“There’s a lazy way of using a computer controller, and then there’s a creative way,” Steve Brisk (aka AudioBuddha) tells me excitedly. “If a DJ is just playing the latest hits, they’re nothing more than a jukebox. But if they’re layering and creating and composing, that’s very cool, that’s an old art. … It goes back to classical periods when composers would take pieces from other composers to create new pieces, and they called it themes and variations.”
This is, to date, the single best explanation I’ve received on what makes a DJ—a good one, anyway—a worthwhile musical experience. Of course for Brisk, who is classically trained in the art of the piano and who came up in the punk rock and industrial scenes of the ’80s and ’90s, the curation of vibes and danceable music comes easy. Not only does he compose actual pieces of music for his sets, he sometimes layers almost 10 tracks together (I’m not 100 percent on whether or not this is impressive, but it sure sounds like it). “When I got into DJing I was able to think, ‘OK, I’m going to take this very post-modern approach and I’m going to remodel and recompose,’ and then I literally practiced for a year and a half before I ever played out,” he says. “It wasn’t like I put together a bunch of loops in Ableton and thought, ‘Hey! I’m a DJ!’”
"It wasn’t like I put together a bunch of loops in Ableton and thought, ‘Hey! I’m a DJ!’"
It was about seven years ago that Brisk dedicated himself to DJing, back when AudioBuddha was born. Shortly thereafter, he entered what he calls “an extremely dark period in [his] life.” His longtime partner died after 13 years together, many of which Brisk spent as caretaker. “It really took a toll and my creativity suffered,” he says, “but music has always been my therapy, and with DJing at least I could say I was still involved with music.”
The creativity began returning in waves about two years ago, which was right around when Brisk spearheaded Replenish, his monthly dance parties at Skylight’s upstairs mini-club, Skylab. “The whole point is to create an alternative to the vibe of most clubs,” Brisk says. “I find a lot of what’s happening now in clubs is actually quite disturbing … misogynistic and violent and negative … I don’t go for that.” Thus, he set out to create a space that was not only musically enticing and danceable, but safe, and that offered performance opportunities to DJs with a similar ethos operating throughout the Southwest. “The people I choose to work with have a definite X-factor and they’re providing a musical space, not just playing the latest hits and cow-towing to the lowest common denominator,” Brisk says proudly. “I don’t really believe in genres as much as I believe that music should take you wherever you need to go, and this is a forum for musicians, for DJs, who can do that and who can provide an alternative to the rampant negativity.”
This means a generally blissful vibe, according to Brisk, and even as he shies away from classifying Replenish as a chill-out event, he does have difficulty assigning its specific sound. “A lot of the stuff we play or that you’ll hear can be very pretty and rhythmic,” he says. “A lot of the people I’m working with are really into the percussive and really into world sounds like Arabic or African music. ‘Chill-out’ is such a wide-open term, and really I’m more about the mood the music imparts.”
AudioBuddha welcomes Albuquerque-based DJ Berrett Scandalous to Replenish this Saturday, and with any luck he’ll also have a new album out sometime this winter. “I think of what I’m doing like the further democratization of music,” says Brisk. “It’s where you’ve got an idea in your head and with a computer or CDJs or a turntable you can create that.”
Replenish with AudioBuddha and Berrett Scandalous
10 pm Saturday Nov. 26. $7.
139 W San Francisco St.,