LIAM O'NEIL AKA CRUSTY CUTS
is one of the most talented individuals living in Burlington, VT. With an effortless style that weaves the worlds of skate, snowboard, and hip hop cultures, Liam stands in stark contrast to most millennial DJ's. Harnessing the authenticity that comes from playing real vinyl during his live sets and incorporating analog equipment into his production work, the music he creates under the Crusty Cuts moniker is an airy reprieve from the heavy digital sounds coming from most modern speakers. It takes a certain type of person to avoid trends that seem to assure success in favor of exploring their own artistic tastes, and yet it's almost always this type of person who ultimately finds success in longevity. It's also this type of person who typically has the best insights, which is why we've chosen to highlight Liam in the first installment of a series we're calling, "Dollar and a Dream." So hit that play button on the soundtrack, and take in the smooth beats of Crusty Cuts as we figure out what makes the man behind the beats.
What’s up man, how’s your day been?
Yo! Not too bad aside from the rainy weekend, everyone could use some rain now and then. Always helps me sit down and focus on something, I don't think too many people have mutual feelings though.
Yeah, I hear that. If you stick with sun you end up with a desert; it takes the rain to make things grow. Anyways, hit me with a description. Who are you?
Liam O'Neil here. But if you're one of the suckers that listen to my music, you'd know me by Crusty Cuts. Grew up in the middle of the woods in Vermont, had the opportunity to go to high school in Burlington which is the probably closest thing we have to a "city". Even though it's a really, really small place, it exposed me to so many different urban sub-cultures that I wouldn't have been in my home town.
People might know you as Crusty Cuts, but you're multi talented. Skateboarding, snowboarding, beat making, DJing- you’ve been known to do it all. What would you say you are first and foremost?
I'd probably have to say first and foremost I am a snowboarder, I say that because most of my hobbies have stemmed from snowboarding in some way. Whether it was from music used in video or Justin Bennee's lifestyle etc. It was really the first thing I was hooked on as a kid. I mean, realistically skateboarding exposed me to a lot more music than snowboarding though, better music too. I bet a lot of other people would agree with that too. Anyways yeah, I've been spending the past 8 years or so diving head first in music.
So where would you say you’re at with that in terms of your progress? Do you feel like you’re still young in the field, mid way, or almost where you want to be?
I'm still so young yo, at this point I'm just trying to take it day by day and enjoy being able to learn while my mind is still fresh. I have so many more moves to make but I'm just trying to make sure I don't rush into anything. I've always tried to set my standards high, but keep my expectations low. It's obviously pretty contradictory but it's been kind of working for me to be honest.
"I've always tried to set my standards high, but keep my expectations low."
Have you envisioned your future at all in regards to music?
Yeah, but honestly it's hard to be realistic because of where I'm at now. Burlington's music scene isn't where I wish it was. We're just not exposed to the same stuff as people in bigger cities, where as in New York or LA there's something different happening on every block. Don't get me wrong though, the people I rock with here are somethin' else ( shouts to my roommate Loupo)... On the real though, I went up to Montreal the other week and for how close it is to here, that might be a move for me. Really a beautiful city, so much skating to do and better record digging spots without a doubt.
What kind of struggles have you experienced as a result of your pursuits?
Pfff... Money. I still don't have a car because I've pretty much spent every penny on my gear. My life is pretty much invested into my set up. I'm not trippin' though, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm so damn lucky to be able to do what I do, have a day job and not have to worry about not eating or getting rent paid ( most of the time ).
What’s kept you going? Have their been experiences along the way that’ve made you realize that you’re on the right path?
Just the fact that I still am interested in it, like I'm still so curious about so many things in music and there's unlimited amounts of experimenting to do. It was easy for me to just stick with something I've always liked from the start, trusted my instinct. I can't really say there was one day where I told myself I was going to stick with it 100%, just a consistent flow of excitement.
Tell us about one standout moment that’s resulted from your pursuits:
I guess just recently, opening up for Slum Village and djing for Guilty Simpson and Phat Kat was for real something that I never thought would ever happen. To this day I can't really fathom how crazy that was. That would be like for a drummer my age opening for the Ramones. Like a lot of other people, Dilla was easily one of the sole reasons why I started making beats. Somehow things worked out and I got to open for his group that he was in before he passed. Like that shit was not casual, I was buggin' out on stage trying not to mess up. Damn...
Take yourself back 5 years. Would you change anything about the path you’ve chosen?
Well, considering that I got to open up for Slum Village, hell no. If I did it any other way, that would have never happened. I think everybody can try a bit harder all the time at whatever they do, but at some point you gotta really look at what you've been able to accomplish on your own even if it's not much, and give yourself a pat on the back.
Who’s influenced you the most, whether in life, music, or sport?
Not to be that classic dude to say it, but probably my Mom. She never really liked the stuff I'm into, always really cautious and worried. But I know that when she saw that I was actually interested in something she would always try to help me do my best at it. While being safe of course... She's also so damn good at so many different things, it's hard not to try to keep up with her. Juggling teaching school and private art lessons, arranging wedding flowers, taking care of our little horse farm, doing her own commissioned art and so many other things I can't fit.
"At some point you gotta really look at what you've been able to accomplish on your own even if it's not much, and give yourself a pat on the back. "
Enlighten anyone who’s reading this- what’ve you learned along the way that you wish someone had told you?
If I've learned anything, I guess it's not to just be yourself but be the person you want to be. It's for sure important to not be scared because that's going to limit your skills. I'm an introvert, so I've always had a hard time being outgoing and reaching out to people. What's worse for an introvert is to be on stage in front of an uncomfortable amount of people, and do well at whatever you are doing. Bugs me out every time. Somehow I'm able to get over that barrier and do what I want to do, I think it's because the actual musical part of it is too much fun to get tripped up.
So what’s next up for you? Are you working on any projects, or are you focused on just getting the name out there by continuing to DJ local spots?
Who knows, I'm not too worried about what happens I just want to get my sound on point. Working on a project right now, all eastern samples. Indian, Chinese, Japanese you name it. It's been sitting in the dust for a while now so I just need to get all the pieces in order and get it going. But yeah, for now just playing downtown as much as I can and making beats day to day.
Where can people check out your work?
Anyone you want to shout out, or anything you want to plug real quick?
Yup. My crew - Dais. Bunch of degenerates that are fun to be around.
Huge thanks to our good friend Peter Cirilli for helping out with the photography for this writeup!