Back in the dawn of the 80′s, an adolescent by the name of Benjamin began to realize an insatiable appetite for the emerging musical styles of the day. Drawing on the influences from his father (George Benson, Neil Diamond), mother (Olivia Newton John, Julio Iglesias), siblings (Journey, Steve Miller, Abba), as well as popular culture (John William’s scores for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back), he found himself entranced with a new sound that would keep him vexed well into his adult years.
Driven to the piano out of a myopic desire to be able to play ‘Musicbox Dancer’, he pursued lessons from his church pianist. Equally driving was his feverish need to be able to perform ‘Axel F’, beats and all, on his newly acquired Casiotone MT-44 (which still has a loving home in his studio). At around the same time a ‘New Wave’ was emerging, and he found himself consumed by an equally adolescent MTV (back when they still played music videos). He also acquired a peicemeal knowledge of urban music by recording tunes off of the radio by Teena Marie, World Class Wrecking Kru, UTFO, et cetera with his trusty tape deck (which doubled as a data drive for his beloved TRS-80).As adolescent curiousity gave way to teen angst, he forsook his piano training to immerse himself in the sport of skateboarding, as well as being perplexed the opposite sex (the latter persisting to this very day). With skateboarding came his indoctrination into punk, listening heavily to the likes of the Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, Misfits, Agent Orange, Black Flag, and others, while maintaining a curiousity for hip-hop (well before it was universally embraced by skate culture). The early sounds of Public Enemy, Doug E Fresh, Eric B & Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane competed for time on the ever-present boombox against the likes of the Sex Pistols, Dead Milkmen, and The Clash.
As junior high segued into high school back in ’87, he found himself whiplashed back around to the sounds emminating from the British Isles, falling fast in love with the pre-emo stylings of The Cure, New Order, The Sugarcubes, Depeche Mode, and The Smiths. Equal parts brooding and optomistic, he found himself transfixed by the deejay stylings of one DJ Premier in the video for Gangstarr’s breakout hit ‘Manifest’, cementing his desire to one day become a vinyl junkie. At around the same time, a friend’s older brother lent him Ministry’s ‘Twitch’, and the anthemic cacophony of ‘Where You At Now – Crash And Burn – Twitch (Version II)’ planted the seed for his desire to create electronic sample-based music that wouldn’t start to be realized until a decade later.
As the big 80′s gave way to the very indecisive new decade, the tape deck in his beloved ’77 Volkswagen Superbeetle broadcast the sounds of De La Soul, Charlatans UK, Ghetto Boys, Candyflip, A Tribe Called Quest, and early Acid House (Adonis and the Acid Slaves anyone?) as a soundtrack to his emminent graduation from high school. A hasty retreat from the nest found our anti-hero getting an unrelenting glimpse of what he would come to know as ‘real life’. It was at this time that the opportunity presented itself for Ben to acquire his first set of turntables; a pair of Technics SD-50 dial-pitch decks with a Gemini MX-5200 mixer. Not knowing the first thing about the art of mixing, his rig became a glorified home stereo playback device for his limited collection of hip-hop and new wave records.
In the summer of 1992, he stumbled upon Zane and Rise, a pair of graffiti artists/turntablists with a penchant for ‘paradise garage’ house. In quick fashion, he was a fast study in the proper technique of mixing records, and assumed his moniker ‘Comic’. Developed as a tag, the name was a term of humility, referring to his misguided notion that he had been a ‘deejay’ in the time leading up to his proper turntable education. It was also around this time that he had his first ‘rave’ experience at the Mystery Funhouse in Orlando, as well as beginning a long relationship with Simons nightclub in Gainesville, FL (back when it was still ‘members only’). Fueled by malt liquor, cheap herbs, and ‘mini-thins’, he embarked on a journey of consecutive ‘lost weekends’ that would consume the next couple of years of his life.
Becoming infatuated by tracks like Acen’s ‘Trip To The Moon’, Manix’s ‘Hardcore Junglism’, and the bootleg version of ‘Hey Jude’ that Michael Jackson went on a witchhunt over, Comic found his first electronic musical calling in the form of the emerging post-rave stylings of hardcore breakbeat, quickly scoring his first deejay residency back in ’92 at The Underground (Jacksonville). Unfortunately, the breakbeat sound had given way to early ambient/trance, and since he didn’t partake of the chemicals that made that sound favorable, he found himself stylistically isolated, and soon kept his deejaying aspirations at the house for a bit.
Thinking that the early jungle sounds of 2 Bad Mice, Boogie Times Tribe, Foul Play, and Omni Trio had gone the way of the dinosaur, he found himself pleasantly suprised by two seminal musical events in the summer of 1997. First was the release of ‘Urbal Beats’, re-introducing him to his beloved sound via ‘Share The Fall’ by Roni Size, and ‘Inner City Life’ by Goldie. The other was the Zen Festival of 1997, where he came to the realization that Jungle (and the newly coined ‘Drum & Bass’) had not been a novelty, but instead a continuous musical movement overseas. Choosing the ‘Jump-Up’ style as his weapon of choice, as well as arming himself with breaks and house, Comic re-introduced himself to North/Central Florida’s vibrant electronic music scene.
NEXT: How 1998 helped Comic get his groove back…
THE ASSENT: PART ONE
In the early months of 1998, the siren song of Gainesville’s burgeoning electronic music scene tempted Comic away from the Duval for another round of concurrent ‘lost weekends’, records and soundsystem in tow. With Adam ‘Flounder’ Lee handling the promotions/victim selection, these two proceeded to throw a steady succession of now legendary afterparties in the wake of Simons epic 1998 summer line-up. With impromptu sets by artists like Keoki and at least one eviction to their credit, Comic stopped the weekly commute and made the move to Gainesville to parlay his house party bonifides into a spot on the club scene.
In short order, he was able to help produce successful ‘one-offs’ (Sunrise/Gainesville, Aqua Delusion/Jacksonville), secure residencies (A Change @ Full Circle, Awareness @ Side Bar), start a weekly event (Direction Mondays), travel for gigs (Ocala, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, New Orleans), and headline/open for parties with 700-1200+ attendees (Awareness @ Florida Theater/Gainesville, Chemical Horizons @ Emeralds/Ocala). His most treasured achievement was also one of his earliest upon taking up residence in The Swamp: Deejaying in primetime on the mainfloor at Simons nightclub. He was able to repeat this feat many times over the following years, brushing up against some of the legendary talent and rich history the venue possesses.
In Gainesville’s post-’Dancehall Ordinance’ days of early 2000, a disillusioned Comic headed back to Jacksonville in search of a less restrictive dance music scene. He found it in spades when he joined Jon Kinesis’ deejay/promo team at Club Evolution in the summer of 2000. During this time, Florida and the Southeast started to take notice. Deejay Comic found himself on the line-ups of festivals like Cyberfest (Melborne, FL) as well as headlining events in New Orleans, Savannah and Atlanta. As the exceedingly hedonistic chapter in Jacksonville nightlife that was Evolution reached its fateful conclusion, Comic performed a guest spot and eventually took up residency under Wes Reed at his weekly Drum & Bass event, Therapy Sessions. Tasked with providing the front lounge with 2-Step and UK Garage, Comic was rewarded for this with a monthly shot at the mainfloor to rinse out some Jungle and Jump-up plates. After a year of residency that saw performances by Planet of the Drums, John B, Bad Company (full), A-Sides and Aphrodite, Comic took to the road again in late 2001 and headed back to set up shop in Gainesville.
NEXT: Gainesville v2.0…