"Braindead" Dave Devereaux, owner of Force of Habit Records in the Mission, a small but passionately run shop specializing in rare punk rock, vinyl, and collectible toys, has died of an unknown cause. He was 41.
Devereaux passed away on July 4 or 5 -- paramedics found him dead in his apartment on July 5, and autopsies to determine the cause of death have proven inconclusive. For the last year and a half of his life, Devereaux suffered from gastroesophageal problems, according to family members and friends.
"Dave was one of that sort of vanishing species known as a record geek," said Jello Biafra, former vocalist of the Dead Kennedys and regular customer at the shop. "Very passionate about music."
Devereaux was born in Montreal on January 31, 1970. His obsession with music began when the family moved from Ontario, Canada, to Orange County, Calif., when he was about 13, according to his father, Richard. With his father often traveling on business and his mother out during the day at work, Devereaux made friends who introduced him to Metallica. Eventually, AC/DC and the Ramones became Devereaux's musical favorites.
For Braindead Dave, new music was "like oxygen or food," he said in an interview with SF Weekly last year. "It's nourishment to be turned on to something new."
His passion for sharing this music with others also led him into DJing -- he sometimes DJ'd on Pirate Cat Radio. Devereaux coined the nickname "Braindead Dave" as a DJ name for himself.
In the 2010 interview Devereaux explained that he got the idea for a store of his own while working at Amoeba Music and other record stores in the city. At first he sold records online to customers in Europe and Japan, and then opened the Mission District shop in 2004.
From the start, Devereaux obsessed over details and kept his store strictly organized.
"He had OCD, he did," said Colleen McLaughlin, a friend who occasionally helped Devereaux run the store. "He was really particular about the way all the dollars were facing in the [cash] register, the way everything was stacked."
"It wasn't like he was a micromanager, it was just that that was him," she said. "It was like you were messing with something that was a part of him.
"Sometimes I [think], 'Wow how did I deal with that guy?' But at the same time, he was such a wonderful person." For a time, Devereaux even let her live in an apartment behind the store to avoid homelessness.
As a result of Devereaux's illness, the store was open irregularly, but McLaughlin still remembers it as an important musical center for the Mission community.
"David opened this store with the idea that it was a place to be, that people were gonna come and hang out and talk about music," she said. Devereaux used to get bands to put on short performances on the sidewalk in front of his store, giving local musicians a chance to perform. "He was really into getting young kids into music," she said.
On July 11, McLaughlin and Devereaux's close friend Michael Chappell opened Force of Habit for a daylong celebration of his life and love of music. Chappell estimated that hundreds of people came in throughout the day, including Biafra, to shop the store's rarities and to enjoy food and beer.
"It was all neighborhood support and punk rockers pulling together to remember somebody that they knew," Chappell said.
Biafra, who met Devereaux after one of his concerts, said he went to the celebration and bought "yet another big old pile of unknown, independent 7" [records]."
Richard said the family is looking to sell the store and online business to someone who will keep it open. "His record store is that last little bit of the San Francisco punk scene that struggled to hold on," McLaughlin said. "That's why it's so important that it doesn't close."
Biafra agreed. "In the last few years, we've lost at least 2,000 independent record and music stores in this country," he said, "so it's really important to support the ones we still do have. Dave's store is the perfect example of why life is too short to listen to boring music or worry about what the mainstream is doing if you're just not interested. I think Dave had that spirit, as well."
Braindead Dave is survived by his parents, Richard and Dawn; his sister Michelle; and his 20-year-old son, Jaxon. Anyone interested in buying or supporting the future of Force of Habit Records can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org