Born and raised in Truckee, CA, Charles (Charlie) was a truly gregarious, thoughtful and gifted being who lived a life of adventure, wonderment, creativity, and passion. Precocious and outgoing from the start, he had an engaging personality that was fueled by unassuming intelligence, innate creativity and wit. Having two brothers who were ten years older also played a huge part - he had to move fast to keep up and was always encouraged and supported by them. Always curious, Charles delved into whatever grabbed his attention wholeheartedly and learned everything he could about it. By the age of eight he was studying Buddhism, had a column in the local independent newspaper, and was marching for a Free Tibet. By age twelve he was committed to freestyle skiing, and by fourteen had earned a spot in the Dew Tour. He loved flying high and was an artful master of rails and park features, but never relished fierce competition and suffered numerous concussions along the way. He recognized his own limitations and shifted his focus to music production, which also soothed his brain.
CharlestheFirst, Lab Group, Hawk.
Charles graduated from Truckee High School in 2014 and by then was already working tirelessly on his music and had begun performing and releasing music as Charlesthefirst. Never a fan of conventional education, he dismissed the notion of college and by 2015 had gained a foothold in the electronic scene in Tahoe. With the help and support of mentors and friends like Spencer Noel, Liam Kelley and the Tahoe Wormhole crew, he began to get more opportunities and exposure throughout 2016. By 2017 he was playing larger venues and traveling nationally. Although the rise seemed fast, his seminal style was born out of relentless experimentation and years of tedious dedication to constructing and building his sound.
In addition to performing solo as Charlesthefirst, he, Hunter Braymer (Potions), and Kyle Bishoff (Supertask) were producing and performing as Lab Group. As an outlet for exploration and creativity of another persona and style, Charles also produced, and occasionally performed, under the pseudonym Hawk. Motivated not by material gain, vanity, or ego, Charlesthefirst broke new ground and fundamentally changed the direction of the genre. His innovation, nonconformity and collaborative efforts ultimately took the medium to a new level. From 2018 through March of 2020, Charles kept up a fast-paced and at times grueling schedule with constant travel and performances and very little time off.
Notoriety and success did not diminish Charles' innate and selfless desire to support others, and he consistently went out of his way to cultivate opportunities for other artists—in both the aural and visual realms—who were trying to make their way in hectic, intimidating, and unforgiving industries. This tendency, and his striking way of connecting with those around him on a deep level, helped forge a strong bond with fellow artists and the community in general.
Like so many, the pandemic took a monumental toll on Charles' health and well-being. The abrupt transition from traveling, sharing his music on grand stages and being around supportive friends and colleagues, to being locked down alone at home was destabilizing. He struggled to stay positive and entered a dark period from which he never fully recovered. While sharing the particulars of his addiction issues and death will ultimately be a component of the Foundation's dialogue, our focus is to create an environment free of roadblocks, stigma and hopelessness for people in need.
It's hard to quantify the number of his fans who have reached out to say that his music saved their lives - not only during the pandemic, but before and after. It's painfully ironic that the music he created had the power to heal and soothe so many, but that he had so much difficulty finding what he needed to heal himself.
We want to take this opportunity to thank the countless number of amazing community members who've provided so much love and support to us since his passing. The comfort that your words, gestures and actions have given us is truly remarkable and continues to help us navigate a very difficult path. This Foundation is our gift to you in his name.
With Love & Immense Gratitude,
Beth, Cedar & Kaya