(Originally appeared in Mutant Renegade Zine #8, Spring 1998)
“I spent this afternoon playing soccer with Joey Shithead from DOA in the street in from of Ed Pittmans (Toxic Reasons) house. I guess you can put that on my grave.” - Ben between songs at an Oxymoron’s show, caught on video at Apollo’s (Columbus,OH in 1990).
Some of you are probably wondering who the hell is Ben Schelker? Well, besides being one of my closest friends, he was an inspiration to many and a great musician. Ben was best known for playing music and his energetic lust for life. He was very true to himself and loved playing the clown, this caused people to either love or hate him. Even those who loved him, hated him at times.
I knew Ben for nine years (and I evidently met him back in cub scouts) and he really helped me out with some of the most difficult periods of my life. Many of his lyrics related to my situations and this made me feel an even closer link to him. During the years we spent together in our band I really got to know him. There were many times where I wished I were Ben, and at other times I felt sorry for him. I have always been amazed by his raw talent and ability to express himself so completely through music. Over the years we became like brothers and really understood each other.
Over the years I saw Ben sing, play guitar, play bass, play piano and play the drums with equal skill and energy. He didn’t shy away from badmouthing people he felt were dishonest and he always supported a variety of local musicians. Ben never seemed to have much money, since he spent most of it on music (shows, equipment, studio time) yet at times I saw him give his last dollar to street people so they could get loaded.
I think anyone who met Ben would agree that he had that special charisma which few people have. He always tried to give me birthday and Christmas presents even if they were usually a thrift store cassette that had a cool new bands music dubbed onto it. Thanks to Ben I learned of Avail, Snuff, NWA, and a variety of other bands. I always think of Ben whenever I hear some of his favorite bands: The Damned, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Hank Williams Sr., Patsy Cline and The Who.
Ben had many close friends and I know they all miss him in their own way. Many people threw parties for Ben and had him take part in thier weddings. This was due to his charm, sense of humor and that way he had of making you feel good when everything seemed hopeless.
In December 1995 Ben decided to move to Brooklyn because he fell in love with New York City after he’d visited a few times. It was one of the few cities that could match Ben’s energy level. While in NYC he played in a variety of bands and at times played in three at the same time, playing drums in one, bass in another and guitar in the third. By the Summer of 1997 Ben’s constant movement and love of drinking caught up with him. His girlfriend decided to fly him back to Ohio and let him get himself back together.
Back in the slower pace of Ohio Ben started to get himself back together and moved in with some friends in Columbus. One night after his roommates were asleep he was talking on the phone. Evidently they had been renovating the balcony and Ben accidentally fell off. When he landed he sustained a broken rib, a punctured lung and a brain hemorrhage. He then crawled to the back door, which was locked, and was not found until the next morning by his father who had come to drive him back to Dayton.
I think Ben would have been pleased with the funeral and the parties which were thrown in his honor and memory. There are many of us who felt that Ben made a serious impact on our lives. In his death he brought even deeper changes within his closest friends. Most of us have been reexamining our lives and making changes to become true to ourselves. I have never experienced the death of someone who I cared so much about, and it really sucks. Ben you are truly missed and I will never forget what you have meant to me and my life.