Cut Chemist isn't just a turntablist or producer who makes beats. Born Lucas MacFadden in early-'70s Los Angeles, Cut came up at a time when DJs were beginning to push the envelope creatively with production and live shows. As one of the founding members of rap crew Jurassic 5, he, alongside DJ Nu-Mark, helped re-introduce the DJ at the forefront of a group.
Later, on his famed three-part Brainfreeze mix series with DJ Shadow, the pair exhausted almost every genre existing on 45s. Then, on his first solo record, 2006's The Audience's Listening, Cut crafted his own narrative that bridged dance-floor cuts and head-nod music, still making the LP sound like it was manipulated by a DJ.
This Thursday, he'll come to Miami fresh off another original project, Sound of the Police. It's a mix CD made off one turntable, a loop pedal, and a crate of African and South American records. Sure sounds funky. Expect the unexpected — Cut plans to mount a full audio-visual performance and take the party for a ride on the mother ship.
New Times: Your last solo LP, The Audience's Listening, came out in 2006. What's been going on with you since?
Cut Chemist: DJing a lot, doing shows, and trying to show people the whole audio-visual thing I do. A lot of people haven't really seen my show because I'm always doing spots around the world. This is the first time I can do a place like Miami. Shadow and I put out the Hard Sell mix in 2007, which is another followup to the Brainfreeze and Product Placement series. Sound of the Police is the first thing I've put out myself since — really to let people know I'm still alive before I put out another record and see if the audience is still listening.
Tell us about Sound of the Police, your new mix CD.
It's more like the DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist Brainfreeze-type compositions. No computer stuff — just one turntable, loop pedal, a bunch of African and South American records, and a lot of tape. I try to keep my mixes all vinyl. I don't think I've ever used Serato for anything that's recorded. Performing live, I'll use it; I don't discriminate against technology. But this type of mix, it's all records.
You grew up in L.A. during the '80s and were a part of groups such as the Unity Committee, which later became Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli. How did that influence your sound as a producer and DJ?
I started collecting records in '84, got into break dancing, then DJing, and just stuck with it. I always liked music and records before hip-hop came around. I was lucky to meet people like Chali 2na; we formed Jurassic 5, and that's how it got started as a career. J5 kicked it into high gear. I started peddling around ideas to do a solo record, Warner Bros. picked me up, and my obligations became so great with them, but J5 kept touring and I couldn't do both.
How was the transition from being the backbone of your crew to strictly working on your own solo material?
Lonely. I was used to sharing ideas with five other people... and then it was just me. It took a lot of getting used to. Also doing shows by myself was kind of strange and having to be my own frontperson. I brought Hymnal [the MC on "What's the Altitude"] with me to tour together and also my visual guy, so that kind of became the new band. We shared similar ideas on hip-hop and music in general, and it became easier to tour together.
What can the party people look forward to this Thursday at the Vagabond?
I'm excited to get out and have people see the show that I've been doing for the last four years with my audio-visual set. I think Miami is going to dig it because it's catered to people who are into a lot of different things: funk, Miami bass, hip-hop, abstract, progressive stuff. I bring my AV guy, and he kind of does what I do musically on the videos. He digs for old, obscure movies and takes clips from them, making a collage, while I'm doing the music side. It's going to be a full Cut Chemist show, so get ready for something different, and a good time — I'm going to take it there for sure.
Last, what's that certain record you play in your sets that you think takes the party to the next level?
I don't really have one, but I know when I drop the [DJ Shadow] "Number Song" remix and people start dancing, that's the point in the night where I know I can take people and go.