Dance to the Radio
The electro has landed, invading area airwaves with fat, futuristic, robotic beats to spike the vein of a techno-deficient radio market. DJs David Noller and Sean Herrmann -- a.k.a. Scratch-D vs. H-Bomb -- broadcast live each Saturday on WZZR-FM (92.7). The throb originates from Bliss, a Clematis Street club where the duo enjoys a built-in fan base.
As Saturday night slips into early Sunday, clubbers wearing everything from tuxedos to bras leave the balcony overlooking Clematis Street, heading to a dance floor that's flush with discofied funky house breaks. A large video monitor flashes geometric eye candy as booty shakers and electronica lovers showcase some furious arm-flailing grooves among a mixture of wallflowers. The VIP section teems with groups huddling and dancing around tables topped with bottles of vodka and champagne and carafes of water and juice.
As his friend Oscar Zayas spins with him, H-Bomb gives shoutouts to the crowd and delivers live on-air IDs. Scratch-D pops in and out of the DJ booth in between making the rounds and dancing. The three turntablists start tonight's broadcast with a steady procession of breaks, funky house, and trance. After 1 a.m., the tide turns to encompass darker, deeper electro. The crowd stays parked on the dance floor until well after 3 a.m., and presumably, listeners at home stay tuned.
"This is my favorite thing to say," begins H-Bomb's boast. "We are the only station in the United States in the top 50 markets that plays electronic music live all weekend long without a playlist or anything." The weekend broadcast is also syndicated on WCZR-FM (101.7), which reaches from Fort Pierce to north of Vero Beach.
The duo splices together offerings from U.K. dance icons such as Blim, Koma and Bones, and the Plump DJs, with local names like Infinity (of Stuart) and Icey (of Orlando). The two are given total discretion to select whatever they think is appropriate for that evening's festivities.
"While every other club plays it safe, Bliss lets it go -- that's the best way I can describe it. We're playing exactly what we want to play at all times," H-Bomb says later. "No one ever says, "Can you play this or that, because I want to keep it low or light?' That's when we say, "Head down to Liquid if you want, because we're just getting started.'"
Scratch-D and H-Bomb started working together in 1995 and have held court at Bliss since 1999, when their hypnotic anthem "The Red Pill," with sampled dialogue from The Matrix, scaled the indie charts to become the number one-selling breakbeat song in the country. The radio show began about three months ago. The guys look like most well-versed club DJs: rather ordinary, and not caught up in the flashy throwback glam of their audience. Music is the number one focus. Noller spends much of his free time constructing original material as one-half of Dynamix II and Jackel & Hyde, side projects with fellow Palm Beach Gardens DJ Scott Weiser. Together, they've been making techno dance albums for more than a decade.
Dynamix II helped found this genre in the United States with a huge club hit, "Just Give the DJ a Break," in 1985, when Noller was but 18. This winter, the outfit plans to release its Pledge Your Allegiance to Electrofunk album, which Scratch-D promises will amount to an "electronic voyage." New Scratch-D vs. H-Bomb singles "White Boy Day," "Freakin' It," (with remixes by Detroit transplant DJ Will Web), and "Out of Control" (featuring DJ Bobby Feelgood) should appear any day now.
Scratch-D says Dynamix II has been compared to the seminal German electro magnate Kraftwerk. "We took the Kraftwerk sound," he explains, "and tried to expand on it and add a little more bass to make it have more of that Florida sound."
Scratch-D and H-Bomb are currently on tour, D doing double duty with Weiser and Dynamix II (which performs live using equipment like vocoders and emulators), hitting Atlanta, Tampa, Tallahassee, Orlando, Indiana, Texas, and Puerto Rico. But the two expect their simulcast show to more efficiently break out their breakbeats.
Since the WZZR program began, H-Bomb says, the station has increased ad sales on the weekends by 30 to 40 percent. (He's privy to this information, he explains, because he sells advertising for the Clear Channel outlet.) This may have competing radio stations worried, the pair speculate, because they're quickly snatching up the 16- to 30-year-old age group and infringing on prospective ad sales geared toward that demographic.
Strategically, the two believe they're now perfectly positioned with their electro arsenal. Clematis-goers have developed an affinity for the chilly synth beats, spacey loops, deep bass pulses, and dreamy vocal sampling that rival and may even surpass those found in more prestigious venues like Club Space in Miami.
"At Bliss, people know what they're getting themselves into," stresses H-Bomb. "Downtown [West Palm Beach] has enough places now -- Jewel, Sforza, Liquid, the Lounge -- a lot of choices. I think they're coming [to Bliss] for the music. They're the only place on the street that really plays the raw electronic stuff that's not MTV. I think people flat-out come for the music."
So, why not haul the show south to Miami, where it's all about house and trance, and bring back the electro booty-bass that dominated the city's nighttime repertoire in the '80s?
H-Bomb: "We've lived in Palm Beach Gardens our whole lives. We helped build Clematis Street -- I have no reservations in saying that I helped build Clematis Street. Dave and I had a club called the Loft way back in the day, all the way back to Respectables. That was the only place on the whole street, when it was a dirt road. Then Enigma opened up, and I worked at Enigma, and then I helped Enigma change to Krome, and then when Bliss opened up, we went to work for Bliss. So every single techno dance club on that street, we've been a part of."
"We're not from Miami," he brashly concludes. "So it's kind of hard to be the scene-makers in Miami when we're scene-makers in West Palm."
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