In late April 2002 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival — among the nation’s premiere celebrations of roots music — one of the most in-demand players was a young man with two turntables and a portable sampler.
The turntablist’s name is DJ Logic (born Lee Jason Kibler in 1972), and he’s made that name largely by playing his turntables outside of the various musical spheres with which they are most commonly associated. Instead of techno and hip-hop, his growing catalog of recordings is more likely to be filed under jazz or rock. This is no small accomplishment, and his popularity is as much a reflection of his musicianship as it is of his diplomacy, his skill as an electronic-music ambassador.
He has played and recorded with such jazz musicians as Medeski Martin & Wood, the groove-oriented trio; saxophonist Karl Denson, a Blue Note recording artist who, not coincidentally, had a long association with an acid-jazz outfit, the Greyboy Allstars; and New Orleans’ own Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the quarter-century-old institution. Logic has also become something of a regular on the jam-band circuit, playing with String Cheese Incident, Bela Fleck and Ratdog, the band featuring Grateful Dead alumnus Bob Weir.
During Jazz Fest 2002, the Dirty Dozen celebrated its silver anniversary with eleven dates in a row at a New Orleans club called the Mermaid Lounge. Logic was in town to play nine of those dates, plus a gig with Ratdog, and with his own group, Project Logic. In the process, he secured his reputation as a digital fly in the self-consciously analog ointment.
This diversity of musical settings has become Logic’s hallmark. He’s done more than just about any other musician to bring contemporary electronic music to traditional instrumentalists, forging strong relationships with players several generations his senior, from guitarist Vernon Reid to producer Teo Macero. Over the years, he’s become something along the lines of the Moby of the musicians’ union — the ubiquitous face of contemporary music for working musicians, if not for the general public.
Logic got his start early, as a teenager growing up in the Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop. He jammed with a loose assortment of black instrumentalists, a group that came to be known as the Black Rock Coalition, among them the hard-rock band Living Colour, which featured Reid. Soon he was appearing at the Manhattan club the Knitting Factory, and playing with a host of the club’s indigenous crew of improvisers.
Logic consented to sit down at length to discuss his variety of projects. Even a cursory read yields ample evidence of his enthusiasm for a broad range of music. Mere mention of the heavy-metal band Metallica or hip-hop producer Hi-Tek brings a rush of praise, insight and anecdotes — and to witness him draw the comparison between a trombonist and a DJ is to get a glimpse of what makes him a favorite collaborator for a growing number of musicians. The interview appears here in a lightly edited transcript.
Marc Weidenbaum: During Jazz Fest you’re playing with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. I saw two nights so far. You’re playing nine of the eleven nights in a row that they’re doing?
DJ Logic: Yeah, nine out of eleven. Sitting in with the Dirty Dozen, because, as you know, I played on their album [Medicated Magic (Ropeadope)], two cuts, “Africa” and “We Got Robbed,” and spinning between the sets, then doing an hour- or two-hour spin set until the people can’t dance no more, till five or four in the morning. Last night went to about 5:30, and the night before that, too. I was surprised. People were coming over. There’s a lot going on [during Jazz Fest], so people trinkle from other shows, which is great — that they know that something’s still going on that they can check out for a couple more hours. You see people come out of cabs at like 4:30 in the morning. They’re like, “Oh, you still going on?”
Weidenbaum: Is there a set time when the Dirty Dozen exits the stage? When do they excuse themselves? Because they don’t play till four or five, right?
DJ Logic: They usually stop around 3:00, or 2:30. It’s just a “feel the vibe” thing. They play the first set, which is amazing. Then, like, the second set [in which DJ Logic joins the Dirty Dozen on stage] is even more amazing, because it takes it up another notch higher. It’s a vibe thing, and everyone’s just having a good time on stage. That’s it.
Weidenbaum: The trombone player in the Dirty Dozen blows me away. He’s so nimble and humorous, and he plays hard.
DJ Logic: Sammie [Williams]? I know. I’m trying to get him to come down to the Project show and sit in with us, because I know he’d rip it.
Weidenbaum: One night, I heard him drop in quotes from recent songs by Blu Cantrell and Nelly Furtado. He loves to do that, mix up the traditional and the pop.
