It’s that time again, a year has passed and we all feel the need to reflect on the innovation of last year and look forward to the new. Without sounding too negative, the last year, for me, has been disappointing to say the least (with a few exceptions). The generic nature of the house music being played at a lot of events reminds me of the nights I used to avoid 10 years ago, the ones that directed me away and towards the excitement of underground music in the first place. Whilst musing over this, I came across a tweet from pioneering DJ and producer, Scratcha DVA.
Is it safe 2say 2013 will be rememberd as the year of mediocre house?
— Scratcha DVA (@ScratchaDVA) November 11, 2013
I resolved to question Scratcha on this further. I wanted to find out how he sees the last year being remembered and get a broader perspective…
The interview started with Scratcha summarising that,
“ I feel some people will look back and say 2013 was mostly musically boring and some will say it was amazing, if you’re into receiving tonnes of house promos out of nowhere or raving from 10PM until 6AM to a simple 4/4 beat then this has definitely been the year for you.
But I wanted to know what he thinks…
“for me, I feel it’s been a little bit overkill on the house vibes, and I like house music a lot but some of the things producers have been allowed to get away with this year have been mental. I also feel it’s got a lot to do with the way people generally are now, computerized and lazy, so if you’re going to the club with that mentality then the 4/4 beat all night long is perfect.”
I question whether advances in technology are making it too easy, are some people simply replicating sounds they’ve heard before rather than exploring the creativity technology allows? Perhaps a reflection on how everything, including our social lives, is becoming faster and more instantaneous…
Scratcha takes a slightly different angle on this idea,
“I feel technology has to break some more boundaries within music so we can take another step…back in the 80s making electronic music was more ground-breaking.
Although there are always new synths and loads of new plug-ins still being made, a lot are doing the same thing as each other I feel… I like what the Melodyne DNA program can now do with vocals, allowing us to take say a full acapella and move single harmonies into a completely different key just from the one audio wave. I don’t even know how that works but it does, also to re-arrange chords from one single audio recording. That’s a barrier that’s been broken and with that, remixing songs now, it creates so many more possibilites. The stuff I have in mind would really need technology to catch up so we can open a new door for music and sound.”
However, in terms of production there have definitely been some positives over the last year. He agrees that Grime is in a good position right now and when questioned on what else he’s been feeling, he offers, “I’m loving the output from Hyperdub. A Made Up Sound, Dean Blunt and some others.”
He notes that a lot of the innovative stuff he runs on the Hyperdub/ Rinse show is from complete ‘unknowns.’ He sees this as a good thing and so do I. Maybe this can give us some scope for what’s to come this year, in which case we need to be looking to the new to enliven and shape the future scenes.
“Some of the known names from a couple of years ago were making some amazing stuff but this year just went in on the mediocre house vibe, which was a bit depressing,”
So, there have also been a few disappointments, but what about Scratcha’s own releases. He shrugs off the suggestion that Mad Hatter is experimental, “It’s only sounding experimental because there is so much straightness around at the moment.”
However, that’s what makes Scratcha stand out. He doesn’t affiliate himself to a specific genre and his releases are always unpredictable. Usually inspired by other directional music, he has been looking elsewhere, finding UK music in 2013 at a standstill.
“This is gona sound like a mad contradiction but it’s real talk… I’ve been listening to a lot of old Techno. I’m surprised just how much soul and depth original Techno music had. There are definitely qualities of that era, which are totally me. What happened to Techno? It’s what happens to everything, Garage, Jungle, Dubstep and it will happen to Footwork as well. It’s just the logical progression every time.”
His last EP featured a remix by Footwork producer, Rashad.
“Footwork for me has been the latest scene to inspire me. I know it’s not massively new but it’s the newest sound to pass my ears. I like the qualities that producers like Rashad, Machine Drum, Spinn, Traxman, Mark Pritchard and others have ’cause they are a similar style to Old-Skool Jungle. Just sounds like they are having fun vibe-ing with sampling and not getting too technical with the sound.”
So if it is recognised that the innovation production-wise has been out there, I question why this diversity is not being reflected in the events. Scratcha thinks it’s all down to money,
“the thing about the promoters is no one really wants to throw away money. It takes brave promoters to put shows on for a crowd just to show them something new, which still happens a lot all over Europe. People like myself, Roska, Cooly G and others were mostly used as guinea pigs when Europe, and sometimes outside of Europe, were coming out of the Dubstep phase.”
It’s true, promoters abroad have always had to take risks in order to promote new music, Scratcha determines that promoters are playing it safe… “in London especially, but u cant really blame them. Times are hard and people are sheep.”
Could it be that the aftermath of the 2008 crash has gone as far as to saturate our music scene with mediocrity? I wonder whether the need to hold down an income in uncertain times has overshadowed the need for innovation in the UK…
Scratcha views, “you’ve also got to take into consideration that UK hasn’t really produced a new sound/scene since UK Funky. I dunno if we can claim Trap.”
So what will be the next sound and scene? More recently, I’ve noticed some smaller niche, events popping up and I’m sure I’m not alone in anticipating the emergence of a sound that brings the excitement that early Jungle, Garage, Grime and Dubstep brought to the scene.
Scratcha laughs off the idea of forecasting the future,
“Hold on let me just look in to my crystal ball… I have no idea, but what I would like to see is promoters getting their balls back. Who’s getting a record deal and stuff like that are now a lot led by stats and a lot less by the actual music, so dudes with OK tunes but really good internet marketing skills can come through nicely. I feel Grime has nicely opened itself a new leg to run off, so I’m expecting a few more Grime events to open.”
So is 2014 going to be another year of mediocre house? Scratcha’s feeling positive,
“Even though there is predominantly mediocre house out there, I do feel that a change is gona happen. I don’t hate house at all by the way, I just don’t like mediocre anything. I sound like I’ve moaned a lot but I do predict a better 2014 musically and am hoping people look back and realise 2013 was dry in terms of innovation.”
These last comments really define it for me. UK underground music should never have to be described as mediocre. I feel that over the last year, events have not represented the diversity that’s around. To me, UK has always been at the forefront of innovation and regardless of genre, I think quality and diversity are paramount. I look to artists like Scratcha DVA, who have continuously remained innovative and current, to maintain this and hope that the new, ‘unknown’ producers and DJs get the opportunity to break through. I’m hoping that 2014 will catch us all off guard. The good news is Scratcha will be working on his second album for Hyperdub and if his last releases are anything to go we should expect something inspiring…