Mr Scruff is bringing his signature grooves to Neon Lights and Clockenflap festivals, but this time, as he explains exclusively to Music Weekly Asia, he’s doing things a little bit differently.
Manchurian Andy Carthy, better known to his legion of fans as Mr Scruff, is a man of many talents. One of the most beloved producers on the legendary Ninja Tune label, Carthy has made as much a name for himself behind the decks as he has for his with his other endeavours. Carthy’s immediately distinguishable artwork ,which he describes as “potato men,” adorn all his releases (along with his video clips and flyers) and he also has his own brand of tea that he sells online and at Teacup Kitchen, the cafe he owns in his home town.
It is music that first captured Carthy’s imagination though and as a youngster, Carthy grew up on a steady diet of John Peel radio broadcasts before his uncle’s electro-mix compilations piqued his interest. A passion was ignited and Carthy broadened his musical horizons to span a plethora of different influences, to the point now where he has 25,000 individual pieces of vinyl in his collection. With that sort of body of material to work with, the English producer fuses a dizzying range of styles, flitting effortlessly between soul, jazz, funk, ska, hip hop, jazz, electronica and a plethora of other influences into a effortlessly grooveable mix. But don’t expect the party to die down quickly -his longevity behind the decks is the stuff of legend, with six or seven hour sets not an uncommon occurence. Music Weekly Asia had a chat to Mr Scruff on a cold morning in Manchester about his upcoming whirlwind Asian tour and what it’s like to be performing without his trusty vinyl for the first time ever.
No stranger to the region, he has played across Australia and New Zealand multiple times but played in Southeast Asia for the first time last year at Bali’s famed Potato Head club. “It has such a great venue and good energy,” he explains. “It’s always nice to go back to places and kind of build on that connection that you’ve made already.” Part of develloping this connection is evident in Carthy’s dedication to maintaining his residencies. His long standing policy was to not to go on tour for more than a month in order to maintain his 15 year residency at legendary Manchester born club night Keep It Unreal. The prodigious beatmaker now has another reason to scale back his rigorous touring schedule though: “I have a four year old daughter now… so I tend to spend a lot more time close to home rather than swanning around the world.”
When asked about his connection with vinyl, he delivers an unexpected announement. “I like the sound of vinyl and that’s very important to me. I bring all my own equipment – turntables, table, lots of concrete, and records – I don’t travel light! But I know it’s going to sound great and that the records wont skip,” Carthy explains. Indeed, his passion for vinyl is one of the most defining characteristics but this Asian tour will be a departure from his usual baggage consisting of crateloads of vinyl. “I’m an expert on the different airlines and their different luggage allowances but for this tour I’m not going to be able to bring vinyl because of the airline that we’re flying over. Hang on, what?
“Last time I was in Bali there were five of us travelling so I could bring a lot more luggage but this time there’s only three of us travelling so there’s a lot less. It starts becoming a choice of, ‘Do i bring my DJ mixer, where a lot of my other custom made kit and sounds are made, and leave my vinyl at home? Or do I bring my vinyl and have to use someone else’s mixer?'” The answer, as with most questions involving sound equipment for the veteran DJ, is the one that provides the best audio. “Rather than being a purist about format, I’m a purist about sound quality. I think if you’re playing a 24 bit WAV and it’s been really well mastered, either really well mastered digitally or transferred from vinyl then it will sound amazing. The sound will be so open and have a lot of depth to it.”
Indeed, Scruff has been a long time proponent of vinyl and the physicality of the format. The visual and tactile connection with the record sleeve and the vinyl itself have long been an indelible part of the craft of DJing for the technician. How does he feel about losing that element of playing? “It will be weird that for the first time, well ever, that I’m played without turntables, but I’m looking forward to it. The music’s the same and it (will have) been painstakingly transferred to digital.
“It’s like with anything creative. Sometimes being restricted by something out of your control can then push you in a different direction and you might discover something that you wouldn’t have discovered before,” he continues, “It’s not something I’m worried about. I’m still just making sure it sounds as good out of those speakers as if I was playing vinyl, which is where all the transfer stuff comes in and is really important. I think that I’ll spend the whole week, just transferring stuff and getting it down as good as possible because the sound quality is of paramount importance to me.”
When discussing if he has anything special up his sleeve for Asian audiences Carthy explains a bit of his philosophy of music. “I think good music will communicate a message, and that will get across wherever you play. So I’ll have to find some really good music from Singapore. I’d love to play a bit of local music but other than that you just make sure you have a good variety of music that all fits well together and then you just play what you feel on the night.”
We’ll be looking forward to it.
See Mr Scruff perform this November at the following festivals:
Sat 28 – Sun 29 November
Fort Canning Green
Tickets: $240 SGD (for 2 day pass)
Friday 27 – Sun 29 November
West Kowloon Cultural District
Tickets from $1620 HKD (for 3 day pass)