DJ Logic: And OutKast. And he also did Ludacris.
Weidenbaum: Did he really?
DJ Logic: Yeah, one tune, but which one? Aw, man, I can’t remember. Different tunes just come out of his head, and he’ll just, like, throw it out there like that. That’s like being a DJ in a way, you know? Spinning, driving it in. He’s an awesome player, awesome.
Weidenbaum: Have you spoken with him apart from the rest of the band?
DJ Logic: Yeah, and he has a little thing happening, another band, I forgot the name of it, but he’s doing this side project as well, and he’s using some pedals and electronic stuff, too, so he’s getting into that. We spoke about that. He’s, “Hey, Logic,” and asking me advice, what pedals he should get and stuff like that, to change things up, the sound. He just wants to be creative, and you can see that, too, when he’s up there, he just comes up with some amazing …
Weidenbaum: When it’s time to do his solo in a song, he announces it with a loud blast.
DJ Logic: Yeah, he stands out, totally. And a very sweet guy.
Weidenbaum: Was that a Kaoss Pad you have in addition to the turntables?
DJ Logic: Yeah, I’ve used the Kaoss Pad about two years now. I used it on the last record, The Anomaly, and I use it in my shows. The reason why the Kaoss Pad, it’s just like the extra color — the salt and pepper, I should say. A little abstract feeling, the vibe you hear, the delays and stuff like that, under the musicians while they’re playing. Atmosphere. Or, I might manipulate a sound from off a record, and I can just change it — make it distort, give it that type of vibe, a distorted sound, a sample-sound type of vibe. It also has a sampler in it, so I use that as well.
Weidenbaum: So, you have your turntables feeding into the Kaoss Pad in your live set up?
DJ Logic: Yeah, the turntables going into it, I can sample, like, two bars, or four bars, and it’ll loop that, and I’ll find something to mix with that.
Weidenbaum: Can you pick up what the band’s doing live? Do you have the band’s monitor going into the Kaoss Pad?
DJ Logic: No, that’d be great, that’s something that I’d like to check out. I have ideas of doing something like that, just have to have the right sort of gear. I’m all into the Kaoss Pad. It’s a wonderful effects unit, like 50 different types of effects, and I see guitarists using it — the guy from Radiohead —
Weidenbaum: I’ve seen vocalists use it, too.
DJ Logic: Yeah, you can come up with a lot of crazy sounds, so that’s what I like about it.
Weidenbaum: When you play live with the Dirty Dozen, it was much more about scratching than about, say, dropping in a sample.
DJ Logic: Right, right.
Weidenbaum: It was about playing along, figuring out what the guitar player was doing, matching the rhythm —
DJ Logic: Right, matching his rhythm. You know, playing like a percussionist. Not even scratching that much. You hear it once, then you don’t hear it, then you hear it again. It’s all groovin’ with the vibe, what’s going on. I like to let the groove just, like, move, and come in and out. Sometimes I don’t even like to hear myself; I just like to be in the cut, laid back a little bit, just play the role of percussionist.
Weidenbaum: When you scratch, how essential is the specific record you use? Does the tone vary widely from one record to another?
DJ Logic: Yeah, different records have different sounds, and you have to pitch it differently, in order for the audience to hear it. I try to find sounds that are close to what’s going on around me, to blend to where some people don’t even know that I’m doing anything. They figure, What is he doing? I’m like, Oh, I was doing something. It was in there, even if you didn’t hear, and if you’re still moving, then that’s good. If it wasn’t annoying you, that type of thing — because a lot of people can’t stand the turntable, can’t stand the certain sound, a little … irritable. I just try to blend, find the right colors.
Weidenbaum: You’ve posted some songs on your website that aren’t on your albums, like that “Sonic Thrust” MP3 file. That was for The Anomaly but didn’t end up on it?
DJ Logic: I wanted it to end up on Anomaly, but they didn’t finish mixing it at the time; the mix wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to be. We had a deadline, trying to finish the record, so the idea came: Let’s just finish mixing and stream it up on the website. Just keep building the website with some interesting things. The guys that work on the website are amazing; they keep it up to date. Just keeping the whole site together and interesting, even got live shows and stuff like that.
