Gregg Luskin graduated this last quarter with a degree in computer science from UCSB, but he’s been bringing his dance technology to the masses since 2006 under the guise of his DJ alter-ego, Milkman. In his albums and his live gigs, Luskin mashes together layer upon layer of popular music, mixing a bass line from Beck, a rap from Snoop Dogg, a vocal from Shania Twain and bits and pieces from all over the charts, making them work together as very danceable songs.
Mashups have been with us for about 10 years now, starting off with very simple but smile-inducing tracks from Freelance Hellraiser and 2 Many DJs. Their hit featured Christina Aguilera’s vocals matched to the backing track of a song from The Strokes. Just when critics were calling mashups dead, younger artists like Girl Talk and Milkman have resuscitated the genre with very dense tracks that mash as much as possible. Ideas only last for a few bars before moving on to something else. This is music for an ADHD generation.
Luskin originally hails from San Diego, but Isla Vista has been Milkman’s home.
“It’s a nice place to come back to,” Luskin says. He maintains a studio in his Del Playa residence.
It was soon after moving to the dorms as a freshman that Luskin heard Danger Mouse’s “The Grey Album,” a mix of Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” vocals and seriously cut-up samples from The Beatles’ “White Album.”
“I bet I could do something like this, so I just started messing around in Garage Band,” Luskin says, admitting that the beginner software is not really suited for such mashup work. The appropriately named track “Trial and Error” resulted, with a mash of Linkin Park, Eminem and The Postal Service, among many others. Soon he had a full album finished, “Lactose and THC”
Luskin e-mailed it to a few friends, and before he knew it, the track had blown up big time.
“I was able to watch the downloads, the distribution of my album online over the country, and watching it spread out over Europe,” Luskin says. “I had no intention of it going anywhere. That’s when I realized I might have something.”
The origin of the Milkman name, he says, is secret.
“I can tell you this much,” he says. “It has to do with freshman year extracurricular activities and Super Mario Cart.”
In those early years, Milkman was a rare DJ artist in the middle of a college band scene that favored live rock groups. In fact, back in San Diego, Luskin had once been a guitarist in a band. Yes, there were DJs, he says, but in a more old-school sense – Milkman actually performs and interacts with the audience. It’s the reason he says that he doesn’t perform here that often – Santa Barbara clubs don’t provide that kind of space. His first professional gig, he says, was across the country in Pennsylvania, when a fraternity paid him to come out and play its party.
It’s been all good ever since, with Luskin focused on school Monday through Thursday, and touring and playing on the weekends. Now graduated, he’s looking forward to longer tours.
Mashups still inhabit a grey legal area, but record companies haven’t really pursued this use of their artists’ materials. And Luskin isn’t just about the mashup. He’s released remixes for other artists such as Deadmau5, and with his latest single, “Breaking Free,” he has a track that is 100 percent his own creation. (The music video features Luskin and dancers moving about a snow globe world).
“I will definitely always be playing in Santa Barbara,” Luskin says, although nothing is definite on the calendar apart from the new album, which drops next month. “It’s where all this started.”
More information about Luskin and his music can be found at www.milkmanmusic.net.