If they were to judge him by his back yard, Randy Meyers's neighbors might think he was a librarian, or maybe a gardener. Packed with small deciduous trees, potted flowers and an unshakable sense of calm, the small, private patch invites visitors into a state of almost meditative repose. But inside the basement apartment of the adjoining Capitol Hill Victorian home (which Meyers happily refers to as a "queer house"), there's an accumulation of turntables, keyboards, software, a computer and studio equipment. A cat named Rowan crawls slyly through the cables and wires.
Meyers is not a librarian, but rather a DJ, one who fuels the Compound's ongoing dance-music sound every Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Like DJs Heckler, Norm, Craig C, Dealer and many others who have preceded him on the roster, Meyers is a part of the venue's legacy as Denver's first -- and only -- alternative gay club. The Compound's left-of-center, non-Top 40 approach is an anomaly in a city populated by more mainstream establishments. It's a small but hip milieu.
With his arms layered in tattoos, his centered and low-key approach to the gay DJ scene and a refreshing attitude toward his age -- now 42, Meyers didn't start deejaying until the age of 34 -- he is also something of an uncommon property, a spiritual fit with the Compound's open-minded way of operating.
DJ Zac Reclipze
The Compound, 145 Broadway
9 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, free, 303-722-7977
"A lot of DJs are threatened by other DJs, but I try to avoid that, because we're all different," he says.
Now known as DJ Zac Reclipze, the Pittsburgh-born Meyers studied classical piano for three years at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. "I grew up playing piano," he says, "and I played in a number of bands in the Pittsburgh area -- kind of a progressive-rock sound, like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer." His choice of styles should come as little surprise, given his '70s rearing. But after deciding that a career as a concert pianist wasn't for him, Meyers moved to Richmond, Virginia, where his musical pursuits waned for a time.
"I played it safe for years by working in and running restaurants," he admits, "but one day I told myself, 'This isn't really what I'm supposed to do.' So I left that business and began doing lights for some Richmond clubs, where I started watching DJs at work -- some not-so-good DJs." The change of scenery reminded Meyers that his primary affinity was for music. "I said, 'Wait a minute. I studied music in school; I can do this as well as anyone else.' So around 1993, I asked [the manager of] Fieldens, the after-hours club I worked at, if I could come in and practice deejaying on Thursday afternoons when they got their deliveries. And [that's] where I learned to deejay."
Meyers says he was never daunted by the prospect of entering a musical arena that was dominated by DJs ten to fifteen years his junior. He spent the next two years finding his sound (at both Fieldens and another club, the Pyramid), slowly progressing from the then-retro-hip sounds of Euro-electro into house music. He then took Manhattan newsman Horace Greeley's famous advice and headed west.
"Karmically, something has always been drawing me this way," Meyers says of his move to Denver in 1995. "After living on the East Coast for all that time, I just wanted to travel and see other parts of the country. There are also a lot similarities between where I was in Richmond and here in Denver. The people are genuinely friendly and nice, and the climate is very similar. Denver is more progressive in comparison to Richmond, although nothing compares to New York, a city I spent a lot of time in. Then again, I like to be able to breathe and not get stuck in traffic. Denver's been a good city, and it's done well by me. I'm really glad I moved here."
The mountain metropolis's robust gay scene was another draw for Meyers, who has worked exclusively at gay clubs during his tenure as a DJ. "Richmond was almost closeted in a way," he says. "It's so close to D.C., and that whole area is a little bit shier about the gay thing. I think Denver's gay community gives a lot of variety."
After his relocation, Meyers spent about three months making audition tapes at home and passing them around to club managers, music stores and other DJs in an attempt to find a secure base of operations.
"I went to all the bars to see where I would feel comfortable, to see what kind of crowds they pulled in," he says. "And every time I went to the Compound, I just felt comfortable. I told myself, 'This is where I want to work.' So I went after them aggressively."
One of Meyers's audition mixes finally scored him a break into the club: "The owners, Kirk Brew and Virgil Turley, listened to some of my tapes while they were driving on vacation, and that got me hired." His timing was perfect. The venerable nightlife fixture, which has operated on South Broadway for the past fourteen years, had just lost its two most popular house-flavored DJs, Craig C and Dealer -- the duo that introduced Denver to straight-up house music in 1994. After a not-so-amicable parting with the club's management, the pair went on to find success here and in Europe, where they tour frequently. They record as the Pound Boys, a moniker derived from their residency at the Compound, and have created and remixed several club hits over the last five years. While DJ Heckler initially assumed their spot following their departure, Meyers, as Reclipze, is the one who has filled their sizable sonic shoes since 1995.
