Mr Scruff – the DJs’ DJ – is celebrating the rough edges on his Dubai debut
In music circles, Mr Scruff is something of a cult legend. Every DJ whom I’ve mentioned my chinwag with Scruff to – from heavyhitters such as Krafty Kuts to locals such as Adriano K – has had questions about him.
A somewhat mythical figure, the man otherwise known as Andy Carthy is known for many contradictory and contrary things – long, genre-hopping vinyl-heavy DJ sets at odds with fast-cutting trends; eclectically upbeat, trippy jazz-tinged electronic productions such as the radio hit Get a Move On; bright, offbeat self-written “potato head”-style cartoons and music videos; and a strange obsession with sealife (song titles include Shrimp and Sea Mammal).
Clearly he’s a bit of an oddball enigma, which might be why the DJs’ first question was invariably a puzzled “what’s he like?”
“Opinionated” would be a fair answer. Another thing Scruff is known for is his absence from Dubai – while it’s an annual stop-off for most decksmiths of his calibre, Friday, February 27 marks Scruff’s UAE debut, breaking his duck with a trademark five-hour set at Zero Gravity.
On the line mid-tour from Australia, and speaking the day after his 43rd birthday, Scruff opened up with refreshing frankness about why he’s been avoiding the Emirates for so long.
You’re touring internationally with vinyl, which makes you one of a dying breed of DJs.
“I like the way vinyl makes me play. I find DJing digitally, with CDs or USB sticks, there’s a lot more temptation to meddle around with the music. I prefer playing music that’s just amazing all the way through and doesn’t need much messing about with. A lot of people who used to play with vinyl – and are now using laptops – only play a minute of each tune and that to me is like reading 10 pages of a book and then moving on to another one.”
How many records will you be packing?
“Not many – maybe 100 vinyls and 200 tracks that have been transferred from vinyl. You play about 80 tunes in a night over five hours, so that’s way more than enough. If you’ve got 6,000 tunes on your computer, it’s highly likely they’re MP3s which sound horrible. All my stuff is 24-bit wavs and sound really good. I find scrolling through hundreds and hundreds of tunes on a laptop a bit dull. I like to see a picture of a record sleeve – my brain doesn’t really work in the digital realm.”
So, this is your first time in Dubai.
“On paper Dubai looks a bit like a very posh Milton Keynes. Very overt opulence and VIP nonsense which makes me feel a bit queasy, to be honest. I think because of the flashiness and in-your-face nature of the VIP thing – you look at the flyers for events in Dubai and they’re hideous, all bottles, sparklers, VIP this and that. If you Google “Dubai club images” it would probably make you feel quite ill. There will probably be a bit of that when I play, but at least it will be toned down a bit. I had a word and asked if there could be no VIP thing at the gig, but it’s probably illegal in Dubai not to have it.”
So you’ve been actively avoiding playing here?
“I was never tempted by it. I get a buzz off playing to people who are really deeply into the music; it’s quite an important cultural experience for me, sharing music with people in a new place. I’ve had quite a lot of chats with people from Dubai and I’ve been pecking their heads – what’s it like underneath the surface of opulence? Where’s the culture? – so that the couple of days I’m there are well spent and not just in some 18-star hotel bathing in milky water.”
Your last album was called Friendly Bacteria. Is there any such thing?
“Well, if you listen to any kind of probiotic yogurt advert I’d say there are a lot of people who want you to believe there is. A lot of my album titles have just been one serious word and one daft word put together, in a very Python-esque style – Ninja Tune, Trouser Jazz – I just like the way you pick two words and get a grammatical friction that conjures up some images that don’t need any explanation.”
So, if you had to choose to live the rest of your life without either trousers or jazz, which would you lose?
“Probably trousers – especially in hot weather. But I heard you’ve got James Blunt playing at the Dubai Jazz Festival? If it’s James Blunt or trousers, then I’ll keep the trousers.”
On Friday, February 27 you’ll have some competition from John Legend, playing just down the road at the same festival. More your cup of tea?
Yeah – I probably wouldn’t go and see him in concert, but I appreciate his music and I’ve bought some of his tunes in the past. I can’t anyway, as I’ve got a gig at the same time – I’m just wondering what kind of horse I should ride onto the stage. All that opulence makes me chuckle. I’ve been wary of it for a few years, but it’s always good to dip your toe in and try new places and prove yourself wrong – hopefully in this instance, anyway.
Mr Scruff performs at Dust at Zero Gravity on Friday, February 27. Free for men before 10pm and ladies before midnight, Dh100 after
Updated: February 25, 2015 04:00 AM