The year was 1978 and a good friend of mine, Steve Adkins, was doing his very best to turn me on to his new favorite thing in life – punk music. Having just returned home to South Carolina by way of California I was not afraid to give anything a listen and thanks to Steve I was already enjoying the likes of The Ramones, The NY Dolls, and Iggy Pop & the Stooges but I had yet to experience the phenomenon up close and personal. Enter The Fanatics, one of the first/loudest/arguably best punk bands to ever come out of Columbia, SC. Steve and I caught them at Von Henmons for a weekend show and between Nick Pagan’s mesmerizing stage presence and Mike Hoffman’s launching into the theme from Star Trek during a lead I knew I was a fan for life. A lot of people still residing in Columbia today remember The Fanatics and those times warmly, the key element of “fun” probably encapsulated the band as much as the small but dedicated punk movement that existed in this city at that time. One of the coolest things about the scene was that so few people understood it and most were afraid of it simply based on general public opinion – the result being a small tight-knit group of people who were dedicated fans to local punk bands with so few venues to perform in.
Mark Breger, (later to become known as Nick Pagan), and Mike Hoffman went to high school together and cut their teeth on the likes of Alice Cooper. It was during one of their “Killer” listening sessions that they decided to form a band someday with Mike on guitar and Nick on drums. Of course history shows that Nick took his place out front with a microphone or hammering a keyboard and Mike maintained the guitar position. The first drummer to sit behind the kit for The Fanatics was Dennis Hasty who took his leave and was replaced by Vince Scinta. Robert Bart Lander held the bass position and he would go on to join the band Nervous Tension who would eventually share a split EP with The Fanatics. As the band formed and settled Nick originally wrote all the songs but soon Mike began to write also and together the two created the sound that was The Fanatics. Mainly a local regional act The Fanatics played extensively at Von Henmons one of the sole clubs that hosted the Columbia punk music scene in the 70’s though they did have opportunities to play with other progressive bands of the time such as REM, The English Beat, Pylon, and others. Their shows were energetic, fast paced, engaging and usually just left of center as I witnessed for myself.
Nick Pagan released his solo effort in 1979 titled “This Is Not A Test” with cover art by Mike Hoffman. The Fanatics released their only recording as a split EP project in 1981 titled “Fun With Lines & Curves” sharing the flip side with another local Columbia group “Nervous Tension”. Both recordings are a rare find today and highly sought after by punk music aficionados with some paying in the hundreds for either copy of the limited pressings.
After a short lifespan the band drifted apart, Mike Hoffman sold his gold top Les Paul for enough money to get to New York where he studied art and went on to become a famous artist and illustrator in his own right contributing to the likes of Marvel comics and iconic storylines such as “Swamp Thing”. His body of work alone is a story by itself that I don’t have room here to examine.
Mike has also continued to record and play music though sticking closer to a more underground venue as Mike Hoffman or under his alter ego names “Arturo Bastard” or “Von Hoffman” he has released self-recorded albums over the years in the veins of Rock, Monster Music, and Tiki & Spaghetti Western styles. He did a tour of Canada with Jon Mikl Thor promoting an album they did together titled "Beastwomen From the Center of the Earth".
Nick Pagan moved to Atlanta, GA and in 1982 joined up with local punk band “Phreddy Vomit & Teenzinheat” a staple performing act popular at that time. After leaving “Teenzinheat” he returned to Columbia, SC and helped to form “The Spell” with former “Fanatics” band mate Vince Scinta performing with them from 1985 to 1987. After leaving “The Spell” Nick returned to Atlanta, GA and joined “The Changelings” in 1995 playing keyboards and contributing to their songwriting process. “The Changelings” were an ambient pop-fusion band that released 6 albums and were named the “Best Local Experimental/Fringe Band/Artist of Atlanta” in Creative Loafing for the years 1998-2002. Well received by critics their music has been used in the soundtracks to the game “Noble Armada", the haunted attraction “Netherworld Haunted House”, and the television special “Beyond The Da Vinci Code”.
Nick Pagan eventually left the country relocating to Surabaya, Indonesia where he lives a quieter life with his wife these days. He continues to write and perform and is involved locally in the music scene there.
It’s been a very long and interesting journey for Nick Pagan and Mike Hoffman, both coming together in the Fanatics to throw it out there fast, loud, and raw for a very short period of time then moving away in totally different directions to cut their own piece of history out of life. Historically speaking “The Fanatics” are an important part of musical history associated with Columbia, SC and I will always be grateful to Steve Adkins for dragging me out to catch them at Von Henmons, I had a great time and I have never forgotten my first punk band!
A sincere Thank you to Nick and Mike for taking the time out of their busy lives to help me in gathering the information to put this small Bio together. Both great guys I wish them continued success in everything they do.