He now spins four nights a week, a schedule he's grown into over the last six years. He's done time, intermittently, at other clubs along the way, including the now-defunct Club Proteus on 17th Avenue. But his first love in Denver is the club with the almost ominous name. "The Compound has a lot of different personalities to it, and people classify it in a lot of different ways," he says. That's putting it mildly: Some of Denver's more A-list gay boys think of the dark, metal-accented bar as nothing more than a dive with a boxy dance floor. But like the Lion's Lair on East Colfax, the Compound has burnished its rough edges and industrial decor into a cutting-edge space that attracts the city's brightest DJ talents as well as hipsters and bohemians of all persuasions.
"We're not pretentious," Meyers says. "And even though it's a predominantly gay-male bar, everyone is welcome, every facet of the community. You don't necessarily have to be gay, either. I've always found that the best parties, and the best times, are when you have a mixed crowd of gay and straight." Such share-the-love platitudes are familiar; they're the kinds of statements we've come to expect from almost every DJ in the world. With Meyers, though, there's something about the peace in his backyard and the cat crawling around his studio apartment that makes his bromides ring with authenticity.
In particular, his sets -- when the back room with the DJ booth and the dance floor are open -- attract eclectic crowds who apreciate his edgy taste in music ("heavier trance and techno with a little house thrown in there"). Meyers's sets reach a series of anthemic peaks that, along with his tightly honed mixing skills, make him a beacon in the region's trance community. His background in classical music enhances his take on the genre: Like a wall-of-sound subgenre for the electronica world, trance sweeps along on big, booming patches of beautiful (and sometimes complex) programming arrangements. Paul Van Dyk and Paul Oakenfold, two of trance's brand-name international DJs, have a knack for smoothly mixing pulse-quickening drum beds and radiant synth washes, a skill Meyers seems to understand intuitively during his own mixing sessions.
"What I like about trance is that it has more of that melodic, almost classical structure," Meyers says. "Trance can be heavy and fast, but when it gets into the breaks, it still gives that whole orchestral feel. I like that dynamism.
"When I first started spinning, one of my favorite labels was Oakenfold's Perfecto," he says of the UK DJ's long-running imprint. "And one of my first trance-y records was 'It's Not Over,' by Grace. I'll still throw that in occasionally." Meyers lists the intelligent and experimental trance/house DJs Tiesto and Timo Mass as current personal favorites. "And I'm liking 'Ordinary World,' by Aurora, on the Positiva label. The lyrics to that song really strike me: 'When I wake each day/Trying to find my way/In an ordinary world.' Because the world is not ordinary; we try to make it that way, but it's not."
Meyers has found a small but serviceable following by honoring originality and avoiding the obvious: You'll hear no Top 40 hits or obvious Madonna anthems during one of his sets. "I don't have any time to play crap," he says. "I find it more of a challenge if I can fill a dance floor and everyone's having a good time, then throw in some records they don't know. And I think that goes with the Compound's reputation, that it has always allowed for that." His synergy with the club's mission explains why he's now the main man behind the turntables.
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"It's been a long time coming," he says, "and it's paid off. If you stick to your integrity and work hard, it comes around."
Next month, Meyers will make his first-ever trip to Europe for a club-hopping tour centered around London hot spots. When asked if he has any concerns over international travel in light of current events, his response is -- typically -- thoughtful and calm. "If it's my time to go, it's just my time," he says. "It doesn't matter if I'm in a plane or if a plane falls out of the sky and hits me right here in my back yard. You can't control that. I'm scared about all the ramifications of what's going to be happening for us as Americans, but you can't stop living."
In fact, Meyers says the world-altering catastrophe has brought to light an aspect of his profession that he had not fully explored.
"September 11 was a major tragedy that really made us realize how vulnerable we all are," he says. "And I think that's why people like to go out to begin with. They like to let go of their worries, the anxieties of the day, and just relax. I do like to think that, as a DJ, I help people to do that."