Keeping it unreal
Alternative hero, Ninja Tune star and tea champion, there’s no one else in the world like Mr Scruff. Which is why we got very, very excited when we heard he was finally making it down to Dubai thanks to the DUST crew to play Zero Gravity on February 27
A very warm welcome to the Middle East – we know a LOT of people have been asking you to play here, what made you say yes this time?
Being a man who has great trouble ironing a shirt, I have always been a bit dubious of the over the top, bling aspects of Dubai, but I know that it is just a case of finding the right people to work with. James Locksmith (of DUST) knows his music, and he got in touch via a friend to ask me to play, so here I am!
And what factors do you consider when deciding to take gigs?
Mostly venue technical stuff, as it has to look and sound good. Flights too, for overseas gigs. Direct flights are best, so that luggage is less likely to go missing. I also have to make sure that the routing/travel etc enables us to get some sleep!
What’s in a typical Mr Scruff set at the moment?
Oh, all sorts. I never settle on one sound or style, and each set is different depending on the location and mood. That approach keeps it fun. Jazz, soul, funk, house, disco, reggae, afrobeat, latin, techno, hip hop… as long as it sounds good and works, then it goes in the box. Do you still take your own mixer and decks with you to gigs? If so, what are they and what makes them so special? The turntables are customised with Origin tonearms and external power supplies, but I only take them to a few gigs. I take my
Formula Sound PM-100 mixer, Isonoe phono preamps, Isonoe isolator, loads of cables and some stylii (AT440, which sound fantastic, but are very delicate, or M97xE, which sound pretty good, and are a bit less delicate). If it is difficult to source equipment, it is much easier if I bring my own.
We read you have in excess of 20,000 records, all individually catalogued and annotated – how many weeks/months/years did that take?
About 30 years. I started organising them very early on, so it was easy to keep them in check.
Dancefloor requests – good or bad?
It depends. In general, they are a good thing, especially if the people making the requests are really into the music. Some of my biggest tunes started out as requests from my regulars at my Manchester residency. There is a lot of musical knowledge on the dancefloor!
And we’ve heard that you’ll call people out using their mobile phone during your set?
I am not a fan of people playing with phones on the dancefloor, either when I am DJing or on the floor myself. I love that communal energy you get when everybody is on the same wavelength and in the moment, and people taking pictures, or standing still and texting just suck the energy out of the dancefloor. Phones in general in a social situation are just a bit of a turn-off, to be honest. It is easy enough to just step away from the dancefloor to take a picture or play with your phone, so everyone else can get on with dancing. Phones are very handy, but our instinct is to reach for them every 5 minutes. Good things can happen when we switch them off and pay more attention to the people and things around us. End of speech!
Where do you stand on the educating/entertaining balance – 50/50? And where do you think Dubai will sit on that register?
My job is to get people excited about the music that I play, and to thoroughly enjoy myself while doing so. I find that taking a lot of care with the sound, and playing a long set means that I can take my time to pull people in and build a good relationship and rapport with the crowd. I think the main thing is to take risks, and to never underestimate what people can deal with on a musical level. If you hold back, it becomes a bit two-dimensional and predictable.
(Stu Todd) What is your favourite blend of tea? I prefer straight-up single estate goodies of all styles.
(Finlay LeFox) What’s your favourite piece of classical music? (Ross Laing) Do you remember mixing DJ Shadow into The Specials to 50 drunk, but extremely appreciative, students in Derby on a Tuesday night? (Grand Bishop) Who would win in a fish slapping contest between you and Mark Rae (Rae & Christian/Grand Central Records) and which fish would you choose as a weapon? I think Mark has a thing for cod. (Gareth Davies) How did you come together with Floating Points at Plastic People? And are you doing anything with him now it’s closed?
Steve Reich, ‘Music for 18 Musicians’. Yes, my only gig in Derby! I remember that the promoter was called Vuyani. Must have been over 15 years ago! Mark would win hands down. He regularly handles large cod, and has the correct gloves for the job. I met Sam a few years ago, he used to come to my night when he lived in Manchester. We played together in Manchester on NYE, and will definitely do some more gigs together. What a talented young chap!
(Adil El-Aoud) What decade of hip hop resonates most with you and why?
I would say early 1990s, a bit of a golden era for me, especially production-wise with Pete Rock, Primo, Large Pro... Also because it heavily influenced my early production. I like all eras though, each has their own sound and has influenced me in some way.
(Dan Chadwick) 4 questions, completely unrelated of course:
What is your full postal address? What is the alarm code? In which room do you keep your records? Do you have the number of a man with a sizeable van? That made me laugh out loud. Thanks Dan!
Mr Scruff plays Zero Gravity on Friday February 27, 6pm-3am, Dhs100 after 10pm, ladies free until midnight.