Tribute: A force of nature and Force of Habit

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When my big brother, David Devereaux, owner of Mission haunt Force of Habit Records, passed away suddenly at the untimely age of 41 this past July 4, it left a hole in the city’s punk and vinyl scene almost the equivalent of the hole it left in my heart.

I eventually became a movie journalist, but David’s musical tastes had a profound influence on my own — he cut his teeth on AC/DC at 12, and I followed suit at the same age; he discovered the Ramones at 14, and I attended my first Ramones show at 16. It would have been hard for them not to. Except for a brief stint playing alto sax in junior band, my brother was never a musician. But that certainly didn’t stop him from devoting his life to music.

While he came to embrace all kinds of bands and performers — from fellow Montreal native Leonard Cohen to the Pogues and Tom Waits — punk rock remained his one enduring passion. He even gave his son, Jaxon, the middle name Joey, a tribute to his earliest and greatest punk influence, Joey Ramone.

Somehow my brother managed to embody the anarchic enthusiasm and ear-splitting debauchery of his favorite musical style just by being himself. When he wasn’t attending live shows (favorite local bands included Teenage Harlets and Fracas), listening to his beloved vinyl collection, deejaying under his nom de guerre “Brain Dead Dave,” or promoting local bands in landmark dives like the Knockout, he provided his own soundtrack of fuzzed-out feedback from his seemingly perpetually flapping gums. Just like punk rock, he could be difficult for some people to take, yet he always made an impression. Let’s just say he was a force of nature.

When David told me he was opening his own record store a little less than a decade ago, I balked. All that overhead seemed like a recipe for financial disaster, and he was already doing well enough selling vinyl online. No doubt, the store was something of a money pit, but from the moment I first saw it, I understood: this was to be a place of and for community. These days, when even big box music stores are closing their doors, it seems like a small miracle that Force of Habit was able to stay open as long as it did; it’s a testament to the passion and commitment of my brother and the tight knit band of local vinyl buffs.

Force of Habit opened quite possibly for the very last time on July 11 so that community could say goodbye to the store and its colorful, unforgettable owner. The turnout was fantastic, with the party raging into the wee hours. One of David’s musical heroes, Jello Biafra, even showed up, finally leaving (after trying to weasel some free records) with a colossal stack of vinyl at closing. While friends of my brother have expressed interest in reopening the store, for the foreseeable future this punk rock community center remains shuttered.

My brother and I were one and the same in many ways. We could both be described as stubborn and combative. While I’ve devoted my life to studying and writing about movies, my brother lived music. We were both professional fans, so to speak. We butted heads constantly, but I’ll never love anyone more. I don’t really know how to adequately say goodbye, so I’ll leave my parting words to someone who helped shaped David’s life profoundly, and who was also gone too soon:

“Hangin’ out all by myself/I don’t wanna be with anybody else/I just want to be with you/I just wanna have somethin’ to do/Tonight/Tonight/Tonight.”

I couldn’t have said it better than Joey Ramone. Rest in peace, brother.

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