Top Chef: Raekwon reflects on ‘Cuban Linx’


Raekwon the Chef isn’t much of a destiny guy. The Staten Island rapper is more of the ‘you create your own’ kind. But it’s impossible not to think that “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” is the album he was destined to make.

As part of the Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon helped turn hip-hop on its ear with 1993’s landmark “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).” Two years later, while the infamous collective continued to build their brand with solo albums, he was more than ready to shine on his own.

Following efforts from fellow Wu members Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon (given name Corey Woods) batted third in the line-up. And even though most assumed OB4CL would serve as a solid release for Wu-Tang, few earmarked it as an album that would end up in the conversation of hip-hop’s most influential.

That came, in part, with the album’s undeniable credibility – its violent inner city narrative painstakingly detailed and surprisingly accessible.

Wu mastermind RZA was also hitting his stride at this point, producing the perfectly foreboding backdrop of beats, loops, and samples to highlight the cinematic storytelling of Raekwon and main guest-star Ghostface Killah.

Or maybe it all came down to the construction of the album as a whole – an unwavering, brutal fable about drug trafficking and redemption spanning every one of its 17 tracks.

But OB4CL was a game changer.

Raekwon’s solo debut turns 20 this year and he’s hitting the road with Ghostface to celebrate.

Retrospect allows fans to debate the album’s impact on everything from Mafioso rap and MC aliases to meticulous storytelling, unique slang, and product endorsement. But according to the man who made it, nothing was more important than keeping things real.

“When we was writing it,” Woods tells CityBeat from a tour stop in Kentucky, “there was a lot of pain in those pens. We was just really trying to give people a movie, or a film, where you could go, ‘Wow. That’s real.’ And you can’t run away from reality. When I sit here and think about 20 years, and we go back and reminisce on these songs, it’s like, they’ve become so common because that shit’s actually still taking place. Now I become more than just an artist, I become a prophet of what’s going on.”

Although the 45-year-old rapper had the foresight to keep the devil in the details on his debut, his clairvoyance stopped short of realizing the album also had a broad-based appeal.

“I was surprised it reached that level,” says Woods. “That wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to speak for that particular audience of people. It’s more like an album from a kid speaking about pain, just trying to move with the times and survive. But the success of it shows there are all kinds of people out there that understand these stories.”

That’s never been more apparent than during recent live performances of the Cuban Linx album.

During his more than two decades in the game, the Wu-Tang star has watched his audience change dramatically. And just like Raekwon’s own transformation from street hustler into rap icon, it seemingly happened overnight.

“This tour is a celebration,” he says. “But I see as many 45- or 50-year-olds as ones no older than 17. And it’s wild to me that they know it like that. We’ve become The Rolling Stones to these young kids. They go back, study their history and pay attention. Just when we think they’re not there, they right there. We living in the modern times right now. Kids know that if they wanna go after the ones that make an impact, you gotta know your history.”

And while Raekwon isn’t the kind to turn any new fans away, he also isn’t content to sit back and get comfortable in a dusty corner of historical context.

After giving his current milestone the attention it deserves, the veteran rapper will re-focus on promoting a limited-edition jacket he recently designed for fans, as well as his sixth studio album, “F.I.L.A,” released in April.

 “I understand that I’m cemented in the game right now,” says Woods. “But more importantly, I still got work to do. When you’re a winner, you can get whatever you want as long as you feel like that inside. And I want more. I want to be able to really feel like I understand what artistry is all about. To be one of the greats, you got to have a catalog. I’m working on making mine bigger right now.”

Despite recent public infighting, it seems the Wu-Tang Clan might not be ready to call it a day, either. Although he didn’t address it directly, Raekwon reflected positively about the crew that some consider the best ever.

“I came from a strong background of individuals,” he says. “We all had different styles. But musically, you know, they was willing to walk inside my chamber and see what I was about. And legacy is important. It’s almost like completing a mission where you gain the power that was always there.”

Whether Wu-Tang can complete theirs on a unified front remains to be seen. But Raekwon is determined to keep working on his for as long as it takes.

A follow-up to his debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II, was released in 2009. Is it possible the MC plans to celebrate it with another 20th anniversary tour when he’s 59?

“Hey,” he says through a husky laugh. “You know what? I’m not saying no.”

