Future Beats: An Interview With Doc Scott

Doc Scott is a man whose involvement in drum and bass has spanned since the genres origins. Through his many endeavours: DJ, label owner, artist… Doc Scott has upheld an unfaltering musical integrity, something that has enabled him to fundamentally influence and shape the direction of drum and bass.

Through his label 31 Records, Doc Scott provides a home for eclectic drum & bass styles and music on the very outer reaches of the genre.

Having recently opened up via social media, Doc Scott expressed the personal difficulties he has experienced, dealt with and overcome over the past 10 years and his optimism towards life and music now. The message was a moving one, giving an insight to his close relationship with Goldie and also highlighting some of the complications that can become part of the DJ lifestyle. However, with a now positive Doc Scott, after a 3-year break 31 Records returned in late 2013. The label has since been responsible for some of the most outstanding releases of this period, notably introducing many to the largely unheard of but exceptional sounds of Vromm, Hidden Turn and Thing.

Not stopping short of EP’s and singles, the label recently put out its first album; 15th December 2014 marked the release date of the compilation LP ‘31 Recordings Presents Future Beats: The Album’. One of the most highly anticipated albums of 2014, we felt it was only right to have a chat with Doc Scott, here’s how things went down….

The Album

The conversation kicked off with Doc Scott highlighting the key concepts and aims of the album project.

“It was important for me that the album wasn’t just one kind of sound. I mean if you think about Metalheadz or Exit, you can think of a sound to those labels and I don’t think that 31 has ever had a definitive sound. The label is a reflection of the music I like and my particular taste is quite broad, I’m quite open-minded and I just hope the album signifies that in that it’s very across the board; there’s artists you may have only just heard of, there’s artists you may have never heard of, then there’s areas of the album that aren’t dnb.”

Exploring the experimental peripherals of drum & bass and stepping outside the genre is far from unchartered territory for Doc Scott; his sets, his radio show and previous 31 releases do this just this, not to mention the fact 31 releases are stocked at respected techno stores such as Hardwax, Bleep and Klone. Doc Scott certainly contributes to strengthening a far from insular part of the scene, he highlights: I try to stress this to the label artists also; one of the goals of 31 is to appeal to dnb but beyond the dnb world also.” 

With this in mind, Doc Scott detailed his initial discovery of some of the album artists.

“I try to listen to as much as I can and it’s really as simple as that. The thing with people like Om Unit who have come into the dnb world in the last 3 years or so, someone like that, when I first started properly hearing his stuff I immediately went out to get as much of his back catalogue as I could because I just thought fuck!”

Coming across Om Unit’s collaborations – including a collab with Moresounds – is something that opened up a whole new musical movement and has had an influence on the line-up of the LP.

“You know when you hear a cool record and it’s like you’ve never heard of this person or these people, you delve into it, you look at the back catalogue and start to tentacle. That’s what I do anyway; I’m very obsessive with this kind of stuff. So yeh, I started to find out about all of these different musical artists and their genres; I mean 3 or 4 years ago I wasn’t even fully aware of this whole side of things.”

What was the process behind getting the involvement of these artists?

“One of the real positives about social media is that it’s really easy to get in contact with people. In the case of Ital Tek, I dropped him a line, let him know that I really like his stuff and the really cool thing that I find happens and it’s very, very humbling is that a lot of these people will say “fucking hell that’s amazing, I used to go down to Blue Note and see you play, now I’m making music and now you’re hitting me up”. It’s weird because thankfully haha I forget how I old I am and how long I’ve been around, so when I hit up someone like J:Kenzo or Ital Tek and they tell me they were listening to my stuff in the 90’s and it got them into production, well it’s really nice and I just feel the whole thing goes full circle.”

“To be honest, I still have the mind-set where I think they might tell me to piss off or they may not be interested so when they were all up for doing it, I was overjoyed. That’s why I told them if they wanted to have a bash at 170, that would be great, but I’m a fan of what they’re normally known for so if they wanted to do something like that, that would be great also as the album would be everything and anything.”

As a 24-track album that has been split across 6x 12”s it’s certainly a big project!

“The album was actually never intended to have so many tracks and the size is another reason I didn’t want it to be solely drum and bass. Some people that I know got wind of the project, contacted me asking why I hadn’t asked them and let me know that they’d really like to do something for it. When someone that you really love and really respects says that to you it’s like “if you want to do something I’m more than happy, we’ll accommodate it and get it in”. So I certainly didn’t want to have like 20/22/24 just dnb tracks because I’d like to think that my taste and who I am is more than just that. Not to say that a whole dnb album is a bad thing, it’s just a reflection of me musically.”

A common business move throughout the drum & bass scene, particularly amongst the bigger labels has been to set up sister labels. Is this something Doc Scott would consider?