Weidenbaum: Billy Martin’s site is like that. There’s so much on there, from his work with Medeski Martin & Wood to his solo projects — you can spend a day on it.
DJ Logic: He has a lot of stuff coming out. Me and Billy have a thing together I did for his turntable sessions.
Weidenbaum: The “illy B” project, where he made a breakbeat record for turntablists to scratch with and sample?
DJ Logic: Yeah, I was, like, Billy, you need to do a breakbeat record. And he was like, You’re sure? And I was like, Yeah man, because you’re just amazing, you’re funky, you come up with all these interesting, cool rhythms, ideas. It seems like if he had eight hands he’d just be amazing.
Weidenbaum: That record, illy B Eats: Groove, Bang and Jive Around, sounds good even on its own, though that might not have been how it was intended to be consumed.
DJ Logic: I love that record, I use it in the sets when I can, and I’m so psyched that he put that out. I’m trying to get John [Medeski] to do one, all sounds —
Weidenbaum: Keyboard stuff?
DJ Logic: Yeah, keyboard stuff. He also talked about doing a little kung-fu type of soundtrack thing together, too. It’s all coming together.
Weidenbaum: You work with Medeski Martin & Wood quite a bit. Do you see the band a lot in New York?
DJ Logic: Yeah, occasionally. We’re all busy, you know. Either I’m out of town, they’re home, or I’m home, they’re out. But we bump heads here or there. The last thing we did together was a trios thing at the Knitting Factory. I didn’t know what that was going to turn out to be. I just paired up different people together who hadn’t played with each other.
Weidenbaum: That was the series you curated for the Knitting Factory’s anniversary?
DJ Logic: Yeah, for the anniversary month, and the Project also played; we played a second set one night. That night, both sets were sold out. Started off with [bassist] Christian McBride, and Scratch, the beatbox from the Roots, he also has a record coming out from Ropeadope, and Karriem Riggins. That was an interesting concept. After that I had [guitarist] Charlie Hunter and [drummer] Billy Martin. They’d never played together before.
Weidenbaum: Never? I associate them with each other, since they’ve both recorded for Blue Note, and both experiment with hip-hop and groove-oriented jazz.
DJ Logic: Charlie’s amazing, man, that’s my brother: so cool, so down to earth. We had [Phish bassist] Mike Gordon with John Medeski, and that was great. Michael King, [the mandolin/violin player] from String Cheese Incident, and [bassist] Rob Wasserman from Ratdog, and that was interesting as well. I’m going to be performing with him [during Jazz Fest]. We have a small thing going with him, me and [Ratdog drummer] Jay Lane, so we incorporate that into the whole Ratdog thing. He’s doing some Dead stuff, and some Ratdog songs, and then we go into this trio thing in the middle, and folks are like, Woah.
Weidenbaum: Does the rest of the band step back?
DJ Logic: They stand back, yeah, or they come in. Bob [Weir] might step up, ’cause it’s open for any of them. But they give us that moment in time to just change everything and take it to a whole other place, which is great. People just get into it very well. I did a month tour with them already, and it was amazing, got along very well, the vibe was real cool. It’s a lot of music, as you know. I just found my place, and everything worked out cool.
Weidenbaum: When you travel on tour is it just you alone?
DJ Logic: It’s usually just me. I have an assistant or someone who comes out with me, too, some of the time; it depends, the budget and things like that. But I do have somebody come out.
Weidenbaum: You may be the busiest DJ who isn’t playing hip-hop primarily. How many nights do you play a year?
DJ Logic: I dunno. I keep track, but it’s just something I enjoy doing. This is my life and something I love, and I’m happy — and also, to be playing with musicians. I don’t really get tired. I could just spin all night, see people having a good time, just playing some good music.
Weidenbaum: I brought a friend with me to see you once and I said, “There’s going to be a difference about this DJ you may not have seen before.” So your band played and you got out in the middle and my friend said, “He’s smiling.”
DJ Logic: [laughs] Right, man.
Weidenbaum: You were smiling a lot on stage playing with the Dirty Dozen. Did you love their music before recording with them on their Medicated Magic album?
