Local DJ puts his own spin on the night scene
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Under the glow of the neon moon, it’s probably a safe bet to say Brett Fuller has moved more people in the Jewel City than a fleet of TTA buses.
Working and practicing his disc jockey turntable night moves for the past 25 years, Fuller, known in the clubs and now on the festival scene as DJ Charlie Brown Superstar, has been at the heart of the night scene here from Gumby’s to the V Club and spinning in between the hot musical acts of the day from Chum to Childers.
Although it is hard to think of anyone more “Huntington” than Fuller, he actually is only a Huntingtonian by choice.
Fuller was born outside of Naples, Italy, where his dad was stationed in the military. His family moved back stateside when he was 3 and Fuller spent his youth where both his mom’s and dad’s folks are from - Romney, West Virginia, the Hampshire County town of about 2,000 people in the Eastern Panhandle that also happens to be West Virginia’s oldest city.
Fuller moved to Huntington to go to Marshall University when he was 18 back in the mid-1990s and has been fully immersed into the Huntington music scene since then.
Like Billy Crystal in the mid-1960s, Fuller as a freshman found his way to WMUL, Marshall’s award-winning radio station, where Denton Anderson, now a DJ in New York City, was the music director, and also deejayed at Gumby’s.
It was then Fuller began scouring the stacks and also began his first foray into club deejaying, getting a gig at Gumby’s in mid-1994, and the rest is Huntington music history.
“Growing up at that time we didn’t know what a club DJ was supposed to be. We had grown up with the first generation of those DJs so I could just play and see what works,” said Fuller, who grew up influenced by such acts as Prince, David Bowie, the Beatles and lots of more obscure, indie music of all stripes. “That first night I saw people dancing. It was like a drug in its own right.”
Since Gumby’s, located now where the Huntington Ale House is, at 1318 4th Ave., was the hot spot for regional and nationally touring bands, Fuller from the get-go found himself on the bill as the DJ pumping out the jams in between a wild mix of bands and musical acts and on a couple of greasy, booze-splattered turntables.
When Gumby’s became The Drop Shop, he began one of his trademark niche nights - an ’80s night he began back in 1996.
“The Drop Shop was ’80s night part one, and back in 1996 the ’80s weren’t that far away,” Fuller said. “We started doing an ’80s night with retro prices and it probably took about three weeks and then it went through the roof.”
His catchy DJ name, Charlie Brown Superstar, dates back to those early DJ days as part of a Dueling DJs series. When Erik Raines told him he had to have a DJ name to promote the night, Fuller decided to use CBS, a name he had been kicking around for a while.
“I thought about Charlie Brown, the lovable loser, and that name and image was a good juxtaposition with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’” said Fuller, who still uses the DJ CBS logo created by longtime friend Chris Tackett.
In a college city where bars don’t last but a few years and where theme nights can melt away faster than ice cream in July, Fuller would chalk up another remarkable run of ’80s nights - probably the longest in the city’s modern club history.
He spent eight straight years of his New Moon Mondays - a Monday ’80s night at the V Club, 741 6th Ave., that ran from 2006 to 2014 - and that consistently drew 300 to 400 people to a dance night.
Fuller said after his ’80s music run at the Drop Shop, he wanted to see if he could hook in a crowd again with that thick train of bumping old-school dance tunes from such artists as Prince and Michael Jackson, the Tom Tom Club, the Cure and Madonna.
“That was one of the odd things about it, and one of the reasons I wanted to talk to them about Monday, was I had deejayed that 1980s night at the Drop Shop and it was hugely successful for a couple years,” Fuller said in a previous interview. “It hadn’t been done for like 15 years but it made magic again, like lightning striking hit twice in two different places.”
Although it sounds accidental, making “lightning strike twice” in the clubs was all the result of thousands of hours in the DJ booth over the years.
