Interview: Mr Scruff

Printed in complete form here: http://thebeathappening.wordpress.com/ go and download it! Issues 1 and 2 available now, its a great read and they put on decent events in London town.

I first saw Mr Scruff DJing one long set for the length of an entire 3 day festival! Now, im not one for stereotypes, but i noted the presence of ‘hippies’, ‘townies’ and scamps alike in the audience. Our paths crossed again at uni in Timepiece! The almighty student pit described by Mr scruff himself as “that place”, I couldnt have said it better myself! With three hugely popular albums and fingers in multiple pies… hailing from Manchester, and proceeded undoubtedly by his imense reputation, the legend that is:  “Scruff – let’s talk art, bussiness and vinyl…”

Hi, how are you doing? Im phoning about the interview with Beat Happening…

No problem, Yea very well

Hows the weather?

rubbish… had a good weekend though, thats Britain for you though i guess… you?

Alright, except there was a thunder storm last night…

At least we’ve had it better than you!

Yeah ha! – I may or may not stick to my questions… do you do many interviews over the phone?

about five a week at the moment…

You working on a new album coming out?

No, not for a while… just some new music… various bits and bobs… making good use of the phone!

The first question is fairly generic… in terms of the aesthetic of your music, what makes someone’s music their own?

Well, anyone who makes music personal to them, ends up with a mixture of personality and influences… for me, a DJ, Im influenced by a hell of a lot. For a very long time ive been interested in the social conditions and the history behind the people who made the music. I get a lot of inspiration, and a lot of ideas this way.

So your more interested in making music for yourself than the masses?

Well… basically just enjoying it i think… trying out new stuff, not being too scientific. im not bound by genre, kind of bass noise or tempo. I just put a bit of a twist on stuff and it happens. Some music that’ss 50 years old puts a modern music to shame. Nothing’s really new, just combinging peoples ideas, nuances, subtlties and presenting them in a different way or different context. Having a knowledge of everything, house to blues, dubstep to cuban music, to latin, to reggae, disco, to library music, to classical music, or whatever… I can create a lot of happy accidents… and also, draw connections within music, like being in a lab with loads of mad chemicals and finding what goes together!

How many records you got then?

20,000 or something. I have a few of rooms full of them, im married so i gotta keep it a little bit under control. There’s no way you could ever possibly listen to them all anyway.

Do you still enjoy listening to records?

With that amount of records, your always discovering things that you forgot you even had. There would be no point if i wasnt enjoying it. When something comes out of your hobby, as long as you maintain the right attitude to it, dont start doing stuff you wouldnt normally do, just coz your getting paid for it, then theres no reason why you shouldnt carry on enjoying it. I was djing and collecting music for over ten years before i got my first gig. Its habbit. it has always felt like that, and still feels like that to this day, only today, but i dont have to work in quick save! Im always aware of how lucky i am, that i can play whatever i want, and that i can make a living from it, but i definately dont take it for granted.

Do you feel a kinship with the Manchester scene?

There’s so much music going on in the city, its incredible… I think because its had a legacy for quite a while, you know, northern soul, punk, factory records, it attracts people, it definately has more than its fair share of talented, creative people.

Do you feel more on the live music side of things there than say, the ‘glitch electronica scene’?

Not really man, its not segreagated. Theres so much music that you can’t really keep up with all of it. I love Skam records,  as much as… well, a lot of the indie and rock, you get all sorts… Manchester’s city centre is actually quite small, there is such a lot going on, but its not like in say London where you can just surround yourself with people who are just into one kind of music… there’s no like glitch electronica scene, everyone pretty much knows each other, and there’s not that many venues either…so your just sort of squished in to gether…

Like a melting pot?

No, not really like a melting pot, more like a crowded bus! you get to know what other people are up to, you can’t avoid people really… its good.

Sounds like you like it!

Yeah, definately, ive lived here of 25 years so…

What do you think of the music industry then? the state of it? you must have been asked this a hundred times!

Its on everybody’s lips, everyone wants an answer and nobody has one! The industry has only been around for sort of, 125 / 130 years and we’ve had loads of format wars… the thing is, its going from physical to non physical this time, which throws up loads of issues…

Such as?

Payment, obviously… people are expecting music for free… and the way its distributed, i mean you can get 10,000 mp3s on your ipod, but it will sound like a transistor radio, so were going forwards in terms of convenience and portability, but backwards in terms of quality. It could end ‘bodies’ of work, with people downloading single tracks and whatever. The internet is great in terms of hearing stuff you might not otherwise hear, but theres about an extra 100 000 rubbish tunes on there as well. I expect some 14 year old who lives in orkney will probably come up with a solution to it all!

