One of New Zealand's best dj's, promoterextraordinaire & all round nice guy.
Owen: Morning Brett let's start the dialogue. How did electronic music find you.? Was this in your household growing up?
Brett: Well I found The Prodigy and fell in love. Firestarter was on the Wipeout - 2097 PS1 game soundtrack (my dad is a Fire Chief he hated it) Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Beastie Boys and such were big for me, Mum would play Deep Forest and Enya, Dad loves guitar, I guess electronic music was from the radio and influenced by school friends but I started liking house music in particular when all my workmates went back to our foreman’s house after work, I listened to Nice ‘n’ Urlich for the first time and loved the vibe. It was a stark contrast to what I had been listening to at school.
The most notable moment though was when my very close mate Sam aired the Ministry of Sound Annual 2005 - John Course CD. “Mylo - Drop the Pressure” was the first track. At the time I was big on rock, hip hop, and freestyle rap (8 Mile) and I proceeded to mock him in front of our crew like B-Rabbit, skipping through the tracks one by one being cheeky and said: “it’s all the same beat”. A couple of days later I found myself sneaking downstairs and listening to it. Not long after I was loaned the Timo Maas - Loud album which was very influential and that’s where I got my love for a broad spectrum of sound and styles.
Owen: The bug bit as they say, so what were you listening to at school if not doof doof.
Brett: Like a lot of kids growing up in Aotearoa. Nas, Big Pun, Biggie, Eminem, Methodman and heavy rock.
Owen: You've hosted events with Nice ‘n’ Urlich, Is this a career highlight?
Brett: Yeah our first exclusive Nice ‘n’ Urlich show at Atticus downtown in 2013 and uptown at Galatos in 2014 were both massive milestones for us, and another stepping stone to where we are today.
Owen: What gave you the push to learn the craft.
Brett: Everyone knew I spent too much time on the decks. I would listen to and study Aural Trash and Ministry of Sound CD’s and thought about what went into the process. My first 3 records were Mylo vs Tocadisco – In My Arms, Alter Ego – Rocker EP, and Roman Flügel – Gehts Noch EP when I didn’t even own turntables. By the time I acquired some, I spent every afternoon and evening mixing and practicing how to make the tracks blend well. Soon our vinyl syndicate - my brother and a couple of good friends - had a decent collection of electro, house, and techno. I was passionate and confident about getting my first shot at DJing to the public.
Owen: You don’t play on vinyl anymore.. why is this? Personally, I love not lugging records around. However, I do miss crate-digging through records on a Saturday morning.
Brett: A lot of the vinyl I own is damaged, outdated and unfortunately too dissimilar to keep playing in my sets, this was highlighted when I got more gigs and needed new music, digital was and still is obviously more affordable, not everyone can afford vinyl but time spent mixing wax is great, at the time I considered myself good at beatmatching vinyl and maintaining control of the intricacies involved so that confidence helps everything.
Owen: Confidence is the key to life. Fake it till you make it. What was the next step to becoming a promoter?
My 19th or 20th birthday
I booked Greg Churchill, Angela Fisken and Mark Emerson at this random corner bar in East Tamaki, it was pretty bloody epic, they double booked me with a stripper so we did both shows together, people were out of control, windows were smashed the police wagon with riot cops turned up to shut it down forcing people out and Angela kept playing… legend. I didn’t get my bond back.
A couple of years later in 2008 I was getting a lot of gigs at Space Bar, Newmarket, and seemed to be doing well. My friend Joe Butler had taken on the role of managing bookings for Space and offered me my own night. I had Dick Johnson, Page 3 & Nick Collings headline. It was highly successful and I made a lot of amazing connections. I got to offer a night of the music I most enjoyed to friends and people who weren’t yet accustomed to the culture, it felt good.
Owen: I guess at this point it was time to start being a promoter with the big boys. How long before You booked your first international... And how have most internationals been to deal with?
Brett: Audiojack at Auckland Museum was crazy in 2011 as a partnership with a few others but the pioneering one for Collude was Sasha at Studio in 2014 and what a way to start. All of the artists have been great. I use to live in Manukau so I would often pick them up from the airport and have now established some incredible relationships with some very famous DJs. Shout out to Darren Emerson I know you’re reading this buddy.
Owen: Follow up question, what gave you the confidence to get involved with a festival.
Brett: My Business partner Cam Harris and event partner Mitch Lowe from Audiology deserve credit for getting it off the ground in the beginning. The first Sonorous Festival fell the week after my wedding, we were in Sydney boarding our cruise for Vanuatu and New Caledonia for our honeymoon, so I wasn’t involved at all on that one so that I could focus on my wedding, however stepping up for the second and third was a royal challenge, worth every hard moment.