“I wouldn’t want to start up a sister label, 32 Records for example, because I feel you’re in some ways saying it’s a B thing or a different thing. Speaking to an artist he might say he wants to give me something but only if it comes out on 31. I’m always trying to not categorise things; if you start setting up sister labels and sub-labels you’re making pigeonholes and I’m always trying to get away from pigeonholes. If you take Samurai for example, they’ve got Horo and those two labels are completely different, they’re only linked because they’re ran by the same guy so that I understand. There are others though, those make me think well this just sounds like the stuff you can’t really be arsed with, or that you don’t want to fully get behind and you’re telling the audience that. For me we’ve got one label, it’s called 31 records and if I like something we’ll sign it and put it out; I try to see everything as an equal.”

On the contrary to the marketing approaches of other big album releases, ‘Future Beats: The Album’ followed a relatively basic (but effective) formula. Doc Scott gave us an insight to his thoughts on the difficulties of modern day label marketing.

“As you well know there are leaks… then there are “leaks” – the bigger labels like Sony do the guerrilla leak type things. In our case the track listing accidently got leaked by our distributors, I asked the people there to take it down and they were good enough to do so. We’ve been quite lucky in a sense that we’ve been able to keep it under wraps, when there are 24 people on board you expect somebody to drop the ball somewhere but they haven’t, everyone’s been super cool.”

“The thing is and Chris (label manager) stressed this to me, in this day and age you’re bombarded with so much information that if you put out a track-listing say 2 months prior to release, people just forget because there’s so much to take in. That’s why we went with the approach of ‘here’s the track listing, you can listen to it, you can pre-order it and you can buy it and physically have it in 2 weeks.’ So hopefully 2 weeks isn’t too long haha hopefully it isn’t a big enough window where people will get bored and go onto something else.”

31 Records

31 Records was kicked off in 94’ with the release ‘Technology / Chillin’ Out’ by Doc Scott under his Octave One moniker. The label, whilst on and off, has spanned two decades, in light of this Doc Scott highlighted the major differences in running 31 in the early days in comparison to now.

“Do you know what… The 90’s are a bit hazy to be honest haha!”

“The reason I set up the label was because at the time I was producing, I had tracks lying around and I wanted to try to put them out by myself. To describe the differences between then and now, well it’s pretty much the same but obviously the difference now is that there’s just so much music around. Anyone with a graphics package can do a digital release, knock up some kind of album artwork, throw it out there and call it an EP.”

“I’m thankful 31 has the name brand recognition that it’s got; I can release music and it will gain a bit more attention in the sea of releases. It’s difficult for people that are trying to start out and do their own thing now because if you compare it to 20 years ago, when we’d put out a release on 31 there might only be 2 or 3 other releases that week, where as now I get an email from Juno and there’s like 50 dnb releases on any given Monday which is just insane.”

“Even the bigger labels, their output of releases is just mind-blowing to me; some of these big dnb labels are sending me 2 or 3 promos a month. That’s one thing I’ve always been adamant that we don’t want to do at 31, the most we’ll do is 1 release a month and that’s it. I don’t want to get into that game of having to throw stuff out there because you want your turnover to be x amount or because you believe you have to have a constant stream of content – for me this devalues the music and to me the music is being devalued anyway just by the amount there is out there and how easy it is to access it.”

“I know how hard some of these guys work in the studio and for it to be such a disposable commodity is not something I’d want to contribute to by having three 31 releases every month or something. It’s nice when music feels special, that’s one of the reasons we’re doing a box set with the album as a limited thing. It’s nice to feel that music is important as opposed to just another bunch of MP3 files on your iPhone.”

album cover

Does Doc Scott feel there has been an event, experience or milestone that has had a particularly big impact on the evolution and direction of the label?

“We brought the label back probably around a year and a half ago now and the reason I put it on the shelf mid-2009 was because at the time I was really disillusioned with a whole chunk of the scene and industry.”

“I really don’t say this lightly but if wasn’t for the stuff dBridge and the Instra:mental guys were doing; if the Autonomic podcast hadn’t of come along, I don’t think I’d be in the dnb scene now, that’s really true and I’ve spoken to a lot of artists who feel the same. Whether knowingly or not Darren saved a lot of people. He showed people that there was a different way of doing things and that was crucial for me. Those couple of years after, I fell back in love with the genre as I felt there was another way, rather than just the big room rave type stuff. I’ve never wanted to just go through the motions, play mediocre or just go by the numbers music. Since the label has come back it’s re-enthused me and we’re really proud of every single release we’ve put out.”

