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Cut Chemist on ‘Juno,’ DJ Shadow, and Spinning in the Ladies’ Room

Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow.Courtesy of Phantom Sound & Vision


He's the stuff of legends, at least in turntable lore. L.A. native and former Jurassic Five spinmeister Cut Chemist, along with his partner DJ Shadow, made history as the first ever D.J.'s to headline the Hollywood Bowl, and tonight the duo comes to McCarren Park to play the last stop on their tour for The Hard Sell, the final installment of their collaborative trilogy. Cut talked to Vulture about working with Shadow, his weirdest location for a gig ever (a burned-out pool doesn’t come close), and what, if anything, will be the demise of the White Stripes.

You and DJ Shadow have a great dynamic onstage. How would you characterize him as a partner?
It’s like a good-cop, bad-cop routine I guess. I’m the bad cop. He sticks to the game plan, and I’m the one who tries to improvise it and throw away the script.

So you’re like the Hutch to his Starsky?
There you go. Wait, am I Starsky? I mean, I'm not totally going to make him out to be a square peg. He’s got his own bats in his belfry. It’s like two mountain climbers. We can’t make it up there alone.

You used to be kind of a holdout with regard to finding music online. Any blogs you check out these days?
Well, that’s the thing. I gotta be a secret squirrel about it. That’s the thing. Oh, man, forget it. I am such a hypocrite. I found out about this stuff from someone's blog and then I’m like, Hell no!

Well, any up-and-coming talent that’s inspiring to you now?
With all the technology now, seems like everybody can make music. That can be good and bad, but sometimes when people don’t know exactly what they’re doing, they make some really cool, naïve stuff. When people really start to figure out what they’re doing, that’s when the stuff starts to go downhill.

Any examples?
I think if Meg White were to play the drums any better, that group would not be as successful. There's just something about her naïve, sloppy drumming that makes that shit work; it's just so swinging. I hope she's not taking drumming lessons because that could be the end of the White Stripes as we know it.

Do more people recognize you now that you had a role in Juno?
Okay, so I have been doing music for, what, fifteen, twenty years? Twenty years versus five seconds onscreen. And yes, that five seconds onscreen has meant more. People are like, Oh, the guy in Juno, the chemistry teacher. It's like, Oh yeah? He's also done a little bit of music too. Go check it out.

Any other cameos coming up?
Well, now that you ask. The Juno people are doing a new movie and I am in it again. It's a bit of a stretch. I am playing a D.J. A lot of coaching needed for that one. But it's not really as big of a role.

So it's three seconds instead of five?
Yeah, but at least they're still calling me up.

And you're coming to Brooklyn next week, playing a drained-out pool.
Yeah, what is this place? At least it's not the weirdest place I ever D.J.-ed. That was at this bar in Melbourne. They got the idea to have me D.J. in the women's toilet, but it was still a working bathroom!

Wait, were you in a stall?
I was by the sinks. And there was a line of people waiting to use the bathroom. But there were other people in there dancing. I’m just glad it wasn't the men's room.

Wow. Well, here they usually set up a Slip 'n' Slide. Will you be taking a turn?
[Laughs] Yeah, like in between the sets! There’s actually a part during the show where we used to take a dinner break. There’s this 45 that we play, it’s a wonderful, long minute-and-a-half drum solo, and so we were like, What are we going to do during that? So Shadow came up with this wonderful idea to come out with lawn chairs and have waiters serve us gazpacho soup to it. And so maybe we strike that and we just go on the Slip 'n' Slide for a minute and a half.

Maybe you could combine it with a dinner break. Go down the Slip 'n' Slide eating a chicken leg.
Maybe a big turkey leg. I am going to advance that idea. Call my manager.
–Lauren Salazar