First Rights for Sale
[Rocky Mountain Bullhorn 2oo2?]
All That Jazz –
DJ Logic Puts a New Spin on Turntabalism
by Ande Wanderer
Who would have thought being born in the Bronx, in the projects, during the Vietnam War, on the eve of an oil crisis would turn out to be good fortune?
It was for Jason Kibler, aka, DJ Logic who was born in the right place, at the right time to witness the beginnings of what would come to be known as hip hop music.
At house parties and the neighborhood community center on the Bronx’s Sedgwick Avenue, Logic grew up watching turntable pioneers such as DJ Kool Herk, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grand Master Flash.
“It was special,” says Logic of his youth. “People would just be break dancing and having a good time. It was just like one big family type of thing.”
Fast forward twenty years and DJ Logic is a man on a musical mission. With his trademark musician-friendly style, he aims to transform the image of the turntabilist into a conductor, worthy of leading the act. His music melts the boundaries between genres, blending elements of jazz, hip hop, rock, funk, ambient, world and house.
With his impeccable ear and endless creativity he’s been compared to Miles Davis and convinced many discriminating critics that the turntables are, alas, an instrument.
DJ Logic’s second album, Anomaly, was released on Ropeadope Records May 22, which was also the re-release date of his debut album, 1999’s Presenting Project Logic.
. “I wanted to look at this album as a mixed tape in a way,” says Logic, who points to Kid Loco, Laurent Garnier and St. Germaine as current influences.
“Touring in Europe, going to the clubs in Europe, seeing how they were responding to the music,” inspired even more eclecticism.
“In Europe they’re so diverse – they listen to everything. Here in the states, its a whole different thing.”
In pushing to expand his own musical ability and his audience’s horizons the result is what we’ve come to expect from DJ Logic — eclectic, relentlessly innovative and funky as hell.
When he was fourteen years old, Santa climbed up the fire escape and left Kibler his first set of turntables. He quickly had a handle on the wheels and his first gig was at the Sedgwick community center where he had seen so many of his heroes spin before him.
Though he humbly claims he was in demand simply because he was the only kid who owned turntables, it wasn’t long before Logic was hired for house parties in all five boroughs of New York.
Eye and I
In 1987, when friend, Richie Harrison invited Logic to try out for Eye and I, an alternative rock group, he was hesitant.
“At the time I was young, and I didn’t know nothing (about rock music). I was all into hip hop. But I was just like ‘Aw, what the heck, I’m young, let me just see –– experiment, see what’s up. It was back in the day –– there was no DJ’s deejaying with live bands like you see now.”
The experiment produced promising results and the band was at the nucleus of Vernon Reid’s (Living Colour) Black Rock Coalition, a network for genre-busting black rock acts. The band was popular in NYC music circles but wasn’t on the national radar. Kibler, a star basketball player just finishing high school, was faced with the decision to go to college on a sports scholarship or pursue music full time with the Black Rock gang.
He chose music.
His decision was quickly rewarded when Eye and I was signed to a Sony recording contract a few months later. They went on to tour as the opening act for Living Colour, Ice T’s Body Count, and the Psychedelic Furs.
Eye and I disbanded about a year after the release of their 1990 album due to a breakup between bassist Melvin Gibbs and vocalist DK Dyson, but Logic had already began to gravitate towards New York’s fusion jazz venues such as the Knitting factory with Gibbs, who had the minor firmly tucked under his wing.
Becoming ‘the 4th Member’ of Medeski Martin & Wood
Logic, who counts Miles Davis and Sun Ra among his jazz idols, was a welcome addition to the eclectic scene. It was after completing a set at a weekly CBGB’s gig with Reid that he was approached by John Medeski of the jazz-jam outfit, Medeski, Martin and Wood.
Medeski asked Logic to warm up the crowd at one of their ‘Shack Party’ jam sessions. The crowd went wild and a couple of Logic remixes ended up on 1996’s Bubblehouse and later on 1998’s Combustication. DJ Logic went on to tour with MMW for a year and was dubbed the unofficial forth member of the band.
