Ten Years at the Mast
David Lee Beowülf
Actually, no. As I write this, I have not been on the Ink 19 staff for ten years. Nine years and eleven months, yes. You see, I came onto the scene with issue number two. I wrote a review of a Ramones’ show in Orlando and a mean-spirited polemic about why I hated Nirvana (I still do, ugh! they’re so boring, they’re almost Smashing Pumpkins to me). Hey, it’s an acquired taste and just because a billion flies relish fresh stool doesn’t mean I have to sit down and take a bite.
Then again, I kind of was on the scene before Ink 19 came into existence, and in fact, I witnessed its conception, near-abortion, birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, near death, and finally, re-birth. My earliest recollections of the magazine are still clear, mainly because I was twenty-eight at the time. And frankly, though we were heavily under the skin of the local rock and roll (and other) scene, the mind- and body-altering substances simply did not get in the way of the magazine.
Ink 19, in my opinion and I hope many others, is unique in the world of ‘zines. But already I’m getting ahead of myself. My own Ink 19 “era” started, as I mentioned above, with issue number two, but I certainly was “in the mix” at least a year prior to the launch of issue number one. At that time, the whole “gang” was generally centered around the Florida Institute of Technology (F.I.T. — I do not call it “Florida Tech.” We’re the M.I.T. of the south, not the Georgia Tech of Florida, thank you very much) radio station, WFIT. (The story of WFIT is a bitter tale of woe and still ignites many an old DJ and listener to passionate fury and has been told a couple of times in the pages of Ink 19).
But you know what? My story starts even earlier than that! It all starts in January 1985, in Westchester County, New York (where I lived), and an article I read about “‘zines” in a film magazine at the Tarrytown library. I decided I wanted to put out a ‘zine that would basically be as outrageous as possible — all comedy and brutally absurd campus satire. At the time, I had one more semester at college to go, and I would act as Rush Chairman this winter/spring semester, but that, combined with school and the swimming team, wouldn’t come close to harvesting my excess energy. As the semester wound down, the ‘zine idea kept cropping up, and finally, with a month left, I had to act. I started Illmag with a very creative frat brother. Illmag had a one issue run and featured a fake interview with Vince Neil (who, at the time, we all thought was going to jail) and a review of Chilton’s Guide to the Subaru Station Wagon. The latter being reviewed from a Marxist/Leninist point of view. We also offered outlandish statements on current school events (there was a fire in one of the dorms, and we credited the Reagan Administration for it) and listed phone numbers one could call to arrange for the purchase of drugs. Of course these phone numbers were those of the various college offices (apparently the housing office sold heroin…). Illmag’s run was about 50 copies of seven pages each. We sneaked into the history department’s office and ran ’em off on a ditto machine — oh, I forgot to mention, I did all the typesetting with Apple Writer on an Apple II. We dropped them off at a couple of locations, like the cafeteria and the classroom building’s lobbies. In the morning, they were gone. We didn’t hear anything in the hallways, but as far as we were concerned, our mission was accomplished.
The next issue never made it past the “let’s do this…” stage for two reasons: a) finals were a week away and I had to study, and b) I got really scared that the administration would pull me from graduation were they to discover I was behind this crap. Oh, I should note that the “hey! I just graduated! Do I have a job?!” syndrome did not affect me. I didn’t have a job, but I did have a plan: go right back to school and live at home.
Which is exactly what I did. Now, I should also mention that in my neck of the woods, radio was (and still is) fantastic. I can’t give enough plugs to WFMU, WSOU, WNYU, WARY, WFUV, WLIR (prior to becoming WDRE) and WFDU. Because New York radio was absolute king at the time, I was exposed to every kind of music imaginable, along with seriously demented DJs — much more than the long-since-garbage WHFS that I sort of grew up with in Washington, D.C. I could hear all the metal, all the punk, new wave, noise, weird stuff, you name it, along with interviews with the bands, caustic opinions, and everything else that went along with the music scene circa 1985. Additionally, the local community college I was attending had a pretty good radio station, and if you wanted to, you could get involved any which way, they also played requests. While I wasn’t too involved with them, I did manage to grab some of their throwaway albums and Wendy O. Williams’ (RIP) autograph when she stopped by the station.
I tried to contribute to the radio stations as much as I could (i.e., give them money), and as a result, I got a few T-shirts, bumper stickers, but most of all, WFMU’s program guide, the Lowest Common Denominator (LCD). The first issue sent to me was the “Conspiracy” issue, containing a bunch of essays on the various and sundry conspiracies really in charge of the world. And there was a neat article on what the Butthole Surfers would name their next several albums (note: this was 1986-87, the Butthole Surfers were just about as “out there” as you could get; it was the summer of the Classic Rock Radio era folks…). Again, the “Davezine” idea popped up, and I fished out that old ‘zine article (I’d made a copy) and thought a bit harder about it. But you know what? I had other fish to fry, like starting graduate school at the Florida Institute of Technology in the Fall of 1987.