Drum & Bass Culture 

In 2014 we saw Ministry of Sound drop all of its drum & bass shows: drum and bass’ status in the context of the wider music industry regularly goes through cycles of fashionable to less favourable, Doc Scott discuss’ this.

“Looking at the recent Metalheadz v Exit event, when I go to something like that and I see all those super talented people playing what to me is some of the most amazing, ground breaking music and I see a rammed crowd of people lose their fucking shit, those moments make me incredibly proud of drum and bass. One of the genres core strengths is that it’s self-sufficient: it puts on its own events, it can distribute its own music, it can create its own styles and it can find new talent – it doesn’t need outside help. If people on the outside want to come in, they can, but over the years it’s become incredibly independent.”

“This is me entirely speculating but sometimes that’s maybe where some of the negativity comes from. Drum and bass is a weird scene; if you’re an outsider looking in it’s difficult to understand what makes it special or what makes it what it is. That’s not to say it’s a closed shop though, that’s complete bollocks and that’s something that’s been levelled at the scene and the people in it. You only have to look at people like Om Unit and those people that came in from supposedly different scenes and tempos, Om Unit is the perfect example of someone who was theoretically an outsider and he’s completely loved and embraced in this scene.”

“I’ve got an 11 year old son and I try to teach him that all that matters is you know who you are and if you stay true to who you are you’ll be fine in life. Outside opinions don’t matter. I think that’s how I am as a person, that’s how I am as a DJ, that’s how I am as somebody that runs a label and that’s how drum and bass is – I think that’s maybe why I’ve ended up in this scene. There may have been times that I’ve hated it but the majority of the time I love it and long may that continue!

For mainstream youth culture, things have seemed fixated on EDM for quite some time now – does Doc Scott feel this has an effect on underground electronic scenes?

“My knowledge of EDM is very limited. Do you know what though, just a couple of weeks ago I went to bed at around 1 or 2 in the morning and I caught this documentary, it was on… name some of those big names, yeh, Avicii that’s it. Honestly I just didn’t understand it, it was mind-boggling but at the same time quite fascinating. It was a 45min documentary, I ended up watching it and the thing I took away from the whole of it haha was that he has a guy that takes his headphones and USB’s on the stage and plugs them in for him! I mean wow, it’s such a different world and I genuinely don’t understand that scene or that music or if it has any effect in what we do or the world we reside in.”

Future Plans

In our last interview with Doc Scott, back in January of last year, he highlighted that he was keen to return to the studio.  

“I’m away for the best part of January but when I get home I really want to get in the studio. Unfortunately though I’m my own worst critic, if I can’t do something as good as, or better than anything I’ve done before then I don’t really want to put it out. I don’t feel any pressure one-way or the other though; I went in the studio a couple of times this year with Cern and with Gremlinz, I had a lot of fun and that’s what it needs to be to me, rather than thinking I have to do something that’s of a certain standard. I’ve always got lots of invites and I’ve recently had a nice invite from DJ Die to go down to Bristol, that’s something I think I might do when I get back; go down and roll out something simple.”

How would Doc Scott round up 2014 and what are the aims for 31 Records over the next year? 

“I don’t think I’ve enjoyed what I’m doing, being in the scene and the people I’m around as much as I’m enjoying it at the moment. I’m constantly amazed by the music that I hear, get sent and that I’m allowed to play out to people. Doing the radio show allows me to have even more freedom to play whatever I want and it’s refreshing, it’s like ok, this music is a bit left-field but as long as there’s an audience out there that are willing to listen, that’s all you can ask for.”

“In regards to the label, we’ve got six releases lined up for 2015 and a couple of them aren’t 170.”

“We want to move on to doing artist albums and hopefully we can get an album down with Hidden Turn, Vromm and Overlook – that’s the three we’re looking at going into 2015. All three of them are incredibly talented in completely different ways; with Overlook, people know that name and know what he’s about, then we’ve got Hidden Turn and Vromm who we’re super excited about simply because they’re off in their own world, doing their own thing. There’s no better feeling than stumbling across somebody that nobody’s heard of, putting their stuff out and then seeing people react in a really positive way – something that happened with both of their initial EP’s. That’s one thing I, and 31 as a label have always tried to do; if Calibre comes along and says ‘I’ve got a couple of tracks lying around here, could you put them out?’ of course that’s fantastic but what really excites me is new artists, new ideas and Hidden Turn and Vromm are prime examples of what we’re trying to do with the label.”

Whilst the limited edition 12”s have sold out, ’31 Recordings Presents Future Beats: The Album’ is available to purchase in digital format here.

Keep up to date on all things Doc Scott by following him on Facebook, Soundcloud and Twitter 🙂

Catch Doc Scott Playing at Fabric on Friday 27th Feb, tickets and info here! 

Check out the full album preview below:

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