Lately, we've had to report on far too many deaths in the Arizona music scene. But alas, it's our terrible duty to report that Rick Martinez, better known as DJ Essential, passed away on Thursday, March 21, around 2 p.m. due to complications from cellulitis.
Martinez was 43 years old, and widely recognized as one of the first DJs to bring drum and bass and jungle to Arizona.
Over the years, Martinez had many identities, whether it's DJ Essential, Rikki X, Big Rick, or Rick the Beast. He was known for his sincerity and love of music, which manifested itself through his weekly broadcast Wreckage Metal Radio and his band, Catholic School Girls.
"We basically lived at Roads to Moscow, Stinkweeds, Rockaway Records, and for him later, Swell," says Russel Ramirez, who owned the techo emporium Swell Records. "We went to gigs nearly every other night, and hung out at his father's apartment tape-trading and analyzing music 'til the wee hours of the morning, every night!"
Martinez's brother Scott also fondly remembers Rick's expansive music knowledge: "Rick was about two years ahead of the trends of music, whether it was thrash, hardcore punk, glam, grunge, shoegaze, electronic. He had a tape of Slayer's Reign in Blood three months before the album came out."
Martinez scraped himself after brushing into a coffee table in December 2012, and the wound transformed into cellulitis, according to his friend Andy Myers. Treatment adequately took care of the wound until symptoms reappeared two weeks ago.
"Doctors were feeling that progress was being made, but then things turned for the worse when several viruses appeared," Myers says. "Those viruses manifested and Rick's immune system broke down. It was not until the last four days that the complications became terminal. With the onset of pneumonia, Rick was put on life support. Unfortunately, doctors noted that Rick would only be kept alive if on life support." Facebook group Old Skool AZ Ravers 1995 - 2005 is full of condolences and messages of love about Rick Martinez. Here are some of the highlights, which include plenty of his signature "doooooooood" greeting.
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"First time I saw him play was a party called 'Hiatus,' He quickly became one of my favorite Phx Drum and Bass Djs. No Ego, no attitude, just incredibly kind and humble." -- Jason Workman
"He would give you the shirt off his back to help out in any way he could. He lived for all types of music." -- Kirk "Captain Kirk" Millhollin
"Rick was a true lover of music, all forms. I remember late 80's early 90's version of Rick...such an awesome guy, so genuinely kind. He had the Nirvana Bleach album before anybody I knew. We must have listened to that thing a million times, he was so stoked to share it with us. He will be missed." -- George Rudder
"That dude schooled me in so many genres. Way before I was a DJ. Always held him in high regards. Such an enthusiastic, well-rounded lover of music. I remember about 15 years ago he'd host the d-n-b nights at Higher Ground. One night, I walked over to say hello / compliment him on the music and he hands me a $10 and sends me down the street to buy a 6 of Newcastle. I barely knew the guy at the time. Just turned around and did what I was told. He gave me one. Classic memory to smile on." -- William Reed
"Rick was always super-enthusiastic about music, he would get mere inches from your face and he almost had a crazed look in his eyes as he described how a certain sound in a song made him feel." -- Paul Nth