Published on July 4th, 2014 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


Interview w/Cut Chemist

Let’s hop right into this very interesting, might I add, Funk Off: Featuring Vox Populi! and Pacific 231 reissue collection — For starters, what exactly does this entire project entail?

It is exactly that, a reissue of some music that has inspired me for some time now. I wanted to share it with the world since its only release was through independent means in the mid eighties. It’s my first release of this nature, a compilation, that is. I’m good friends with other deejays who reissue music such as DJ Shadow, Egon, Dante Carfagna and Keb Darge, and this was my chance to join the fun in sharing something that I felt wasn’t being represented in that world.

Now it was actually by accident that you stumbled across the record and became even further interested in it because of the track “Megamix,” correct? So, why did that track specifically pique your interest?

I certainly wasn’t trying to find anything like this at the time. I was still buying funk and jazz drum breaks for sampling and the same old stuff that my radar for music was tuned into at the time. For some reason, this record “Alternative Funk” struck my curiosity, probably because of the title and the irony I felt from it as it looked like an ’80’s European dance record. Well I was right, only not just a dance record but one with a crude and psychedelic approach to dance music, which is something I’ve never heard before this. I had my ears open for new sounds to create my solo album The Audience’s Listening, and this I thought would be a great contender to put in the queue of music to make into a new track. That’s exactly what ended up happening. I had already produced a song called “Storm” with Edan and Mr Lif. It featured a very heavy drum break from a 45 I owned. It sounded great, but I wanted my album to have something less expected and more relevant to the approaching electronic DJ era that was upon us. I tried replacing the drum break with “Megamix” under their vocal, and it was EXACTLY what I wanted to hear that song sound like. Psychedelic electronic rap music…It became the B-side to my first single and was embraced by alternative college radio stations. I was very happy with the outcome.

From there, you even managed to track down original players; Axel Kyrou from Vox Populi! and Pacific 231’s Pierre Jolivet — How were you actually even able to make those connections?

The year I made “Storm,” I tried to find any information on Vox Populi!, but there was nothing at the time. A year later, there was everything! Thanks to the help of my visual artist counterpart, Tom Fitzgerald, and his handy sense of cyber digging, (’cause) he hipped me to a music blog that had tons of information on them and Pacific 231. He led me to their Myspace page, in which I contacted them and asked about obtaining original copies of their cassettes. One thing led to another. In 2008, I met Axel and Francis in France, and we started to share ideas about music.

Being that you first discovered this unique body of work back in 2004, what actually took you so long to finally bring the LP back to life?

It took from 2008 to 2012 to put together this comp.. One reason why it took so long is because I actually didn’t plan on putting out a compilation in the beginning. My first idea was to make new Cut Chemist material out of their material, a la “Storm.” I spent two years making songs with this material, and then figured that if I am going to use so much of their stuff I should just put out their music so people can hear it on its own. Another reason is Axel, Francis — bass player for Vox — and Pierre, all kept sending me music. There was so much, it actually took me a long time to settle on which songs to use. I had to figure out which songs from their catalog I wanted to share, and then make it a cohesive listening experience as one album; from beginning to end. Once I got the music arrangement figured out, it took many steps to remaster from its original cassette recordings to get it to a place that could compete sonically with new music out today. It went from my treatments to my engineer, Benjamin Tierney’s treatments, to being mastered at the Exchange in London. Then came the liner notes…I’ve never done liner notes for anything before, so I wanted to do it right. I interviewed both groups, did research on what they talked about, and tried to tie it all together with why I chose to do this project. Reading the comprehensive liner notes of my peers’ releases, I felt compelled to compete with that, not to mention the packaging designs and all of that. I made sure that every step had to be run by the groups for their approval, so that they both felt they were being represented correctly. The whole process did take a while, but we are all happy with it, and that’s what matters.

In addition to, of course, this new re-issue material, I was also curious as to what all else you are currently working and/or gearing up for?

This comp. is the first phase of a new project that will lead to the follow-up album to (The) Audience’s Listening. To help the deejay community digest this new compilation and direction, I prepared a 30 minute mega-mix which features productions and remixes made from the Vox and Pacific  material. This will introduce the next phase, which will be a Cut Chemist and friends EP, featuring the full versions of that material. The last phase will be the full length LP, featuring new collaborations with Vox Populi! and other artists.

So with having said that, and since it’s been eight-plus years since your first and only solo LP, The Audience’s Listening — These are the plans in place for its long overdue follow-up?

