Meet Your NYSMusic Staff: Writer Mike Kohli
Born into a musical family, it was only logical for Mike to venture into music writing as an adult. Raised on a steady diet of Hee Haw, Lawrence Welk and Irish music, Mike’s first live music experiences happened on the back Bilco stairway of his grandparents house across the street, watching his Uncle Den and his bandmates (which included future 805 drummer Frank Briggs) practicing in the basement.
Hanging with his uncle gave him exposure to such musical legends as Steely Dan, Gerry Rafferty, The Allman Brothers and Elvis Costello among others. The groundwork was laid. Soon KISS took over as an obsession. KISS memorabilia? He had it. Lunch boxes, trading cards, posters, “action figures,” Mike and his neighborhood buddies were Gene Simmons’ marketing dream.
When KISS took off the make-up, Mike had already checked out, underground metal became the obsession. This is when he began honing his music writing skills. Many study hall sessions were spent creating fantasy stories using real life metal musicians as the lead characters. A stint at the school newspaper, The Knight Times, gave him his first opportunity at published writing. His review of the Dead Kennedys’ Frankenchrist album somehow made it past the watchful eyes of his advisor and opened eyes throughout Rome Free Academy.
Mike’s circuitous route through college, began at St. John Fisher in Rochester. He worked at the school’s student-run radio station his freshman year. This exposed him to the world of what, at the time, was called college rock. Being on-air was something Mike enjoyed so much it eventually led to his leaving Fisher after his freshman year, possibly not of his own volition.
A return to his hometown of Rome and a re-focusing at Mohawk Valley Community College afforded him the opportunity to buy a car and travel to concerts. He and his friends spent many nights taking in shows at Syracuse’s Lost Horizon where they witnessed Slayer on the Reign in Blood tour, Overkill several times, Voivod and Soundgarden on the same bill and the legendary Replacements. Mike had a brush with fame prior to that Replacements show, sharing a beer with bassist Tommy Stinson at the bar. The concert bug was seriously sparked at this point in his life.
Upon transferring to SUNY Potsdam, Mike took on three shows covering three different formats at the student radio station WRPS as well as interning briefly at the local news station covering the government beat.
Returning back to Rome, Mike took a position as a special education teacher assistant in the Rome City School District, a position he held for 10 years before leaving to run the local ice rink and performing a job everyone wishes they could, driving the Zamboni.
It was during this period that Mike met his now wife, Carey, an accountant by trade and courageous by nature. Carey was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis soon after the birth of their son, Ian in 2000 and has been battling ever since. The couple had a daughter Samantha in 2004, who has become her father’s musical protege.
Eventually earning his degree in History from Utica College and New York State certification to teach secondary social studies in 2009, Mike transitioned to his current position in Rome City Hall where he has written speeches and researched for the mayor’s and attorney’s offices. He puts his history degree to work as Vice President of the Rome Historical Society Board of Trustees. His true desire, however, is to be in a classroom, teaching.
Mike’s love of music and discovery of new artists continues to this day. He joined NYSMusic in April 2015, writing news, reviewing shows and contributing editorials. Being able to attend and cover some of his favorite bands, such as The Tragically Hip, moe., Wilco, Pixies, Primus, Enter the Haggis and Toadies has reignited the musical spark in him.
While Mike has seen hundreds of shows in his lifetime, he still has a bucket list of bands he would love to see perform. This list includes, his all-time favorite band, The Who, Radiohead, a reunited & Peter Gabriel-fronted Genesis, Foo Fighters, Cheap Trick, The Kinks, The Cure and Sonic Youth.