands together but he was the original Ensign drummer, and his wife, prior to me getting sick, used Go Fund Me to raise money for a friend whose house burned down. She came to me and said "hey I know you're a private person, but you're in a bad place and I think this is something we can put together to help you out." I was reluctant at first for exactly those reasons. I am a private person, unless I'm on stage. But I don't go broadcasting every nuance of my life. But ultimately I knew it was coming from a place of love.
Then it just took off and exploded and now it's raised over $120,000. That's crazy!
I know people think of me as a nice guy, I've been in a lot of bands, traveled a lot and have friends all over the world, but I never would've thought it would have the response it did. I consider myself so amazingly fortunate that I've been involved for so long in this community and I never questions why I got into punk and hardcore. I never questioned why I maintained involvement. I do it because I love it. But it was really heartwarming to see that it really is a family. There's plenty of songs about it and lyrics about it and shirts and slogans, but to be able to see this, when one of our people needs help, we really do stand by them. It's not just words. I've had people tell me that it really restored their faith in humanity.
Who organized Natefest?
They did one out here in New Jersey, it was a two-day festival with tons of bands. I wasn't able to be there for all of it because it was a big chemo week for me but I got to get up and play a few songs with some of the bands. I'm sure anyone who saw me said that guy has the biggest smile on his face! Tim, the singer from Ensign, our friend Dan who currently plays guitar in Ensign and an old roadie of ours were the people who first put it together. We've done this before when one of our friends was in a car accidents and got paralyzed, we set up a benefit show for him to help with all the medical cost. It's basically asking what power do we have as a band to impact the situation. So they reached out to the bands and got it all setup and organized and it made a lot of money as well. There were west coast bands who really wanted to play but couldn't so we wanted to get another show for people who couldn't be in Jersey. On the west coast an old friend of ours, Dave Ito, has been the one handling it. It's a smaller scale than it was out here because it's hard to do everything from across the country.
Did you ever play at Chain Reaction?
Yeah Ensign's played there a handful of times, I've gone to a bunch of shows there. Andy, the guy running it has been there for a long time and I'm psyched that it's there, it's a cool little spot. Death By Stereo are old friends of ours as well.
What's your plan moving forward as you continue to work your way back to health?
I start back up at work in October, I feel good, I'm taking it day by day and really trying to enjoy the life that I have. I really try to be thankful and not take things for granted and this gives me even more perspective on that. Life is short, enjoy what you've got.
Natefest: West happens tomorrow (Sep. 12) at Chain Reaction, featuring Good Riddance, Adamantium, H20, Ensign, Death By Stereo, Eyelid, Faded Grey, 3rd Degree and Done Dying. $50, starts at 5 p.m. All ages. For more info, click here.