As mentioned, the last phase will be the full length LP, featuring new collaborations with Vox Populi! and other artists. I’ve been working on this album for a little while now. Two songs have been released as singles so far. “Outro (Revisited),” featuring Blackbird on vocals and Deantoni Parks on drums. The latest single is called “Work My Mind,” featuring Chali 2na and Hymnal. They are consistent with the direction everything seems to be going in musically. “Work My Mind” is actually going to be included on both the EP and the next album, as it samples “Alternative Fresh,” by Vox Populi! The album will also include artists; such as, Biz Markie, Myka 9 from Freestyle Fellowship, Hymnal, Merril Garbus from Tune Yards and more from Deantoni Parks on drums. Not sure when this will be released, but hopefully by the fall of next year.

What’s up with J5 — Are you all back in the lab again? And if so, what can be expected from your forthcoming fifth studio set?

We got back together to do shows last year. We are continuing the run of shows this year for our 20 year anniversary. An extensive run in the UK in June and the states in July. As far as recording, we are taking it slow. Right now, we are going through the vaults and releasing never before heard songs to get an idea of how our music should be delivered to the world. It’s a very different age that when we were active in the early 2000’s. It’s all free downloads, social media and Youtube. I think once we can wrap our heads around how it can work for us by leaking new material here and there, we may just get back in the studio and create something. Not to mention, being apart for 9 years — for me because I left in ’04 — makes it hard to just get in a studio to make new music that feels cohesively like one unit, as opposed to 6 solo artists making a bunch of random songs. Baby steps, but it has to be done right and we all know that. We all hope will happen sooner than later.

You are also part of the Ozomatli collective — Do you all have anything in the works as well?

Ozo just put out a new album called Place In The Sun. I’m not featured on it, but occasionally I join them for shows to do our first album material.

Longevity, what do you attribute yours to?

One reason is because I was a part of so many things that became popular 10 plus years ago, like Jurassic 5, Ozomatli and the 45’s mixes with DJ Shadow. These have become staples in three separate fields of music that haven’t lost its influence with listeners. The other reason is because I still explore new territory musically and new approaches to the method of delivery. Take my “Sound Of The Police” one turntable world mix, “Funk Off” and The Audience’s Listening. They are all very different from one another, but yet there is some kind of consistency that can be felt between all three. I feel it’s important to maintain consistency without redundancy. I don’t want to seem like I’m chasing new trends desperately either. I make sure that people feel that the decisions I make with what I put out are genuine. I believe that’s why I take so long to put out a project. I have to make sure I stand by it for a certain period of time before I can validate it as something that represents me.

On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip-Hop? And, how has not only yourself, both personally and professionally speaking, but the entire art form in general, either changed and/or evolved since your whole inception into it?

I’m happy with certain elements of music today. A lot of the “trap” stuff reminds me of mid eighties Hip-Hop with the use of 808’s and a heavy drum machine based sound. I love it! Some people say that Hip-Hop has died, but I still see kids trying to reinvent existing elements into something fresh. I feel that is the main ethic in Hip-Hop. I see it in popular and underground rap music. Things have to evolve and change so the sounds may be different and the method in which people appreciate may be different, but the hunger to take something and flip it is still in existence. That makes me feel confident that Hip-Hop still exists and will for a long time. I think the idea of sample based music is at an all time low since it started in the mid to late ’80’s. This is probably the one thing that separates me from what other producers do now. I still make sample based music and intend to keep doing so. It’s what I love and it’s why I started making music in the first place.

To date, what has been your biggest career moment?

I think headlining the Hollywood Bowl with DJ Shadow playing all 45’s on 8 turntables is a tough one to top.

Looking ahead, say five or even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?

I would like to be doing the same thing I’m doing now, which is balance of real domestic life with the life of an artist. It’s tough to do it all. especially when I’m involved in so many projects, but I’ve made it this far. Basically, put out new music, perform new music, maintain the legacy of past projects and grow tomatoes in the backyard! That’s my goal.

As for the immediate future, what’s next for Cut Chemist?

Just trying to get the next two releases out before next year, and finish out these Jurassic 5 shows around the world.

Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention? And finally, do you have any parting “messages” for our readers?

Thanks for sticking with me on this musical journey. There will be more to come very soon.

Interviewed By: Hype Staff

About the Author

Publisher and CEO of The Hype Magazine. Follow me on Twitter @HypeJustJay

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