We chat beards, donkeys, epic sets and why tea tastes funny from a Thermos
Contrary to popular belief, Mr Scruff is not just another one of those slightly odd cartoon critters that adorn the artwork of his CDs he actually exists. Itchy can verify this, having caught up with the man in person earlier this month.
He even has a name of his own: Andy Carthy, born 1972, in Macclesfield.
So why the namesake where did that all begin? Not, it seems, because of Carthys beard, which is a reason often put forward among fans.
I used to spend all my money on records and none on clothes, hence the Scruff tag. I do have a quite neat beard actually.
Whatever the reasons for his moniker, the overriding sense you get from Carthys music, videos, cartoons and general demeanour, is that the guy is a pretty good laugh.
With samples from childrens TV programmes embedded in many tracks as standard (like Thomas The Tank Engine in Fish off 1999 album, Keep it Unreal), its hard to avoid the playful element to Scruffs music. (And yes, weve had enough of his real name, its Scruff from now on.)
Take Mays Donkey Rave, for example. Besides the wonderfully absurd title, the music video depicts, unsurprisingly, a collective of donkeys (his favourite animal, by the way), drinking ale and getting down to the music.
The song reminds me of when myself and Quantic [DJ Will Holland] were recording it. We really enjoyed working together and I think that shows in the end result.’
So would Scruff himself describe his music as primarily for laughs?
I definitely have fun when I make it, so yes!
Known for his epic sets (his performance at Beach Break Festival in June was an ankle-numbing six hours long), Scruff has a reputation as a workhorse on the touring circuit something he describes as the usual gig frenzy.
Though it seems we have to be careful with our definitions, as Itchy asks him about the make-up of his live performance.
I wouldnt really call it a live performance; my DJ sets are about 80 improvised. I really enjoy reacting to each new venue and crowd, rather than planning stuff out. I play all night [no shit] so I can be pretty relaxed about it.
Speaking of gigs, what’s his preferred place to spin the vinyl?
I would say the Music Box in Manchester is my favourite place [you can take the Manc out of the city… Scruff has a monthly homecoming here which is always packed to the rafters] but Plastic People in London is fantastic too.
Now thats diplomacy if we’ve ever heard it.
You can normally rely on a Mr Scruff set to attract a pretty jolly, very pleasant (and dare we say it, middle-class) sort of a crowd. It’s dance music without those vicious chavs and super-club surroundings more at home in a damp festival tent, in a field somewhere outside of Exeter.
Nonetheless, its not easy to shoehorn Scruff into a specific genre (or sub-genre for that matter) we’d say he’s sort of like a delta of sound, fed from the tributaries of jazz, funk, dub, soul, house and the rest of it. And according to him?
No idea. I hop around a lot musically, so I dont think I slot into anything in particular and, as far as influences go, I like all sorts.
With latest single Kalimba released last month and more planned for later this year, the Scruff factory sees no sign of slowing up. But how does an artist of this stature deal with whats come before while keeping his eye on the road ahead: Does he listen to his old stuff? Whats he most proud of musically?
Sometimes I do tend to listen to unreleased stuff more. Chicken in a Box is one of my favourites I still play it loads after 12 years.
If you know anything about Mr Scruff, one thing that wont have escaped you is his passion for tea. Yes, thats right: tea. The mere reference to a cuppa sparks a new burst of enthusiasm.
Loose leaf tastes better, but bags are fine for everyday use.’
And does he have any explanation for that notoriously distinctive tasting tea that one gets from a thermos flask?
I know exactly what you mean, but I dont know why. Its probably the milk.
Also, for the record, dunking is acceptable. If you catch Scruff live theres often a tea tent doing a brisk trade mid-set, and with his own range (Make Us A Brew) selling in a trendy department store near you and continuing involvement in CUP caf in his home town, tea-related issues are clearly close to his heart.
Speaking of issues what with every musician expected to have some kind of political stance these days (thanks, Bono) if Scruff, a self-professed human rights and environmental patron, could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?
Id get all the Shells, Essos, Tescos and Nestls of the world to learn to respect our planet and the people that they exploit.
Endearing, if not exactly new. Which sort of goes for the music too. Scruffs been around for a while and perhaps doesnt compete with some of the big guns in the same way that he used to. Nevertheless though, hell always have a merry band of good-time followers, in it for the free jigsaws, mid-set organic granola bars, novelty critter t-shirts and laughs.
In his own words: A full cup of tea is a happy one.