CUT Chemist, founding member of seminal rap group Jurassic 5 and Latin funk outfit Ozmatli, recently opened and closed a show for ET.
Yes, that’s right, as in Spielberg’s ET, Cut - aka Lucas MacFadden - performing before and after a high-profile screening of the classic film in LA, where he is based.
MacFadden is something of a prodigy in an over-stocked world of DJs happy to bung on a CD or vinyl track and watch it spin. Not this maestro.
Given his name due to the genre-bending nature of his - still - amazing instrumental Lesson 6: The Lecture, ‘Cut’ aims to push the boundaries of what a DJ ‘can do’, performing his mixes live, his cut ‘n’ scratch audio visual shows still dazzling audiences.
Saddled with a reputation for being a DJ that “pushes boundaries”, he has no qualms about bearing this tag, in fact, he embraces it, as he tells the Limerick Leader from his LA studio.
“I try to do just that (push boundaries) so I’m glad that comes across with my audience,” says MacFadden.
To spectacular effect after the release of 2007 record ‘The Hard Sell’ - the third mix CD recorded with his friend and long-time collaborator DJ Shadow - which was performed live in its entirety at several concerts that year, and more recently on his own genre-pushing ‘Sound of the Police’, a new “concept mix” released towards the end of last year, Cut actually physically performs the mix live as opposed to the more standard two turntable mixing. The live performance of Sound of the Police, which he will be performing in Limerick this Thursday, included cameras to allow the audience to follow him as he played.
“I wanted to do a DJ performance that challenged the audience and myself,” explains Cut. “Instead of trying to add more turntables and out-do what Shadow and I did with Hard Sell, I thought it would make more impact to scale down the gear to something that would seem impossible. There have been one turntable, loop pedal shows before me by DJ Radar about 10 years ago but his show was more of a display of his incredible scratching and drumming. My show is based more on creating loops with records and manipulating the pedal with the turntable. It’s important to me that the audience sees how I’m doing this so I use cameras aimed at the gear so they understand exactly what is going on.”
Sound of the Police was something of a sonic departure for Cut Chemist, and was initially intended to be a one off performance for Mochilla’s ‘Timeless’ concert series in 2009. Limerick photographer and DJ Brian Cross - B+ - who has photographed album covers for the best and the brightest in the LA hip-hop community, was instrumental in this.
“It all started when Brian Cross asked me to open up for Mulatu Astatke back in 2009. I wanted to make a show that paid homage to him and the musical tastes of Brian Cross’ and Mochilla. We all love and collect music from Africa and South America so this was the music I set out to feature in this mix,” explains MacFadden.
Pushed further to explain his own statement - “hip hop is not a specific type of music, it is how it is presented” - MacFadden says: “Hip hop is all about making something new out of something that already exists in some other context. Taking a spray can to make a mural or a rock record to make a rap record and so on. The music that I play is most likely not born from the culture of hip hop but it is hip hop when I get done with it”.
MacFadden has been performing and DJing for well over 20 years, a passion that began, bizarrely, as a result of a love for breakdancing.
“I was 11. Yeah it was 1984. I was into breakdancing and I wanted to be the one who had all the records for others to break to. I started buying as much music as possible and then I started to learn how to scratch. I then became more interested in djing than break dancing and kept practising,” he laughs.
At the age of 14 he started recording with friends, Chali 2na - later of Jurassic 5 - among them. MacFadden was a founding member of the seminal rap group, eventually leaving both J5 and Ozmatli to pursue a solo career. It wasn’t a decision taken lightly.
“It was a difficult decision but I had so much more to say on my own that I couldn’t express in J5 so it had to done,” he explains. “I never intended for my departure to be permanent but before I could come back the group broke up. It’s too bad. I was really looking forward to continuing my career with them.”
J5’s sound was very different from what was accepted as mainstream hip-hop at the time and it was MacFadden’s input to include the various samples and layering that was a standout component of the group.
“Yes, it was. I was influenced heavily by Native Tongue and Bomb Squad who also layered sampled sounds and loops together to create rap songs,” he explains.
He has fond memories of previous gigs in Ireland, declaring that he has had “nothing but great shows in Ireland in the past”.
“My favourite had to have been Electric Picnic in 2005. An amazing crowd that was very knowledgeable about music, (but) it is more important that crowds are open minded to different kinds of music and different kinds of performances,” he explains.
He is promising a “Sound Of The Police show which will be my one turntable, loop pedal and african/south american records show” for Limerick this Thursday in Dolan’s, at which he will be accompanied by B+ as well as local favourites Lenny and Andy.
Cut Chemist plays in Dolan’s Warehouse, this Thursday, October 13 @ 9pm and at the Becks Vier Rhythm Weekender in Cork (Friday) and Dublin (Saturday).