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29 October 2014

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Picture: Mr Scruff interview: link.
Mr Scruff bids a greeting to Norwich

Mr Scruff interview

Globe-trotting DJ Mr Scruff will pull up to the University of East Anglia in Norwich with a fleet of vans to deliver his well-stocked record boxes for another one of his marathon sets on Tuesday 24 May 2005.

Mr Scruff in Norwich

  • Mr Scruff will play at University of East Anglia in Norwich on Tuesday 24 May 2005.
  • Admission is £10 on the door or £8.50 adv.
  • Over 18s only.
  • Mr Scruff last visited Norwich on his Keep It Solid Steel tour in October 2004.

Mr Scruff, or Andy Carthy as his nearest and dearest call him, will return to Norwich for his third stint on the city's turntables as part of his Keep It Unreal tour.

The DJ will take over the decks at the UEA to give clubbers a taste of his Keep It Unreal club nights where everything from jazz, electro, funk, hip-hop and disco is given an airing.

Stockport's finest last pulled into the city in October when he played a marathon five-hour set which was laced with some local gems including tracks from Norwich hip-hop veterans Def Tex.

The DJ, producer and cartoon scribbler set out on the Keep It Solid Steel tour to promote his mix album of the same title.

The album is the first in a series of recordings which features some hard-to-get hold of classics including tracks from UTD, The Demon Boyz and Sarah Winton.

Before the autumn date, Mr Scruff took some time out for a chat about what he'd been up to and veered onto the subjects of tea stalls and bearded jazz fans.

How did you decide what you wanted to do for this mix album?

I wanted it to be an accurate representation of what I do live when I’m DJing, but when you're DJing live you don’t have to e-mail people and ask to use their track. We’ve got so many refusals by companies or people who don’t know who owns what.

It’s a lot of politics: some labels want to do their own compilations, so they won’t let you use their stuff. A lot of stuff which was released in the early ‘90s there are great problems with because of label buyouts and contracts need to be renewed and they’re not going to do that for the sake of a mix album.

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff which is a lot of work. For the vinyl copies trying to get hold of original mint clean copies of ridiculously rare records, but I wasn’t prepared to do it by any half measures.

It’s good to get it done and to go, 'Yeah that was the best I could do.' I’m really, really happy with it.

How did you choose the tracks?

That was the difficult thing for me. I think doing a series took the pressure off because I didn’t have to do everything on one CD.

I’m so relaxed when I’m DJing for the whole night that doing a 74-minute CD and trying to encapsulate myself would be impossible.

I’m so all over the place musically so I started off with a slow tempo with a heavy bouncy start to the series with reggae and hip-hop and stuff that fits into that tempo.

I’ve got a whole series and I can do it at my own pace and relax and enjoy it. The whole point of this series is to represent what I do with my club nights, so it’s been great. I’ve played a few classics which have been really big tunes at the club and then some obscure things which I’ve begun playing again and old records which have been rediscovered. It’s difficult because there are so many options.

There are a lot of different levels and I was conscious of getting it right for people who are just into one kind of music, for people who wanted a technical mix, for people who wanted a dance, for proper train spotters and for the people who just like good music.

The mix features a range of different genres, so how difficult was it to arrange those tunes?

Not at all really because that’s what I do and that is my approach to DJing.

A lot of the stuff on the mix is a similar tempo. The energy level of a lot of the tracks is similar – it’s not full-on club music.

The energy is almost encapsulating the time of night when people are just stepping on to the dance floor and warming up. It’s steady and heavy and bouncy and cheeky and they’re all the tunes I know inside out.

They’ve all got a lot in common in terms of their musical roots. It’s just me playing my favourite records in an order which will make them sound as good as they can.

Have you got any plans for the rest of the series?

Yeah, kind of. I’ve no idea how many there are to be but the next one will be a logical continuation from the first and a bit more up tempo which is the way I play in a club.

I build the tempo up to a certain point and then I take it down and go all over the place. The next one will be encapsulating the next hour in a club, so to speak.

I’ve got a few tunes ear-marked for it but I don’t know if I’ll be able to use them yet. It’s more of a mood and an energy level which is generally how I approach DJing because every piece of music has a mood and that’s how you fit stuff together.

You’re known for your marathon sets, why is it important for you to play for so long?

There are two reasons. One is that I like such a lot of music that I find it frustrating and constricting to play just a two-hour set.

The longer I play the more esoteric records I can play - the records that are important to me. If you want to play jazz records in a nightclub you have to spend half an hour creating a mood where that seems the most obvious thing to do.

If you’ve just played a jazz tune after the latest Nelly record – not that I play Nelly – but people would just leave the dance floor. It’s a case of being able to programme music which you don’t normally hear in a club and make it sound the most natural thing in the world.

Another thing, especially when I’m touring, I want to play to the same level and depths of music as I would at my residency. Also I get an hour or two to relax and get the feel of the venue and the vibe of the crowd and the sound system.

If you’re leaping straight in you’re just going to start to rely on tried and tested routines. I can make sure each gig is personal and different to the night before.