The people in the most trouble are the major record labels, they have had complete control over pressing plants, distribution, retail, and the machines the music is played on… its getting blown apart a bit, and you’ve got companies like Tesco who think “well ‘we’ve got a hundred thousand outlets, we’ll sign the next Paul Mcartney album’ . its odd.

cool.well i saw you play at a festival somewhere… about ten years ago… an epic long set… i have a signed ticket you singed when you played at timepiece in exeter while I was a student too…

oh that place.

Ha ha yeah. All the best for the future! thanks for talking to us.

You can find Mr Scruff a this official homepage http://www.mrscruff.com or at http://www.myspace.com/mrscruffofficial. He is signed to nija tune and has had two massive releases through them, namely Keep It Unreal (Ninja Tune, 14 July 1999) and Trouser Jazz (Ninja Tune, 16 September 2002). Ninja also recently released his first album titled Mrs. Cruff (re-release) (reissue of Mr. Scruff, 5 May 2005). Check it.

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In march 2006 a new media arts and electronic music festival took place over three days in Vilnius, Lithuania. The festival featured an eclectic mix of electronic musicians and new media art professionals such as Janek Schaffer, Chris Clark, Frans De Ward and Andrew Coleman (aka: Animals on Wheels) who over the three days gave seminars, talks and performances relating this area of academic music & art.

The festival was my idea 🙂 – When I went to Lithuania during my second year of university, I had an awful lot of fun, however, I also had to achieve some academic ‘stuff’ so as part of my time there, I volunteered in the local New media / arts Centre INTRO situated just over the road from the academy.

I began by organising a few small parties (most events in lithuania are referred to simply as ‘parties’) These were a raging success. One such party was called INTRONATIONAL. The idea was to invite as many foreign exchange students as possible to INTRO from all over Lithuania, in all the different disciplines, to have a big party, to mix the people together and just see how it went down!

I also had free reign of a very slow and old PC conected to the internet. Using this I began what would become a two year drawn out process – organising Balticoco.

I emailed about 100 different organisations in the UK and Europe in an attempt to get them to agree to come and give shows in Vilnius for cheap rates. IE: I sold Lithuania on it’s beauty to organisations who came accross as either politically, socially aware etc… and apealled to them to come and share vibrancy in the area. I emailed Hospital Records, Ninja Tune, Warp, Rephlex – all the labels I could find, that I had been looking at over the previous two years and listening to in the hope they’d allow there better nature’s prevail.

Alas – one such organization replied with interest. c0c0s0l1dc1t1 – an organisation based out of Montreal and Manchester were interested in coming over to do some kind of festival / projec offering the services of sound artists, media artists etc. to give presentations and seminars in their respective disciplines.

Over the next two years, after I had left Lithuania, and even graduated University, I watched as the festival grew from an idea into a reality. Posting requests and information between a contact in c0c0s0l1dc1t1, and INTRO hardly believing anything was gonna happen at all. I wrote press releses for the British Council, phoned Turkey to speak with c0c0, emailed everyday during my lunch times out from my job, wrote to the British Council, made a pain in the ____ of myself to Arts tutors at the Academy in Lithuania apealing for computers and some kind of cooperation between them and INTRO. By the time I had finished uni and spent the first year doing all this for free, chasing what had become by now like a dream – there was no way I was giving up. This event was gonna happen and that was that. By now I was so determined, I would have done nearly anything to make it happen.

It was all worth it in the end, as what I got, for my efforts, was an electronic music and new media arts and education festival, my flight paid for, my accomodation paid for and free meals / booze for the whole weekend, and I can say I was responsible for the conception, organisation and realisation of my ‘dream’, giving something worthwhile back to a place that opened it’s arms to me, and gave me such a fantastic opportunity.

I chilled out over the weekend and talked art and idiocy with loads of almost fictional stars of the electronic music / arts scenes I was interested in. Chris Clark (Clark), Janek Schaffer, Frans De Ward etc… It was an unbelieveable experience. I didnt get paid but who cares? I am remembered as the organiser of this event and that is so much worthier a drive than money.

Thank you to the artists involved, the funders, Vygis (INTRO Manager, partner in organisation), Toby @ c0c0s0l1dc1t1 (third arm in organisation, provider of contact to mass of incredible artists – indebted to for the draw of the event)

The weekend was very special for all involved actually as many of the artists knew each other and were able to really relax and enjoy so much of the event.

pix:

janekschaffer.jpg, chrisclarkcrowd.jpg, andycolemanvj.jpg,

official event site: http://www.stereo.lt