The DJ gave the jam-band weary (my hand is raised) a reason to check out MMW and groups he has worked with since, such as Phish and String Cheese Incident.
But as a guest musician he’s says,
“I’m just filling in colors around the grooves that their doing, just putting textures here and there.”
It was only natural he would eventually do his own album.
DJ Logic & Project Logic
How does a turntabilist who never studied music formally communicate what he wants to a group of musicians?
“Sometimes I may hum an idea, or just converse with them about what type of vibe I’m looking for.”
Once the raw tracks were laid down with the band for Anomaly, Logic invited in a host of additional musicians into the studio including; Reid, Medeski (a founder of ropeadope), drummer Mino Cinelu (Miles Davis, Antonio Carlos Jobim), guitarist Eric Krasno (Soulive) and Denver’s own Ron Miles (also known for his work with Bill Frisell and Ginger Baker).
The album’s first cut, ‘French Quarter’ is a jazzadelic number with a funk groove courtesy of Medeski on Hammond organ. ‘Ron’s House,’ a tune named for the trumpeter, is one of the best cuts on the album.
In one take, Miles laid down an incredible solo over a driving bass line and big Afro Cuban-flavored beat sprinkled with perfectly-timed scratches and drops. ‘Tih Gnob’ (that’s ‘bong hit’ spelled backwards) is a moody little thirty second slice of spoken word featuring Steve Cannon, a daddy of New York’s Lower East Side literary scene who runs Gathering Of the Tribes.
In-studio jam sessions resulted in a number of tunes that made it onto the album including, ‘Afronautical’ ‘Frequency One,’ and ‘Soul-Kissing,’ a house track decorated with violin courtesy of Meri Ben-Ari. The album was produced by Gibbs, (who after the break-up of Eye and I, went on to become a founding member of the Henry Rollins Band) and Scott Harding (Scotty Hard) who is revered for his engineering work with Wu Tang Clan and Prince Paul.
DJ Logic and Project Logic will be in Colorado for five dates this month to promote Anomaly. The group’s current incarnation includes Stephen Roberson on drums, Mike Weitman minding the keys, and Casey Benjamin on sax, flute, ewi and rhodes. Kyle Spark, the group’s fifth bassist, broke his wrist in a skateboarding accident just before the tour started. He has since been replaced by Lamont McCaine, a studio musician and former Ryker’s Island prison guard that the group promises will ‘kick your ass!’
DJ Logic, who still lives in an apartment across the hall from his parents in the Boogie Down Bronx promises to bring us that ‘one big happy family feeling’ of his musical youth. Logic dictates this is a show not to be missed.
DJ Logic plays:
06/05 Steamboat Springs, CO Levelz
06/06 Vail, CO 8150 Club
06/07 Boulder, CO The Fox
06/08 Fort Collins, CO Starlight
06/09 Englewood, CO Gothic Theatre
Full Interview with DJ Logic
BH: I know you hail from the Boogie Down Bronx but do you live in the Lower East Side now or just hang out there a lot?
DJ Logic:(Laughs) No, I’m still up in the Bronx.
BH: I was wondering cause some of the cats on your album I saw around the Lower East Side.
DJ Logic: Yeah some of them cats are from down in the Lower East Side and some are from Brooklyn and Manhattan and Staten Island and different places –Queens.
BH: Definitely a New York album.
DJ Logic: Yeah, and then everybody comes to the Lower East Side downtown to perform. But you know, some of them live outside the city too.
BH: I was surprised to see a mentor of mine on your new album.
DJ Logic: Who?
BH: Steve Canon.
DJ Logic: Yeah, yes Steve is a wonderful man.
BH: Yeah, I didn’t get to catch that track yet, but I can’t wait to hear it.
DJ Logic: It’s like a little interview. I just went by his place and recorded, did a little recording with just him talking and me asking questions and stuff and just pulling out some nice quotes and stuff from his conversation. I love his voice.
