We recently caught up with the legendary Mr.Scruff in the lead up to his arrival in Australia. He’s playing at our favourite festival Strawberry Fields as well as a couple of intimate shows with Common Ground in Melbourne and Astral People in Sydney. Words with the legend below.
Tell us about your early exposure to music. Your productions and your djing quite obviously cover a massive range of styles. You must have had pretty diverse range of influences in your youth.
I was obsessed with radio from the age of eight. John Peel, Andy Peebles, Robbie Vincent, Rankin Miss P, Stu Allan, Greg Wilson and the UK Pirate radio explosion in the early 1980s all gave me a taste of the variety of music out there. I was busy getting into into 2 Tone, Electro, Hip Hop, Soul, Reggae, House, Alternative Music & African Music in the 1980s. From the age of eleven I was using my paper round money to buy vinyl. As the years went by, my curiosity grew and grew.
How did those influences then turn into a passion for producing music? What about producing music do you enjoy and has kept you doing it for this amount of time?
I was inspired by a lot of the edits & radio DJ mixes in the 80s. Early hip hop & house releases were often low budget affairs, which in turn encouraged young listeners to have a go themselves. I got started by doing pause button cassette mixes on the family hifi, and then slowly acquired other cheap turntables, tape recorders, drum machines, microphones etc to add to the mix. The development of DJIng & production happened simultaneously. I was using cassette tapes to make loops from vinyl, and then layering other records & drum tracks, keyboards etc over the top.
Your productions arenʼt necessarily indicative of the style of music you like to DJ. Is there a connection between your productions and your DJ sets? Are these two seperate entities to you or are they tied together?
They are very tied together. I play a lot of old music that inspires me. I suppose that my productions are a combination of several influences, and I like to show these separate influences when I DJ. I don’t necessarily play a lot of music that sounds like my own productions.
The highly regarded label Ninja Tune has released most of your work. How did the initial relationship come about? It must be a special to have lasted that long.
The Ninja Tune connection began in 1994, when I was asked to do a DJ Food megamix. I did a few gigs with DJ Food, and guested at Ninja Tune’s ‘Stealth’ night in London. They signed me as an artist in 1998. being with an innovative & supportive label for nearly 20 years has been fantastic!
You have managed to solidify your spot as the DJs DJ. Youʼve done this with an extreme care and passion for the music, the quality of the set and the party that surrounds it. What are the main things you think that make up a great party? Is it hard to maintain the quality of a party when it may sometimes be out of your hands?
The essential ingredients for me are:
– Great sound. Taking the time to set up and soundcheck. Making friends with the venue techs & crew.
– Music. I take care of that part.
– A well run venue. Friendly security & staff.
– Good lighting. Atmosphere is important. Set the mood. No lights are better than too many.
– Comfort. Don’t over-sell the venue. Leave room to dance. No aircon? Hire some fans in. Clean toilets. Basic stuff.
– Respect. Give fellow dancers space. Don’t be a pest. Keep your phone in your pocket. Smile. Get involved!
– A great, friendly, mixed crowd. All ages/cultures. Mixed up music for a great mix of people!
While no venue is perfect, the main thing is making sure that promoters do not over-sell the gig, as an over-full venue does not function very well.
Playing all night seems to be another favourite of yours. Explain to us why being in control of the music for the duration of the night is important to you.
For me, especially when travelling, I like to get to know a venue & crowd every night. I learn more from DJing this way. If you take the time to set up properly, and play all night, you give the most unique & personal performance possible to those people in that venue on that night. I love welcoming people in with mellow music at the start, and building up at a pace that is right for that event.
Youʼve obviously toured Australia countless times throughout your career. What are your thoughts on our country? Do you find it holds up musically against the rest of the world?
Yes, I do like Australia, and it definitely holds up against the rest of the world, in terms of venues, audience, atmosphere & music. I just wish it was a bit closer to the UK!
Have you been digging in Aus? If so what has been your best find? Do you think itʼs important to get digging locally in the locations you tour? Do you even have time to do so?
Yes, my favourite store was Discovery, a store about 30 minutes outside Sydney in the suburb of Hornsby. It is great to dig locally, especially with local collectors/DJs, as it gives visiting DJs a good connection to the local musical history and its tastes. When I was younger, and sleep was less important, I would do a lot more digging. I have less time these days, but still really enjoy getting my fingers dirty when I get the chance.
Limited tickets to Mr. Scruff’s Melbourne show HERE