Posted: February 7th, 2010 by Jimmy J

captain b mentalIn our first post we described how Alan Stephenson’s tenure in Toronto could be used to define our golden age of raves. In our final entry we’re going to define the man himself. Who was this British raver that commanded our scene and then vanished into thin air? Was he even real? Or do we find out at the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s Toronto rave epic that he was just one big hallucination? Who would play him in the movie? I would cast Bruce Willis if he could pull off an accent, because I actually used to poke fun at B. Mental regarding his Bruce-like features. Alan Stephenson had a great a sense of humour; one of his proudest UK imports was a tape of Derek and Clive comedy which featured nonsensical conversations, compliments in part to Dudley Moore. Of course, Alan was quick to point out how uncool Canadians only knew the British comedic legend from his Arthur flicks. As much as he was an ethnocentric Brit, he was right – those recordings were hilarious. But when the laughter died down, serious allegations about the man known as Captain Brainstorm Mental lingered.

This project was inspired by music on rare mixtapes, the majority of which were compliments of the Captain. They represent a mere fraction of the commendations he accumulated throughout a decorated career of raving. Adversely though, he cast a dark shadow on Toronto rave nostalgia  – an obstacle that nearly prevented this project from ever coming to fruition. There’s a delicate balance between giving him the credit he deserves and calling a spade, a spade. I’m qualified to walk this line given my dual perspective: a 17 year old who considered him the coolest guy on the planet versus the wiser man I am today; coincidentally the same age he was when he jumped the ship called Toronto.

Thus, let us begin the facts.

Alan landed in Toronto in his twenties joining his father, sister and brother who had already settled into the city. He worked odd jobs which included busboy at a few popular restaurants. Yet it wasn’t long before his inner salesman negotiated a future in street vending – a career that began one day while passing a telephone pole with a job posting stapled on it. You know, the ones with little phone number tabs you tear off. It was an anecdote he described to me fondly – how plucking paper off a post was the starting point of a lucrative empire.

Gemstone JeweleryA series of street salesman gigs followed; and  his English accent, of course,  was a huge asset among his arsenal of sales techniques. Stephenson would go on to captain his own small vending outfit, known as Gemstones Jewelery. It was located at 9 St. Nicholas Street, an alleyway off Wellesley tucked away behind Yonge. Aside from the office, a telephone and some business cards, the operation was a pure hustle. The tiny, one-room headquarters was a meeting place for the fleet of street vendors who worked for commission and took home cash at the end of their shift. And since no one actually had proper vendor permits, police interaction and fines were a regular casualty of the job. Alan always told his “employees” he would pay their tickets – but really they all went into a drawer containing a pile of other past-due fines. The turnover rate was so high that most staff were long gone before they realized Gemstones management hadn’t made good on their payment promise. Alan justified this by pointing a finger at the vendor for getting caught, since he taught a ticket evasion technique that served him well: an alias. When questioned by police, you were to claim to possess no identification and then change one or two letters of your surname when reciting it. The slight variation made it easy to remember and natural to repeat under duress. Stephenson, for example, had his own vending alter ego – Alan Stevenson – because when the “ph” was replaced by “v,” the ticket was designated for an entirely different person and the fine was now worth less than the paper it was printed on. An inaccurate ticket meant no recourse for city hall but it was still a handy keepsake for future encounters with police: “Sorry officer, I don’t have my ID, but here’s my last ticket, will that do?”

Speaking of worthless, Gemstones products were costume jewelery rings – each sold for $5, or any three for $12 (a good up-sell for the savvy sellers). Every purchase was accompanied by a nicely printed piece of paper that guaranteed the ring against defects, ie. turning green after the supposed real gold or silver plating wore off.  When this defect occurred (and it always did) the certificate claimed the customer was entitled to a replacement item. The really smart buyers would always question this guarantee, asking, “But you’re a street vendor. How would I ever find you again!?” Like most shifty operations, there was a snappy response for every skeptic, “You don’t have to find me, just mail the ring to the address listed at the bottom of the guarantee and include $2 to cover shipping and handling.” The address on the guarantee, however, wasn’t the office address on St. Nicholas, it was an anonymous post office box. That way, Alan could pocket the extra loot without having to mail anything back.

