In advance of his Irish gigs, the revered DJ tellswhy he puts so much effort into getting the acoustics right in a venue, and also selects some of his favourite records.
PRETTY much since 2014, the year of his last studio album release Friendly Bacteria, the recorded musical output of Manchester beatmaker extraordinaire Mr Scruff has ground to a halt.
Without prompting, he reveals why when considering an enquiry about the amount of time he spends in the studio. Not a massive amount, it turns out, and this is due to his moving house about five years ago and his decision to build a home studio to his own demanding requirements.
“I probably spend about a day a week just sort of dealing with acoustics and cabling and all that,” offers Andy Carthy, the genial man behind the Mr Scruff alter ego. “So it’s all the kind of intense bits that take a long time, but it’s something that you need to get right really. So it’s kind of resisting the temptation to start working on music until you’ve got everything all sorted. So , I’m kind of a bit hands off at the moment but it’s a necessary part of it, I think. It’s making sure that you can hear accurately in your studio, it makes the whole creative process far quicker.”
Carthy’s perfectionism and attention to detail runs though all his musical endeavours.
“Obviously I’m much more familiar with venue acoustics and how to get it sounding good in a venue rather than in a studio,” he adds. “But it’s just making sure that you’re building an environment which enables you to work. It just happens to be if you’re working in music getting that environment as perfect as possible is a fairly long-winded and very involved process.”
Carthy’s approach to the soundcheck is as rigorous as one conducted for a band, and he can easily devote three hours testing the equipment and the acoustics of the venue. His fastidiousness extends to travelling with his own sound engineer, a practice he has done for 20 years.
“For me, especially with turntables in venues, I’d say maybe three out of five turntables are in some way in need of a service. So if I’m going to play vinyl I’m going to get down early and check the turntables.
“It’s just admin,” he chuckles. “It’s all technical admin. It’s something that people don’t particularly need to know that happens but for me it’s important it does happen so that I can have a good time in the evening. It is important to me that what I have to worry about in the evening is what music I’m going to play and how to get the feeling right and sort of people watching in the venue. Just trying to do something that’s unique and special to that evening and that should have my full concentration.”
5 SCRUFF ESSENTIAL RECORDS
“There’s just so much music out there and you can dip in and out depending on what mood you’re in. But for me, the joy as a DJ is being able to connect these because a lot of these different genres have many things in common as well. They’re not different.
“Why is the music like that? What traditions is this music dependent on? And who were these people with a strong enough mind and personality to come in and innovate?
“It’s a never-ending journey of discovery once you delve into the world of music.“
“A bit of a classic electro tune. That was one I remember hearing when I was 11 and that’s the tune that made me want to DJ.
“Hearing something as odd and robotic and alien as that, probably very similar to the first time you ever heard Kraftwerk.
“It was very approachable and simple music but also makes you think ‘Where are these people coming from? Why is this music like this?’
“And obviously being an incredible club record as well. Thirty-odd-years later, I still play it now, and it still excites me just as much as when I first heard it.”
“This was just pure joy. I heard this in the mid-80s, so I would have been about 14 at the time. It was one of the first jazz tunes I really got into.
“There are certain tunes, you listen to them all the time and you try to put down in words what they are and what they mean to you, but a lot of the best ones are quite elusive in that respects. Like ‘Yeah, I love this tune but I don’t quite know why,’ and it’s that little bit of mystery that makes you want to listen to it again and again.”
For me, this album (The ’69 Los Angeles Sessions) was where Fela and Tony Allen and the rest of the band really sort of crystalised what we now know universally as Afrobeat and ‘My Lady Frustration’ is the track for me off this album which is just incredible.The energy and the infectious nature of Afrobeat — you don’t really need to explain it. It’s just there and it’s got you and it will pull you in.
“You have the highlife elements, you have the funk and the soul elements. And jazz was a massive influence as well.”
“One of my favourite soul artists is Leroy Burgess, from New York.
“He was an amazing singer. As a keyboard player and composer he was just beyond compare. This was one he recorded under the pseudonym of Logg.The joy kinda leaps out of the grooves. The chords are just so rich, the percussion’s amazing. The drums his really hard and his vocals are raw and soulful and powerful. I’d almost describe him as an underground Stevie Wonder in terms of you get the same feeling from listening to his music, a real spirituality and joy and positivity.”
“The Burning Spear Marcus Garvey album and its dub companion album Garvey’s Ghost, both absolute classics out of a genre which has brought us thousands of classics, but really tough, raw, political sound as well.
“Burning Spear has quite a delicate voice. And he was just telling us how it was over some of these amazing, enormous, fat rhythms.”
“The whole musicianship is out of this world. The sort of telepathic rhythm sections that you’d get in reggae and the whole space in the music, which gives your mind time and space to wander.”
- Mr. Scruff & MC Kwasi appear at Cyprus Avenue, Cork. 9pm until late, on Friday; Dolan’s Limerick: Saturday 17; Pygmalion Dublin, Sunday 18