Owen: If you could go back and give yourself some advice what would it be?
Brett: The first thing would be to think more about what I put on social media and how I portray myself. When Facebook came out, social media was pretty new with the exceptions of Bebo, chat rooms, and forums. Looking back through my memories I get flashbacks of good times and bad, sometimes I would say profound things or be offensive jokingly and realise it wasn’t a good look, unprofessional or unintentionally mean.
Owen: This is true but I think most people feel this way... but if you don't learn those lessons your not who you are today...
Brett: True that mate I have learned a lot through friendships. Another thing would be to protect my ears better.
Owen: Give your thoughts on the state of our scene good or bad.
Most promoters working in unison rather than against each other
Brett: Prior to lockdown, the scene was amazing! Most promoters working in unison rather than against each other. The production level and caliber of DJ’s coming to New Zealand was next level, a lot of good energy and synergy between collectives. I want short set times in clubs gone and to be at least 90 minutes unless there is a fair reason or the event isn’t too serious. Fair pay for DJ’s and more female DJ representation in Auckland.
Owen: My view is 2 hours minimum... especially for internationals... and DJs who have to pull in Auckland should be given the whole night sometimes..I like to see a DJ stretch his legs, tell a story. Where are you from musically it's hard to do that in 2 hours...
Brett: Give me 2 hours anytime, I am on the roster for So/ Auckland’s HI-SO Rooftop and in the last year, I really discovered my groove in that place. I did 6 hours one night and have the last 4 hours recorded on my Soundcloud - “So Sweet #3”
Owen: As for Female DJs, I feel we are lucky in Auckland to have such talent from the wahine side of things... for me, there are as many good females as males. I personally don't know how this stands nationally or internationally.
Brett: Yeah, Angela Fisken was a huge influence for me so I’ve respected the girls from the start, I did a lot of gigs back to back and had a radio show with DJ Claudiga who is now my sister in law, I DJed with Shar Kra at Parked Up before lockdown and Becky Roberts is an Android.
Owen: What do you think the biggest misconception the public has about DJs/promoters?
That we have this lush life of money, parties, luxury, and living comfortably. I spend countless hours sitting at my laptop working, accounting, browsing and hunting for new music, when it comes time to go DJ or host an event, I’m often too mentally drained or nervous to enjoy myself until afterwards.
Working for Collude and Sonorous is one of the most stressful parts of my life, everything that goes with it is distracting from normal life. I have a lot of responsibilities as a husband, father, son, grandson, brother, builder, friend, DJ and promoter, sometimes it gets too much and I have suffered in the past. The lockdown has been really good for peace of mind, I feel rested.
Owen: I agree with this, Djays get paid pittance, I usually drink my fee and then some, plus the cost of new tunes. But let's be honest most of us including the big leagues would do it for free. But I do feel a shift is needed in the public lexicon. Events cost money to put on, lots… and the days of a soundsystem and some water are long gone. There is a massive thirst for quality. But quality costs!!! It's had to get the public to understand their dollars aren't going straight into our back pockets. The time, money spent, and emotional impact doing events is huge. I have massive respect for anyone who does it as for most promoters its for the love and the greater good.
Owen: On another note then, as someone who suffers from time to time do you feel you can talk about it now... has the staunch NZ view of bury your feelings gone.
Brett: Yeah, I talk about it freely, I’m really lucky to have a caring circle of friends and family but I’ve learned not to wear my heart on my sleeve all the time.
Owen: Ahhh man wear that heart on your sleeve, its where it belongs. Do you like Nz radio, if so why, if not whats missing?
Brett: I don’t particularly like the big NZ radio stations with the exception of the George FM shows where the DJs put together good sets or the Hauraki shows with good banter and music.
I would love to see a high powered frequency radio station that’s all about DJ’s putting together great sets every day, something we can rely on as a trusty source of good tunes and banter wherever we go.
Owen: This is desperately needed... problem in Auckland is bandwidth...and pirate radio does not exist in NZ. There is amazing internet radio out there but this doesn't go out to the masses, and everyone is sick of streaming!!
Owen: Once life goes back to normal what would you like to happen. Fewer gigs but quality.. or more, as it spreads the gospel.
I would like to see the scene grow before too much more is introduced.
Before lockdown, the industry was starting to get saturated with events. As a promoter you see this first hand and the effects from a different perspective, and although it didn’t exactly affect us too much, it’s evident that it certainly could.
Owen: I agree with this... the festival season is getting overcrowded. And tickets are getting expensive.. but it costs big money to put these things on. Either the public/festival-goers have to understand quality costs money ticketwise or the smaller festivals are going to die. I feel like we are in the middle of no mans land.. big festivals like Big Day Out are unsustainable, but so are smaller ones!! Hats off to Splore who have been killing it for years.