Like I said, pure hustle.

The soundbite above features Alan Stephenson and John Angus on Hardrive with James St. Bass in June of 1992.

atmosphere raveIn 1992 Alan cashed in his jewelery business to focus on the potential within the surging rave scene. He tested the market first by selling mixtapes at the Factory nightclub and throwing a small rave, titled Atmosphere. The transition was nearly seamless – dodgy street tactics were easily applied to an untapped clandestine scene. Once all the jewelery had been liquidated, X-Static rave merchandise and Pleasure Force events became his new gems.

There’s no doubt Captain B. was extremely passionate about a scene in Toronto – even well before one existed. His influences over the years were obvious, but he also was motivated by numerous ulterior benefits.  For him, the scene was a source of income, intoxication and it fostered a haven of young men with whom his relations were extremely questionable.

“The very dangerous Captain Brainstorm” – Malik X (33:53)

Alan Francis StephensonAlan quickly became an unqualified mentor to many young minds. Despite an unhealthy lifestyle founded in dishonesty, he managed to have monetary success – which was a misleading message to the impressionable. Armed with only the most rudimentary business skills, his biggest resource was a revolving door of exploitable young men who glorified his English accent. Me and many of my friends were among the first batch.

As the scene progressed Alan descended further into a fantasy world in which he had diplomatic immunity. And since the microcosm he inhabited was populated by teens there was no true authority to govern his corruption. Existing somewhere between X-Static, raves and chemical enhancement, he became more distant with reality with every passing Saturday night. Downtime was spent on his leather couch at 40 Gerrard St. East, soothing his mid-week MDMA woes by further self-medicating.  With over-indulgence running rampant he developed a complete lack respect for the well-being of himself and those around him. No one could possibly carry on like he did without experiencing serious repercussions, and rumours about B. Mental’s mental stability were mounting. The rare conversation I had with him in 1995 revealed the person I met at my first Exodus rave wasn’t all there. Sadly B. Mental had lost touch with reality, his surname-nickname now a prophecy that had been self-fulfilled.

alan francis stephensonWhen the infamous Toronto Sun article surfaced, the charges attached to the arrest seemed to put his behavior in perspective. Nevertheless Alan defended the allegations via a published letter to the editor of Tribe magazine. He claimed the taboo materials arrived unexpectedly after signing up for a general mailing list at a gay bookstore (which operated on the other side of the Gemstones’ office wall.) He realized this defense wouldn’t hold up in the courts of Canada especially given he (and the company he kept) had been under surveillance for several months. Plus, the discovery of a large quantity of narcotics didn’t help corroborate his innocence. While on bail he transferred X-Static to his brother-in-law, tied up some lose ends and headed for Mexico.

I clearly remember the last time I saw him. I was mostly detached from the scene and working at Movenpick in the BCE place. He strolled by with his signature walk and I quickly turned the other way, fearing what he might say if he saw me in a sell-out button-down shirt and tie, making an honest living working for the man. The conversation would have gone all Derek and Clive with the ironic laughs at my expense. “You prim-and-proper-c*nt… You look ridiculous, Jimmy J!” Yes, Alan coined my nickname too, originally “H20” but replaced by “Jimmy J” after he noticed a DJ by that name on a UK rave flyer.

And despite my eventual epiphanies, I’m still curious about him because there was a moment in time that I considered him to be a good friend. How is he now? What does he do for a living? Given that he’s now 50-years of age (and hopefully back in touch with reality) he certainly has his own demons of dual perspective to deal with.

But the burning question still remains: Was he able to bring his coveted collection of mixtapes with him when he fled Canada? Alan was responsible for managing the 23 Hop booth tape deck during Exodus raves so he undoubtedly had the best archive of Toronto rave audio in existence. If the tapes weren’t seized when his apartment was raided, they may very well be in some part of West Sussex in England, either Littlehampton or Bognor Regis, where he’s currently rumoured to reside.