BH: Yeah, I always used to tell him you got a sexy voice Steve!
DJ Logic: (Laughs) Yeah, I love his voice he’s awesome.
BH: So what was it like for you coming up?
DJ Logic: Well, growing up I was always into music, playing basketball running the streets and stuff and you know growing up going to house parties and community center parties and seeing the DJ’s spin and stuff like that. That was my influence into wanting to DJ. Seeing how the DJ would control the crowd with records, and just picking up all the different selections that he felt would be cool for people to party and dance to. I had influence from other DJ’s like Grand Master Flash, Kool Herk, —
BH: That’s what I wanted to ask — if you were old enough to have caught that scene.
DJ Logic: Yeah Bambaataa, you know, it was actually like right up the block from me, so I used to walk to the projects and to the community center where they used to have anniversaries and you know that’s where I saw people would just be break dancing, having a good time, and it was just like one big family type of thing.
I was probably like 11, 10 you know, just running around in the street. Had a curfew, had to be back at a certain time that type of thing.
BH: So you’re in your late twenties?
DJ Logic: Yeah.
BH: That must have been incredible.
DJ Logic: Yeah it was special. And just from seeing all of that, I had a musician friend who had an alternative rock band and he asked me if I wanted to come down and sit in with his band, and I sat in with his band, an alternative rock band, you know it was like regular musicians and at the time I was young, and I didn’t know nothing about that because at the time I was all into hip hop and you know, I was just like “Aw what the heck, I’m young, let me just see, experience– see what’s up. And he brought me down to sit in with his band, it was kind of like a little audition ‘cause it was back in the day there was no DJ’s deejaying with live bands like you see now. So I just went down and had a good time, just spinning with them, and learned a lot from being in that band actually, playing with musicians and playing around musicians. The band was called Eye and I and we were signed to Sony/ Epic to the time. After that we toured with Ice T, Psychedelic Furs, and all of that. That was my first experience touring. Through Eye and I, the bass player in the group, his name is Melvin Gibbs, he used to play with the Rollins Band, he used to do like downtown jazz, improvisational gigs and fusion gigs and stuff, and he kind of pulled me along into that scene too. So it was like I went from one thing to the next and started learning about jazz, and start playing around jazz musicians and doing instrumental shows and stuff like that.
BH: Yeah, diverse is definitely a word that could be used to describe your work. You’re playing five dates in Colorado. Usually musicians don’t book that many shows here. Why do you reckon you’re so popular in Colorado?
DJ Logic: Yeah, it’s been good. I’ve played Vail, Aspen, Boulder, Crested Butte. It’s been wonderful the response out there. I did Halloween at the Fox (in Boulder). There’s a nice little fan base out there, which is great.
BH: There’s a lot of New York transplants out here. And are DJ scene is getting bigger.
DJ Logic: Yep.
BH: How was the experience leading up your own projects as opposed to working on some one else’s record?
DJ Logic: In the new album, it was something, when I was touring, when I was promoting the first album, you know just getting the vibe of the audience and seeing how they was responding to the music and stuff. I wanted to look at this album as a mixed tape in a way, and you know touring in Europe, going to the clubs in Europe, seeing how they were responding to music, cause in Europe they’re so diverse they listen to everything musically, and you know here in the states its a whole different thing. So like I said I wanted to make the album like a mixed tape in a way, that was how I got the influences like the house stuff, from like St. Germaine, Kid Loco, and Carl Craig, you know those cats. And the drum and bass stuff that was like from me spinning drum and bass back in the days raving and stuff like that and the whole hip hop and jazz– all that just came together. I just had the people that I played with come in and put them on certain tracks you that I felt would be comfortable.
BH: How did you decide who would play with whom?