Originally published in San Diego CityBeat

Howling with Hiatus Kaiyote


Hiatus Kaiyote played Minnesota for the first time a few days ago. Among those who took in their set at Minneapolis’ Fine Line Music Café was none other than Prince. Although it admittedly gave the Australian soul quartet more pre-show butterflies than normal, it really wasn’t much of a surprise.

When the Melbourne-based group released their debut album, 2013’s “Tawk Tomahawk,” the purple one wasn’t the only iconic musician touting it. Public endorsements came from Questlove, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, Animal Collective, and more.

And their fan base is growing exponentially. The foursome just released “Choose Your Weapon,” an expansive, 18-song opus that clocks in at nearly 70 minutes. Filled with joyful, meandering, polyrhythmic excursions and spaced-out interludes, Hiatus Kaiyote certainly isn’t pandering for accolades.

“We definitely wanted to say more this time,” says keyboardist Simon Mavin. “‘Tawk Tomahawk’ actually started out as an EP. It wasn’t until we got in the studio that we added a few things to stretch it into 10 tracks. So I think we were keen to make a full album.”

Singer Nai Palm takes a more philosophical approach.

“Everything we do,” she says, “is going to be an evolution of us as people and musicians. We had only been together for about 6 months on our first record. So this album is the evolution of our relationship together as musicians with multiple world tours under our belt [that helped] to refine our skills.”

To say Hiatus Kaiyote does a lot of touring is an understatement. But all of that traveling around the globe has only bolstered the quartet’s creative mindset of exploring all ideas that come to the table.

“That’s the exciting thing about this project,” Mavin says. “We just go in any direction we want.”

“We’re constantly challenging ourselves,” adds Palm. “We like to create a cohesive journey from start to finish, like a movie. Everyone now is so consumed with the temporary buzz of a hot single, and a lot of time and beauty is lost in the craft. We strive to achieve music that is timeless.”

For now, the band will have to relegate making new music to working out ideas on their laptops as they travel from one gig to another. Their current U.S. tour goes through May, and in June they’ll start an international run that will keep them busy until at least August.

And while their unique creative freedom allows Hiatus Kaiyote to think about incorporating new instruments and sounds like Gamelan orchestration, Shakuhachi flute or the kora to the next release, the band refuses to decide on any part of the process until it’s upon them.

“There’s no time limit or habitat for creativity,” says Palm. “It builds as you go and you sketch ideas and inspirations out all throughout your life.”

“There are no real boundaries to our creativity,” adds Mavin. “It can really go in any direction. We’re definitely still exploring. And that’s never going to stop.”

Originally published in DiscoverSD

The Gaslamp Killer readies his new “Experiment”


William Bensussen, aka The Gaslamp Killer, knows a thing or two about Coachella. The one-time San Diego DJ/producer has attended every music and arts festival in Indio since its 1999 inception. And since 2010, whether in the campground, Heineken Dome, or Gobi Tent, Bensussen has performed at the annual event.

He’s performing again this year, but the show is going to be much different.

Just after sundown on each of the festival’s Saturday nights, Bensussen will present what he calls The Gaslamp Killer Experience – a psychedelic, 12-piece ensemble that initially formed after a scooter crash nearly killed the DJ two years ago.

“I’ve only done it once,” Bensussen told DiscoverSD from his Los Angeles home. “It was a fundraiser to help cover the bills from my accident. We did at The Mayan in 2013. I brought this band together and they just killed it. I decided it was something I wanted to record, and it ended up being so good we decided to release it as a live record. It just seemed like this was an awesome moment to put out the one-take amazingness we captured.”

Titled “The Gaslamp Killer Experience: Live in Los Angeles,” the album’s release is perfectly timed with the second- and third-ever performances of the new band. Vinyl pressings will be available on-site at Coachella, and the album will make it to shops in time for Record Store Day on April 18. It will be released digitally on Bensussen’s own website a week after the festival wraps up.

And while it seems this unique project could develop into more, it’s something that will have to wait. Bensussen is set to put the finishing touches on his next album the moment Coachella ends.

A long-awaited follow-up to the beat maker’s 2012 studio debut, “Breakthrough,” the new Gaslamp Killer album will primarily focus on organic sounds.

“Breakthrough had a lot of old stuff on it,” Bensussen said. “On this one, I’m not digging into my old vaults as much. I never thought it would change my opinion of anything, but hearing what people liked on Breakthrough changed things. I realized that songs like “Nissim” and “In the Dark” really touched people. No one really ever mentioned the drum machine stuff. But it helped me realize how much I like making live music. I’m excited to be able to do this one from scratch.”

