Interview: Scratcha DVA

By Nick Taylor, Sep 13th, 2012 | In Nightlife



Skratcha has been one of the major names in the London grime scene for years, producing records with Wiley and and hosting the morning show on London’s Rinse FM for the past six years. This year he finally put out an album, Pretty Ugly, which came out on Kode9’s Hyperdub label, better known for pioneering dubstep releases. We caught up with him ahead of his DJ slot at Sub-Culture on Saturday, to talk about his changing style and how to make “bare ugly tunes.”

***

SmSh: You put out Pretty Ugly this year. Did you see yourself as a Hyperdub artist, or was that a surprise the way things turned out?

Scratcha: I never really thought of releasing tracks for another label so much before. I have released one-off tracks with a couple labels before but I’ve always had my own label [DVA Music] to do whatever I wanted with. Some labels are like hit and run, but Hyperdub is one of those labels that helps develop artists and works alongside what you’re doing, so it’s worked out really good and not just for me — I could probably speak for a lot of other artists working with Hyperdub on that as well.



SmSh: How come you waited so long to put out an album? Just busy with your own label and the radio or were you waiting for something, the right inspiration?

Scratcha: I did make an album before Pretty Ugly but with loads of grime artists featuring on it, but then I didn’t like it so much so it didn’t get released. And then I broke the hard drive that had all the audio stems on it. It was called No Right Turn because everything was left. But it ended up getting left on the computer.



SmSh: You seem more interested in making original, unusual music than following the scene and just making huge dancefloor stuff… Is that your intention, or is that just the way tunes come out?

Scratcha: Funny you say that, most of the time I make tracks that I think fit with everything else that’s out there, but later DJs tell me they don’t. I don’t go out of my way to make things strange or un-DJ friendly. A perfect example is when I made a grime tune with an artist called Badness. It was 150bpm. Then I sent it to a DJ who played 100% grime and he said he couldn’t play it because it was 10bpm too quick. That was my cue to exit right there. So yeah, the tunes just come out how they do. But then, saying that, lately I am making more of an effort to care about the DJ and the dancefloor which is fun because it’s new to me.



SmSh: Why is it called Pretty Ugly? You don’t make ugly tunes!

Scratcha: What? I’ve made bare ugly tunes, trust me! But Pretty Ugly was a mixture of that and my prettier sounding stuff. I’ve always played with both styles so it was only natural how the album came out.

SmSh: You got to travel a lot this year with Hyperdub and obviously you’re coming out here to China. How has all that been? You seemed really hyped about coming and seeing far off places. Have you seen much, or has it just been flying in and out of festivals with no time to yourself?

Scratcha: Traveling has been good. I’ve only been traveling two years so there are still bare places I want to reach. I’ve still not been to Australia, Russia, Poland… Scunthorpe (only joking). Shows in South Africa last year were sick! Japan this year was amazing as was the Sonar festival in Barcelona with Hyperdub. I noticed last year I went to some decent cities but literally flew in and out so now I’m choosing flight options a bit better and trying to see the world more when I can. I’m really looking forward to eating snake in Shanghai. Or is it drink the snake blood or venom? Or do I just drink alcohol with a dead snake in it? I’ve been told all different things.



SmSh: We do all those things. Most food and drink is snake-based.

Scratcha I don’t want to die.

SmSh: Some people do die. But only those who have not made adequate sacrifice to our Lord the Lizard King. Don’t worry about that. You’ve talked about wanting to produce someone else’s stuff. Any idea who that would be or what sort of thing you’re looking for?

Scratcha: I have been doing some unlikely artist and producer collaborations lately in the studio but I’ll let you know nearer the time. It’s still early stages at the moment. I always get more out of working with people with other sounds and genres because I can learn something. Like when I hooked up with [American singer-songwriter, sometime soul artist] Vikter Duplaix for the Madness track [see it here]. He showed me new ways of recording vocals without even realizing it, and I got to fill him in on the London dubstep scene and showed him what’s hot. My latest studio dream is to work with Erykah Badu or a young new undiscovered singer who’s talented like her.

SmSh: Finally, what you working on right now and what have you got coming up, release-wise…



Scratcha: I’ve just finished a new EP with Hyperdub, which is down for an October release. You can preview a few of the tracks from it on the Power House x Sub Culture DJ mix I just did [check it here]. I have one or two remixes coming out soon as well. In October I’ll be releasing Shy One’s debut LP on DVA Music. It’s a banging 10-tracker and I’m really amped up for that.

***

Scratcha DJs tonight on Udance.cn from 10pm-midnight, and he might drop some of that new stuff. Tune in here on the Udance site. Then on Saturday he’s playing Sub-Culture, along with Drunk Monk, Steven Lorenz, dji, ChaCha, Didje and Ubec. Details here.

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