In:Focus / Mr Scruff

You may know the name ‘Mr Scruff’ from many things. You’ve sipped his tea and eaten cake in his café. You’ve laughed at his doodles, danced to his records, envied every single record that resides within his expansive collection and, if you’re ever around Manchester, he’s probably given you a quick grin as you pass him in the street. He’s a British institution, a foundation setter for dance floor steppers and a very humble one at that.

All the words in the world couldn’t really do him justice, and although it may be wholly cliché to say, but with Mr Scruff his music really does do the talking. He’s spent a lifetime obsessing over funk, soul, disco, reggae, dub, hip-hop and every single form of music designed to make you move in between.

Before he joins us on 30th November for a famed all-night long set, here, we delve into the musical mind of Mr Scruff. Given that he says it best with two turntables and a mixer, though, we’re doubly honored to induct him into our In:The Mix series with a recording taken from his appearance at The Old Fire Station in 2017. Trust us when we say that this one is special.

After collecting records for so long, are there certain things that you search for in a good record?

Something that appeals instantly, but is individual and unusual enough to stand repeated listens. Raw, and with personality. It is difficult to describe that elusive something that special tunes have.

Your DJ sets are synonymous with a playful, childlike spirit that’s hard to find elsewhere, how would you say you’ve managed to keep a hold of that as you’ve grown older and (maybe) matured?

I try and spread the joy that I get from hearing music, that feeling you get when you hear something for the first time & it blows you away. Having the opportunity to do this is quite an honour.

Do you think of yourself as the ‘Manchester legend’ you’re known as being? Is it a bit surreal to have people recognise you in the street?

No I don’t think like that. I am lucky to be fairly anonymous when out & about. Someone might spot me in a record shop, but I find that people who come to my gigs or like my music tend to be lovely folk, so I have no complaints. I send out friendly signals & get friendly attention back!

To names like Floating Points or Motor City Drum Ensemble, who you’ve played back-to-back with in the past, do you think you’ve become a musical mentor in some ways over the years?

Not really. Sam (Floating Points) used to come to my residency at the Music Box in Manchester. These guys are younger than me, but are very advanced, focussed and brilliant at what they do. We all learn from each other. I don’t see myself as a mentor, although I do enjoy geeking out and talking about what I do with other people, and make sure that am in situations where I can learn from others as much as possible.

Your hometown of Manchester is a city that’s changing faster than anywhere else in the UK, where do you see the future of music in Manchester?

Like many cities, Manchester is becoming a more difficult place for people who are not well off. This will inevitably have a negative effect on culture in the city centre, but people will always find a way to create and do their thing. Manchester’s strong reputation for music attracts new people all the time, and I see a bright future. I just think that the city centres will become less vibrant, and the fun stuff will move out to the fringes as the city redevelops. Remember that although we love clubs & nightlife and know how inspirational these scenes can be, many people see it as a scourge that should be discouraged.

Do you think the music scene there is being affected by this change and redevelopment? Is that a good thing?

I think that culture as a whole is being affected by rapid change & redevelopment, as our cities become more expensive & attractive to tourists and people with money. The process of gentrification is something that we see everywhere, pushing out those same creative people in areas where they helped to make it vibrant and attractive. Unchecked capitalism is bad, but resourceful creative people will find ways to deal with it by joining together to make their own support networks.

You’re obviously known for sprawling DJ sets that cover funk, soul, hip-hop…and pretty much everything that lies between. But are there any genres that simply don’t do it for you? Or is there no such thing as a guilty pleasure?

There are certainly records that I used to like that now sound dated & less appealing – we all need a good clear out now & again – but there are no genres that I have fallen out of love with.

After so long making and playing music to crowds across the world, do you still find moments and new experiences that make the hairs on your arms stand on end?

Yes. I love what I do and I’m careful not to ruin it. One recent highlight was a little club in Eindhoven (De Social Dienst) run by a community collective. It reminded me of Plastic People, had amazing sound & a brilliant crowd. In environments like that you can play with complete freedom.

When you’re commanding an all-night long set is there a particular hour that you look forward to? The last hour before kicking out time perhaps, or peak time at 1am?

I play all night long because I enjoy every minute! I enjoy the process of building the night from early on, and slowly pushing the tempo & energy as the venue and dancefloor builds up. Kind of getting it rocking without people noticing the build up is a part that I really enjoy.

Mr Scruff joins us on the 30th November: