Mr. Scruff Is Listening to Nitro Deluxe, Frank Sinatra, and Hip-Hop Vinyl

Published April 17, 2020

This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, and the odd songs to listen while on shrooms. This time around, we made our way to the DJ booth and asked Manchester’s resident disc jockey, record producer, and veteran of the underground dance world Andrew Carthy also known by his stage name Mr. Scruff. On the occasion of his recently released 31-track megamix celebrating the 25th anniversary of DJ Kicks, the legendary series of DJ mix albums and vinyls, Carthy takes us on a time warp, mixing old and new beats, creating a stimulating and soul-elevating mix, and reminding us all to never stop dancing, even if our venues have changed from The Boiler Room to our living rooms.

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ERNEST MACIAS: What was the process of putting this mix together?

MR. SCRUFF: I would do a draft mix, try and license the tunes, and then re-do it with any rejected tunes replaced. The licensing thing took a long time, as it does with these kind of releases, but I tried to keep the actual process of mixing and selecting as off the cuff as possible. 

MACIAS: When you found out you’d be doing the 25th anniversary DJ Kicks mix, what was the first thing that crossed your mind?

SCRUFF: I was excited, as I hadn’t done a mix album for a few years, despite doing tons of 5 hour online mixes. My first official mix was “Keep It Solid Steel” for Ninja Tune, back in 2004, and then I had done a couple of Southport Weekender mix CDs since then. 

MACIAS: What should people be doing when listening to the mix?

SCRUFF: The mix slowly grows in intensity and has a lot of subtlety and details, so headphones on and a long walk would work well.

MACIAS: Tell me about “3001: A Space Disco Remix,” the mix you contributed for DJ Kicks?

SCRUFF: That was a remix that I did of 潘PAN, a Taiwanese rapper who uses the name CyberPunkJazz for side projects. She has also worked with Grimes. This remix is a wild gnarly ride with lots of twists and turns. The kind of tune that sounds odd on first listen but from personal experience I can verify that it absolutely lays waste to any dance floor. 

MACIAS: What are you listening to during quarantine?

SCRUFF : I’m using what has been nicely labelled “The Great Pause” to go through thousands of old hip-hop twelve inches. If I haven’t listened to a tune for over 20 years, perhaps it needs to be dug out again and played, or given a new lease on life in someone else’s collection. My local thrift store does amazing work for the homeless community and they will be getting a big delivery of vinyl once they reopen in a few months!

MACIAS: What’s the last song you listened to?

SCRUFF: J Live’s “A Charmed Life.” As part of my big clear out, I’ve just listened to about 10 of J Live’s twelve-inches, which reminded me of what an incredible artist he is. None of those tunes are leaving the house.

MACIAS: Who was the earliest musician to influence you?

SCRUFF: In terms of direct influence on my DJing and music, I would say that early ‘80s electro was the first thing that really grabbed me as an 11 year old in 1983, especially the Street Sounds Electro compilation albums. “Clear” by Detroit duo Cybotron was probably the one that affected me the most. “Hashim” was also very influential. These tunes inspired me to start DJing.

MACIAS: Where was your first rave and who was playing?

SCRUFF: I was never really a raver as a kid. I was old enough to go clubbing in 1990, and though at the time I was into all kinds of music including house/techno and the uptempo breakbeat/rave sounds that slowly mutated into jungle, from a clubbing perspective I preferred going to soul, reggae, and hip-hop clubs. The PSV was a legendary club in Manchester, right in the middle of a housing estate in Hulme, just south of the city centre. The main room downstairs was full on sweaty rave, but I tended to hang out upstairs with my partner in crime Treva Whateva.

MACIAS: What’s your favorite movie soundtrack?

SCRUFF: The soundtrack from Ola Balogon’s film Black Goddess/Deusa Negra by the drummer Remi Kabaka. An incredible, pared-down soundtrack with minimal percussion, up-front-clav, fruity sax and a rock-solid, very percussive bass. I’ve never seen the film, but the soundtrack rarely leaves my turntable. I love it because it is such a beautiful, odd, and catchy album.  

MACIAS: Who is your dream collaborator?

SCRUFF: Kaidi Tatham. I last collaborated with him about ten years ago and we got about six tunes done in two days. A good friend and an incredible musician, full of infectious energy. Also, unusually for a very talented musician, he knows more about music than most DJs. 

MACIAS: What’s a song that always puts you in happy mood?

SCRUFF: Pharaoh Sanders’ “You’ve Got To Have Freedom.” Pretty much as close to perfection as you can get.  

MACIAS: What are some songs or artists you would put on a dinner party playlist?

SCRUFF: A track from David Whitaker’s  Ce Soir Après Dîner EP called “Strip Poker at Caesar’s Palace.”  Sophisticated easy-listening funk, followed by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra’s “Well Did You Evah?” What a swell party this is. Very sophisticated.

MACIAS: What songs would you play if you were having a house party?

SCRUFF: Fred Wesley “House Party,” the original house party anthem! “House Party” by Bill Summers is also great.

MACIAS: If you were doing mushrooms what would you listen to?

SCRUFF: Johnny Osbourne’s “Mushroom.” Great lyrics. “I don’t want no mushroom to go to my head, give me the good Sensimania instead.” Can’t forget the deep house tune Marshall Jefferson vs Noosa Heads “Mushrooms” either. I have never done mushrooms, but I would imagine that The Sound of Feeling’s “Along Came Sam” would sound even more odd on shrooms.

MACIAS: What songs would you add to a “While Cooking” playlist?

SCRUFF: Preston Love’s Omaha Bar-B-Q, a great funky jazz album with a fantastic picture of Preston on the cover, tending to the barbecue with a green and yellow striped apron with his sax around his neck. Then “Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire” by Wynder K Frog. Maybe “Crumbs off the Table” by Laura Lee.

MACIAS; What album or song takes you back to your teens?

SCRUFF: Nitro Deluxe’s “Let’s Get Brutal.” I was 14 when this came out at the end of 1986, and it was the biggest house tune in Manchester for around two months. Unusually for the time, the production was great, and despite the 4/4 beat, it had a strong connection to the electro that I was into. You couldn’t escape this tune at the time, it was so massive.

MACIAS: If your life were a TV show, what would be the theme song?

SCRUFF: Probably one of my old tunes, “Fish.” It’s very silly, which sums me up a lot of the time. 

Listen to Mr. Scruff’s “Add To Queue” playlist below, and follow Interview on Spotify for more