Wobble Those Legs with Mr. Scruff!
March 31, 2010 10:21 PM   Subscribe

You might have noticed his work in the collection of Windows 7 sample media, alongside a koala, penguins and a jellyfish, a piano tune and a version of Debussy's "Maid with the Flaxen Hair", or maybe his ditties got you tapping your toes in a video game. Perhaps you met him at his tea shop in Manchester (Google Streetview), home to his own line of organic teas. Maybe you know him for his marathon mixsets, running four, five, six, or almost seven hour long. You might know him as Andy Carthy, but it's a bit more likely you've already heard something of Mr. Scruff.

Some 19 years ago, he was a bedroom hip-hop DJ, and by 1994, his repertoire had expanded. That year he started doing live gigs, playing wherever he could around his hometown of Manchester.
"I played in a lot of bars, plus club events such as a young manumission, a world music night called 'one tree island', a reggae night called 'dubism', and a hip hop/soul/jazz/funk night called 'headfunk'. I played different music at each event, generally whatever I could get away with!"
The next year, he got his first original tracks pressed to wax, with The "Hocuspocus" EP on a local label, Rob's Records. There were a few more singles in 1996, and in 1997 Andy Carthy had himself an album, by way of compiling his early music from Rob's Records and the sub-label, Pleasure Records. Mr. Scruff was here.

In 1998, Carthy joined the Ninja Tuna label with a three-track single, his release being the 62nd single on the label that now has some a couple hundred singles (plus bundles of albums) under their collective belt. He went on to release two more albums on Ninja Tune, Keep It Unreal in 1999, and then Trouse Jazz in 2003. The following year saw the first commercial mix CD from Mr. Scruff, Keep It Solid Steel Volume 1. Intended to be the first of an ongoing series of mix CDs, he was tangled with licensing of vol 2 in 2006, then shifted his focus to the next studio album in 2007, and in 2008 it sounded to be shelved, with the Southport Weekender mixset (streaming mix, history of the bi-annual event) available as something of a stand-in. In October of 2008, Mr. Scruff released his 4th album, Ninja Tuna, and in collaboration with Ninja Tune he created a new sub-label, Ninja Tuna, for Mr. Scruff's own material and ephemera.

Like many hip-hop and electronic/dance music makers, samples play heavily in Mr. Scruff's tracks. For instance, Carthy pointeed out that "'Get A Move On' is basically all samples." That particular track relied heavily on Bird's Lament, by the blind composer/ musician/ inventor Louis Hardin, also known as Moondog (prev). Along the musical samples reside some more cheeky things, as heard in Wail, Fish, Ahoy There!, which were the last tracks of his first three albums, each little nautical stories made from a variety of samples.

Much of Mr. Scruff's persona comes through his drawings. He said of his drawings, "I like the balance and incongruous aspect where I can put a cartoon on a flyer and then be playing hardcore jazz records in the club. If I just put, ‘Come and listen to my rare jazz records’ I’d just get a load of beardy blokes – and I’m sure there will be a load of beardy blokes down and that’s cool if they’re down with a load of other people." The Ninja Tune era albums had singles with music videos featuring Carthy's drawn characters, with Get A Move On and Honeydew from the first album, and Sweet Smoke from the second. Ninja Tuna spawned a number of similarly themed videos, including This Way, Stockport Carnival, and Give Up To Get. Music Takes Me Up was more produced, featuring the singing Alice Russell lemon.

Still looking for more funky Scruff? Check almost an hour of MP3s of an interview, or a bit of the life of Mr. Scruff, in his own words, from push-button electro mix-tapes to 2008. And if his Soundcloud page doesn't give you enough music, check his old Hotpot Radio Shows, a mix of stuff with Mr. Scruff and Treva Whateva, a mate from back in the day. Hotpot.com is down, but Archive.org caught some pages.
posted by filthy light thief (14 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
this is the longest fpp i have ever seen
posted by rebent at 11:01 PM on March 31, 2010


you've done did it again, Calvin.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:04 PM on March 31, 2010

Wow. Quite a comprehensive FPP there. I like Mr Scruff - Get a Move On was the soundtrack to 2000 for me, although I went off it a bit when I heard Birds Lament by Moondog. There are samples, and then there's taking the whole thing...

I never realised he had a tea shop. I'll have to visit when I go back to the UK.
posted by handee at 12:58 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think I have a copy of the Hocus Pocus 12, had no idea it was the first one! Get a Move on is certainly one of my favourite things, although I don't have a copy of it. I am convinced that French band Caravan Palace are a direct spin off of that sound.
posted by asok at 3:03 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Trouser Jazz is a great album, more than just for the reference to pants in its title.
posted by slogger at 6:32 AM on April 1, 2010

asok - glad to inform =) I picked up his original self-titled album/comp before the re-issue was out, and didn't realize it was something of a rarity. And that Caravan Palace track/show is FANTASTIC! Definitely in the same vein, though Mr. Scruff is hardly the only one making that kind of music. His mixsets, on the other hand, seem to be a rarity.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:02 AM on April 1, 2010

Thanks filthy light thief.

That Get A Move On has been haunting me ever since I heard it in a car commercial years ago.

(goes to check out links)
posted by djrock3k at 7:10 AM on April 1, 2010

As a long time follower of Mr. Scruff since Keep it Unreal, I went to one of his gigs a few years ago. I went up to say hello during the intermission and asked him if he could play the track Fish. He told me to piss off and buy the album. Needless to say I haven't bought another Mr. Scruff album since Trouser Jazz.
posted by popecork at 7:36 AM on April 1, 2010

That's too bad, popecork. Strange, I also talked to him at a gig once and we had a nice conversation.
posted by halonine at 8:27 AM on April 1, 2010

popecork, a shame indeed. I think he treats his live mixes as a chance to subject people to music they haven't heard elsewhere. From this interview: "To be honest, playing a whole night of tunes that people know, and that would guarantee a good reaction, would bore me senseless!" I'd definitely place Fish in that category of "tunes that people know," at least for folks attending a Mr. Scruff show.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:57 AM on April 1, 2010

this is the longest fpp i have ever seen

not even close. I'm sure there are bigger examples, especially if we count deleted posts.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:03 AM on April 1, 2010

Wow, 6 screens full beat my 2 pages high schore, though I can say with some misplaced glee that my Pogues Post broke the link-checker before I was finished writing it up.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:57 AM on April 1, 2010

Mr Scruff is awesome, I've seen him play here in Liverpool a couple of times. The best thing about his gigs is that there is always a nice girl serving cups of tea. Quite surreal.

I went up to say hello during the intermission and asked him if he could play the track Fish. He told me to piss off and buy the album.

Musicians are the one breed I can forgive for this sort of behaviour. So many good musicians are such assholes. Doesn't have to spoil your enjoyment of the music though.
posted by Acey at 5:37 PM on April 1, 2010

Oh, and fantastic post!
posted by Acey at 5:38 PM on April 1, 2010

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