Music News

Jungle Love

Frank Mendez, a.k.a. Mr. Mendez, was named one of URB Magazine's 12 DJs to look for in 2000. He is revered for helping to blow up the drum and bass scene and is known across the dance circuit for his classic, energetic, party-smashing anthem "Anasthasia." Though he moved away two years ago, one of the founding fathers of the Florida dance music scene has returned to the jungle.

Mr. Mendez's involvement in music began in the late '70s, when he began collecting disco records. In the '80s, he was introduced to industrial dance and the sounds of Meat Beat Manifesto, whom he credits with opening his mind to break beats. He moved to Orlando in 1992, when the rave scene was just revving up there, and took up a residency at the famous Edge nightclub, where DJ Icey was a resident at the time. When the Edge moved to downtown Fort Lauderdale in the mid-'90s, Mr. Mendez traveled south and spun acid jazz and trip-hop in its side rooms. But after hearing a DJ Hype mix tape, he dove into the drum and bass scene. "It was full of raga tunes and crazy, hyped-up music that blew me away at the time...," he says. "I'd never really experienced something like that. I couldn't go back to spinning chill and mellow music."

As a DJ, Mendez is known for a near-pristine track selection. He includes forward-thinking producers such as South Florida's Alliance, Gridlok, and Corrupt Souls in his sets, taking his audience on a trip through cutting-edge styles. His mixes often test the limits of the sound system with his penchant for infectious bass lines layered under tightly knit melodies. "I try to take people on an uphill climb," he explains. "I really want to make people groove and totally build it up."

But all that grooving can get tiresome. In 2002, Mendez abandoned the local drum and bass scene for the relative peace and quiet of Phoenix. He'd already tasted success with "Papercut," a collaboration with Element that was licensed to AK1200's 1999 Lock and Roll mix CD, and "Eminanthem" on his own Evil Base Recordings. But he wanted to refocus his energies. "I was originally going for a couple of months," he explains. "[But] I ended up enjoying the atmosphere as far as music, and I really enjoy looking at the desert sky. It's very inspirational."

All that inspiration led him to Stacey Bailey, better-known as producer Moniker, and the two clicked, forming a group called Iowa Test. Though there is no tentative release date, the duo plans to go into the recording studio this fall. "We're planning some shows in the beginning of August with a live drummer," he explains. "I'll be playing bass and guitar, and Stacey's a turntablist and vocalist as well."

Despite his new adventures in rocking out, Mendez says he's glad to revisit the subtropics. "I totally missed the scene," he says. "It's definitely one of the most energetic and vibing scenes around, especially with the Latin community."

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Robert Sawyer