To put it simply, Doc Scott is one of drum and bass’ pioneers, an originator and an innovator. I think it’s fair to say there are a level of persons in drum and bass whose involvements in the genre have played a central role in the very fundamentals of what it is, where it is and where it’s going. Not only from the point of view, in Doc Scott’s case, of having influenced the genre from the very beginning, but also through their totally inspiring outlook and their contribution to the genre in terms of the extent to which their able to enthuse and inspire each demographic and generation that passes through it.
I’ve always felt that drum and bass has a distinct family ethos, it seems to give people a genuine sense of belonging and a strong sense of identity. When you look at key figures within the genre like Doc Scott for example, he has not only released some of the genres most remarkable tunes but he also continually supports alternative, unorthodox and entirely forward-thinking music, whether that is through his sets, his Future Beats shows or his label 31 Records. When considering the benefits of going in a more mainstream and conventional direction it’s difficult not to respect and admire him. This element for me makes it easy to see how the genuine passion from those in his position can feed into everybody in the scene and contribute to that widespread feeling of being part of something truly incredible.
Having recently interviewed him, we took a closer look to find out how he’s made such a unique mark in the ever-evolving world of drum and bass. Taking it back to when and how he first got involved, Doc Scott gave us an insight to the motivations behind what he does.
“I do this because I enjoy sharing music with people, and I always have. Going back to when I was a kid at school, I was the kid that used to bring in tapes of weird and wonderful electronic music – when I was like 12 or 13, and what I do now is an extension of that. I like sharing music with people and I’ve found DJing, running a record label and doing a podcast are the best ways of doing that. Of course it’s how I earn my living, but if I wanted to earn more money I’d play more commercial stuff and earn more money, but that’s not why I do it, as long as I can earn enough money to live, be comfortable and do what I need to do my number one goal is just to find the most amazing music I can and share it with people.”
“I was buying records and collecting music before there even was a rave scene or DJ scene. When the rave scene came along in late ‘88- early 89’ and parties started cropping up outside of London, so in the midlands and up north, promoters needed people that could DJ and I was one of those guys that had the music and I had some turntable skills. I didn’t actively want to be a DJ, I was DJing and into the music before there was a scene to play it in.”
The conversation soon turned to his thoughts on the direction of drum and bass and the way he felt his role in it would unfold back when things were first kicking off.
“In late ‘92 early ‘93 I thought, “hmm maybe this isn’t just a 3-year party, maybe there’s some longevity in it.” I’m still constantly amazed at where it’s gone, where it is and that it still continues to grow. I can remember just this summer for example, I was in Canada when Glastonbury was on, I got back, I’d recorded some of the highlights and to see Chase and Status headlining Glastonbury and playing in front of 150,000 people or however many it was, was pretty cool. Having been there right from the beginning of it all and having been constantly told at various points in time by various music publications that drum and bass is never going to amount to anything and that it will never have any commercial viability – I mean it wouldn’t surprise me if in two years time someone shows me an article and Mixmag are declaring drum and bass is dead again, they’ve done it about three times already – and for drum and bass to be where it is today, and for me to still be a part of it all, it’s a pretty cool thing and it’s something I’m thankful for all the time.”
Over the years as drum and bass music has progressed there have also been various changes to the methods of DJing. How does Doc Scott feel these shifts have affected DJ culture overall?
“DJing has changed enormously especially over the past 10 years; there’s been this explosion in technology, year on year. I talk about it constantly with close friends that it’s amazing it was only around a decade ago the iPod was even launched, there was no iPod and now you could go out and DJ on your iPad if you wanted to. It’s extraordinary just how far technology has come, and there’s good and bad things that come with that.”
“I personally don’t mind whatever technology anybody uses as long as they’re still fundamentally doing the mechanics of DJing. Something I don’t like is that there’s software out there that will beat match and tune match for you and you kind of think well if you’re going that far, you might as well just stand there, hit shuffle and do nothing and I think that’s a shame.”