Whether with The Gaslamp Killer Experience or on his own, one thing will always hold true – Bensussen is the kind of musician who refuses to dull the edges of his art to appease strangers.

“In one way or another,” he said, “we’ve all lived our lives like that. So when you finally find something you don’t have to do that with, it’s one of the most rewarding feelings ever. Why change it?”

Originally published by DiscoverSD

Quantic: Love and 45s


Will Holland, aka Quantic, was born in the small English town of Bewdley. Located near the Wyre Forest Nature Reserve in Worcestershire, Bewdley boasts a population of fewer than 10,000 and is a good 130 miles away from London.

But it does have a record shop.

It was there, with that first vinyl purchase of a soundtrack to his favorite cartoon, Holland developed his passion for analog recordings. And with every day since, Holland’s passion has steadily blossomed into a full-blown obsession.

“I had a record player in my bedroom growing up,” he told CityBeat from his apartment in Brooklyn. “But it wasn’t until my father took me to a big shop in Birmingham that I really understood the scope. Just the categorization made a big impression. Until then, it was just a pile of records lying around the house. But categorization meant you had to define yourself and say, ‘I’m into this.’” 

Holland dropped his acclaimed debut, 2001’s The 5th Exotic, shortly after his 21st birthday. Skillfully weaving jazz, soul, funk and hip-hop through a thread of varied beats, the album set a precedent for his diverse career.

In 2003, he put the DJ thing on hold, picked up a guitar and founded The Quantic Soul Orchestra, a live band dedicated to the raw funk sound of the ’60s and ’70s.

Switching gears again, Holland moved to Colombia in 2007 and set up an analog studio that he dubbed “Sonido del Valle.” Releases from The Quantic Soul Orchestra, tropical-dub project Flowering Inferno and Latin jazz nine-piece Combo Bárbaro are all results of his years in South America.

Last summer, the producer and multi-instrumentalist— now based in New York—released his first record in eight years solely under the Quantic moniker. Magnetica, his 18th overall, once again encapsulates a multitude of styles and features 10 guest vocalists.

But instead of trying to tour such an ambitious project, Holland is doing the next best thing—he’s digging into his own personal collection and DJing with the records that have colored his career. And he’s doing it exclusively with 45s.

“I’ve constantly toured as a DJ in the U.S.,” he says. “And it’s always been a bit of a novelty to play 45s. But I want to make something out of it on this tour. I think it’s important to note that records are still alive and to make sure that music is being heard off of them. There’s a different culture to a vinyl DJ set. It’s just a completely separate pace and another level of appreciation.

Holland is quick to point out that he would never disrespect those who go the laptop route.

“I do a lot of that myself,” he says with a laugh. But that’s not the point of this tour. He is adamant about going through the process that comes from DJing with vinyl and wants audiences to experience that process, as well.

“That’s the thing,” he says. “On this San Diego gig, for instance, I could quite happily copy some MP3s onto a USB key, get on the plane with some Bermuda shorts, DJ on the West Coast and quickly return back here to the tundra. Instead, I’m sorting and hauling all kinds of my records, throwing in edits and a bunch of beats, and I’m doing that because I want it to be something a bit more handcrafted. I think people appreciate that.”

The concept for this tour took shape a few years ago when Holland was packing for a show he did in Bogota. Realizing he had enough of his own records to do an entire DJ set, he forever changed his outlook on that portion of his repertoire.

“That’s the approach now,” he says. “My record box has become cataloged with music that’s half by other artists, and half that I either remixed or made myself. I can freely pick songs within my own back catalogue that fit the dance floor, and I can reach back into the whole world of vintage music. There are a lot of different places to go with it.”

Holland is touring through June, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down afterward. He just finished a new “Quantic presents” album in Los Angeles that should be out later this year, and his Flowering Inferno project’s third album is slated for a 2015 release, too.

A creature of geography, Holland’s latest stint in the U.S. has inspired the multifaceted musician with ideas for localized, city-specific albums in the future. 

“I want to do some more records in the States,” he says. “I’d love to do something on a musician tip, a studio recording, in New Orleans or anywhere in the South. Detroit would be great, as well.”

