After releasing first solo album in 12 years, Cut Chemist heads to Aspen on five-stop Colorado tour
IF YOU GO …
Who: Cut Chemist
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Tuesday, April 3, 9 p.m.
How much: $15
Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com
Cut Chemist last month released his first solo album in 12 years.
The DJ, born Lucas MacFadden and known for crafting beats with Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli, is celebrating the new record with a Colorado tour that brings him to Belly Up tonight, followed by stops in Winter Park, Crested Butte, Fort Collins and Denver.
He’ll be playing a spread of the material from the new album, “Die Cut,” along with familiar tracks from his 2006 solo debut “Audience’s Listening,” some Jurassic 5 songs and surprise remixes.
MacFadden’s skills and ambition have grown in the years since “Audience’s Listening.” He started work on what would become “Die Cut” in 2008, often recording with live bands and pushing himself beyond the sample-heavy productions for which he’s best known.
“I think the growth comes from songwriting,” he said last week in a phone interview from California. “’Audience’s Listening’ was more of an isolated DJ in his bedroom, having-fun, fantasy world. This one was more of a collaborative effort of musicians where I sat down and wrote songs with them.”
The new record includes some creative swerves away from the turntables for Cut Chemist, most notably in the mostly folk song “Plane Jane,” on which he plays acoustic guitar. For this tour in the mountains, though, MacFadden said he’s leaving the guitar case at home and sticking to the dance-centric DJ material.
“We want to play to the core audience and fans that exist before we start to experiment with the old guitar,” he said with a chuckle.
“Die Cut” also boasts some classic Cut Chemist, cleverly matching beats and vocal samples on tracks like “I Got a Weapon” and the Hymnal collaboration “You Got It, I Want It.” He said his aim on the album was “to lay down the foundation of the sound that I’m known for and then destroy that and do something brand new.”
And though it’s been a dozen years since his acclaimed debut solo effort, Cut Chemist has stayed busy and made a lot of music since then. The intervening years have included tours and projects with DJ Shadow, several mxtapes, the Jurassic 5 reunion in 2013 and ensuing tours (MacFadden said he’s currently making some rap beats and hopes they’ll find their way into new Jurassic 5 songs).
His guests on the new album include the singer Laura Darington, longtime collaborators like Hymnal and Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na alongside some surprises like rap legend Biz Markie, who, it turns out, has been his friend and record-shopping partner for more than 20 years.
“I don’t do collaborations that don’t make sense,” he said. “I’m not going to do a collaboration that would just be something that would help my brand.”
The mix of songwriting and live instrumentation on the new record signals a step up for Cut Chemist as a producer, as he hopes to join the ranks of his studio heroes.
“I want to be Quincy Jones, I want to be Jack White — like all these people who can play instruments and write songs,” MacFadden said. “I wanted to abandon sampling a little bit on ‘Die Cut’ just to see if I could do it.”
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The nonprofit VOICES led 39 bilingual Basalt Middle School students through a visual journaling project to tell their stories this spring.