DJ Logic: Just by the musician. Like the song called Soul Kissing which is with the violinist, Mary Ben-Ari, she’s an Israeli violinist, and she’s a good friend of mine, and we talked about working together on tracks and she’s into the house thing and she’s also into the hip hop stuff, so I felt it would be cool to do a nice violin house track and also have some percussion or vibes on top of it. So I called in this vibes player by the name of Brian Carrot. You know he came down, he was all cool about it. He loved it, he loved the track and just took it from there, you know.
BH: I was trying to think of another DJ who has directed a group of musicians. You would know better than me; has it been done?
DJ Logic: Um, I mean its probably been done here and there, but I’m using the musicians like a third turntable. It’s probably been done here and there but not like a DJ leading a band, but this is like something at the forefront, something different and yes the turntables are an instrument. It’s like a conductor with a stick, in a way. And just having the musicians follow the turntables, or color in around the turntables basically.
BH: Did you ever play any other instrument or study music at all?
Keyboards, I played a little bit of keyboards, and the flute, that’s about it, but I didn’t get serious about it like I did the turntables. But I have an ear, so what I hear, I’m able to lay it down with no problem.
BH: How do you communicate what you want from the band then?
DJ Logic: Sometime I may hum an idea, or just conversate with them about an idea, or what type of vibe I’m looking for, and we’ll do a couple of takes until I figure out which the right take is for me to take and use, to be able to chop up and make into a groove basically.
BH: So I guess they have to be a certain type of musician to be able to work like that.
DJ Logic: Yeah, you could say that. (Laughs)
BH: I mean it seems like they have to be pretty intuitive to do it like that.
DJ Logic: Yeah, like a person that’s open to music as a whole, and be able to relate to what I’m talking about to them, you know the description of what I want.
BH: So have you found a replacement bass player yet?
DJ Logic: Yeah, yeah, we have a bass player his name is LaMont McCaine. He just hooked up with us in Vegas actually. Our old bass player he fractured his wrist, he slipped on a puddle on his skateboard. Yeah, but he’s doing well.
BH: Where did you find this new guy?
DJ Logic: LaMont McCaine, he’s a friend of a friend. Things just came through, he was available, and I was happy to hear that. I called a lot of different bass players and he’s the one that came back.
BH: Is he a studio musician or what is his regular gig?
DJ Logic: He’s a studio musician and played in the church and stuff like that.
BH: How do you incorporate the sounds of the extended group who contributed to your album when you’re playing live?
DJ Logic: I have some samples and I have some stuff on vinyl that I use a lot. I use mostly the vinyl and some of the sample stuff here and there. It’s like everything plays a part — the turntables, to the sampler than you got the musicians and my self. There’s a lot of different colors coming from everybody a lot of different textures.
BH: There’s a link on your web page for a travel agency that will help fans follow you around. Are there like ‘Project Logic heads’?
DJ Logic: Yeah.
DJ Logic: Yeah.
BH: What’s that like? Do you know all these kids?
DJ Logic: Yeah, I may see their face more than once so they say they heard me or saw me here at Jazzfest or stuff like that. I always like to communicate with the fans in person or by e-mail. Showing the appreciation, they appreciate what you do, so just giving it back.
BH: So how many people at any one time may be traveling with you?
DJ Logic: It Depends. It could be 300- to 400 or 500 people.
BH: That are following you around?
DJ Logic: Well not everywhere but you get people that are passing the word around you know. It be like word for word you know.
BH: What do you feel like when you’re on stage and you’re doing your thing and the crowd is moving?
DJ Logic: I’m in a mood. My head is always down so I’m into the music ad listening to what’s going on around me. I look into the crowd to see they vibe and everything but I’m more just like meditating and just vibing to what’s going on around me, just to make me sound right and segway right, and just move in a nice motion from an up and down type of a vibe.
BH: So what’s your favorite vice?
DJ Logic: My favorite what?
BH: Your favorite vice.
DJ Logic: My favorite vice…Just like…what?
BH: Your favorite vice. Everybody’s got one
DJ Logic: (Laughs) Meaning what?
BH: Well you know, some folks take their coffee all the time and some folks smoke herb to help out their creative spirit.