With an artist as unpredictable as Holland, it would be tough to guess which project is coming next. But the smart money says that whatever it is, you’ll be able to pick it up on vinyl.

“I don’t know about you,” Holland says, “but I can scroll through an iTunes playlist and know what I have, but it’s that much more pleasing to look at it on a shelf. People still want to own something and they want to collect. That’s just part of being a music fan.

“We all have stuff that goes right into the digital black hole,” he adds. “But there’s just so much out there. At least with a record, it goes on a rack or a wall and, hopefully, has some meaning deep down.”

Originally published by San Diego City Beat

Falling in Love, with Lucinda Williams


“Some people knew they were going to be at a wedding that night and some didn’t.”

Lucinda Williams is referring to her somewhat impromptu 2009 nuptials during the middle of a show at Minneapolis’ First Avenue. The groom, Twin Cities native and former Universal Records exec Tom Overby, had served as the gravelly-voiced Grammy winner’s manager for two years before saying, “I do.”

And while the event will always serve as a fantastic anecdote for both the couple and the unsuspecting fans in attendance, it’s also marks a turning point in Williams’ career.

From the time of her 1979 debut, Ramblin’, Williams struggled with writing songs. Even nearly a decade later, when Rough Trade released her self-titled breakthrough, the Louisiana-born singer still had difficulty crafting the album’s eleven original compositions.

Blame the emotional pain of penning dark, brooding tales of unrequited love, or Williams’ own insistence on surpassing prior works, but the process never came easy.

That is, until recently.

2007’s West was a revelation. Mining the impossible emotions of losing a parent, and guided by her new relationship with Overby, Williams wrote enough material for two albums (the extra songs from the West sessions ended up becoming most of 2008’s Little Honey). And since that wild night of rock and roll matrimony in 2009, Williams’ has both expanded her lyrical focus, and kept the spigot to her newfound creativity wide open.

“I guess it’s better late than never,” she tells CityBeat with a husky laugh from her Los Angeles home. “I can’t really explain it. But I know I’m an anomaly. That’s for sure.”

Case in point: 2014’s Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone. Produced by Overby and guitarist Greg Leisz, Williams’ eleventh studio effort is her first-ever double album. Featuring Elvis Costello’s rhythm section, progressive guitarist Bill Frisell, and an assortment of L.A. studio musicians, the 20-song Spirit was actually edited down from a much larger cache.

“We recorded enough for three albums,” says Williams. “We had so much material that we knew early on it would be impossible to narrow it down to one. But thankfully we knew which ones had to come out together.”

Spirit marks other firsts for Williams as well. It’s the first time she’s used lyrics by her recently deceased father, poet Miller Williams (“Compassion”). And it’s also the inaugural album for her newly founded label, Highway 20 Records.

More than just a vehicle for her own future releases, and in conjunction with plenty of guidance from Overby, Williams relishes the opportunity to find and promote new talent.

“We really haven’t kicked it into gear yet,” she says. “And I’m not sure what to expect. I’ve never had my own label before. But I feel positive about it, and just hope I don’t have hundreds of artists getting me to sign them (laughs). Because I love pretending I’m an A&R person, going into clubs, and discovering great new artists. I have a good ear for that sort of thing. And now, I actually have a vehicle for it.”

While all of this new inspiration, energy, and expansion is coming at a time when many of her contemporaries are either winding down or relying on the re-hash of classic albums in their past, Williams seems to be hitting her creative stride.

Her trademark voice is stronger than ever, she’s finally in a supportive and nurturing relationship, and the most challenging part of her creative process has been figured out.

“I don’t think in terms of age,” says Williams. “I don’t understand when artists feel they haven’t ‘made it’ by the time they turn 30 and start talking about giving up because it’s too late. I’m too fat, I’m too old, I’m too tired – none of that flies. I didn’t even get my first break until I was in my mid-30s. So I don’t get those attitudes. Ageism only exists in the pop world. It’s just not a factor in things like jazz or blues. People are sometimes surprised by my age, but my songwriting has matured as I’ve matured.”

That tough-as-nails attitude resonates in everything she does. For an artist whose music tends to be emotionally vulnerable, there’s an undeniable vibe of industrial-strength durability to everything else about Williams.

“I really enjoy that image,” she says. “I enjoy being the bad girl, the Chrissie Hynde or Joan Jett type. And I’m also not afraid to tell it like it is in my songs. But I just lean more in the direction of motorcycle dudes and leather jackets. So it makes sense that I’d give that impression. It’s probably the combination of all of those things.”

