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UWEC grad making it in the mash-up industry

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by Eric Larson photos by Andrea Paulseth

In just two years, mash-up artist Basic Physics has established a huge online following, picked up a record deal, and has performed with Grammy-nominated Skrillex.
 
In just two years, mash-up artist Basic Physics has established a huge online following, picked up a record deal, and has performed with Grammy-nominated Skrillex.

Alex Syse had no idea. As a freshman marketing major, he thought about a potential future with Northwestern Mutual. Cargill might have some sweet benefits, too, he thought, as he walked through UW-Eau Claire’s Internship Mania, collecting business cards from the suited-up employers, shaking hands, smiling.

Just a few years later, he’s talking to me from his airport-bound cab on the way home from Philadelphia, fresh off a mini tour as mash-up/electronic artist Basic Physics – the alias that Syse, in just two brief years, has used to establish a gargantuan following in the music blog community; get picked up by a record company; and perform with artists like Chiddy Bang, 5 & A Dime, Big Shaw, and Grammy-nominated Skrillex. On Feb. 9, he’s releasing his second mash-up album.

Quite the stretch from the 9-to-5 corporate gig. Sorry, Cargill.

“When I was a freshman, I never would have imagined I’d be going into music,” says Syse, who graduated with his marketing and entrepreneurship degrees in December. “I got a hold of some music software when I was a sophomore and started sifting through the programs and just posting my music for fun. It was seriously a ‘bedroom DJ’ kind of beginning.”

Similar to Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room creation of Facebook – with the exception of Syse being in a house off campus – the project took off. “I wanted to target as many music blogs as I could,” he told me. “They have a major fan base – we’re talking, like, tens of thousands of people – so I would send out hundreds of emails every time I had new tracks and hope they got picked up.”

They did – and people noticed. By the summer of 2010, one of Syse’s tracks reached No. 1 on Hype Machine, a website where users can “heart” the tracks posted to boost them up on the site’s front page – sort of like “upvoting” on Redditt. After a few No. 1 spots and a consistent 35,000 listens a day, Syse was discovered by his first manager.

“From there, things started to move really quickly,” he says.

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