It’s hard to imagine Cut Chemist feeling insecure about DJ’ing for an Action Bronson crowd. After all, over the course of the past twenty-something years he’s proven himself to be one of the best turntablists in the business. Whether playing with Jurassic 5, DJ Shadow or simply doing solo shows, Cut Chemist (real name Lucas Macfadden) has skills beyond the imagination. But then again, he’s only human. Since Jurassic 5’s reunion, he’s been touring the world for the better part of two years. Finally at home in Los Angeles for a rare break, Macfadden is surprisingly a bit uneasy about doing solo shows again.
“I’m staying really low key, like the lowest key,” Macfadden says. “I’m like hermit status right now. It’s getting a little tough because I’m starting to get Cut Chemist shows again and I haven’t done one in a long time. I’m kind of nervous. I know I just did these shows with DJ Shadow and everything, but I kind of feel like I don’t know how to use turntables. Or what to play or what to do. I’m doing this festival and Action Bronson is the headliner and I’m like, ‘Shit, what am I going to do?’”
Anyone who has seen Macfadden on the turntables knows he will be just fine. Last year’s Renegades of Rhythm Tour with DJ Shadow featured albums pulled strictly from Afrika Bambaataa’s collection, which is currently archived at Cornell University. The performance was nothing short of mind-blowing. From the Shaft in Africa soundtrack and Isaac Hayes to Chicago Gangsters and even Jurassic 5 (which Macfadden couldn’t believe Bambaataa had), the magical duo took the audience on a trip through some of the best eras of soul, funk, disco, hip-hop and more. Music nerds, Jurassic 5 fans and vinyl enthusiasts flocked to the shows and the reception was overwhelmingly positive. There’s no doubt he’ll get the same welcome at an Action Bronson show.
“It’s not like the message anybody wants to get across is skills,” he says. “It’s more like I want to entertain people through the music. It’s not like you have to cut it up crazy, they just want to hear the music. I guess I’m kind of out of touch with what’s going on musically. I’ll figure it out and do a lot of research. It won’t be a big deal.”
Jurassic 5 getting back together, however, has been a big deal. The group split up in 2007 after Macfadden had already left to pursue his solo career. In 2013, they miraculously reunited at Coachella and it’s been on ever since. That doesn’t mean he’s not still working on his solo material. In fact, he’s just about done with a new album, his first one in nearly 10 years.
“I’ve been working on it for about five years and it’s finally in a place where I feel good to share it with the public,” he explains. “It’s the follow-up to The Audience Is Listening and it will be its 10 year anniversary next year. Ten years between records isn’t too bad [laughs]. This is an exceptionally unique record for me. It’s very personal and autobiographical. It took me a long time to be a headspace to let this material go. It was just me trying to figure out what the hell my life has come to in the last 10 years. This album has told me what I’ve done and what I haven’t done, and be at peace with all of that. Now that I’ve answered my own questions, I know what this album means to me and now I can share that with the world. I’ve done the final mixing, I’m mastering and finding a home for it, which will hopefully figure itself out by the end of summer.”
In the meantime, Jurassic 5 is heading out on another national tour this summer, which makes a stop at the beloved local venue, The Mishawaka, July 19. While Macfadden says, “It’s always good to do shows with J5. Fuck. It’s incredible,” he has to find other ways to unwind.
“Once your hobby becomes your work, that can be pretty destructive for an artist,” he says. “Then how do you escape? It’s all around you and it becomes something you’re dependent on. It’s stressful.”
He’s embraced cooking, another one of his passions. Although, he’s had to start wrapping his burgers in lettuce for a very good reason.
“I swear to god, from the last two years of touring, I’ve put on like 30 lbs,” he admits. “It’s from fatigue and eating. There’s always food in front of you. There’s food in the green room when you soundcheck, they take you out for dinner, you get a buy out, you eat, you eat, you eat. You’re tired, you don’t sleep and you’re putting on weight. You don’t exercise because you’re tired from not sleeping and flying. You’re flying and you’re retaining water from flying. Then you do that for two years. I’m happy to report I’m halfway back to my original weight. I don’t know if the food I make is fancy, but it’s sure tasty. I’m not going to garnish the plate with this and that, but I’ll show you a burger that will melt your face. Fuck the bun.”