Interview: Mr Scruff

Printed in complete form here: 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 or at 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.