Williams will remain on tour for Spirit until the end of March, when her focus will return to the new record. Although it isn’t likely to be another double album, it promises many other surprises, including covers of The Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes,” Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Factory.”

Additionally, where Frisell’s contributions to Spirit were limited, he’ll be featured on almost every track of the next one.

With the release date of the new album still undetermined, and Highway 20 Records yet to be fully realized, it’s likely Williams will hit her upcoming 40th anniversary with a full head of steam and no signs of slowing down.

“I really don’t think like that,” says Williams. “When someone mentions how long it’s been, I still have a hard time believing it. But Tom and I make a good team. And it’s very liberating to have creative control, to be able to put however many songs you like on an album with no middleman to tell you what to do. I have the best of all worlds, and it’s a great situation to be in.”

Originally published by San Diego CityBeat

Under the Covers with Jessica Lea Mayfield


Jessica Lea Mayfield knows a thing or two about life on the road. The well-seasoned traveling musician was playing in her family’s band before hitting her ninth birthday.

A nomadic lifestyle was cemented when Black Keys’ front man Dan Auerbach heard Mayfield’s “White Lies” EP – six songs the then-15-year-old recorded in her brother’s bedroom – and agreed to produce her first two full-length albums.

Mayfield, now 25, spread her creative wings with 2014’s “Make My Head Sing,” adding new sonic textures and self-producing with husband/bassist Jesse Newport.

But with tour dates for “Make My Head Sing” winding down, you’d think the perpetually homesick performer would take some time off.

She’s not.

Instead, she’ll head back out on the road to promote her upcoming, long-in-the-works Elliott Smith covers record with The Avett Brothers’ Seth Avett.

“We started it about four years ago,” Mayfield told DiscoverSD from her home in Ohio. “It was one of those things that we did when we could. I went to North Carolina, and Seth came up here, but it’s always hard to find that time — especially for a project where we’re doing it for fun.”

Appropriately titled “Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith,” the project came from very modest beginnings.

“We were on tour together and just hanging around backstage,” Mayfield said. “Seth was playing the song ‘Twilight’ on the piano, so I started singing along. It really was born out of shared love for Elliott Smith’s music. Neither of us have ever done anything like this, but it’s something we definitely have in common.”

Mayfield also shares plenty of parallels with her muse. From guitar playing, songwriting and admission of unease in the spotlight, to the uncompromising, personal and candid lyrics of both artists, they share plenty of ties. But Mayfield admits that with Smith, it runs even deeper.

“I’ve felt a connection to his lyrics since I was a teenager,” she said. “But I meet people and they tell me that they relate to my songs. It always surprises me that people can attach their emotions to them. But Elliott Smith is one of the only songwriters that does that for me.”

After her solo shows wrap in February, Mayfield will hit the road with Avett in March. It’s undetermined whether additional dates will be added, but Mayfield is already working on her next album. And the strange paradox of a shy homebody who spends her life on the road will begin again.

“I can’t pretend to be normal,” Mayfield said. “I’ve made it this far in the real world saying what’s on my mind and I haven’t been locked up yet. Art brings out emotion. It’s embarrassing, interesting and intriguing. But a lot of times I want to hide all of these things inside me. I feel like I’ve given away too much insight and too many puzzle pieces. But I’ve put myself out there for a living. It’s strange, but it’s all I’ve ever done.”

Originally published by DiscoverSD


Sun Baked: L.A. psych-rockers Allah-Las navigate the eternal summer


A band like Allah-Las couldn’t come from Brooklyn. They couldn’t be from Austin or Portland or any other hipster-band enclave across the country. They’re just too California. And while the Los Angeles quartet draws on a unique mixture of psych-rock, folk, surf, garage and a dusting of the Bakersfield sound, it’s unmistakably SoCal—a Byrds / Surfaris bastard child birthed onto a bed of Afghan Kush in Topanga Canyon.

The band’s latest, Worship the Sun, picks up exactly where their 2012 self-titled debut left off. The guitars are still clean and jangly. The laid-back beats again induce plenty of head nodding. Healthy doses of cinematic instrumentals and lush harmonies are still front and center, while the continued inspiration of women, waves and weed keep the vibe loose and in complete accord with the music.