DJ Logic: Yeah, I was with Medeski Martin & Wood, and John was recording their record, and that’s when I heard about them, because they played the CD on the bus. And I saw them at a festival, and I was like, Who’s playing the bass — oh, there is no bass. They was just rocking it. Horns! The drummer had the big drum. These guys are awesome.
Weidenbaum: The tuba player makes some weird noises, too. He’s not content to simply play the bass line.
DJ Logic: Oh, yeah, sound effects. He’s great. Imagine him with effects unit. Then, when John recorded with them, that album [Buck Jump (Mammoth)] was great, and since then, that’s when I fell in love with the cats. And the whole New Orleans vibe, that’s a whole different thing, something like that. I haven’t jammed with anyone like that — “marching band” type of vibe. I mean, I did the mandolin, and the banjo, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing. I hadn’t stepped in the New Orleans funk vibe. This is a big step for me, and it’s great.
Weidenbaum: Your album The Anomaly had a track titled “French Quarter” — in fact, that was the opening song. How did that come about?
DJ Logic: That was, for me, a little episode in the French Quarter: walking up the French Quarter, just seeing how everyone was having a good time, a lot of freaks and everything. When I listened to that tune, every time we performed it, it was, like, that “get up and let it go,” that type of vibe, a “have a good time” type of tune. That was the cool name that came to my thoughts at the time. Yeah, “French Quarter,” this’ll be nice. I can see, I was imagining, like, a video, walking up the French Quarter, playing that tune, with the marching band, and something like the Dirty Dozen [he hums the horn section]. So, that’s how that came about.
Weidenbaum: You’ve played with rock bands and jazz acts. The brass band is its own realm.
DJ Logic: Yeah, different rhythms, stuff like that. Yeah, it’s very interesting and creative for me.
Weidenbaum: One thing that makes the Dirty Dozen special is that they don’t let each other truly solo. No one’s vamping; no one gets to perform alone. If anyone’s soloing, someone prods them, someone plays something underneath.
DJ Logic: They did that to me last night.
Weidenbaum: What happened?
DJ Logic: It’s like you said: no space. Everything was all in the pocket, the rhythm vibe, and I was like, OK, this is where we’re going. It went down to me and the drummer, and he was in a different rhythm, but we were playing off each other. Then Sammie came in and did a little thing, and me and Sammie would go back and forth. It was great, man.
Â — A short break is taken to ingest some fish tacos and guacamole for lunch. —
DJ Logic: [Speaking to the tape recorder.] We’re talking about me getting my start in jazz. I started out playing jazz with an improvisational group — a band, I should say. The first band I played with was an alternative rock band, before the jazz thing. The bass player from the band used to do these improvisational jazz gigs at the old Knitting Factory, which was right on Broadway and Lafayette. I was sneaking in, knocking on that door right next to the stage, to get inside. That was my first exposure to the improvisation scene, just playing with all these interesting musicians, and them bringing me into the mix.
Weidenbaum: This bass player was Melvin —
DJ Logic: Yeah, Melvin Gibbs. It was him, Vernon Reid, Jean-Paul Bourelly …
Weidenbaum: Jamaaladeen Tacuma?
DJ Logic: I think Jamaal was, yeah, Jamaaladeen Tacuma was there.
Weidenbaum: I lived nearby, on Crosby Street, from August of ’88 to February of ’89, when I moved to Brooklyn, and I was at the Knitting Factory all the time. John Zorn, John Lurie, the Lounge Lizards, Marc Ribot, the big shows at the Puck Building nearby. That was a great time.
DJ Logic: I was happy they moved on to Leonard Street and were still around. It’s the jazz place, you know? When I did that whole trios thing [for the anniversary celebration], I thought of how I had started jamming, doing the improvisational stuff. Because it’s not really happening that way anymore. I spoke with [Knitting Factory founder] Michael Dorf and we both were agreeing: remember how it used to just be improvisation, and people were into it.
Weidenbaum: It was different back then. I have those old Knitting Factory calendars from the ’80s boxed up, and I look at them occasionally. These days, it’s all great music at the club, but they’re mostly fully formed groups, groups whose names you recognize. Back then, it was just batches of people — one night, John Zorn, a drummer and someone from Japan on vocals; the next night one of them would be the “leader,” with other folks sitting in. I guess the club Tonic in New York is more like that now, with folks like Arto Lindsay booking — or “curating” — acts.