“I’m of a sort where I think there’s an art to DJing but I understand that there are a lot of people that don’t see it that way or hear it that way, and I don’t mind that. I mean it’s like depth levels of music, the deeper you go the less people can really grasp or understand what’s going on, and that’s not just drum and bass that’s in all genres of music. I can listen to jazz for example, but I can only listen to jazz and understand it at a certain level, I appreciate though that there are people who can listen to it at a level I can’t even comprehend and it’s like that with all musical forms. I can listen to a DJ and get off on the most anal and intricate things, where as most people won’t hear it, or even care about hearing it, and that’s cool, just sometimes I worry that with the advances in technology these small, little nuances that for me makes a DJ a DJ and not a disc jokey will be lost, and they are being lost. You have a generation of people growing up and it’s all about auto tune, auto cue etc. their rehearsing their sets and it’s a pre-ordained kind of thing, which is a shame. I like to hear guys play on the flight; I like to hear them being spontaneous.”
For anybody that’s caught a set by Doc Scott, I think it’s unarguable that his sets have the power and intensity to give you that indefinable feeling of being taken on a journey. Discussing the ‘journey’ aspect of DJing, he spoke of the difficulties and limitations in bringing this element across.
“I think a lot of it has to do with time constraints… If you’ve only been DJing say for the last decade, and you’ve been playing primarily in the UK you won’t have experienced playing two plus hour sets, where as that’s where I made my bread and butter in the early days. I can remember when we first started going abroad, for example when I used to go down to Australia and New Zealand in the mid to late 90’s – I’d be playing 4,5 and sometimes 6 hour sets and you really get to find out a lot about yourself and whether you can do it.”
“It’s a different kind of mentality in the UK; in Europe especially but also Australasia, New Zealand and Japan if you’re going out there, you’re headlining and you have support from local DJs, most of the time your on around 2, and the promoter will say play as long as you want and for me personally that’s fantastic, whereas in the UK it’s very unusual to play more than 90 minutes. I enjoy listening to a lot of techno DJs and I go to various techno nights when I can in the UK and you don’t see techno DJs being booked for an hour, so I’d say it’s pretty much a drum and bass thing. Fabric sometimes have Andy and Hype and they’ll play around 2 hours which is good, but I wish there was more of it, and it seems to be a kind of vicious circle.”
“I enjoy hearing someone play 2-3-4 hours because you get to hear what they’re made of and what they can do with the tunes they’ve got, rather than just blasting 60 minutes of great tunes, one after the other and not really mixing. If the crowd are entertained you have to give them there lot, but for me that’s too easy. I’m a bit more old school in that I enjoy listening to somebody play three hours and obviously I know they have a lot of great music but it’s about what they can do with it and where they can take it.”
“One thing I don’t quite understand for that matter is that I hear some DJs play, and they never play more than 3 minutes of any particular track. For me, that’s a bit sad, I have some tracks, some Calibre tracks for example and they take 3minutes to get to the good part of the tune in my opinion and for good reason.”
Another vast change has been the heightened importance of producing alongside DJing. DJing “is a saturated market” there’s a lot of competition and “that’s why so many (DJs) produce or so many producers become DJs”. Doc Scott is one of only a handful of people recognised principally as a DJ in drum and bass, he’s undoubtedly the DJ’s DJ for many, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a number of DJ’s he’s inspired by.
“The DJ’s DJ I think everyone would say is Randall, he’s one of those guys that I hear playing and he was born to DJ. He does things and makes them look ridiculously easy and natural and that’s what I love about him. I remember going to AWOL at Paradise Club in the mid ‘90s and he used to own that place! He does things in the mix and he mixes tunes that I wouldn’t even dream of attempting because I know how difficult it is. You’re amazed from a technical standpoint, but also the fact he’s taking two tunes that no one would dream of trying to put together and I don’t know how he forges them together but he makes it work, the transition is brilliant and when the two tunes meet it’s great. That’s what I mean when I say I can get quite anal about DJing and the mechanics of it all, and he’s a guy that still to this day, does things I would dream of doing and that’s a joy to hear.”
“Darren DBridge is another one of those guys as well, talking from a more modern perspective. He does things that I wouldn’t dream of doing and he’s one of a handful of guys that If I’m out and about I’ll try and catch if their on after me or I’ll get there earlier if they’re on before me, as I enjoy listening to them play.”
I think we’ve all had one of those moments, where during a set a tune has been dropped and the reaction to it has been totally mind-blowing. What has been the stand out moment for Doc Scott?
“I can remember touring with Goldie; he was doing the Timeless tour. Goldie was doing his live thing, Fabio was there and I was doing the last set. I had a track from Source Direct called ‘The Crane;’ I knew I had this killer tune, they’d given me it in the week, they hadn’t given it to anybody else, I played this thing and the whole place just went nuts. Sometimes you get sent a tune, or you go to someone’s studio and they play something and you just think, I know this is going to destroy the club and it was one of those. There’s been many but that’s one moment that particularly sticks in mind, there were maybe 2000/3000 people in that venue and it was just one of those really awesome moments. Particularly because Fabio and Goldie and a couple of others came over and were like, “What the F is this” and it’s a cool moment to know you’ve got something like that.”
