Long time friends and turntablist legends DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist are back at it again with a brand new project they’ve dubbed “The Hard Sell.” Spawned from an initial one-off show last June at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the project has blossomed into a complete full-length album collaboration and extensive world tour that will be assaulting listeners with a seamless live mix constructed entirely from vinyl 45s. In order to perform their wax acrobatics this time around, the duo will be utilizing 8 turntables, 4 mixers & 2 effects pedals. Backing them up will be video director Ben Stokes who will be mixing visuals live on two giant screens behind them on stage. We caught up with Cut Chemist, aka Lucas MacFadden, last week via phone to find out more about this extensive musical undertaking that will be rolling into the Park West Friday night.
This is quite an ambitious project and tour, how long did it take to get all this put together and the performance perfected?
We have been working on this show since April of last year…initially it was for a show at the Hollywood Bowl in June. We took 3 months to rehearse for that. When we did that set we realized we wanted to make it longer…we had more stuff we wanted to do. So after that show was finished and we did a few more shows in Europe we came back and said let’s rehearse some more for a possible full length expanded tour through North America and the world next year. So we got back together again and looked at the set that existed and tweaked it in certain places, expanded it in certain places, moved things around…it was an on-going process all year.
As a very amateur DJ I’ll put together rather rudimentary mixes with just two turntables and a mixer and even those seem to take forever to put together…so I definitely appreciate all the work that must have went in to getting this all set up. I’m sure most people realize this, but maybe not everyone?
There’s still those people obviously that don’t really…even though we explain it really well in the introduction with video what we’re doing and what’s involved they still don’t seem to get it. Certain people don’t…they go to a show and they just kind of see turntables and two guys and they expect whatever they expect, there’s nothing you can do about it. And I think that’s kind of what went into the name “The Hard Sell,” which was targeting that state of mind.
You also picked up Kid Koala for the tour?
I was telling him about the show when I saw him last year and it piqued his curiosity and interest so he called me up and was like, "hey, do you want me to open?” We were searching for a support act in different regions but this seemed to be a lot easier and perfect just because…he stands for a lot of the ideals that we do, with DJing and turntablism and records – he uses all vinyl – so there’s an underlying subtext politically I guess of vinyl versus digital [laughs]. Me and Shadow obviously use digital means for our own shows, but for this tour in particular we’re using all vinyl and Kid Koala is using all vinyl…so it really works out great. He’s such a great performer and it’s a good energy that he sets the standard with so that when we come on people are already excited and have seen some great stuff. He’s one of my favorite DJs of all time so it’s great to have him.
There will also be a lot of dedicated video accompaniment for this tour as well?
We have video director extraordinaire Ben Stokes performing the visual collage live with us, so we’re very fortunate to have him.
I know you and Shadow go way back, but how exactly did you two first hook up?
Through a friend of mine, a local DJ in LA named Rob One…in 1994 we were up in Berkeley selling records at a record fair and he told me to give my new 12” that I had just pressed up with my group Jurassic 5 to this guy [DJ Shadow]…so I met him and gave him a couple of copies and we became friends through discussing our influences and realizing that we had a lot of the same tastes and a lot of the same things that caused us to want to DJ.
That reminds me, I just interviewed Steinski a few months back…he was a huge influence on both of you guys, right?
Yeah, in fact the only show [on the tour] that Koala’s not on is in New York because we have Double Dee and Steinski opening up. And that will be the complete antithesis of our vinyl set up because I think they’re all using Abelton Live and stuff, so that’s going to be kind of funny…
I know DJs probably cringe whenever they get asked this, but anything in particular that’s grabbed your attention musically recently?
Well, I love everything…In fact I was in Atlanta record shopping and that chick that’s in every iPod commercial now, what’s her name? [Feist?] Yeah, that’s it. I love that…I’m like, man that chick has got an album full of hits! I listen to a lot of Ethiopian traditional music and I listen to a lot of indie stuff, Bat for Lashes I’m in to…I dunno, this set is a reflection of how people might think we’re only into funk and hip-hop. But when you hear us play the set it’s like, no, they’re into new wave, they’re into country, they’re into rockabilly, they’re into doo-wap, they’re into…everything.
So speaking of indie stuff and listening to everything, here’s a random question for you…if in another life you were a rocker instead of a DJ, what ideal band would you like to be in?
Dude, I would be in the Kinks…or maybe the 13th Floor Elevators…or you know what, since I’m from LA, screw that shit…I would be down with Arthur Lee. I would be in Love.
OK, so one last question…I haven’t seen it yet personally myself, but I’ve had more than one friend tell me they were amused to see you playing a bit part as a chemistry teacher in the movie Juno. What was that like?
Yeah, I do play a cameo as a chemistry teacher and on the DVD there will be a music video that I’m in …yeah, it’s a lot of fun [working on a movie], it’s a whole different lifestyle and to be in front of the camera is kind of wild.
So how did you get the part…did you just happen to know someone?
I become friends with Jason Reitman the director…I had a meeting with him, he wanted me to score some stuff he was doing and he was telling me some ideas and [later] he got the script for Juno and called me and was like, "look, I got a movie that takes place in a high school and I think it would be funny, just as some kind of insider type shit, to put you in as the chemistry teacher," – he has that kind of weird sense of humor – and I was like, well, hell ya…and we did and it was a one day shoot, I got to meet the cast and it was a lot of fun.
And oddly enough, your acting debut could end up being in the movie named Best Picture of 2008!
Yeah [laughs]…it definitely should win something because it’s a great movie, it really is. He’s a great director, the actress, Ellen Page, is awesome and the writing is just out of this world.