The first time I saw J Lugo Miller in action was waaaaay back in '92. We were both obnoxious 15-year olds in Amphitheater High School's elective photography class—meaning that we were attempting to transition into being pretentious 15-year olds—and I overheard him bragging to some other teenaged jerk about how it was "so easy" to play Nirvana's then-current "In Bloom" on the drums, an instrument he had picked up a few years prior. Miller and I then played in local bands for the next decade.
He'd always dug hip hop—within a few years of knowing him, he seemed to have outgrown the margins of rock music, though I think he still likes Nirvana—and by the late '90s he was experimenting with samplers, drum machines and computer recording.
Let's fast forward to 2016: Miller is the entertainment booker at Flycatcher and remains an active musician. One of the club's popular monthly nights is a hip-hop producer's showcase called Pushing Buttons and Miller has become a favorite performer with his glitch, off-kilter take on backpack rap that still manages to easily rock the boulevard. Here Miller picks the five albums that changed his life.
The next Pushing Buttons show is Dec. 3 at Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St.
1. Isaac Hayes—Hot Buttered Soul: The perfect cross-section of stuff that I was already into, like Jimi Hendrix and James Brown. There's that one moment in "Walk On By"—the tremolo guitar solo. It's the perfect groove and the perfect atmosphere. It set the tone for my music-making career.
2. Aphex Twin—The Richard D. James Album: I was going to music classes at Pima in '98 and getting turned on to early electronic music. There were two camps in that. The first was the avant-garde classical composers which was really head-heavy ... it was high art. The other side was children's music or reinterpretations of popular song. So, when I heard Richard D. James there was the drum 'n' bass rhythmic element and then the melodic element that reminded me of this early electronic children's music. And I learned how to sequence from that ... I was just starting out.
3. Gang Starr—Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr: Just hearing DJ Premier's production on that—that's where I learned to chop samples; before, I was just looping. Chopping is where you take the individual drum sounds from a loop and create your own drum pattern out of it.
4. Antonio Carlos Jobim—Stone Flower: I love this album. It was a very atmospheric take on bossa nova whereas before his albums were like big band-y. I just always go back to this album. There's a lot of Latin rhythms in what I do
5. J. Dilla—Ruff Draft: Probably the last album that really changed how I approached things. This was the mid-2000s and hip-hop was really ... sterile. This album was super lo-fi and really dirty and the drums weren't on a grid. It sounded like a 15-year-old just got some really cool equipment and didn't know what he was doing—this imperfect musical abandonment.