It’s the kind of record perfectly suited for watching the sunset melt into the Pacific during a drive up the coast. Just don’t mention that to guitarist Pedrum Siadatian. He hates that shit.

“I’m sick of hearing ‘chill beach music’ constantly,” he tells CityBeat from a recent tour stop in Texas. “That one is especially annoying to me. I think it can’t be helped when people are saying the same thing about you over and over. But I’m sure everyone in the band has his own unique gripes. It just makes me not want to sound like that at all.”

It’s doubtful that Allah-Las will drop a black-metal or mariachi record anytime soon, but there is a direct line to his exasperation. Siadatian, bassist Spencer Dunham and drummer Matthew Correia formed the band when all three were employees at Amoeba Records on Sunset Boulevard (vocalist Miles Michaud joined later).

Especially for a music-store worker, having your art constantly reduced to the equivalent of a category placard has to be frustrating. But it’s also something that’s served the band tremendously well. In just two quick albums, Allah-Las have etched out a distinct sound that’s directly tied to their own geography. And they’ve done it through the unlikely paradox of being an act that’s both forward-thinking and vintage. There’s a palpable air of timeless California chic to the group and their songs, and it doesn’t stop with the music.

From their gorgeously minimalist marketing campaigns to their weekly Reverberation Radio podcast, the band oozes West Coast cool—even if they aren’t trying very hard.

“I think we’re kind of weak on promoting ourselves,” Siadatian says. “We don’t really bombard people with that stuff. But I guess we’re attempting to make a collective consciousness with our fans. It’s more about imagery and things like the Reverberation we do. We want to bring people into this world of appreciation for great things in the past. But we’re just promoting the things we like, both aesthetically and through our music.”

Part of the credit, at least for the music, can go to Nick Waterhouse. No stranger to vintage cool himself, the L.A. artist and producer is a college friend of Michaud’s who took interest in Allah-Las after seeing them play live. He ended up producing the band’s debut and co-producing Worship the Sun.

Dan Horne picked up the slack on the latter, producing much of the album in his Echo Park garage / studio over a period of a few months. Horne and other friends, like percussionist Jeff Luger, have been rounding out the live shows.

Although the extra players help to replicate Worship’s expanded sound, Siadatian has found that it injects new energy into the old songs, as well.

“It really helps,” he says, “especially with stuff from the first album that we’ve played a million times. It’s great to have someone else on stage adding their own touches. It just invigorates the songs for us. It helps to fill it out.”

Things come full circle as the current five-piece closes out its 2014 tour with a run of dates on the West Coast. It’ll be a welcome change for a band that Siadatian says “has been freezing our bones off in the sun” in recent weeks.

The new year is bound to have plenty of additional tour dates, but it will include work on new music, too. For fans accustomed to being transported to a 72-degree day in the City of Angels when Allah-Las hit their earphones, this is welcome news.

“We write songs in all kinds of ways,” Siadatian says. “It’s good when whoever is writing can fully realize what they want to say and present it without making it into a full sound. We actually come up with a lot of ideas during sound check. We figure out quite a lot of things when we’re just riffing and messing around. They’re all there. And we’ll definitely be working on the ideas we feel are good enough when we get home.”

Originally published in San Diego CityBeat


Doing Meatbodies Good

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Chad Ubovich knows a thing or two about turning it to eleven. Before his band, Meatbodies, released their excellent self-titled debut a few weeks ago, the 26-year-old bandleader cut his teeth with fellow L.A. ripper Ty Segall in hard-rockers Fuzz, as well as playing bass and guitar in Mikal Cronin’s band.

With the spotlight currently on Meatbodies, the longtime sideman recently spoke with DiscoverSD about his move to center stage, instinctive head banging, and what’s next for the band before their show here at Soda Bar on Nov. 13.

Q: Are there major differences in moving from sideman to frontman?

A: It’s the same drill. I’m just doing more (laughs). Same deal, I just find myself wanting to handle details I didn’t have to think about before. I’m taking care of things like driving, interviews and stuff like that.

Q: Easier having been out with Fuzz and Mikal?

A: It’s like any job. You start and work your way up the line. You witness everything that goes down and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. But even with all of that knowledge, I’m still doing a lot of messing up. It’s a learning process and I’m doing as much of it as I can while we go along.

Q: Have you been surprised by the reaction to the album?

