Go figure: A techno band has a hard time getting a gig in South Beach, one of the nation's musical meccas for all things that go beep, blip, and boing to a rapid-fire drumbeat. Strange, indeed, but as Soul Oddity cofounder Joshua Kay will tell you, it's also true. "Doing a live performance here is not easily done," claims Kay, a 23-year-old synth-head from New Jersey. "It's very hard to get an open club night here. They all have their regular theme nights and they're making a lot of money with that. They don't want a group of people in their club who sort of look funny and don't drink alcohol and aren't buying drinks at the bar."
Club woes notwithstanding, Kay doesn't have much to complain about. Soul Oddity A the techno-dance enterprise he formed here in 1994 with fellow keyboardist/producer Romulo Del Castillo A was signed last year by Astralwerks, an affiliate of the New York City-based Caroline Records. Later this month Astralwerks will release Tone Capsule, Soul Oddity's maiden effort. And in a marketing move that should appeal to both vinyl junkies (who love limited pressings) and club DJs (who love the manipulation possibilities of wax), the label is also releasing Tone Capsule as three twelve-inch vinyl EPs. The first twelve-inch was issued in March, the second last month. The third will be released simultaneously with the full compact disc version and, in addition to featuring a track not on the CD, will come packaged in a custom sleeve designed to house all three EPs.
Although this is Del Castillo's first appearance on vinyl or disc, Kay is something of a techno veteran. While living in Dallas in the early Nineties and working under the name Soul Odyssey, he whipped up "Rapture" A not the Blondie fake-rap tune from '81, but rather a throbbing club hit that was issued on the Dallas-based Space label. After a licensing deal with a U.K. distributor turned sour, a disillusioned Kay followed his family to Miami, where he tried to find some like-minded musicians; he soon discovered this was not such an easy task. "I moved out here and wanted to do things," Kay recalls. "I wanted to work with some DJs and local musicians and promoters, throw events, and get some things going here. But all the people I found to work with were flakes -- people who were into the scene but weren't actually doing much of anything."
Enter Del Castillo, who had been woodshedding in Miami and concocting a synthesized, slightly ambient stew not unlike Kay's. The pair met at a local studio, found their musical interests matched, and began crafting a beat-crazed variety of electronic music that recalls everything from the early sonic innovations of Afrika Bambaataa and Planet Patrol to the similar explorations of the artists on Miami's Electrobeat label. "We were impressed with each other's music," Kay says of his partner. "We had the same likes and dislikes, and he wanted to accomplish the same things I've wanted to accomplish since I moved here." A direct-to-DAT demo tape featuring "DJ Tokyo," the duo's first completed track, found its way to Astralwerks label head Peter Wohelski (a fan of Kay's since he first heard Soul Odyssey's "Rapture"), who signed the group.
Kay notes that a Soul Oddity tour is in the works for this summer, and he and Del Castillo will be playing at the Limelight in New York City in late May. And, much to Kay's surprise, Soul Oddity actually has a date lined up on South Beach on May 17 at the Club at 245 that will also feature the U.K. group Union Jack, and the Denver-based Nebula 9, plus DJ Orion and DJenerate (both affiliated with Astralwerks). "There's a small group of people in Miami who are into this music, and that's our scene," offers Kay. "There's really no voice out there, though, for people to know what's going on. It's just people getting together at someone's house or hearing about something through friends. I know people are interested, though. I know that there isn't a club in town where I can go and hear the music that I enjoy. I'm just too picky, and I think there are other people here who feel the same way."
So I'm flipping through the new issue of Open Zine the other day, wondering to myself why I'm even bothering with what looks to be just another lame-ass rag with bad articles about bands I could not care less about and dumb reviews covering albums that I really like (the Humpers' Live Forever or Die Trying is a fine piece of work, thankyouverymuch). Then I turn the page and there's "The Spectators," a four-page cartoon-text combo subtitled "The Kind of People You Always See at Punk Shows." (Although the piece is unsigned, it's safe to assume it was executed by Kiki -- no last name, please -- who's listed in the Open Zine masthead as art director and artist.) The cast includes Crazy College Kids ("they're always drunk, screaming and yelling, jumping around, talking shit and pissing the hell out of everyone else"); the Singer (the guy in the audience who "thinks he can do a better job than the schmuck on-stage. Little does he know that he is bugging everyone around him"); Mr. Ass Kick ("No matter where this guy goes, he always gives the wrong guy the wrong look"); and my favorite, the 1979 Punk Rocker ("It's rare when you find one of these guys. When you do, all he talks about is how it was in the old days"). It's not the funniest thing I've ever read, but it was funny enough to keep me laughing for the better part of a recent afternoon. Open Zine is free and available around town at various record stores. Or drop them a line: 7015 SW 83rd Ct., Miami, FL 33143.
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"He was a very up person with a lot of energy and always smiling," recalls Agony in the Garden vocalist Virginia Mendez of Rick Lennick, a local music entrepreneur who died April 21 after a bout with meningitis. He was 36.
During the late Seventies, when punk rock was just starting to trickle down to South Florida, Lennick was working as the club DJ at the Agora Ballroom in Hallandale, spinning punk records between sets by bands such as the Psychedelic Furs and U2 (who played there on their first American tour in 1980). He later performed the same task at the early South Beach punk mecca Flynn's and helped the club bring in national and international acts such as Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, and the Exploited. He also wrote for various fanzines in the area and in the early Eighties released Florida Explosion, a cassette compilation of Miami punk and underground groups.
"He really helped to open our eyes to all this new music," Mendez explains. "He'd play everything from Siouxie and the Banshees to Bauhaus and the Dead Kennedys. He helped the punk scene really get developed here."
A tribute to Lennick was held April 26 at Churchill's Hideaway in Little Haiti, where he occasionally worked as a DJ and sound man. Featured groups included the Abusers, Nuclear Beef, and members of Agony in the Garden.