Guest Interview With Cut Chemist, performing at the Jefferson Theater on Nov 15

Interview done by Henry Booth on behalf of UPC PKG

Last week I was able to get ten minutes of Lucas MacFadden’s time to talk to him about the Renegades of Rhythm tour he is currently on with DJ Shadow. MacFadden, better known as Cut Chemist, is a member of the hip-hop group Jurassic 5, and has collaborated on several other and tours with DJ Shadow. The show Shadow and Cut Chemist are on now, however, is a bit different than their previous tours. The Renegades of Rhythm tour is an ode to Afrika Bambaataa, who is renowned as one of the curators of the hip-hop sound and style, and has left a massive impact on the genre.

Shadow and Cut Chemist are co-headlining a tour in which are playing only records from Bambaataa’s vinyl collection of over 40,000 records. The tour intends to both honor Bambaataa, a huge influence on the two DJs, and to give a history lesson in hip-hop. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist will be coming to Charlottesville on November 15th and playing at the Jefferson Theater, definitely a must attend for any hip-hop fans.

How did the Jurassic 5 Word of Mouth reunion tour go? Were there any notable memories or favorite shows?

The Jurassic 5 tour? Yeah we did the Greek Theater in Berkeley and the Greek Theater in LA, and those were absolutely outstanding. Those were my favorite.

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When did you first start listening to Bambaataa?

In ’84. Yeah, that’s when I first knew who he was and started listening to his music.

You’ve said before that Bambaataa was one of your biggest musical influences in your work, are there any other notable ones?

Besides Bambaataa? Yeah sure, Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore… there’s so many, so many.

When the art curator Johan Kugelberg (curator at Cornell University where Bambaataa’s records are being stored and digitalized) contacted you and DJ Shadow, his idea was originally for you to make a mix with the records, how did the idea for a live show come about?

Well we always want to do live shows, that’s our thing. We never just do mixes. I don’t think we’ve ever just done a mix, it’s always been a routine that we perform live. So this was kind of different. We wanted it to be a campaign, you know, give it more legs than a mix that just comes out as a download or something. People need to watch it.

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Was his musical influence on you the main motivator to make you want to do the show?

The fact that you get to see us play these artifacts, it’s a big deal. It wasn’t just, you know, something you heard and you know maybe or maybe not we’re DJing with these artifacts, now you get to see them for sure. We get to bring these records on the road and audiences get to witness these artifacts, and that’s mainly why we wanted to do it.

What was the experience of being able to sift through Bambaataa’s personal record collection like?

It was pretty amazing, to be able to see all of the different genres and all of the different types of weird covers and things I’ve never seen before. A lot of things I have seen before. It was educational.

Was there anything particularly unusual you saw in the collection that caught your eye? Maybe a favorite record?

There were a few, but I think the most surprising thing was finding my own record in there. There was a couple of Jurassic 5 records in there, that was pretty amazing. It was hugely validating to see my own work in his collection.

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You also have a pretty extensive record collection, what are some of the favorites in your personal collection?

In my own collection? You know, I don’t know. It changes. I’m into so many different types of things. What I’m probably listening to the most right now is like American, private press folk.

You are apparently using some vintage DJ gear for this Renegades of Rhythm tour, how would this compare to what you would use for a Jurassic 5 show?

Well for a Jurassic 5 show I use mostly uh… Nu-Mark and I have some equipment built, we make our own gear pretty much when we do Jurassic 5. That’s the J-5 thing. We don’t really use much vintage stuff for J-5, everything’s built, custom. We’re using a 1967 drum machine for the Bambaataa tour. That’s a lot of fun.

Where did the decision to extend the Renegades of Rhythm tour, and thankfully come to Charlottesville so I can see you guys, come from?

Well we wanted to do secondary markets. We wanted to do as many places as possible, not just the major market cities. So people in Charlottesville, Virginia… could see Bambaataa’s records as well. It’s a big deal, and even people in Charlottesville deserve to see that. I’m sure there’s enough hip-hop heads out there that would be interested.


Even on a University level, it’s such an academic thing. Probably the most academic related set we’ve ever done in our history together because it’s dealing with the preservation of culture and artifacts.

And doesn’t the visuals you guys have to go along with the set add to that knowledge you’re sharing by showing his actual record covers?

Yeah we have a visual feed of his record covers, we have photos from back in the day of him DJing, stuff like that. A lot of New York late seventies early eighties stuff.

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How did you and DJ Shadow first meet?

At a record fair in the Bay Area. I drove up there. It was in ’94.

How did that evolve into the two of you working together for the first time?

He asked me to do a remix of The Number Song. That was our first professional joint project. And then after that we’ve done the mixes that we’ve done. But I think it all started with that The Number Song remix in ’96.

How was it to have Bambaataa attend your show at the Irving Plaza in New York and were you able to speak to him about the show?

That was a career highlight, that was crazy. Just to have him there and witness us playing his records was a huge honor, it was great. And he liked it, he smiled the whole way through. It was good to introduce him to the audience, it seemed like a really big deal.

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That was my last question, but thank you for your time it was great being able to talk to you.

No problem.

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