DJ Logic: Exactly, and Marc Ribot, too. Wonderful guy, way down to earth. Before I did the album [Presenting Project Logic], he and I had a long talk, just about music. I was on the road with Medeski Martin & Wood at the time, and I loved all the stuff he had done, the … what were they called?
Weidenbaum: His band? The Rootless Cosmopolitans?
DJ Logic: Yeah, I loved him from that time on. And we had an interesting conversation, so when it came time to do the record [Presenting Project Logic], I asked if he wanted to do something, and he was like, Sure, I’d be happy to. That’s how that came about. We did stuff at Wetlands [the longtime New York club].
Weidenbaum: He’s someone who, whenever I saw him around New York, he had his guitar on him, just coming from one place —
DJ Logic: — and going to another. He’d be in Manhattan, and then have to go to Brooklyn for a show. Williamsburg is just booming, so many good places, like Galapagos on Sixth Street. Very good stuff over there; that’s the next spot. Everyone isn’t headed into Manhattan; they’re headed straight to Brooklyn. Manhattan is not like how it used to be, the vibe and everything. Rent has gone up. Steep. I’m lucky, things like that are popping up.
Weidenbaum: Talk about working with Teo Macero. He appeared on Presenting Project Logic, and of course he’s legendary for shepherding much of Miles Davis’s electric period.
DJ Logic: Teo is amazing. He’s produced everybody. I met Teo when I was doing this thing with Vernon Reid. We just sat down and talked about jazz and music and everything. I was talking with him, as a big fan of Miles, and just sitting down with him was like sitting down with a grandfather, just hearing stories, all the studio sessions, all the craziness. When it came down to doing the first album, Presenting Project Logic, I was like, “Hey, Teo, want to have some fun? Let’s go in the studio and put something together.” He’s like [speaks softly], “No problem man, it’ll be good, man, it’ll be alright.” And he’s so into it, he came with all the effect units and everything. That made me feel good, because it uplifted him. He jumped right on it, and came with his horn. He plays trumpet on the record, and getting him to do that, you know, “do what you hear, what you feel” — just the way he was talking, that’s what he told me: what you hear, what you feel, go with it.
Weidenbaum: I wonder about his take on the reissues of his work, especially with Miles Davis, which was so essential getting the ball rolling, in terms of using the studio as a compositional tool. He said how he left unedited copies of the tapes for In a Silent Way, so some day down the road someone else could do something different with them. He was so instrumental, so to speak, in bringing production and jazz together.
DJ Logic: Oh, yeah, very instrumental. You know, just the concepts he would come up with, like In a Silent Way, and then Agharta and Bitches Brew. Yeah, and you can hear it, especially on the vinyl of In a Silent Way. You have to hear it on vinyl. I mean, the CD’s good. But he would even tell you, too — he told me myself, he’s like, “Yeah, the CD is alright, but it’s not like the vinyl.” Serious, on the vinyl you can hear the clarity of the way he mixed it. He’s like, now the CD took away from his idea.
Weidenbaum: When you clean up an old recording, the question arises in terms of what’s being removed.
DJ Logic: Yeah, yeah, right. They take something out, doing something, that’s changing. But, yeah, so he’s just phenomenal. I love him a lot.
Weidenbaum: You think you’ll be involved with him again?
DJ Logic: Yeah, actually, he wrote a tune called “Logic,” so that’s something I’d like to record for the next record. He just — I saw him at the Vernon session, and he came in the next day, after we spoke, and said, “Hey man, I got this tune, it’s called ‘Logic.'” I’m like, Naww. And he’s like, “Yeah, we gotta do this.” And I’m like yeah let’s do it. I still got the sheet [music] at home.
Weidenbaum: So, you were playing at the Knitting Factory when you were 18.
DJ Logic: Earlier than that.
Weidenbaum: They’re not gonna send the fire marshal after you at this late date.
DJ Logic: I had to get an ID. That’s why I had to knock on that door, do my thing, and then leave after that.
