Cut Chemist
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Cut Chemist

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“I love playing in Australia,” says Mr Chemist, or Lucas MacFadden to those in the know. “I always have since the J5 days. The audiences are always really excited for hip hop and DJ culture.” The globe-trotting DJ’s last appearance Down Under was back in 2009 in support of De La Soul at The Espy, though two of his fondest memories of playing in Melbourne involve the now-deceased Honkytonks. “Honkytonks comes to mind on two occasions,” says MacFadden. “One with ?uestlove playing 45s and the other playing in the ladies room on one of the last nights when it was closing. Australia – the only place where I’ve played in the bathroom. Gotta love it!”

Despite MacFadden’s ladies-room successes since leaving J5, the transition from being in such a close-knit group of musical peers to working on his own took a bit of getting used to. “It’s harder to produce by myself because I can’t bounce ideas off anyone,” he says. “I think this is why it takes me four years to make an album.” Having said that, MacFadden also likes the freedom that working on his own affords him. “It’s also easier by myself because I don’t have to have anyone else green light my ideas.”

Does he ever miss the camaraderie of working in a group though? “I think I was lonely when I was in the group,” he says. “That is after the first EP. It’s nobody’s fault but my own. I’ve been a loner since I was a kid. I hope one day we can join forces again though, it would be epic!” J5’s instantly recognisable bass emcee Chali 2na features on MacFadden’s upcoming album and he maintains contact with the other members of the group too. “I’m on good terms with everyone,” he says. “I talk to Numark all the time. I talk to Akil and the other guys every so often and it’s always positive. I think everyone is busy getting their own thing going.” Watch this space.

Sound Of The Police is the name of MacFadden’s 2012 tour, on which he’ll be spinning cuts from his 2010 mix CD of the same name. “I’m only just getting to tour it in Australia now,” he says. “It’s a one turntable and loop pedal mix of all African and South American music.” Not content with providing his Australian audiences with a musical feast alone, he’s also bringing long-time visual collaborator Tom Fitzgerald along for the ride. “Tom’s visuals will complement what I do very well,” says Macfadden. “We share similar tastes in art. He’ll be cutting obscure vintage films as I cut up music. He’s the perfect VJ for this DJ. It’s mostly about the music but there will be moments of showmanship. I pride myself on a good performance.” Also featuring Cut Chemist classics, the shows are set to go off.

MacFadden has worked with artists from all over the musical spectrum during his career. Still, there are two personalities in particular with whom he wishes he could hit the 1s and 2s with – J Dilla and Beethoven. “Could you imagine that collaboration?” he ponders. “Beethoven for the arrangement and Dilla for the swing – I still have lots of questions for both of them.”

Constantly drawing on new sounds, ideas, and inspirations in his music, MacFadden insists that after all his years behind the decks (and the computer), it takes more than an eclectic taste in music to keep his beats fresh. “I try to always do something that I’ve never done before,” he says. “Considering that I’ve done a lot of music of all types, it gets harder and harder for me to pull out new sounds and tricks. I think the main lesson I’ve taught myself is how to simplify ideas to make them more effective. Less is more.”

With a new single out in March and a new record somewhere in the pipeline (Chemist is a bit cagey with the details), 2012 is set to be a busy year for this veteran of the decks. But what does his new material sound like? “It definitely branches out into unfamiliar territory,” he says. “This one has some punk, electronic, folk, etc. I’m also playing guitar and singing background vocals. But don’t worry; there will be a consistency to it.”

BY OLIVER PELLING