By Nicki Escudero
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The idea that he could actually pull off a full-length recording of this type has been a pleasant surprise for the DJ. Logic credits people like Reid and Gibbs for providing the inspiration and impetus for him to take on the project. "Hanging around them, getting advice from them, I was never thinking about making no record. I was just used to contributing my skills here and there with the different artists that I played with. But it just came, it just happened," he says.
When Logic first started out in the mid-'80s, the idea that a DJ could lead a band and release a record was practically unheard of. He picked up his first turntable when he was "12 or 13 -- I got that for Christmas." After that, it didn't take him long to master the wheels of steel. It probably helped that he grew up in the heart of hip-hop culture, in the boogie-down Bronx, where he could learn firsthand the art of DJing from listening and watching legends like Bambaataa, DJ Red Alert and Marley Marl. "Back in those days, I was listening to the radio, seeing other DJs on TV and going to parties and seeing how the DJs had control of the crowd," recalls Logic of his middle-school years. After studying how DJs performed and which records worked and which didn't, Logic began rocking house parties in all the boroughs.
But he got his first real experience as a musician in a style that placed hip-hop culture in a different context. Rather than breaking as a DJ, he joined a rock band in 1987 at the age of 16. "A drummer friend of mine [Richie Harrison] asked me if I wanted to try something different. Sit in with his band. I was like, 'What the heck?' You know, take a chance with something. A bell just rang in my ear," recalls Logic. The band, it turned out, was the alternative rock act Eye and I, which, along with Living Colour, would eventually become one of the cornerstones of the Black Rock Coalition, an organization Reid started as a support network for black rock acts. The alliance between the two bands began a long, productive creative relationship between Logic, Reid and Gibbs. In 1990, Eye and I released a promising album on Sony 550 and toured as an opener for Living Colour, the Psychedelic Furs, and Ice T's Body Count. Unfortunately, the public still hadn't warmed completely to the idea of a black rock band, and the group called it quits roughly a year after the record's release.
Logic never stopped evolving and developing his skill as a turntablist, and around the time of Eye and I's breakup, he began venturing to the Knitting Factory for seeds of inspiration. Only 19 at the time, his biggest problem was getting through the door. When he did get in, Logic was exposed to older musicians, often at the suggestion of Gibbs, who was a mainstay performer at the Factory and other clubs associated with the downtown jazz scene. "Melvin Gibbs, he just had me under his wing. He had me come down and play with these different musicians," says Logic. As a result, he eventually wound up on a tour of Europe with a coterie of players under the Knitting Factory banner. The tour, he says, "was a good learning experience. I look back at those days, just hanging around with the older musicians and learning about what this instrument does and how I can make it sound better."
In the early '90s, Logic recorded and toured with Reid under the moniker Masque, a pairing that culminated in the mixed-media presentation My Science Project. But by 1996, Logic had begun to move in a more jazz-oriented direction, which saw him recording and touring with Graham Haynes in support of his Transition record on the Verve label. He also collaborated with the eclectic Blue Note clarinetist Don Byron and, in so doing, had a hand in introducing DJing to audiences not accustomed to seeing a turntable used as a musical instrument. "They were giving me props, but they weren't thinking of the turntable as an instrument. But I was just doing it for the love of it," he says.
Logic's devotion to promoting the turntable as instrument extended to a weekly open jam session that he began to host at CBGB's Gallery in 1997. One such gathering, which found Logic again paired with Reid, drew the attention of Medeski Martin & Wood's Billy Martin. "We just exchanged numbers and talked about hooking up and getting together. When they released their Shack-Manalbum, they had a release party, and they wanted some DJs to come sit in and spin between sets. I was one of the DJs. I had never heard their music -- I just went through an assortment of records that catered to their audience, to see what their vibe was. When they came onstage, I just started spinning and scratching, and the crowd loved it," says Logic.
Apparently, the cats in Medeski Martin & Wood loved it, too, because they asked Logic to do some remixes that ended up on the group's 1996 Bubblehouse record. Logic became known as the unofficial fourth member of the group when he appeared on 1998's Combustication and toured in support of the release. Working with the jazz trio introduced Logic to a whole new audience ranging from jazzophiles to twirling Deadheads. It was an experience that Logic characterizes as "phenomenal. It's more free. It's more like textures going on. I think they're the best band I've ever been out with."