Life is getting more expensive in the city centre, and this is Reeve Benz’s motivation to work two jobs.
However, as an artist, Reeve describes his work as living the dream, because he loves what he does – and it pays the bills, of course.
“I’m driven by money and passion – what can you do without it?”
Reeve is an independent tattoo artist by day, and a club DJ in the city centre by night. “The two complement each other very well because, as difficult as it is to be a freelance tattoo artist, I get my customers from chatting to anyone in the clubs I see with ink.”
Reeve grew up in the city, but moved to Eerste River at a young age.
“I finished my schooling in the northern suburbs, then as soon as I could, I moved back to the city.”
Now living in Sea Point, Reeve describes living in the suburbs as “slower”. “Business is slow there. There is a constant flow of people in the city, so you are more likely to earn money.”
Reeve’s parents were entrepreneurs, and owned a nightclub in Sea Point called Breeze.
“My elder brother had been DJing at the club, and that’s how I got into it. My parents had other businesses besides the club, so they were busy, which left me and my brother to basically run things.”
He said his brother’s equipment was often at home, and he began experimenting. “My brother got very irritated that I fiddled with his equipment and used to hide it from me, but I found it and played some mixes. Afterward, he just let me be, so he was a big inspiration to me.”
When Reeve was 16 years old, his parents moved to Port Elizabeth, and the hustle began. “My older brother and sister were there, but they have their own lives, so when I was old enough, I started working to earn my own money.”
While Reeve had a day job, he dabbled in DJing as well, and became a resident at the then 151 and Open Arms in Goodwood, but left after six months to freelance because he wanted to explore the industry more.
“I started jumping clubs – up to four a night – all around Cape Town, but mainly in the CBD. “
His next break came when a friend invited him to a party at Iconic Lounge in Long Street.
“There was a crowd of about 300 people, and she was the only DJ for the night. I wasn’t booked, but the manager asked me to play an hour set because they didn’t expect the big crowd. After that, Iconic started booking me a lot,” said Reeve.
Since then, he has played in many clubs in the city centre, and is a regular DJ at Iconic Lounge and Space Bar in Long Street.
An experience that stands out for him was playing at Teazers, a strip club in the city centre.
“It’s so different there. It was more like presenting – you are playing for the dancers, and you have to introduce them and entice the audience, like entertaining people with your voice.”
Meanwhile, he decided to quit his day job because he wanted to become an entrepreneur.
“I decided to take my package and invest the money into a small business, so I started thinking about ventures that would make money.”
While he always admired skin art, he wasn’t very good at drawing.
“I was very hands-on. So I decided t learn how to tattoo. I had someone, who was very good at drawing, do the art, and then I would tattoo, but that didn’t work out.”
Thereafter, Reeve dedicated at least five hours a day to drawing anything he could.
“I would sit on a bench in St George’s Mall and watch the people and try to draw. I must admit, I am a very good artist now, and I draw very well.”
As an independent tattoo artist in the city, Reeve said it is hard as there is a lot of competition.
“There are so many tattoo artists in the industry right now, and tattoos are becoming more accepted. And as an independent artist, you have to compete with established (businesses).
“It’s hard, but you have to put yourself out there and build a client base.”
Reeve said what attracts him about the city centre is the art.
“I walk through the markets just to look at art. There are children dancing, little picturesque spaces such as the flower sellers and in St George’s Mall – have you ever just layed on the grass in the Company’s Gardens and listened to the sounds of the city? It’s the most amazing thing.”