#30. I tried to start a band with Cut Creator, LLCoolJ’s DJ (Tampa, 1999)

LL (r) Cut Creator (r)

He said he had this great idea, and I immediately volunteered. He was LLCool J’s chill-but-driven former DJ (“What’s my DJ’s name?” “Cut Creator!”). He’d moved to Tampa from up north to host his own, very good live mix radio show. I just had to interview him.

“I have this idea,” he promised over the phone, “for a fresh, new, live musical project. I don’t really want to go into detail right now…” My editors wouldn’t like me using the almost-prestigious newspaper job I’d lucked into just out of college, to create new financial/musical situations. But I loved good ideas! There weren’t many in Florida. I told Cut Creator I had access to a crack team of musicians. “Hmm. OK,” he conceded. “Let’s all get together and discuss this.”

We took our first band meeting at a Thai cafe restaurant in Ybor City, where Cut Creator, a stocky guy, then in his late 30s, bought us all dinner, and unveiled his idea: “I want to do…a live project…

“…where we take rap…”

Big pause.

“We take rap, and we mix it with rock n’ roll.”

Florida’s own Limp Bizkit at that time competed with Korn for radio play. The Judgement Night soundtrack shrank in the rearview, as Kid Rock rose on the horizon. Had Cut Creator never heard “Walk this Way”? Or for that matter the LL song “Go Cut Creator Go”? This was weird. I looked around at everyone. No one in the hypothetical band laughed at his idea. They plugged it up with pad Thai.

He was super cool though, a sincere, otherwise solid, leader-type older dude. So we invited him over to the big home studio owned by my bandmates Damon (drums) and Aaron (tons of instruments), a former daycare they called “Romper Room.”

My plan was to play bass. I’d played six-string for over a decade, and assumed bass was just simplified guitar, and would be a snap. Fucking naive! First, there’s a little something called feel. You gotta put in your 10,000 hours either way. When Cut Creator dragged all his turntable gear to Romper Room, I hadn’t logged 40hrs on bass.

We did not sound like a crack team of musicians. I had mastered the bassline to the Grammy-winning Roots song, “You Got Me,” which we jammed on for too long while Cut Creator threw down some scratches and samples. Despite playing guitar for hours every day, the bass hurt and blistered my fingers quickly.

Still, Cut Creator sensed some promise in me, or was just sucked in by my empty confidence, because after our mediocre jam he called and invited me to his professional studio session with two Puerto Rican teen boys. He’d been hired by their mother to create for them a hit song.

I invited multi-instrumentalist Aaron to join us, and showed up to the session wanting to experiment. I unpacked all my guitar pedals, my sampler, my Zoom drum machine. Cut Creator had already whipped up the song’s bones though, and sampled Frankie Cutlass shouting “Puerto Rico!” and he just wanted to just get the track done. Cut Creator told me to put my sampler and drum machine away and follow his lead.

I recall him commanding me to play some Spanish guitar, but when put on the spot, in a well lit room, with him and the three teens and their mom and Aaron staring at me through the studio glass, I simply choked.

Aaron stepped in and cleaned up, played exactly the right faux-Spanish licks. Aaron was always the better musician. Cut Creator booked a second recording session with the kids but invited only Aaron. It was all a very humbling experience.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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