By Rebecca Bulnes
By Lee Zimmerman
By Rebecca Bulnes
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The evening Alex Gimeno attempted to nuzzle Chubby, his girlfriend Marissa's dozing long-coat Chihuahua, and the usually amiable pooch savagely chomped the tip of his nose, a trip to the hospital and several stitches should have been in order. Gimeno, however, with the wonder of Neosporin ointment and a couple of bandages, patched up his shredded schnozz. "I looked like Jack Nicholson in Chinatown for a good two weeks," Gimeno recalls, laughing. "Someone joked around and asked if I got a nose job. I was so mortified. How vain of me!" Luckily the humble Gimeno's handiwork resulted in scarcely a scar. The dog-inflicted wound became just another lesson about putting things together from fragments, an art Gimeno, a.k.a. DJ Ursula 1000, has mastered well.
Less gruesome and more melodious examples of Gimeno's accomplishments can be heard on The Now Sound of Ursula 1000, his debut release on the Washington, D.C.-based Eighteenth Street Lounge Music label owned by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, the principals in the electronica easy-listening duo Thievery Corporation. In contrast to its title, Now Sound contains few "now" sounds, but a good bit of "then" is in the mix. Created without typical instruments and outside of the traditional recording studio, the collection of tunes is fashioned entirely from samples (tidbits of songs, movie scores, film dialogue). A sort of cross between Dimitri from Paris and early Towa Tei, Gimeno has smoothly stitched together a sonic crazy quilt from fragments he says are "under the radar." Whether it's a drum beat from British Eighties band Bow Wow Wow, a guitar line from a charmingly twisted Italian soundtrack, a percussion break from Earth, Wind and Fire, or a segment from the soundtrack to the Sixties comedy Bedazzled, Gimeno says he taps "such obscure sources that you would never think that these people would be on the same record. But here they are, all on the same track." The result is a collage of sounds that is kitschy, bouncy, and sometimes ominous, evoking dapper worldly spies, exotic go-go dancers, and mysterious foreign places.
Although Gimeno's songs have a transcontinental flavor and boast titles such as "Savoir Faire," "Mambo 1000," and "Le Fini," the only corner of Europe he has explored is Spain, where his parents came from. He currently calls New York City home, though he spent most of his 32 years in Miami, a place he says he never got used to. The long Floridian road to solo DJ-dom included multiple careers as owner of a comic-book store, drummer in a pop band, a brief stint with the acid-jazz combo Satellite Lounge, and countless radio gigs and one-nighters spinning records at clubs all over Miami.
After graduating from Miami-Dade Community College with an associate's degree in commercial art in the late Eighties, Gimeno was all set to attend offbeat Antioch College in Ohio. A fan of illustrator Edward Gorey, he was determined to develop a style all his own and possibly pursue book, album cover, or theater set design. Like many a young man, a couple of things got in his way: comic books and music. During that time he bought Bam! Comics and Graphic Novels, in North Miami. "I always thought of comics as a pop art form," he offers. "A lot of people think of it as a kiddie thing. I tried to make it a little more highbrow. I carried European imports and tried to get a literate crowd to support that kind of stuff. It was a venture to expose Miami to French and Italian comic-book artists and writers. Living here you have to do serious investigating work when you want to find out about stuff."
The shop survived for seven years but not enough curious Miamians found their way there. Frustrated by the lack of local interest in comics, Gimeno channeled his Anglophile musical leanings into becoming a drummer for the pop quartet 23, eventually deciding to pursue music full-time. "I was a frustrated artist, but the music thing was a deeper love," he explains. "The whole retail business aspect I didn't like that much, and it was hard to educate a town like Miami." Influenced by Brit-poppers Blur, the Kinks, the Beatles, the Who, and My Bloody Valentine, Gimeno's own group played its original tunes at clubs such as Fort Lauderdale's Edge and Kendall's Mars Bar. The band members prided themselves on their professionalism. ("We didn't want to look like a local amateur band," Gimeno says.) Yet they never released any records, and after three years together they dissolved over artistic differences.
As a child Gimeno was exposed to music by his father, who listened to big band and classical; his sister, who favored disco, funk, and soul; and his mother, who liked show tunes. Meanwhile Gimeno, a fan of rock and pop, was the owner of an ever-growing record collection. While a member of 23, he acquired a mixer and a couple of turntables and began practicing. "The whole idea of wanting to become a DJ and possibly playing in clubs occurred to me," Gimeno recalls, "so I realized that I was going to have to learn how to actually do that. My record buying became a little more intense." At one point he was spending $100 per week on albums. His habit has since been cut to about half that amount, but in New York, as in Miami, his extensive vinyl collection, encompassing music of every genre, still takes up a room of its own.