“There are sometimes it happens also where it’s kind of a surprise, you’ve got the tune, you know it’s a good tune, you play it out and the crowd reacts way more than you anticipated and that’s kind of special because you can be taken aback, you’re like, “whoa, I thought it was good I didn’t think it was that good”. When you’ve got a tune that you really think it will do something and it does or when it does and maybe a little bit more than you expected, that’s special.”
31 Records (now ThirtyOne Recordings) is a label that’s been responsible for a number of drum and bass’ most notable releases. Kicked off back in 1995 and having undergone a few quiet periods over the years, 2013 saw the label resurface after a 3year break with a huge release by Overlook. Illustrating his reasons for bringing the label back, Doc Scott also revealed the reason for taking the catalogue ID back to 001.
“Being in a positive frame of mind, it’s really that simple. The label to some degree reflects my mood at any moment in time, so if the labels off the radar, I might be off the radar myself. There was a period, maybe a 6-month period, where I was incredibly unhappy. I was going to gigs and only really solely enjoying my time on the decks, there was lots of it that I wasn’t enjoying for whatever reason and I was of a mind-set of if something’s making you unhappy, or you’re not enjoying it well why bother? I’ve always had a mantra to myself that if this ever became solely a job, then I would quit and go and do something else, and there was a period when I was actually contemplating doing that.”
“The last release was in 2010 and I had lot of stuff lined up to put out. I had these releases sitting there, and I didn’t think it was fair for me not to be 100 per cent committed to the music, or to the label, or in fact myself in the whole scheme of things. So I got back to the artists that I’d signed or semi-signed and let them know they’d have to find other homes for it, as I didn’t want to just sit on it and then come to the conclusion that no I don’t want to put it out, or no I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“Then over the last 12 months I’ve felt in a much more positive place. The label was coming back and I thought, well lets really draw a line under what’s gone before and start a fresh, it’s not that I’m disowning the back-catalogue and I’m not disowning 31 Records, they’re both linked. I just wanted a clean break but I also didn’t want it to be a new label if that makes sense.”
“I also needed somebody to run the label for me, to do all the stuff I don’t like doing what when you’re running a label and it was very difficult for me to find that person. I’m not the most out there kind of person and it needed to be the right person, it needed to be someone that I knew and somebody that I could trust. Simply by chance early in 2013 somebody sent me an advanced promo of Calibre’s new album and it was a guy called Chris Parkinson who used to run ST Holdings. We had a back and forth, I didn’t even realise he’d left ST holdings, and he let know that now he was running a few peoples labels for them. He looks after Calyx and Teebee’s label, Craig Richards label, Martyn’s label and he looks after Calibre’s label as well, so very varied in my opinion, very cool people and people that he knew from his days at ST Holdings.”
“I asked him if I was to bring 31 Records back would he be interested in running it, as that was really the only thing holding me back. I’d been doing the podcast, I’d just started doing the radio show and had a swathe of great music that I wasn’t in a position to sign because I didn’t have the time nor the will to do the whole thing. He was really up for the idea, and that was the final piece that was missing, somebody to simply do the mechanical side of running the label, so he was on board and then I was in a position to speak to artists. That’s why I’ve really enjoyed the past 6 months, particularly when it’s somebody I don’t know, I’ve been in a position where I can ask them what their doing with their tunes from the point of, “hey, I really like this tune and I’d like to back it up by putting it out on the label”, I’d missed that kind of interaction.”
“Sometimes I can be quite vocal about complaining about certain aspects of the scene or drum and bass and you can only complain so much, unless you really get out there and try and do something positive for the better. Otherwise basically just shut up and stop moaning… so I decided to try and shut up and do something positive basically.”
Om Unit’s highly anticipated remix of Doc Scott’s very own ‘Shadowboxing’ is due to be released on the label very soon. Doc Scott detailed his thoughts on a recent revival in drum and bass.
