Loved by all music genres, DJ Logic spins on
ASPEN As a kid, Jason Kibler loved music – rock, jazz, blues – and as much as he dug the sounds, he loved the effect music had on people. It was a certainty that Kibler would pick up an instrument and learn to play, so that he could have a hand in making the music.The environment of Kibler’s childhood wasn’t dominated by electric guitars, or saxophones, or violins. In the Bronx of the 1980s, hip-hop was king, and the reining instrument was the turntable.”That was the thing at the time – hip-hop, break-dancing,” said the 30-year-old Kibler from his home in Brooklyn. “Growing up in the Bronx, hip-hop was just starting out. I got started on turntables as a hobby, loving the music. I wanted to make people so happy, give joy and have fun.”As DJ Logic, Kibler has spread the sonic love and joy in some places that are not accustomed to his instrument of choice. After honing his skills at parties in the Bronx, a childhood friend, a drummer, pushed Logic to play with other musicians. Logic first began to make his name in Eye & I, a late-’80s alternative rock band. He then made his way into New York’s downtown scene, thanks to the avant-jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood. MMW featured Logic on its wide-ranging 1998 CD, “Combustication,” and invited the turntablist to join them for a series of concerts.Logic made further inroads into the jazz realm by playing with bassist Christian McBride; Logic was a guest artist when McBride’s electric combo played a Jazz Aspen Snowmass show at Belly Up in 2005, and he contributed to McBride’s 2006 CD “Live at Tonic.”Lately, Kibler and his instrument have broken into yet another new realm. Though the idea of a scratcher isn’t unknown in the jam-band world – Widespread Panic used a spot of turntable to marvelous effect on its 1999 CD “‘Til the Medicine Takes,” courtesy of DJ Colin Butler – Logic is giving the turntable a presence it has never had before. He has jammed on occasion with RatDog, Bob Weir’s post-Grateful Dead band. And the new, debut album by the John Popper Project, a group led by Blues Traveler frontman Popper, proclaims DJ Logic’s name on the cover.By now, Logic has seen his share of head-scratching among listeners when he begins his scratching. “At the time [of Eye & I], there were no DJs in rock music,” he said. “People didn’t really know what my position was, what I was doing. But they’d see me perform with the band, and how I was showcasing my skills.”
If his presence bewildered audiences, it was a natural for the musicians he played with, including the Psychedelic Furs, Living Color guitarist Vernon Reid, and Body Count, the hardcore band headed by rapper Ice-T. “I felt I could play in any type of situation,” he said. “I felt comfortable with the rock music in my ear, and they felt comfortable with me in their ear.”The jam-band audience may have been the toughest to win over. Among the jammers, it’s all about the spontaneous, live experience – and here’s a musician whose method, in part, is about reassembling what has been recorded before. But Logic’s profile in the jam scene is only rising; he was featured in a recent article in Relix, the scene’s magazine, and will do a Colorado tour with the John Popper Project in early spring. (The tour is set for an April 1 date in Aspen, at Belly Up.)Logic says he has taken a different approach to the turntables than your standard club DJ. The role he has staked out is to respond to what his fellow musicians are playing, and find a complementary space he can occupy.”I’m not mixing records,” he said. “It’s manipulating different sounds I find. If there’s not a saxophone or a keyboard sound, I try to find what will fill that niche, those colors. It’s being in key, timing, the textures.”It’s like chess to me. You’re listening to the music you’re about to play, and I pull this out of my box and say, OK, I know where this is going. It’s letting them see how logical I am.”Culturally, too, Logic is a step away from the jam-band audience, which is predominantly white, and hasn’t been much of a presence in Logic’s native Bronx. But Logic, whose mellow nature is reminiscent of a Deadhead spinning in the outer hallways of a Grateful Dead concert, says he feels at home in all the scenes he has visited. His recent album “Zen of Logic” (featuring keyboardist John Medeski, guitarist Charlie Hunter, and the Afro-inspired Antibalas), opens with “Peace Y’All (I Am in the House),” and has a happy attitude that has more in common with String Cheese Incident than with gangsta rap.”All the people who have embraced me in these genres have been open-minded to me trying something new,” he said. “They’re curious about what Logic is doing.”When I asked Logic if his work had inspired others to take on the turntables as a medium, he said yes – but, he noted, his impact has gone beyond that. He gets e-mails from all sorts of musicians wanting to know just what it is he does, and from bands looking to incorporate turntables into their mix. Logic has even put his foot in the door of academia, having taught at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and led clinics in New York.
The list of projects Logic has taken on recently reflects just how seriously his skills are being taken. He is featured on the recent album “Nina Simone: Remixed and Reimagined,” as well as on a forthcoming Billie Holiday remix project. He contributed to “Now I Understand,” a new album by the collective Club d’Elf, which is led by bassist Mike Rivard and features John Medeski and Billy Martin of MMW, plus various jazz players and DJs. His 2006 CD, “Zen of Logic,” His own combo, Project Logic, is working on a new CD.Meanwhile, Logic comes to Aspen all by his lonesome. When he appears tonight, Friday, Feb. 23, at the Sky Hotel, as part of the Ski Tour, Logic will perform what he calls a “spin set.” But expect it to be more than just another DJ mixing records.”It’s more free. I basically just be me,” said Logic of his spin sets. “Me having fun, spinning the stuff I love, giving people a schooling on the music I love, all the music they might have missed.”
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