DJ Logic: (Laughs) Ah, well you know. (Laughs) Good question. All right yeah, I can say this. You know, herb and my chai tea. Chai tea and soy milk. Herb. Yeah.
BH: Chai with soy milk huh? That’s what I’m drinking right now.
DJ Logic: Yeah that’s real good that’s real nice. …And my records. (Laughs)
BH: How many do you have?
I have like ten thousand, eight thousand records.
BH: Oh wow.
DJ Logic: Yeah I have to find a new space for all that.
BH: So you’re still up in the Bronx? Where do you live? Do you have a warehouse with all that stuff? Do you have a separate studio?
DJ Logic: An Apartment. Right now I got to find a studio, cause right now you walk in my house you walk over records. It’s taking over. I got to try and find some space. You know, even when I’m on the road I’m buying records.
BH: Wow. Must have to take a lot of care with all those records. So you guys got a bus you’re touring around in?
DJ Logic: No, we’re in a van. We tried working on getting a bus but it didn’t come through so we still working on that right now. The van thing’s been cool.
BH: Do you take turns driving and stuff?
DJ Logic: Actually, we got a crew so that’s cool. It’s been cool.
BH: I suppose its because you have a band, but it seems like most DJ’s fly to their gigs, so you guys are rather down to earth in that respect.
DJ Logic: Yeah I’m doing the hustle and bustle way, you know. There you go. When that time comes where I can do that — I don’t have to carry my turntables, they’ll be there, that’ll be nice, you know but it’s the love for what I do.
BH: So what should we expect when we see you out here in Colorado?
DJ Logic: Expect a good time, it’s gonna be off da hook. Going to be a lot of different things happening so you got to keep your eyes glued to the stage (laughs).
BH: You’re playing here at the Gothic Theater, a real nice place. Hopefully I’ll be able to check that out.
DJ Logic: Yeah I’m looking forward to it. We played there before actually when I was touring with MMW; it’s a nice place.
BH: Yeah, so how is it touring with them compared to touring with your own act?
DJ Logic: Well my act, I’m leading with my band. I am the leader actually like a conductor with a stick and with MMW its like I’m just filling in colors around the grooves that their doing, just putting textures here and there. you know, and just having the groove just move, there’s a lot of different elements going on, which is great.
BH: I was also thinking the crowds must be really, really different.
DJ Logic: I mean a little bit. I get the same amount of crowd, but more probably like hip hop heads and rave heads and stuff.
BH: More sort of multicultural I would imagine.
DJ Logic: Yeah, yeah, and you know I play like twenty-one and up and all ages. But the difference, people come to have a good time and you have different people that like to listen to jazz, to listen to funk and listen to hip hop, and they all like to show up. Even with MMW, when I was opening and spinning they set I was spinning everything from drum and bass to house to jazz to funk to hip hop, it was basically, i was catering to everybody and that’s the same thing I’m doing with the project, catering to everybody.
BH: You don’t seem like someone whose wheels stop spinning very easily.
DJ Logic: Yeah, I try to keep concentrating on doing the next thing, you know keep staying on top of things and taking things to a whole new level, just being creative basically.
BH: So what’s next when your tour finishes June 22?
DJ Logic: I’m going to be home for a little bit then I’m going to head out with this guitar player named Chris Whitely, he’s on Dave Matthews label, I just did some stuff for him on his record. After that I’m suppose to go to Portugal to do a thing with this band from New York called Harriet Tubman. Looking forward to that. Then I’ll be doing some spin gigs here and there. I’ll probably be out in Colorado again. I’m supposed to go out with this group, Soulive. They’re on Blue Note (label).
BH: Sounds like you got lots going on. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.
DJ Logic: Thank you, Ande. I appreciate it.
BH: Hopefully I’ll see you when you’re out at the Gothic.
DJ Logic: I hope so, I’d love to see you. Okay thanks you have a good night now.
BH: Okay you too, thanks. Take care now, bye bye.