“These guys that have come from the “outside” if you want to turn it that way. Om Unit, Machinedrum, Synkro etc. for me personally have been a breath of fresh air and it’s been needed. You have to look at it from the point of view of it’s not some cranky old guy – I’ve been within drum and bass since the start, it’s approximately 21-22 years old depending on where you want to pin point it from and that’s a long time. I get sent an incredible amount of music, anywhere between 100 and 200 tracks a week, that’s a lot of stuff to get through, so I find it incredibly disheartening when I can literally predict a 6 minute tune from hearing a 3-4 seconds of it at the start.”
“One of the things I love about drum and bass, or it should be, is that you can do anything. There are no rules in drum and bass and that’s one of the things that make it so unique and special. So when I hear these formulae tunes: 32 bars, then a drum roll, then a drop, then 2.5 minutes, then a break down, then another 2.5 minutes, then an outro it’s like that’s so regimented, it’s like there’s a rule book and it’s terrifying to stray away from that blue print, which is something I feel is wrong. For me drum and bass is about freedom, it’s about being able to say I’m feeling really angry and aggressive so I’m going to make an angry or aggressive tune, or I’m feeling quite mellow so I’m going to make something really lush, but I can do it over the same beat. There aren’t many other musical genres where you can do that. So when I see drum and bass tying itself up in knots and becoming very predictable, quite frankly I find it a little bit boring.”
“So when these guys have come in basically from the outside, I’ve embraced more or less all of it and I really, really enjoy it. I like stuff from Stray, from Indigo and then you’ve got the guys at Auxiliary and people are saying are they making drum and bass? Are they not? Well do you know what, it’s 170 bpm, I can fit it into my set and if I like it and I can get it in there I’ll try play it.”
“It’s also enjoyable from a DJ point of view because it’s challenging. Sometimes I get some of this music and it’s great, but then it’s like how on earth am I going to get it into my set because it’s not formulaic, it has a weird intro, it drops weird and even the pattern is weird but it’s fun and it’s really interesting and I think it’s good for the music that you break down barriers rather than trying to build them. It’s also a challenge playing some of it out because you can’t play too much of it. People will get a little bit lost, they like more of the drum and bass that they know, so playing stuff that’s more traditional then every now and then dropping into some half-tempo, half-beat or some off beat thing is fun, especially seeing how people react.”
The conversation soon turned to the remix…
“I made contact with him through Fracture probably about a year/a year and a half ago because I heard some of the stuff he was doing and I just thought this guys great! He’s one of the standout guys over the last couple of years musically in any genre; he’s one of those amazing people where it’s like what genre is Om Unit in? He’s not in a genre, he’s in the Om Unit genre and that’s such a cool place to be as it gives him such freedom to do what he does. He just tries to make the best music he can and he makes amazing music.”
“Fracture introduced me to him pretty much online, he sent me a load of music, we had some correspondence back and forth and he’s a really nice, really humble guy. He asked would I be able to let him remix ‘Shadowboxing’ and I completely and utterly forgot about it – this was probably about a year ago now.”
“Then I was in America in the summer, doing a music tour, I’d finished the tour and was sitting at the gate at LAX waiting for my flight home and just out of nowhere it popped into my head, I thought “damn, did Om Unit ask to remix ‘Shadowboxing?’” – I emailed him and asked, he said “yeah, but I never heard anything back” so I thought shit, I told him to give me a few days and I’d get the sounds to him, so I got them to him and he went away and did it. It’s something he asked to do, he wanted to do it and I couldn’t have been happier.”
“There are people that I’ve asked over the years and they’ve walked away, it’s an incredibly difficult track to remix and not only that there’s a lot of attention that comes with it because a lot of people hold that track in certain way, so that’s put people off and some people have had a go at it and not really nailed it as well as they might have liked to. I really like what he’s done with it, I quite like that he didn’t approach it by thinking I’m going to re-invent the wheel kind of thing, he kept a lot of what made the original the original – he’s done his thing and I really like it. I can think of certain tunes that if someone asked me to remix I’d say, “Nah, I’m not touching that” because I can’t better the original, the original has held too much in wherever it is.”
“It’s been interesting seeing the reactions to it and I think he knew what he was getting himself in for. There are some people that really like it and then there are some people, well, you know what it’s like online everyone’s a critic kind of thing. The people that have contacted me that have heard it really like it so I’m happy and the thing is you can never please everybody in this day and age, when everyone has a voice via social media and you can’t listen to everything because if you do, it just drives you crazy.”
Doc Scott’s ‘Future Beats’ shows are an essential outlet for introducing people to rare strands of drum and bass. A staple for many, originally in the form of podcasts and now a regular show on Origin FM, what were the reasons for this change? and how does he feel about it?
