Remember the '80s? If you lived in South Florida during that magical decade, you steered your new Celica through a sea of spring breakers. You might have been an extra in Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise, you lucky dog. It was filmed in various locations along Fort Lauderdale Beach -- before all those girls went battier than a sporting goods store and bass wasn't the only thing in your face.
You might also remember a place called the Button on the Beach. John Terry was the house DJ and entertainment director from 1975 to 1986, and the club became one of the most (in)famous in South Florida at the time, thanks in part to the rowdy spring break crowd. Terry left his position at the Button in '86 to open the DJ Store on Oakland Park Boulevard. "When I opened it, everyone thought I was crazy," Terry laughs. "My original intent was for any type of DJ -- even wedding DJs -- to be able to buy what they need." The store became a hub for local and national DJs, and Terry hired many of them to work in the store. "I was always worried all these guys wouldn't get along," Terry says. "Everyone was into different types of music. But it was just the opposite. They all loved music, and that was the common thread."
Two of the guys who frequented the DJ Store were Marc Pomeroy and Brian Tappert. "Brian was one of my first employees," Terry recalls. "He came in and bought a really expensive mixer. So when he came back in a year later, asking for a job, I remembered him. It's not often someone buys a $1,000 mixer. I hired him right then. Then he told me he had a friend who could fix anything. So I hired Marc as my first technician."
Ah, the salad days of a DJ. Fast-forward about 15 years to a small, nondescript, two-story plaza in Tamarac. On the ground floor is a storefront called Heavenly Powers Ministry, "where miracles still happen." The second floor is eerily quiet, but behind two heavy, wooden, Medieval Times-looking doors is Soulfuric, the record label Tappert and Pomeroy now run. Once the doors open, a funky whoosh-whoosh-whoosh beat floats out of the office.
"When people realize where this label is based, they kind of freak out," the 34-year-old Tappert says. "It's not what they expect from this area. But that's good in a way. It's easier to stick out."
Pomeroy, a tall, bespectacled Florida native, and Tappert, a muscular fellow from New Jersey, started working together as bedroom DJs in the early '90s, before building the Soulfuric offices in 1996 and deciding to focus on producing soulful house music. A look around the studio reveals a penchant for older equipment, which Pomeroy remarks is mostly from the '70s. House music basically evolved out of the withering disco scene of the early '80s, so this makes sense, right?
"Disco is almost a dangerous term," the 37-year-old Pomeroy laughs. "You think disco and you think of the cheesy stuff. What we do stems from the more black-oriented music."
"Disco died an ugly death in the '80s," Tappert continues. "It got so commercialized that there was still an underground sound that was good that never evolved. Our sound is based on the underground that came from that. Around '86, house music came out. And it sort of changed everything. Everyone stopped being anticlub and antidance."
Besides owning Soulfuric, Tappert and Pomeroy dip their knob-twiddling fingers into other projects. They make up the remix team Jazz-N-Groove Productions, and both record under the moniker Urban Blues Project. "A lot of what we do is very producer-oriented," Tappert says. "But we would love to do more live stuff. There's an underground bubbling up of bands that are making house music."
For now, Soulfuric boasts an impressive roster of artists like vocalists Donna Allen and Bobby Pruitt, producer John "Julius" Knight, Axwell, Audiowhores, Jask, and garage and house DJs Hardsoul. Soulfuric is also launching a legit site for downloading music this summer called Traxsource. "It's iTunes for house music," Tappert says. "I think downloadable music is forcing the kind of music we do to go back underground. It's definitely eating away at the foundation."
Not surprisingly, many of the partnerships Tappert and Pomeroy have now were made way back in that glorious decade of excess at Terry's infamous DJ Store. "John Terry and [John's wife] Tracy were pretty much the catalyst for our label," Pomeroy says.
"John 'Julius' Knight, one of our biggest collaborators, used to come in the DJ Store," Tappert says. "Some of our biggest influences used to come in the store, and they turned us on to a lot of music. The DJ Store was the root of it all."
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The store has since been taken over and is now called DJ World. But as the thumping sounds bumping at Soulfuric spill out into the good ol' Florida sunshine, it's nice to know there's still a piece of house history here.
Devoted Earache readers, listen up. We're starting a new feature called "Overheard," a collection of disturbing, funny, or just plain ridiculous anecdotes you might have overheard at a bar, club, or even that Huey Lewis show a few weeks ago. If they don't incriminate people, send them my way.