Punk scene to mainstream

The average GW senior has never been referred to as the “Liza Minnelli of punk rock,” nor have they owned a punk rock café or run an independent movie store.

But Jason Mojica is not your average senior.

In 1982, before most undergraduates were born, Mojica was seven years old and buying his first album – Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on vinyl. About a decade later, when most current college students were just learning to read, Mojica dropped out of Southern Illinois University after a year and joined a band born from the prominent Chicago punk scene.

Upon first glance, Mojica, a 34-year-old political communication major, appears to be a typical student dressed in business clothes for his internship at CBS. But the pink socks peeking above his loafers and his side-swept haircut are small glimpses into his atypical life.

“I was surprised to find college as having all the things I hated in high school,” Mojica said of his decision to withdraw from school years ago.

He credits his interest in the punk rock scene to the Catholic all-boys high school he attended.

“Nothing makes you question authority more than being within those confines,” Mojica said

As part of the “nerd without the super intelligence of nerd group” in high school, Mojica and his friends searched for a world removed from the jocks and mainstream popularity. Instead they entered a world of art, comics and leather jackets, where punk rock pioneers like The Misfits and Sex Pistols narrated the soundtrack of daily life.

Mojica remembers analyzing the Dead Kennedys’ cover of The Clash’s “I Fought the Law” during a family dinner conversation. He recalls discussing the lyrics “I fought the law and I won/You can get away with murder if you got a badge” with his parents. He was surprised to find out that they agreed with his favorite rockers’ ideas.

Mojica’s father was in a rock band in the 1960s. Mojica smiles when recalling the role reversal: His dad would frequently bang on the drums in the garage and Mojica would ask him to quiet down.

When he dropped out of college, Mojica became the front man of The Fighters, a punk band he started with high school friends. They made a record after only a month of recording in 1993, pulling inspiration from such bands as Jawbreaker, Fugazi and Naked Ray Gun. That July they toured around the Midwest, visiting St. Louis and Arkansas. Later, the band played a few gigs in Europe.

“My strongest tour memory came from a miscommunication in Lexington, Kt., that resulted in a mob of drunk Kentuckians trying to kill me,” Mojica said about a gig where he was misidentified as the perpetrator of a crime.

After being punched in the face, he barricaded himself in the band’s tour bus, using one hand to hold his bleeding nose and the other to hold instruments as weapons.

In between singing for The Fighters and another punk band with a bigger focus on reggae funk music, The Eclectics, Mojica started a music label, Rocco Records, and opened a coffee house called Jinx in Chicago in 1997.

“My café was a decidedly punk-rock café,” he said. “Most members of the staff were in bands. We played our music obnoxiously loud and chased away anyone with a computer or a book of poetry. It didn’t’ turn out to be a very good business model.”

It wasn’t until 9/11 that Mojica thought about steering away from the punk rock scene, to find what his role could be in the world.

In 2006, he realized the value of a liberal arts education and enrolled at GW.

The decision to return to college was an “attempt to think inside the box and learn how to write a business letter,” Mojica said.

Since arriving in Foggy Bottom, Mojica hasn’t felt like part of campus, mostly because he doesn’t live on campus.

“I’m a 31-year-old male. Do you really want me living in a dorm?” Mojica said about the awkward explanation he had to give in order to get out of sophomore-year housing.

Although he now prefers Frank Sinatra to Screeching Weasel, Mojica has maintained an avid appreciation for music.

“My favorite venue in D.C. is the backstage at the Black Cat. I’ve seen friend’s bands play there. I’ve seen Beck play there. I wish I could see everyone play there,” Mojica said.

He not only listens, but also continues to be a part of the scene. He founded “Modernist Society,” a music Web zine that interviews musical artists and hosts club events in Adams Morgan where DJs spin, and special guests such as porn photographers and former nuclear-weapon designers answer questions from the audience.

Now, as a second-semester senior, Mojica describes himself as “that grumpy man” who doesn’t want students to distract others trying to learn.

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