There were two years when Drop Shop turned to Gyrationz turned into Empire that he was deejaying six nights a week, Tuesday through Saturday, including a night at the now-gone but famed Stoned Monkey.
And that kind of blue-collar work ethic poured over to the V, where his DJ nights would have him, back before digitalization, carting in more than 1,200 vinyl records to spin from.
“I was good at beat matching and keeping a crowd happy and thinking what can I do now,” Fuller said. “For every big night, there was playing 10 gigs with two people. You think those nights would be the worst, but you do get to experiment and nobody cares.”
Since 1999, Fuller, who did sampling for and toured with the popular local rock band Chum during the mid-’90s and is currently a member of the drone/doom metal band Hyatari, has been composing his own original electronic music.
Fuller, who was on two Hyatari records in 2005 and 2008, has loaded up 158 tracks to SoundCloud in the past five years, mashing up his love of funk and disco with a wild array of influences such as Mercury Rev, Gary Numan, Curtis Mayfield, H.G. Lewis, robots and even B-movies.
“I started posting to SoundCloud and then I started networking with other DJs and producers and I started getting emails about releasing tracks on somebody’s label,” Fuller said.
So far, DJ Charlie Brown Superstar’s songs have been released on Thunder Jam Records out of Israel, Sound Exhibition and Boutae Musique out of Italy, Candy Beach out of Spain, Alpaca Edits out of York, England, Fresh Farm out of New York and LBA Records, the L.A.-based record company ran by Huntington native DJ Neil Nessel.
Fuller said when the V Club opened in 2006 he began getting back to his roots of playing around and having fun with being a DJ - creating theme nights, getting the feeling right between bands while also creating and rolling out more of his edits and own music.
It was there at the club where he brought the community together to mourn over the loss of musical icons Prince and David Bowie, and where he keeps the fire burning hot for his love of funky old soul with his “Hot Wax” night of remixes of deep and wide catalogs of music from such soul labels as Stax and Motown.
Fuller, who has played the Huntington Music and Arts Festival each of its first nine years, has in that time period also continued to further explore DJ nights with live bands.
For several years at the V, Fuller, operating under the moniker DJ Franklin Furnace, ran “This Ain’t No Disco!” a Thursday-night blast of live bands and DJ sets by him and protege DJ Feminasty, that had such epic nights as the December 2012 “Last Night on Earth Party” that marked the end of the Mayan calendar.
In the past year, Fuller has hooked up with longtime friend and musical compadre, drummer Steve Barker, who plays with Qiet and Signals among others, to do unique performances as The Peanut Gallery.
Together, the DJ and live drummer duo has played Morgantown, Charleston and Huntington and plan to roll out some more dates this summer.
“I am big into the DJ culture and Daft Punk and now this band Justice, and I love this stuff,” Barker said of getting to play with Charlie Brown Superstar. “My favorite drummer is Billy Martin from Medeski, Martin and Wood, and he does this all of the time with DJs. It’s really good practice. The hardest thing is that he knows the arrangements, because these are all his tunes, is knowing when I need to do the breaks and the drops. It’s all about dropping out and then bringing in the big drop. This is one of the most favorite things I have done in a while.”
Now represented by HMAF founder Ian Thornton’s Huntington-based, Whizzbang BAM (Booking and Management) Fuller has his eye on traveling out further, playing more festivals, and maybe someday taking his music across the pond.
Fuller said those experiences of spinning his kinetic mountain funk to make the people move and groove at festivals such as Brew Skies, Kicking It On the Creek and Mountain Music Festival, have been transcendental.
At Mountain Music Fest 2017, Fuller operating from a stage in the campground, took the late-night baton from Umphrey’s McGee, and kept people dancing and grooving from about 3:30 a.m. until the sun came up.
“There is nothing like bringing people to the sun,” Fuller said. “It’s not the first time I have played until the sun came up but it was the first time I did it outside. It was awe-inspiring, a celebration of a day well spent helping people wind down or to keep on dancing.”
Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com