Weidenbaum: You were talking before, over tacos, about the distinction between “groove music” and “improvisation.”
DJ Logic: It’s a different style, the improvisational — you can be improv on the groove
Weidenbaum: Which is what Medeski Martin & Wood is about.
DJ Logic: I was jamming with them, and they used to always change it up. Played with them for a full year, getting used to the vibe and style they play.
Weidenbaum: How about the Karl Denson record, Dance Lesson #2, which is so groove-oriented. Was that a good recording experience?
DJ Logic: Yeah, it was a good recording experience, an interesting combination of people: [guitarist] Melvin Sparks, [bassist] Chris Wood, [organist] Leon Spencer, and Karl — he’s just an amazing producer, writer. He comes up with amazing tracks. When he’s in there, just the way he placed everything. Some stuff I had to put some tapes over, and some stuff I played with them [live]. Just finding my place around the mix of everything that was going on. We were up there in California for three days, and it all came together nice.
Weidenbaum: That would be Denson’s old stomping ground when he played with Greyboy Allstars.
DJ Logic: Yeah, I was a fan of all those guys. When I first saw Karl I was like, hey, that’s the guy from the Greyboy Allstars. Also, Greyboy — I first met him in Austin, Texas. We did a spin set together.
Weidenbaum: During one of the SXSW music festivals?
DJ Logic: No, it was a gig somebody put together. Someone thought it’d be cool to have two cats who were jazz DJs.
Weidenbaum: The two of you played together?
DJ Logic: Yeah, together, and with a live band. But he doesn’t do that, Greyboy. He’ll produce the live musicians, but he’s not a DJ who sits in with a band or stuff like that. He’s a great producer. He just put out a record, a mix of hip-hop and jazz.
Weidenbaum: When you played with the Dirty Dozen live, you seemed to use mostly just one turntable, plus the Kaoss Pad —
DJ Logic: I usually play with both [turntables], but in that concert, some extra people were on stage.
Weidenbaum: The band brought that young bass player in one night …
DJ Logic: Yeah, the bass player. There was more of a bounce on [my side of the stage], and stuff like that. That’s why I was on the other side of the turntables. But I usually use both, like with my band.
Weidenbaum: How about Olu Dara. You posted an MP3 on your site of a remix you did with him, with him singing.
DJ Logic: He’s [the rapper] Nas’s father. So, like, when his management called and said, Hey, you want to remix Olu Dara, I was like, Yeah. That was an honor. When I finished the remix, he came down to check it out, he was like wow. He’s a legend.
Weidenbaum: What was the scenario? You received the separate tracks from his manager?
DJ Logic: Yeah, I got the separate tracks, they sent me a ProTools file. All the tracks are broken down, so I’ll listen to the main mix first. I’ll take notes of little things I may want to take out, then start rearranging it. Sometimes I’ll take stuff that’s at the end of the track, that they didn’t use, and put that at the front, some things that people haven’t heard — that’s on the album, but is too low in the mix. Bring it up, that type of vibe. Reconfigure it. Do the dubbed-out version, with effects.
Weidenbaum: Have you done a lot of work with rap vocals?
DJ Logic: Yeah, in the early days, and still occasionally, but more my stuff has been with musicians. I love hip-hop, and eventually I’d like to put out a hip-hop live thing, and get different hip-hop cats, underground and up’n’coming. You got Digable Planets, who have been on the scene for many years, you know. Anti-Pop Consortium. We jam together. We got Rob Swift for the remix record, DJ Spooky, Bill Laswell, Kid Loco, who’s from outta Europe. They all did remixes from The Anomaly. That’s coming out. Some stuff will be streamed [from the website].
Weidenbaum: Moby is rightly recognized for bringing electronic music to a much broader audience than had ever been responsive to it before. You have done a lot to bring electronic music directly to musicians.
DJ Logic: And a lot of places, too, I should say. Places that haven’t seen nothing. Like Alabama, and Iowa, and Montana. It’s special. I’m happy to bring stuff, to show people something different and new. I like to incorporate all sorts of colors, vibes, with the musicians — be creative, just try to find interesting concepts and styles. The musicians will come up with interesting ideas, working off each other.