23 Responses to “Captain B. Mental: Fact or Fiction?”

  1. colm hogan Says:

    Great article Jim!
    fascinating writing about an interesting moment in Toronto’s scene. Although I never met him personally, I had heard lots about him from other people, nice to have some context finally.

  2. Luke Says:

    Roooooite mate roooooite…. OI OI!!

    Really engaging and well written read. Thanks.

  3. Jeff Penttila Says:

    This is another very good article. I was about 16 when I met Alan. He was so charismatic and cool, but I did not know him other than hanging out at X-Static or seeing him on Saturday nights at the raves. Mexico? Wow. I was told by many people that he committed suicide with a noose. Can anyone confirm that he did not kill himself and in fact did take off south?

  4. Tim Says:

    This is my favorite of all the articles you’ve published so far, the use of both your perspective as a 17 year old and as an adult creates a nice balance. Having never met this character its nice to get such a good profile of such an influential man.

    At the beginning of the article you state that this will be your final entry, does this mean no more mixtape archives or articles on Toronto rave history? Im hoping its not, I rather enjoy reading these.

  5. Robert Tunney Says:

    I was Yonge street vendor from 91 – 96, and after work one day in 1992 we kicking back in the Hard Rock cafe wondering what the hell to do me and Glenn May, and this english guy was with a posse of guys gave us a flyer for this rave party, I remember waiting in the underground garage and hearing the music and wondering what the hell is this, this is going to kick some serious ass, and once we got in, we just never left for 4-5 years… we had gone to dance clubs for years before this, but there was something just a lot different we were hearing coming from the party within… i think we started to hang more @ the factory after this party… great article, great history…

  6. Natasha Says:

    Beyond bizarre, I was just wondering whatever became of Alan. To think it’s been all those years, freaks me out. I was 15 when I met him, 15 years ago. If I only knew then, what I know now. Wonder where the hell he ended up.

  7. SS Says:

    Great book if anyone’s interested

    http://books.google.ca/books?id=iPLsz1RC1MYC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=alan+stephenson+rave&source=bl&ots=gGwtVn5TFd&sig=Oa-iLPjhXYsKo3kHEjAzfO0nhNQ&hl=en&ei=ZbfES9fIOZP0M-Gs3JYO&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CBAQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false

  8. Junglist92 Says:

    I knew Alan along with Vito Robbie and few others. All were amazing guys. It really sucked when all that went down with the charges. I don’t know what he is up to but hope he is happy. Cheers to u Alan and all the true originals. Peace

  9. Junglist92 Says:

    I thought it was his brother that commiited suicide

  10. Darren Says:

    It was his brother-in-law Eamon that commited suicide. Alan indeed fled to Mexico and oddly enough, was selling jewelry on the beach when I spoke to him on the phone to inform him of Eamon’s passing.

  11. Jimmy J Says:

    I remember shortly after he took off he was spotted by someone in Mexico and was reported to be staying at the El Cheapo Motel, no joke.

    I would be surprised if he wasn’t still involved in vending. I do know as of 5 years ago he was alive and well, after straightening himself up. He tried to contact his original X-Static partner Ben.

    Oh, and the chances of him ever stumbling on this site are slim to none, he wasn’t the least bit computer savvy. The rest may forever be a mystery.

  12. Jungle Jeff Says:

    Great blog! I liked Alan a lot, and agree that he had some demons that eventually caught up to him. Nice one for putting the story to print.

  13. David Crook Says:

    Oh my goodness me what a blast from the past and fascinating insight into the life of the man who brought me to Toronto to DY through the summer of 93 and then back again for a one-off Pleasure Force do in 94. I had the time of my life and even the constant horrific noise of Alan’s awful MC’ing all over my one remaining mix tape from the time does not dampen my love for it al!