“They approached me maybe about two years ago and asked if I’d be interested in doing something. At the time I kind of was and wasn’t, then around a year ago I thought about it and thought why not! I decided to do it once a month for a couple of hours and I’ve really enjoyed doing it, it’s been fun. I’d been doing the podcast before, recording from home, and to be honest, I felt that a bit of a chore in that they weren’t regular, they were very sporadic – maybe once every 3, 4 sometimes 6 months. A lot of music gets lost in that time, it doesn’t get documented, it doesn’t get down or recorded, and it’s like I said previously, I get sent an extraordinary amount of music.”
“Doing the show is quite therapeutic in a way also, it makes me feel good, I enjoy the interaction with people before and after the show, people asking me track ID’s and trying to do the track listing and stuff. It’s like I said before, I enjoy sharing music with people and with the radio show it allows me to play even deeper stuff. There’s stuff on the radio show that I would never play out in a club environment because it’s just too deep or too abstract and I know I’d never get away with it. So the show is a chance and an opportunity to play something really different, stuff that I personally really like and I think the reaction generally is positive, so I enjoy doing it.”
The shows are a way of pushing fresh interpretations of drum and bass and there are a number of areas standing out to Doc Scott at the moment.
“There’s just so much and that’s the interesting thing. I love it when I go to my inbox for example, where I have my Dropbox, my AIM etc. and where people send me music and there’s music from somebody that I’ve never heard of and I don’t know. I’ll track them down and I find out it’s some 21 year old in Estonia or something and that still happens and keeps happening. I mean there’s a core of artists out there who’s music I love: Loxy, Skeptical, Dub Phizix, Calibre, DBridge, Om Unit… there’s loads, I could go on forever. Metalheadz at the moment are on fire, they’re making some fantastic music; it’s great to have Metalheadz really back in the game and Goldie fully focussed on the label. They’re in as good a form as they’ve ever been and that’s a good thing, drum and bass needs a strong Metaheadz.”
“I get sent unknowns where they don’t even put an artist name, there will be a track on there, this amazing tune and it’s just a title of a tune – so I have to spend like a week trying to find this person. I’ll be asking around saying, “look I got sent this tune, do you know who it’s by?” they’ll tell me and then I’ll email them kind of thing. That aspect of it’s fun, I enjoy that, it takes me back to when I was a teenager and I used to go to a record shop and I’d be trying to find these unknown tunes, or I’d just be pulling records out at random and going to listen to them – it’s kind of the same principle.”
“I think drum and bass is in a really good place at the moment and it’s in a good place no matter what you’re into. If you’re into big hall mainstream stuff, if you’re into jump-up, if you’re into the deeper, more abstract, maturer sound – I think there’s enough out there for everybody to enjoy and that’s a good thing.”
With the label back in full swing and rumours of Doc Scott getting back in the studio, he gave us an insight to what we should be looking out for this year.
“Hopefully we’ll be in the position soon to do a best of 31 Records, a really cool compilation album where we can cherry pick and re-master all the great tunes from the mid and early ‘90s and through the 2000s. At the moment though I just want to fully concentrate on 31 Records. We’ve had 3 releases, we’ve got 4 lined up ready to go and we’re working on a compilation album for this year. Once that compilation album gets really operating and I’m in a position where I know the timescale of it and everything, then I can look back at the back-catalogue. I get asked constantly about it because it’s not available digitally, so once we get to that point we can look at that and figure out what we’re going to do with it and what’s the best way to deal with it.”
“I’m getting back into the studio myself this year also, it seems to be going in 7-year cycles, the last release I had was in 2007 and the last release before that was in 2000. So 7-year cycles, the time feels about right and I’ve had some good invitations to work with people. I’ve always kind of worked on my own, sometimes that’s good, but sometimes it’s also difficult in a sense that if you’re not fully confident in what you’re doing, or you’re not fully confident in whatever it is you’re writing or your sound, not having someone to bounce off becomes a negative. Over the last couple of years I’ve had some really nice collaboration studio invites from people that I really like and really respect, so this year I’ve decided to take up those offers and get out there and write. No pressure, just do some music with people and hopefully at some point this year I’ll have 5 tracks, 4 tracks worth to put out a 4-track EP, and a track to put on the 31 Records compilation album. If I can do that by the end of the year, I’ll be really happy.”
Written by: Leslie O’Connor