Weidenbaum: Are most instrumentalists responsive to your work.
DJ Logic: I get hip-hop heads, drum’n’bass heads, jazz heads, and that’s cool. You get those people coming up to you after the show. You get people rhyming on the side.
Weidenbaum: When you play with an instrumental band, like Ratdog, that’s existed for a while, is it usually the case that one member is more interested in what you’re doing than others? For example, when Metallica recorded with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the band’s singer, James Hetfield, referred to that experience as “Lars’s project” — it was something that Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, wanted to do.
DJ Logic: Yeah, I love Metallica. Metallica is bad-ass.
Weidenbaum: I was just thinking about that song Metallica did for the second Mission: Impossible movie, because there’s a band that has been hesitant about adopting contemporary electronics to its sound. But in that song, “I Disappear,” there’s that little moment where you can hear some scratching. And later in the song, you can hear the lead guitarist, Kirk Hammett, playing at the same point, like he’s imitating —
DJ Logic: — like a turntable, yeah, like the guy from Rage [Against the Machine] does. I think he has like a little fader or something; he’s got something so he can manipulate it.
Weidenbaum: So, to get back to the original question: when you play with another band, is it a case where there are some members who are really into it and others whom you have to win over, diplomatically.
DJ Logic: It’s like you said, someone in the band wanted to do something with a turntablist. Like, when I played with Galactic, those guys are, like, psyched to have me sit in. Rob [Mercurio], you know, he already had it mapped out, where I was gonna come in, and what I was gonna do, which was great. And playing with, like, Medeski Martin & Wood, they just were interested in playing with a DJ. When I first played with them, at the Shack-Man release party, they didn’t know what was gonna happen, and you know I was just coming up with interesting sounds and concepts, some vibes, trying to find sounds that wasn’t there, like horn sounds. It all came together. And the audience loved it.
Weidenbaum: And that was the first time you played with them?
DJ Logic: Yeah, that was the first, when they had the Shack record and they did four nights or like a week straight at the Knitting Factory with different people. They actually had different DJs but the whole DJ thing didn’t work out — it was just me. I ended up being the DJ playing every night. It was cool. It was great. I hadn’t ever heard their music at that time. It was the first I was exposed to them. And there was a little scene developing.
Weidenbaum: Playing live with turntables and doing a remix are two different ways to manipulate music. Do you feel you have a signature technique that applies to both?
DJ Logic: I don’t try to look at it — look for a signature. It’s probably like a vibe and a style, somewhere where people might not even know it, make it spontaneous, something where people might says, “That’s Logic? — hmm, that’s interesting.” I just play what I hear, from my heart.
Weidenbaum: I’ve become addicted to instrumental versions of hip-hop albums, and R&B albums. I’ve been listening to some of Hi-Tek’s production work with the rappers Talib Kweli and Mos Def.
DJ Logic: Oh, yeah, it’s hot. I’ve got them both on vinyl. What else I got? Dre’s 2001 and The Chronic instrumentals …
Weidenbaum: I’ve got this Cash Money Millionaires collection, all this New Orleans hip-hop, minus the vocals. Great stuff.
DJ Logic: Yeah, everyone’s putting out instrumentals. I love it, too. I got DJ Premier’s instrumentals. Pete Rock just put out one, on BBE [Records]. Will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas.
Weidenbaum: I recently saw Hi-Tek play live with Talib Kweli. After the concert, I went home and listened to the instrumental record — again, trying to make a connection between what Hi-Tek did live and what his studio production work is like.
DJ Logic: He’s versatile, like if you hear that Hi-Tek and Kweli album [Reflection Eternal (Priority)]. It’s good to be very versatile — eclectic, I should say. You look at Quincy Jones. Is there any other producer like that?
Weidenbaum: Produced Michael Jackson and Ray Charles —
DJ Logic: — and Sinatra? Just look how far that man has gone back. He’s stepped in a lot of genres, from blues, to jazz, R&B, hip-hop, rock, pop, everything. Soundtracks. I mean, that’s someone who I’d like to be like. Whole different genres of music.
Weidenbaum: And Vernon Reid, to speak of someone you’re close with — he’s that way, too, all over the map.