A: I’m just really honored. And that was my whole thing going into this. I thought ‘I’m going to try this and if it doesn’t work out, well that’s all right.’ You know? And now, of course I’m happy that everyone’s stoked, but I’m also keeping a certain level of detachment to it all. Without that, I feel like you’d be catering to an idea of yourself, or what people have said that you are. And I don’t want to do that.

Q: Was working with (producer) Eric Bauer the reason you recorded it in San Francisco?

A: I definitely wanted to do it with Bauer. It was just a perk that he happened to be in San Francisco. But I love the city. There’s a shine to it that made me want to invest my mind in the project. When I’m an older gentleman and have the liberty to move where I want to, I’d love to move there. San Francisco or New York – somewhere with a city vibe. Los Angeles is so spread out.

Q: It’d be interesting to see how that changed the music. Have you even thought about what’s next?

A: You know, I’ve been trying to rewire my brain and my inspirations to be more linear. But my first instinct with music is always to be loud and bang my head. It comes down to my nature as a person who is pretty aggressive and high strung. But I’m also such a sociable person. My whole easel process is setting aside a huge chunk of time. I need to get myself away for a couple of weeks or something. If I’m alone in a place that’s quiet, I’ll get bored. If I’m bored, I’ll try to create my own entertainment. And that’s when I make songs.

Q: Wait, so you haven’t written because you’re having too much fun?

A: (laughs) I have some ideas I’d like to meditate on. But I have nothing concrete right now. Fuzz is writing a new album sometime next year. But hopefully, I can also find the time to get down on some of my own stuff.

Originally published by DiscoverSD

Majical Cloudz and beyond….

So, NBC persists on saying “Scott McDonald of” even though they are well aware that this blog gets updated about as much as  a hermit without a computer living at the North Pole. BUT, as I hate to have anyone come here and see the same exact posts they’ve seen the last 14 times they visited, I will attempt to post a few new things. And that starts with this — one of the pics I shot at the Lorde/Majical Cloudz show at SDSU’s Cal Coast Credit Union Theatre last Friday. I will try to post more (including a few of Lorde) very soon.


An Earful of Logic


Jason Kibler (aka DJ Logic) is not your typical DJ. The Bronx native’s nearly 25-year career is every bit as eclectic as his massive record collection.

Starting out in early 90s R&B’ers Eye & I, Kibler formed a life-long friendship with Living Colour’s Vernon Reid after the guitarist guested on one of the band’s tracks.

The two would pair again on Kibler’s true debut, the hip-hop/jazz mash-up of 1999’s Project Logic, and once more with their partnership in The Yohimbe Brothers.

But it was Logic’s work on Medeski Martin and Wood’s 1998 Blue Note debut, Combustication, that cemented the DJ’s readiness to collaborate with musicians from any genre. And he’s stayed true to the philosophy, working with everyone from The Grateful Dead and Christian McBride to Charlie Hunter and G. Love.

“It’s always good to see musicians and DJs collaborating,” Kibler recently told SoundDiego by phone from New York. “And it’s great when it goes both ways – DJs learning the music, and musicians learning aspects of DJing. It’s good to see that whole thing gel. Growing up, I had a keyboard and I played clarinet. I’ve always been excited about collaboration. It’s an incredible feeling to contribute ideas to something musically amazing.”

Kibler’s most recent collaboration finds him paired with The Earful – a San Diego funk collective featuring members of The Mars Volta and B-Side Players. Nominated for Best Jazz Artist at the 2013 San Diego Music Awards, The Earful is ending their current West Coast tour with shows featuring Logic. That includes a tour-closing stop on Saturday at Winston’s Beach Club in Ocean Beach.

“I’ve known those guys for a while now,” said Kibler. “I’m a big fan of their music and a big fan of the guys in the band. Plus, the timing was right for us to do something this summer.”

Kibler is already working on follow-ups to last year’s releases of Are You Ready, a more hip-hop-centric solo album, and Chillin’ in Batumi, an album he made with Georgian pianist Beka Gochiashvili. DJ Logic dates will continue throughout the year, and the turntablist is always working on a steady stream of remixing and production work.

“I just take it as it comes,” he said. “There’s a lot of music out there. I’m always interested in learning, no matter how much I do, or how many styles I play. I’m always keeping it open to exploring more and more, and challenging myself. I just love music.”

Originally published by NBC San Diego