  14. Jimmy J Says:

    Nice one. I didn’t delve in to his MC career, but I do remember the first time he did it was at the Nitrous 012. He was like, “mate, come with me check this out” we went in to the booth and he said a few things. Shortly after he had a piece of paper at his place covered in his chicken scratch detailing all the rhymes he had come up with.

    I think his first official non-P.F. MC gig was Mayhem who billed him as “DJ Captin B Mental”.

    Eventually he opted to perform exclusively at Pleasure Force parties and the Rise.

    “Reach up high and touch the sky”
    “Find the energy and release it on the dance floor, oh yes”

    Why the *(&$ do I remember this shit?!

  15. David Crook Says:

    THATS the one I remember!! I have this tape with him alll over it. actually I think it might be on the Toronto Mix Tape archive too. Hilarious. In his strange and distinct way he really knew how to get everyone together and on a MASSIVE ONE!!

  16. Noel Says:

    I still have a “Riot Sock” that i purchased from the store in 92/93…lol!

    Whatever happened to those good old days!?

  17. Jake Says:

    omg. Loser who wrote this. He was framed. Period. Yea he did have a street life past and thats what did him in.Who the hell gives you the right to write a semi autobiography about the man you REALLY did not know? He was a good guy. He brought us a scene that will never happen in this city again. Once he was framed and pushed out of the picture, mob and bikers took over and destroyed it. The true die hards of the scene(the few of the 23 hop crowd and who were with him from the BEGINING) saw it coming and warned him over and over again. Yes he was overwhelmed and no one could get through to him. Most of the true 23 hop crowd stopped going out in 1994 because the scene was over. We decided to travel out to Europe(England)(Spain) and Asia(Japan)(India) where music and the vibe carried on and still does today. A group of us still travel and party abroad most of the time. I guess you can do that when you are trust funded LOL.

  18. Jimmy J Says:

    @Jake;

    Wow, where to begin? Framed!! I love a good conspiracy theory but that one just doesn’t cut it. Mobsters? bikers? weird. A bunch of my pals were still throwing raves far beyond Alan’s departure and not one them ever had any interaction with the either of those organizations. But they did have city officials breathing down their necks.

    You obviously lost touch with Toronto (and maybe even reality) in ’94 while traveling the world because all your information appears to be from rumours. And let’s face it, you’re a tab bit biased because of your relationship with him:

    “Where the hell is Alan Stephenson? I love that guy! The love of my life!!!”

    (Your first comment on an earlier entry: http://www.thecommunic8r.com/2009/05/what-is-the-golden-age-of-raving-in-toronto)

  19. Brian Says:

    Loving this blog. I only started raving in ’96 so I missed out on Toronto’s real history so it’s wonderful reading this history.

  20. brent belanger aka BERNIE Says:

    I moved back to toromto 1992 from SanDiego , joined BetterDAYS in the beginning,Pleasure Force was the thriving engine behind the rave scene with B mental at the wheel. I did rave business with them we did a party or 2 with them but I also did some other bus with him , at the time he was very involved in X and so was I , at the time bringing pills from cali selling to Allen and others,I never really knew his secrets in the beginning and over yrs they became more clear and I am dissapointed that I or my business partners never did the right thing NO ONE INE THE BEGINNING STOPPED THIS OR BROUGHT IT TO LIGHT WE TURNED OURS BACKS FOR BUSINESS I AM VERY SORRY FOR MY ACTIONS THE $$ meant more at the time than RIGHT vs. EVIL

  21. T Says:

    Pretty sure I saw Alan this Friday afternoon (July 19th 2013) @ King & Bay headed south, same night Hype was spinning in the Tdot and the during the re-emergence of old skool jungle.

  22. A Trance Induced State | Mental Frequency | Malik X | Side 1 Says:

    […] is rumoured that Dr. No and Captain B. Mental collaborated on some of these tracks – actually, Captain B. told me personally that he had […]

  23. GG Says:

    I remember a job interview with that guy on St Nicholas St. It was to sell crappy jewelry from tables on street corners. He had that british accent and seemed very dodgy. I didn’t end up doing it, which in hindsight seems wise.

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