Captain Ahab were a Los Angeles-based duo known for their intense, confrontational live shows and full-on embrace of countless styles of dance, pop, and rock music. Their concerts consisted of Speedo-clad hype man Jim Merson viciously engaging with the crowd while electronics wizard Jonathan Snipes provided high-energy dance tracks with sexually explicit lyrics. Their music drew equally from underground D.I.Y. culture as well as mainstream pop music, and they rejected any notions of musical elitism or guilty pleasures. They explored many styles usually scoffed at by hipsters, including pop-punk, power metal, and various types of Euro-dance, and their 2005 tour CD-R included covers of radio hits by John Mayer and Avril Lavigne. Their songs were humorous and conceptual, continuing in the tradition of previous jokey genre-mashers such as Sparks and Ween, but with much more of a focus on techno and rave culture.
Snipes began Captain Ahab as a solo project in 1998, inspired by noise artists such as Cock E.S.P. and Aube. Over time, he began making vocoder-driven electropop informed by the emerging glitch/IDM laptop music scene, and his debut 12" EP, Bot Pirate, appeared on London-based breakcore label Irritant (also home to the likes of Knifehandchop and Jason Forrest). He began performing shows, and enthusiastic fan Merson quickly became an official part of the Captain Ahab live experience. The debut full-length The Sex Is Next, which drew from Miami booty bass and Hi-NRG disco, appeared on A2 Audio in 2004. The duo quickly became a fixture of infamous L.A. D.I.Y. venue The Smell, and began a long, fruitful relationship with the Deathbomb Arc label. Captain Ahab's first release for the label was 2005's outrageously dirty I Can't Believe It's Not Booty EP. This was followed by the ambitious, genre-hopping concept album After the Rain My Heart Still Dreams in 2006.
The duo then won a contest to write a song for the movie Snakes on a Plane; "Snakes on the Brain" appeared on the enhanced CD portion of the film's soundtrack. Deathbomb Arc also released a Snakes on the Brain EP that year. Captain Ahab contributed to HEALTH's //DISCO remix collection, released a split 12" with Copy, and embraced the Belgian/Dutch "jumpstyle" craze during their 2007 tour. Captain Ahab's long-in-the-making third full-length, The End of Irony, arrived in 2010. The release was issued in multiple configurations by Deathbomb Arc and Australian label Dual Plover, with altered track lists and mixes appearing on each of the digital, vinyl, and compact disc editions. In 2012, Captain Ahab decided to call it a day. The duo performed one final concert to a sold-out crowd at The Smell in November, with support from Toxic Lipstick, Foot Village, and Books on Tape. Following their disbanding, Snipes composed several soundtracks (including Room 237, which was issued by Death Waltz in 2013) and found success as part of the experimental noise-rap trio clipping. ~ Paul Simpson