DJ Logic: Vernon’s that way. Vernon’s very creative. He just produced the James Blood Ulmer record [Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions (Label M)], and that’s amazing. That record’s off the hook. And Vernon’s always thinking of the next thing, and I get so many ideas and creative influence just from him, because he’s just like, always on the next thing. We have the Yohimbe Brothers thing we’ve been working on for a long time. That’s an electronic album. That’s an aphrodisiac that comes from out of Africa, like a pill for males. It’s an eclectic electronic record, instrumental stuff and some vocal stuff; there’s also some musicians playing on it as well. It’s a record we’ve been working on probably for, like, three, four years. And we also toured Europe with it, and the response was great. It was just us, as a duo. It came together well. We’re about to mix it, as soon as I get home, after this. It’s gonna come out on Ropeadope. We have Prince Paul, Slick Rick …
Weidenbaum: Slick Rick is still out of jail?
DJ Logic: Yeah, he’s out of jail. [laughs] He’s doing his thing. He’s a very nice guy, too. A humble guy, down to earth. Yeah, the album sounds amazing, man. Can’t wait until everybody hears it. It’s totally left-field. Nothing else is like this.
Weidenbaum: I largely associated Vernon Reid with avant-garde jazz music before Living Colour came out, like the duo album he did with guitarist Bill Frisell. Then the Black Rock Coalition stuff broke. And I thought to myself, I guess I didn’t realize he was such a Rush fan, because a lot of what he was playing sounded like Alex Lifeson, Rush’s guitarist.
DJ Logic: Yeah, totally, totally. Vernon is amazing, musically. Out of this world.
Weidenbaum: Do you have a specific role model?
DJ Logic: Vernon’s known me since I started. Like, the Black Rock Coalition? When that all started, I was right there, and Vernon was like, “Hey man I want you to come play with us, with Living Colour.” So, I played with them for a minute, as well as doing the Eye & I thing [a group with bassist Melvin Gibbs]. And we always stayed in touch. And when Living Colour broke up, he called me, and he was going through that whole deal, trying to figure out what he was going to do with his life — part of his life, I should say — and I was right there. He’s like a brother to me. I love him a lot. He’s the world to me, and we work together very well.
Weidenbaum: One thing I have wondered: you clearly love hanging out with musicians, you love to sit in with other groups —
DJ Logic: Right.
Weidenbaum: It’s too bad your equipment weighs so much — the turntables, the mixer. Heck, the table.
DJ Logic: I’m working on being able to put my turntables around my neck. [laughs]
Weidenbaum: A little more time at the gym.
DJ Logic: There are some new turntables coming out that I can’t wait to check out. I know Vestax had this guitar turntable — wrap it around myself and scratch like a guitarist. Also, I’m looking for my next little secret project: the acoustic version. The washboard. That’s like scratch percussion, like the “first” scratch, and the rhythms are almost the same [as with turntables]. So, you look at the forefathers, the blues cats who came up.
Weidenbaum: Do you have a washboard?
DJ Logic: Yeah, I’ve got a washboard now. I’m getting the fingerwork technique together. That’s my next little secret thing.
Weidenbaum: What do you play with?
DJ Logic: Finger-tip pieces, four or five, depending on how comfortable.
Weidenbaum: You’ll be playing with a Cajun band.
DJ Logic: Yeah, that’s right, be scratchin’ it up, you know? Also, I’m trying to manipulate it. That’s something I would like to run the Kaoss Pad through: the washboard.
Weidenbaum: Then you’d be totally mobile. And you could do your laundry on the road.
DJ Logic: [laughs]
Weidenbaum: You live in the Bronx. Where does one find a washboard in the Bronx these days?
DJ Logic: Nowhere, unless in a flea market, pawn shop or something. I think that’s all like down South.
Weidenbaum: Where did you get yours?
DJ Logic: I actually got it here [in New Orleans]. A friend of mine helped me out getting it. It’ll be the washboard scratch. Incorporate that in my set. I think every DJ would agree with me, every musician: You look at that, and you look at the turntable, and they come from the same sort of genre, in a way.
Related links: DJ Logic's website. Ropeadope Records's website.