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Interview: Mr Scruff
Quirky hip-hop legend takes time out to chat to Mike Ellis
Thursday, 27 November, 2008 | 15:34
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So, Mr. Scruff, you have a new album out, would you care to talk to us about it?

Well, all my albums all tend to have an overall vibe but with lots of different tempos, styles and stuff like that. This one’s no exception: hip-hop, fast breakbeat, disco housey bits and bats, and there’s a heavy soul thing going on. Musically, my heads all over the place so whenever I DJ or make an album, I feel I have to cover a lot of ground.

One of the singles, Music Takes Me Up with Alice Russell, sounds a lot less ‘playful’ than some of the stuff you’ve released in the past. Does this carry across the whole album?

Not really, I mean generally it’s a bit less daft, but then since Keep It Unreal I’m nine years older. That said I still have a lot of fun making music. You know, there’s still quite a lot of cheekiness but maybe the daftness level has gone slightly.

It’s been released on your own label ‘Ninja Tuna’ – a sort of collaboration between yourself and Ninja Tune. Why is this?

I guess it was an opportunity for me to improve how my records looked and give them more of an overall flavour. And I thought ‘what better way than to create my own sub-label?’ In everything else other than the way it looks, it’s still Ninja Tunes. With so many single releases off the album, I thought it’d be good if rather than standard Ninja they all had the same look.

I noticed Herbaliser also parted ways with Ninja Tune this year. Is everything all OK at camp Ninja?

I mean Herbaliser had been with Ninja for years, to be honest I think the music on Ninja is the best it’s been for a number of years. Every label had trouble a couple of years ago when all the digital stuff started happening and a lot of labels were caught on the back foot and didn’t sort of know how to deal with it. A lot of people ended up shutting down but Ninja came through it and now they’re stronger than ever, I mean yeah… DJ Vadim and Herbaliser are gone. I’m really excited about Dataless, who are making some incredible artists. No trouble at Ninja, believe me.

You’ve done some awesome collaborations in the past. Who was your favourite person to work with?

It’s hard, cause all the people I work with are mates, and then we get into the studio and have a fantastic time. I mean, the easiest answer is I’ve never had a bad collaboration. Take Roots [Manuva]; I’ve know him quite a long time now and he’s quite a quiet guy. I’ll just write beats and he’ll be sat next to me, mumbling over lyrics and we’ll sort of click and be like ‘right, let’s go record this’.

Is there anyone you’d particularly ike to work with in the future?

I don’t know, I’ve just got so many mates I have agreed to go into the studio with, I don’t really have a wish list. The case with alot of the people I would like to work with is that their music is so good anyway I don’t know what I’d do to improve it. With collaborations, I think you have to have a mutual admiration for each other, but you’ve also got to say ‘Aah, I could sort of take it in that direction’ or ‘I’m hearing something in the middle between what we do individually’ – always looking for that spark that could take it somewhere special.

You’ve worked with Roots Manuva on your latest album, and Braintax back in 2002 – two of the stalwarts of UK Hip-hop. How do you feel the scene is doing at the moment?

It’s sort of taken a dive over the past few years simply because, like Drum n’ Bass, producers have split off into different scenes. With D’n’B, it’s gone into garage, dubstep, but then that always happens with musical scenes. But Braintax made his first EP in 1990 and he’s still going now. The good thing about UK Hip-hop is there’s a lot of people like Rodney P, Black Twang, Def Tech who have all been going since the late eighties and are still active now, pushing their styles in different ways, acting as leaders but also putting out really good quality music. I think the grime thing took a lot away from the Hip-hop scene but then that’s a really British sound, and I reckon in the next couple of years you’ll hear some quite interesting crossovers/collaborations. You can hear that on the new Black Twang album. Two years ago there was quite a division, but as the grime scene develops, a lot of Hip-hop MCs are taking it a lot more seriously. I mean, it’s been quiet but then there’s Capo; one of the best MCs in the country. I reckon something big’s going to happen, in general British music is pretty happening at the moment – the future’s rosy. So let’s look to the future and see what happens.

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