Medford's Alex Cutrone III, who under the stage name DJ Cummerbund won the MTV Video Music Awards' inaugural best audio mashup honor on Friday, recalls what he told his wife when learning two weeks earlier that he'd been nominated.
"The first thing I said was, 'Hey, babe, how does it feel to be married to a VMA nominee?' " Her response, he says, was along the lines of fine, now take out the garbage. "And vacuum," he adds with a laugh.
For the past roughly eight years, under his pseudonym, the 35-year-old Cutrone has been one of many music lovers producing online-video "mashups" — generally, a meld of two or more artists' music videos set to an edited blend of their songs. The best are so seamlessly edited that the songs match beat-for-beat, providing often startling and clever juxtapositions.
The Valley Stream-born Cutrone initially posted his mashups on YouTube and Facebook, but it was the short-form video platform TikTok, which launched internationally in 2017, that popularized the form "and made the music industry really look at it," Cutrone says. "When TikTok started, I just put my nose to the grindstone and things took off from there." (He has garnered 4.8 million "likes" on that platform.)
In one of his favorite own works, Cutrone interweaves Wild Cherry's 1976 dance hit "Play That Funky Music" with German heavy-metal band Rammstein's 1997 "Du Hast" in a mesmerizing rhythmic bombast. He won his VMA for "Shaxicula," which mixes the music videos for 1989's "Love Shack" by The B-52s, 2003's "Toxic" by Britney Spears and 1998's "Dragula" by Rob Zombie.
Cutrone, a salesperson at P.C. Richard & Son in Southampton for his day job, says his wide-ranging musical tastes came primarily from his father, Al Cutrone Jr., an avid amateur musician.
"I listened to everything with him," the son says. "I grew up on car rides with everything from the Rat Pack," as Frank Sinatra and his 1950s and '60s coterie was known, "to Black Sabbath. And then my mother was all country," he says of mom Jeannie. "And Sunday mornings when my grandfather was still alive was all Italian music from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the radio."
Cutrone grew up mostly in Commack, and at Commack High School began dating his now wife of nearly five years, Jennifer Fischer Cutrone. The couple has 3-year-old twins Connor and Emily.
After graduating high school, Alex Cutrone worked in food service and in hospitality while deciding on a career. He did sales for the marketing company Connoisseur Media from 2014 to 2018, and joined P.C. Richard the following year. His wife works at The Opportunity Pre-School, in Hauppauge. Like many, they were laid off during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but now are back at their jobs.
The Long Island music scene, he said, has always been an inspiration. "Billy Joel, Pat Benatar … . There was this crazy band in my high school called Clown Vomit," formed in 2001 and continuing on and off with varying lineups since. "They were so weirdly progressive in their music. And I said to myself, 'If these five guys can have fun making this weird music, anybody can do anything!' "