How an acting DJ’s art project turned into something much bigger
Over the past few years, many questions have been surrounding the rapidly growing electronic dance music scene especially regarding the individuals who touch the buttons to play tracks in front of thousands of people. Are disc jockeys simply puppets strung behind the commercialization of this particular music? Does becoming a DJ even require any technical skills anymore now that technology has made it easier to switch from one song to another?
One particular person experimented being behind the decks, evolving into a DJ much bigger than she had imagined being. Nadja Brenneisen, who was studying to become a journalist at the time, decided to test the waters of being a renowned DJ initially as an “art project”. Along with her friend Tobias, Brenneisen went on with this experiment after being disgusted by the changes in some aspects of the EDM industry.
“It’s all about mass entertainment, while the content and culture have become completely irrelevant.”
“Nutters”, which was the stage name Brenneisen used, started playing in small clubs in which she was able to elevate her technical skills. Tobias was doing the marketing portion of this project and decided to add another woman alongside Brenneisen as he felt that promoting two female DJ’s is better. Following a number of successful gigs, however, Nutters returned to being solo since her partner could not handle the time-consuming duties of traveling and playing music. Despite this situation, her success did not stop growing as Brenneisen was still able to be the support act for top DJ’s such as Ummet Ozcan.
“I could barely believe I was seeing myself on flyers less than six months after I first stood at a DJ deck.”
Nutters’ market value kept rising month after month which enabled Tobias to charge more money for a nightly gig. Of course, along with this amount of success, other DJ’s tended to hate or envy her but this is just part of being in the business. Turning into a routine, Brenneisen eventually becomes worn out from continuous shuffling between this crazy lifestyle and her time at school.
“My rigid technical college degree started catching up with me and the weekend gigs were putting me under pressure. I collapsed with exhaustion on stage twice. And no: I never took drugs. Too many people around me stared at me night after night with their glazed looks or tried to persuade me to join them for a trip to the toilet with their coke. No, I was overwhelmed by my growing passion for the music.”
Brenneisen even went as far as having a couple of producers to create her first tracks. In addition, as this Nutters persona progressed into a much larger phenomenon, several managers wanted to book this up-and-coming DJ. After diving deeper in this project playing multiple sets per week, it has become difficult in managing school and playing music as Brenneisen started experiencing physical problems.
Achieving a full-time job as a journalist, she finally hung up the headphones and decided to end this experiment. Despite finishing the long ride as a DJ, she feels that she had proven her point especially in regards to the growth of commercialism within the industry as well as the lack of authenticity from some of today’s music production.
“Everything I did was real. I managed every transition without a sync button and I lived each performance. But still I constantly felt I was cheating my audience and the scene by presenting a pure fiction. I have enormous respect for DJs who see themselves as musicians, not as entertainers. A DJ like that is a music teacher, one who brings his audience closer to new and perhaps even revolutionary tracks. Tracks that have more to offer than the identical good feeling of tacky pop melodies laid over electronic beats. Tracks that have the potential to make you think and dream. Electronic music in particular lives off the innovative spirit which made once made it to the expression of a generation. And there are actually loads of DJs exactly like that. Those DJs deserve the platform occupied by cake-throwing pyrotechnic-firing entertainers.”