Multiple personalities – An interview with Scuba

The thing with music is that it’s highly subjective. One man’s goldmine is a grotesque creation of nightmarish acoustics to another set of ears, and this becomes more pronounced the further underground we go.

Pop, by definition, appeals to the broadest cross section of societal ears. In contrast artists working in techno, dubstep, house, electro, and whatever other labels are applied to the various ways in which beats are syncopated, do not usually target such diverse heads, and when they do it’s more often than not because they’re part of the commercial surface. Having said that there are some instances wherein niche producers and DJs manage to satisfy a wide variety of faces in one fell swoop.

Paul Rose is unquestionably one such character. As the main man behind Hotflush Recordings– one of the most finest exponents of difficult to describe yet staggeringly compelling electronic arrangements (from Paul Woolford & Psycatron to Mount Kimbie)- and under the production-cum-DJ guises of Scuba and SCB he has moved on from his formative years within the ‘is it isn’t it dubstep’ scene to adopt a role few can lay claim to in this day and age. As is exemplified on his third long-player, Personality, his interest, either as A&R or artist, lies purely in quality music made with synths, whatever name we want to give those sounds.

It’s always unwise to draw comparisons at risk of sounding foolish, but if one were forced in this instance references would surely be made to the likes of Four Tet, Andrew Weatherall, and Peter Kruder, in terms of a diverse appreciation of sonics (though not necessarily style). With this in mind, and our ears still ringing from that wholly fresh sounding album number three (check out our review by clicking here) we thought it best to make contact with this British ex-pat and Berlin resident. We discuss the limitations and problems of genre and whether or not his new record is breakbeat, whilst he explains his thoughts on how Hotflush got quite so big, and reveals some details of a new live audio-visual show. Read on for the full low down.

P&S: Hi Paul, how are you today? 

Scuba: “Good, thank you.

Where are you at the moment? 

I’m in Berlin right now, but I’m leaving for Istanbul soon.

Ah. What’s going on over there then, just an overnight stay? 

No, I’ve got a gig tomorrow night so I’ll be there all weekend. I was over really briefly last year, which was wicked, so I’m going to check it out properly this time. We’ve got Sunday night there too, so hopefully it should be a good one.

Absolutely. OK, so Personality just dropped. Were you nervous or excited about the new album’s arrival? 

Yeah, well I’m much more happy with it than I was the last, and it was quite a long process with this one, but despite that most of it was written quite quickly. I spent most of last year working on it, then got to August and decided I hated most of it, so scrapped the majority and started over, and basically did the lot in about four weeks in September. 

Because I spent so long thinking about it, and made so many different tracks to go on it, I’d expect to absolutely hate it by this stage, but as an album I think it’s the best. I know there are some people that want me to do the old style stuff, and they might not get this as much, but you’ve got to move on, you know.

The first thing that jumped out at us were the breakbeats. Is this a breaks album, and if not where would you place it? 

As an album I wouldn’t know where to file it. It’s a bit all over the place really. One of the few ideas I had when starting out was that I didn’t want to be scared to put things that aren’t fashionable in there. I think people get too hung up on how they are perceived, and what they can get away with, or what they think they can get away with.

I tried to avoid any of that, and obviously breaks are about as unfashionable as you can get right now. But then I wasn’t thinking let’s make a breaks track or whatever. NE1BUTU is more of a hardcore thing, though I can understand why people are talking about breaks. So yeah, it was really just a case of not being scared of stuff, and maybe I was a little in the past, and had tried to avoid some things because of what was expected.

So what has changed then- have you grown as a producer or has freedom followed the last few years of success? 

Really what you get with pressure, you know, after the second album did really well, and the first was well received too, is people starting to look at you to see what you’re going to do next… Well, if you’re not careful that can put you under real constraints, and you can fall in to a bit of a trap. So this was me just trying not to fall into that trap of people wanting another Triangulation, so one of the ways in which that manifested itself was by me thinking about how much I have always liked pop music, so why not let that into the process. That said I try not to over analyse things.

In terms of Hotflush then, things couldn’t be going much better for the label. Are you surprised at this popularity, given it’s a relatively experimental imprint? 

I wouldn’t say it is experimental, it’s just not mainstream in terms of dance music. I don’t know, it’s been going great for around three years, at least that’s when people first started reacting really well to everything we were doing- from house to Mount Kimbie. It’s difficult to say whether that’s surprising or not though. I’ve always believed in what we do, so on the one hand it’s not surprising because I always knew it was good music. But then it’s nice and gratifying to start being applauded for it. The flip side is though, how do you keep doing that and still stay original?

You divide your own work between the more bass-oriented Scuba productions and the techno and house focused SCB, but the difference isn’t always that cut and dry. How do you see things?

Well, obviously the two are crossing over now. I’ve been doing some pretty hard techno under SCB recently, so that will be the differentiable for a while probably. Again though this is something I don’t really think about too much; the Adrenalin track is a great example, on the face of it that should be an SCB tune, but I put it out as Scuba to make a point really. We’ll see how things develop.

Alongside yourself there are a number of artists that seem intent on defying categorisation. Are genres old news then?

I would like that to be the case, but there’s an ideal world and reality. The reason why genres are so prevalent is that people need something to be put in a box, especially when you think about the way in which music is consumed online, with blogs, tagging, etcetera. The way people are fed music is really through genres, which is frustrating as an artist when you’ve just brought out an album that you can’t really classify.

Having said that though, within electronic stuff and certainly in the minds of DJs and producers, genre is becoming less important. But when it comes to consumers it has probably never been more important than today. People need to distinguish between things, and it seems to be there’s more of an appetite for that than ever before. I mean it’s obviously really interesting what’s happened to music in recent years, and I’m not the best person to ask about what will happen now, so it’s difficult to judge, but yeah it would be great for genres to disappear, though I can’t see that happening.

And, finally, what else is coming up, other than plenty of album related stuff? 

We’re currently getting a live show together at the moment, which we’ll do for the first time in May, with a few more dates over the summer too. That’s the main thing really at the moment, there’s a big visual element to that too so I’m working with a few other guys. Then we’ve got loads of stuff planned with the label; Jimmy Edgar’s album, new Beaumont EP, new George Fitzgerald material, and new Locked Groove stuff. And we’re also doing the Substance parties all over the place- one in New York, one in Berlin, and then one for the first time in London come April, so yeah loads coming up which is great.