Now we flash into the real pre-Ink 19 era. I’d been attending grad school at F.I.T. for a couple of years, and the opportunity came up for me to be a DJ at WFIT. This was, of course, facilitated by the fact that I shared a house with two WFIT DJs, one of whom was the music director. Bingo! David Lee Beowulf was born, and in about two month’s time, I was king of the heavy metal radio scene in Brevard County, Florida! Not only that, but I was living in a “hub” of the local music scene — a plus.
Enter Ian Koss, a Computer Science undergraduate. Actually, I first met Ian in a Linear Algebra class (so I took an undergrad math class, so what? I wasn’t a frikkin’ math major and I needed this class to handle the more or less brutal engineering classes I’d later be taking) we were both taking about a year earlier. My first conversation with Ian was, “what’s that you’re listening to?” He was listening to some sort of “metal” on a Walkman before class started. “Spinal Tap,” he replied.
Well I’ll be hornswoggled, Popeye! My favorite movie…
Anyway, for one reason or another, I confused Ian Koss with another Ian who was a WFIT DJ. And on the boat during a SCUBA diving trip (strange, Ian and I share a lot of interests), I kept trying to get him to play a Dickies’ song the next time he was on the air. He responded by shining a flashlight under his chin (it was a night dive) and singing the first lines from Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams.” Whoa! I got that Blue Velvet reference, did you?
Man, great minds do think alike. CRYPTIC MESSAGE WARNING. Later on came the movie, Hellbourne, I’ve Been Cloned, the move to 2316 and…
And now we’re back to living with Helen and Kat (women), the two WFIT DJs and my saturation into the local and college music scene. Turned out most of the DJs who were students were Ocean Engineering majors (like myself) or they worked on the space shuttle — for the confused, Brevard County, Florida is also the home of the Kennedy Space Center. And we’re back to me and the Druid playing heavy metal on the Brainhammer! show from midnight to three AM every Thursday night.
OK, Kat moved out and Craig moved in. Craig moved out and Kim moved in. Kim moved out and Ian moved in. That would be Ian Koss, FIT school newspaper editor, who had about a year or so to go on his degree. Ian moved in and soon after brought along his neat-o Macintosh computer. For the next — was it a year, Ian? — it was nothing but heavy metal, studying, computers, and partying, and more studying. Man, during this time (1990-91), Melbourne, Florida might as well have been the center of the earth as far as being on the cutting edge of rock and roll went. Sure, I came from New York City, but this, this was it, baby! Every band — especially metal (more especially DEATH METAL) — came through Melbourne or at least Orlando, and I was on the guest lists seven days a week, yo!
OK, so I suffered an inflated ego — rightly so, mind you. Honestly, I was riding a wave of heavy metal insanity and sleep depravation…
In the mean time, Ian was DJing during the day along with the two Helens and a cast of others, including one Francis P. Dreyer, III. Frank was/is a big burly dude who sure as heck doesn’t look anything like an artiste. More like a lineman for the University of Florida was his look, but what he really wanted to do was paint, create, and make a spectacle of himself. His magnum opus, a character named Heinous Beinfang, allowed him to create a spectacle, sometimes even painting himself. Heinous Beinfang would perform with His Cheap Moves (a.k.a. Ian Koss) on bass and a variety of other instruments.
Frank, in addition to being a wanton exhibitionist, is an extremely talented graphic artist (in the practical, i.e., newspaper layout sense), an astonishingly good businessman, and yearned to put together something using both his skills and off-the-wall escapades. Likewise, Ian was obviously unhappy with the school newspaper gig and wanted more.
So, what better thing to do than run a groovy little program guide for the radio station? Wait, let me back up just a little bit… Frank and Helen and others (if I forgot ya, shout it out at me and I’ll remember you for the book, OK?) put together a pilot for a music video show Frank had named Room Nineteen. Frank was obsessed with the number 19 like I am with 12 — if that makes sense, you now understand Frank. As an aside, the pilot starred a dude named Statan who I very seriously told I would kill if he threw up in my kitchen sink again.
Room Nineteen really didn’t go anywhere, did it? Were the public access channels ready for it? Were they even interested? Who cared, at least they did it.
Back to the radio station. From what I’ve heard, Ian and Frank approached the radio station’s management (who soon would turn the place upside-down) about doing a program guide. They, as I understand it, were turned down pretty flatly. Thus, as I understand it, they decided to do something outside of the radio station, that being Ink 19.
Hence, issue one was born.
Story continues on Page Two.