I don’t have to water things down or play big tunes – I can do things entirely on my own terms and by the same token I always bring my own sound engineer and visuals. It’s about putting a lot of effort in and paying attention to detail. I get annoyed if I don’t take risks. I’m very hard on myself.

You first came to Norwich in 2002. Can you remember the response you got that night?

It was good. That was the only gig I’ve ever done in Norwich. There are a few bands of from Norwich who I’ve been aware of for a number of years.

There is the Kennel Club label and bands like Speedometer and there’s Def Tex who have been around for yonks.

I know Def Tex are still very active today and very passionate about music and very open-minded as well which you can just tell. They’re all getting into their early 30s now – like me – and have had a lifetime of listening to music. That doesn’t seem to have dulled their passion to any degree and it’s good to be playing in a place where they operate.

I know Norwich to other people might seem like a sleepy town, but there’s a lot of exciting music coming from Norwich and where there’s exciting music you know there’s going to be an appreciative crowd who know there stuff.

It was great and I’m very glad to be heading back and hopefully I might get a bit of time for record shopping as well. I’ll get the Yellow Pages out.

Do you tend to change the combination of your music depending on where you play in the country?

The only concession I’ll make to an area is my attention to detail. If I can and if it’s appropriate, I’ll try to drop a bit of local music but apart from that I don’t think people in this part of the country are as cool as other parts so I won’t play any of these mad jazz or whatever!

I never think in that way but if a town has a particular musical history then I’ll try and involve a bit of that but generally people are there to see what I do so I’m not going to change it too much because what I do is different every night.

I do like to include a little bit of history and make it relevant but not everyone will notice. Norwich is a big student city so not everyone’s going to go, ‘Oh, that was that old Def Tex tune from 15 years ago when I was three!’ But it’s just little bits and you speak to different people in different ways.

Will you be bringing the tea room here?

Yes, we will. It just started out as a cheeky extra bit because I like tea and I thought if it’s people’s favourite drink why can’t you have it when you’re out.

It’s a cheeky touch and things like the cartoon flyers are a good foil to my obsessive nerdy music side.

Even if you’re not a train spotter there are cheeky little bits to put you in a good mood. It’s a good balance of a hardcore muso approach but with a sense of humour as well.

You’re influenced by an eclectic mix of musicians, but are there any artists who you can pick out as your favourites?

Yeah, a few people. People like Lee Perry are ridiculous for their longevity and maverick approach and the same goes for Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane. Leroy Burgess, a soul disco boogie artist who was in a band called Black Ivory and has a very individual approach to music which just hits it on the head.

Roy Ayres is another example of someone who’s had a 40-year career in music and is still doing well and has gone from jazz to soul and disco without sounding like he was doing it because it was trendy.

On the house side you’ve got people like Frankie Knuckles and Larry Heard. Hip-hop wise people like KRS-1, Ultramagnetic MCs and Public Enemy who have had a career of making legendary musical moments.

You’re responsible for the illustrations on your website and record covers – are the visuals as important to you as the music?

Yes, but I don’t put as much time into it. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and it was one of the things I was best at in school.

I’ve always enjoyed doing cartoons and expressing my more random sense of humour. The cartoons and the imagery give – if it was handled in a different manner what could be nerdy approach to music – a very open, welcoming way.

 I like the balance and incongruous aspect where I can put a cartoon on a flyer and then be playing hardcore jazz records in the club.

If I just put, ‘Come and listen to my rare jazz records’ I’d just get a load of beardy blokes – and I’m sure there will be a load of beardy blokes down and that’s cool if they’re down with a load of other people.

Your tracks are known for their daft titles, how do you choose the names?

It’s pretty random. It’s normally to do with daft private jokes, an artist I’ve sampled or just a mood.

The thing with instrumental music is you can call it what you like. It’s like an abstract painting, how do you choose a title? It is what it is and people will know it by that name whatever I call it.

The mood of the piece of music might create a vision which will maybe conjure up a style of film or a soundtrack and maybe I’ll make up an imaginary title to a film and call the track that but I won’t make it explicit.

My trains of thought are very random anyway. It’s generally not something I labour on too much.

Both your music and cartoons are quirky; do you think there is too much pretentiousness on the club scene?

I’m not one to judge – I tell you what I like and I include that in my music.

You get some clubs which are very fashion conscious and the music is almost a soundtrack to a lifestyle which is the opposite of what I’m into.

The other extreme of that is you’ll get northern soul clubs where people won’t play re-issues or only records so rare that no-one has heard of them. That is restricting in one aspect but then again all this amazing music would have never been discovered.

I’ll take the amazing music and leave the politics there and the same with a lot of other music.

People into specialist things are very protective and will slag other things off and that’s the nature of the beast.

A lot of people are very purist about jazz, for example, I’m very purist about jazz but I’ll also play music that samples jazz and music that fuses jazz with other things.

I recognise that it is part of a very big musical universe which you can’t compartmentalise, but I’ll take the knowledge from the best of these specialist scenes and take the bits I like and put the best of all these bits of music under one roof.

I get a very wide mix of people at my gigs and that for me is a real buzz because if it was just one group of people I’d be preaching to the converted and there’s no point in that whatsoever.

last updated: 18/05/05
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