Talking to Mr. Scruff makes me tired. He’s an over-achiever but not in a bad way; it doesn’t want to make me punch him in the mouth, it just makes me want a little sleep.
Besides being one of the UK’s most prominent electronic musicians he also does his own album art, video animation and has a brand of tea! I sat down with Andy to figure out where he came from and how he works.
Music Feeds: You’re from Manchester, a town with a history of great bands, was music inescapable?
“Yeah it was inescapable. I lived in a town called Stockpool, about 6 hours from Manchester and the main thing with me was that I loved radio. Specialist radio, pirate radio, hearing reggae, jazz, it opened my eyes. It was inspiring, discovering this whole new world of music outside of the charts and your parents records.”
This passion for new music became infectious, like an untreated wound, and began to fester into an all-consuming obsession with both old and new music.
“I got into jazz from listening to a lot of black music in the eighties. Starting off with hip-hop, electro and soul, then gradually getting into funk, reggae and jazz. Once you have the bug that’s it.”
“The moment a lot of hip hop started sampling jazz in the late eighties, early nineties that helped. There was the extra appeal of hearing a hip-hop record then discovering where the sample was from. A hell of a lot of what I know about jazz was from buying Jungles Bros or A Tribe Called Quest and discovering the original breaks.”
The obvious question now is, can he kick it? Well yes he can. Andy went on to record several albums however it is his seminal record Keep it Unreal that cemented his place in modern music.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of this record Andy did what we would all do. Had a big fuck-off party, with drinks and women, but he also remastered the album and released it.
MF: What’s the deal with the re-release?
“Well because basically I do a club night called Keep It Unreal and the launch night was ten years ago, and it was the same night the album dropped. So each year we had an anniversary and when it got to ten years, I thought well I’ve got six unreleased tunes from the original session and Ninja Tune (label) were keen so we did it. We remastered it, sounds fantastic and then chucked in unreleased stuff and some B-sides. Too easy.”
Don’t be fooled by Mr. Scruffs laid back language, it sounds like he whipped it (the re-release) up on a Sunday afternoon and just chucked it together, but I’m sure it was far more difficult. However being the multi-tasker that he is perhaps I’m wrong…
“I do all the artwork for the albums. The film clips I design, then someone else animates them. My drawing is very stylized and very personal to me, they’re my characters so I had to be involved in the cover shots and album art.”
And just when I figured Mr. Scruff was busier then Barack he slyly drops in a mention (or plug) about the tea line he runs. Andy is famous in the UK for bringing tea to gigs, revolutionizing the way we think about beverages at music venues.
MF: So the tea thing, explain?
“On the odd occasion I’ve been to a club, like an all-nighter and been able to have tea I’ve been quite excited. It’s four in the morning and I’ve got a cup of tea, brilliant. It’s that novelty of having a home comfort you take for granted in a situation, a nightclub, where you can’t get it.”
“So when I started my club night I thought in the back room we’ll sell tea and give the money to charity. A third of the people drank it and loved it and the rest of the people just smiled so it was all good.”
“It’s become my own thing now, so when we go around the UK people can take a break from the booze or if they’re driving they don’t just have to have soda or water. I just found it weird that you could never get a cup of tea out. I’m just standing up for the rights of tea drinkers.”
Amen to that. Before Andy leaves, probably to work on his newest Earl Grey, I’m keen to know what’s the go in London, what he is listening to.
“I’m so all over the place musically that I find it hard to talk about any one scene. Reggae is exploding and so is dub. Every month there is amazing new stuff being made and some of the people doing it aren’t restricted by what has gone before because they simply don’t know. Today I might get a dubstep record and tomorrow I’ll discover an old Brazilian record and love both equally.”