In a spirited YouTube video from 2014, Brandon Chase Wittenauer, age 32, introduces himself as a “producer, recording engineer, sound engineer, videographer -- now, apparently. All that sh*t, no limits.” His music, too, breached many genres: on Soundcloud, Wittenauer and his co-producer CJ Chapman defined their band Symbiotix.Fungi as encompassing synthpop, dance, rock, and metal sounds.
Known by his friends as Chase and by fans of his music as Nex Iuguolo, Wittenauer leaves behind family, friends and colleagues from the electronic music world who speak powerfully of their love and appreciation for him -- and of his unwavering influence on their lives.
The Symbiotix.Fungi song "People Like Us" is a favorite among friends. "His voice and lyrics on this track will resonate with us all forever," says another member of Wittenauer's circle, Molly McRhodes.
"Nex was my hero," says his friend Jesse James in a statement to KQED Arts. "In a transient world where it is harder and harder to be there physically for art, that was his life. I feel many knew him as a beacon of light."
Another friend, Bobby Loveless, says that Wittenauer always offered positive feedback and constructive criticism. "But you knew he was genuinely and sincerely offering his help and not making an attempt to cut you down, which is pretty rare these days in the world of art, music," Loveless says. "He was pretty devoid of any kind of ego. He was a person actively seeking enlightenment and always trying to be a better person.”
Some lyrics from "People Like Us" echo that idea:
I know sometimes this world can seem so cold
At times it makes me feel so alone
Sometimes it feels impossible just
To find someone who you can trust.
But if there’s someone like you,
And if there’s someone like me,
Then there’s people like us.
Wittenauer's sister, Nica Estrella, feels that the message her brother would want to give everyone grieving is this: “Rock on. Keep making the music.”
To hear more from Symbiotix.Fungi, see the band's Soundcloud page.
For a printable poster of the illustration above, see here.
Funding for KQED Arts is provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Support is also provided by Yogen and Peggy Dalal, Diane B. Wilsey, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Helen Sarah Steyer, the William and Gretchen Kimball Fund, and the members of KQED