Owen: What's your view on digital djing....
Brett: I would spend $100+ a week on vinyl as an apprentice when I couldn’t really afford to. I found once we got CDJ’s that the capabilities such as looping and master tempo/key lock, that so much more could be achieved.
Moving to digital it is more cost-effective and my music can’t be damaged or skip, I ended up writing off too much vinyl because of damage. I really want to encourage DJs to use lossless audio files like WAV or AIFF over MP3 more often. Since moving to purely lossless music I find my sets have much more depth and integrity.
Owen: Honestly for me there's no difference between 320 mp3s and wav..... unless you are copying over and over.. which is the lossless part... When I went digital all there was were mp3s and by the time wav came along I had 2000 tune that were 320 mp3, and I've never noticed the difference. I have massively at 192 however... I would love it if beatport let me download all my tunes in Wav again though!
Brett: You can email Beatport to release all your downloads and you can upgrade to WAV for 50c USD each. I used mp3 for many years on the same proviso, what I’ve noticed is that mp3 can sometimes be louder but I personally notice the overall difference clearly now, especially low-end frequencies.
Owen: I call bullshit!!! But we can agree to disagree as I like you. However, the argument that vinyl sounds better in my opinion doesn't hold up. Yes it adds something, but it's not sound quality. You cant make a digital file and then convert it to analogue and expect it to sound better.
However, if you play a record recorded on analogue equipment and play through an analogue amp, it sounds amazing, play that same record that has been re-released from a digital file, you hear a difference….. Anyhoo my ears are shot so I could just be missing frequencies.
I have 41 days worth of MP3's alone on my lappy, Leave my mp3s alone!!
In saying that if I could start again I would download wav.
Owen: Any tech you would like to see developed that you would adopt?
Brett: I would love to explore surround and multidimensional sound, acoustics, and performance capabilities in different environments.
Owen: Who are some of your favourite artists/acts?
Brett: In order that they come to mind - Gaiser, Claude VonStroke, James Dexter, Elay Lazutkin, Matt Sassari.
Owen: Where do you see your sound going in the future?
Brett: I’ve always loved dirty sexy house and techno music, my style evolved from filthy sawtooth-synth, Aural Trash and Ministry of Sound style electro house and breaks through to minimal techno, tech-house, and bass house, up until now where it all really depends on the event. I love to be original, I adore a track with mesmerising lyrics complimented by unique sounds and bass. I reject a lot of music that is “good” because it just doesn’t tickle me enough.
I see my true sound evolving by way of genres, I like chunky 4x4 beats, I am loving a bit of downtempo or slower-than-my-usual house but always a sucker for a heavy 130bpm+ techno set. I see breaks making a huge comeback too, albeit new styles compared to the classic big beat breaks and I would like to incorporate this into my future sets.
Owen: I’m enjoying the breaks sound again, it's nice to break up the 4x4 a touch. Once upon a time that's all I played. However, that sound went stale fast... it just wasn't forward-thinking enough... Its good to hear guys like Maceo, and Bushwacka putting a modern spin on it.
I've also enjoyed your sound of late. I think it's a good direction you are going.
Brett: Yeah, Bushwacka, we had him at Ink in January and it was one of the best sets I’ve heard there. The electro breakbeat is back and it will be around for a while.
Owen: Tell us about your mix
The mix starts off with a track that is the original version to one of my favourite remixes of all time Mahmut Orhan - Vesaire (Sezer Uysal Remix) and one thing I sometimes like to do with my mixes is start off with a track that I have finished on with a previous mix, I finished with this track in my Morning People Halloween mix.
The mix starts off at 122bpm and takes you on a rollercoaster through different genres and styles, I chose about 50 tracks and narrowed it down by feeling the journey.
At the very end, there is something that represents a big part of my childhood as well as the time I’ve spent at home during lockdown, I’m sure someone out there will appreciate it too.
Owen: That sounds great I love it when we get some personality or personal flair.
Owen: Who are some of your favourite local DJ’s?
Brett: In no particular order based on sound, I love CJ Funkowfield, Osey,(ill take that) Greg Churchill, Simon Flower, Dick Johnson, Heylady, Nick Collings, Matt Drake, Daniel Farley, Sam Lovli, Rob Warner, Gabby Gonzalez, there are heaps of good DJ’s in Auckland.
Owen: Finally... What makes the perfect sandwich.. Go...
Brett: Bürgen wholemeal & seed bread, Anchor original soft spread, Best Foods Mayo, smashed avocado, crispy bacon, diced tomato, salt & pepper, smoked cheese and blessed by an angel.
The Only angel blessing your sandwich is Lucifer himself.
Good chats Brettey keep up the good work.