In late 1979, Cincinnati gadfly David Lewis began the eccentric punk group 11,000 Switches, launching them on January 1, 1980 with two musicians who deserted the project after this very first gig. What no one knew was that this particular group, as it evolved, would have tremendous influence on the Cincinnati underground music scene, and that many of the musicians fortunate enough to be involved with the project would become mainstays of cutting-edge Cincinnati music for decades to come.
By April 1980 the group began to take on its unique persona. In the first incarnation, 11,000 Switches consisted of Todd Witt on drums, Scott Lees on guitar, Uncle Dave as singer, Robert "Lamb" Lambert on bass and Steve Caravajal on winds with guitarists David Paul and Tim Schwallie appearing at various times with the group. Uncle Dave went off to California in mid-1981, breaking up the band, but returned in just a few short months. Lamb elected not to rejoin, and for a year the group was a three-piece with no bass player and quite popular locally. Christopher Lewis joined in late 1982, just in time to see the band break up again by the following summer. Dan Williams arrived in early 1984 to restart 11,000 Switches with Uncle Dave and remained until the end finally came at the Plaza in November 1988. The band went through several drummers, notably Andrew Hamilton and Julia Heather Prescott, and Christopher Lewis rejoined the group in 1986, staying until it disbanded. Guitarist William Gilmore III also played a few gigs with these last editions of the 'Switches.
In addition to the "rock group," there was also an "electronic" version of the 11,000 Switches. In this incarnation, presented parallel to the regular group and lasting from 1984 to 1988, Dan Williams and Uncle Dave created music with a variety of drum machines, guitar processors, turntables, tape loops and projections – a show that was the great-granddaddy of "techno." One song created by this group was "Young Tight Sweaters," recorded in 1985 and still popular to listeners of the Art Damage show on WAIF in Cincinnati.
Although the various members of the group dispersed in the early 1990's, it is not unheard of for the 'Switches, in whatever form, to pop up for an impromptu performance in the Midwest. Most recently, the "electronic" group consisting of Uncle Dave Lewis and Dan Williams appeared at the Southgate House in May of 2001. Such is the essence of the 11,000 Switches; one is never sure when or where they will pop up next. The beauty of this is that the group does still exist, even if that existence is only on an occasional basis. A comprehensive selection of their massive output of recordings is in the works at Hospital Records.
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