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Q&A: Scuba

After a six-month break, Scuba returned reinvigorated in 2015 and is now ready to tackle 12 weeks of techno

  • Dave Jenkins
  • 5 February 2016

After a tough tail-end to 2014, during which he had to take six months off, UK-born, Berlin-based techno craftsman Scuba booted down the doors of 2015 and ensured its status as vintage. His well received fourth album ‘Claustrophobia’ saw him poke and prod the widest realms of the genre, and enjoy a decorated remix album. DJ-wise he was an unavoidable force, touring the world with a strong presence in Ibiza throughout the summer, while his label Hotflush made similarly strong noises with its own radio show and releases from Paul Woolford, Auden, Shall Ocin and Alan Fitzpatrick. This year has been kicked off with an equally vigorous bang by the man known more formally as Paul Rose: he’s taking over London’s XOYO every Saturday from January to March for 12 Weeks Of Techno, during which he’ll be inviting the widest range of techno artists to play including Shackleton, Chris Liebing, Matthew Dear, Kenny Larkin, Nicole Moudaber and many more. It’s a unique project that we needed to know more about. But first, we asked about a Twitter campaign he instigated late last year. Fed up of witnessing DJs campaigning, sniping and screaming for attention in a certain DJ poll, he jokingly offered fans a bump of ket for every vote. Naturally we needed to know a bit more about that, too…

So… er… fancy a cheeky bump?

No comment! My whole point was that end-of-year polls are a distraction from what we’re all trying to do. Every year it seems to get worse. This time round it was at parody proportions.

You also triggered a pretty mature discussion about drugs and alcohol while making your point…

Drugs are drugs, we all know people take them in the scene. But alcohol is the real elephant in the room in terms of public health. It’s the one that does the majority of the damage, yet it’s socially accepted. I’m not proposing we have alcohol-free clubs but I think it’s an area where personal responsibility seems to go out of the window, and it seems to be acceptable for artists in our position to fan the flames of it in a way that people would never do with drugs. 

You’ve had quite a destructive relationship with alcohol haven’t you? 

Yes. I had health issues last year which weren’t a direct result of alcohol but I was advised to give up everything for six months. In my last interview I said ‘I’m nearly an alcoholic’ and I got criticised for being a little flippant about that. But having a drink problem doesn’t necessarily mean a bottle of vodka before breakfast. It can be a lot more subtle than that. Issues with alcohol can affect you in a range of ways, and the way I faced up to my issues wasn’t the most desirable way – sitting on my arse doing nothing under doctor’s orders. I’m much more realistic about my relationship with alcohol now. In hindsight I would’ve phrased that a bit differently because it’s a complex and much-misunderstood issue that affects different people in different ways. 

You wrote ‘Claustrophobia’ during that six months, didn’t you?

I did. For the first three months I was literally in bed and couldn’t do anything. Then I started doing a few shows and getting into the studio for a few hours every day. At first it wasn’t much fun; I was really ill and it was pretty hellish at points. But now I can be much more philosophical about the whole thing. 

So track titles like ‘All I Think About Is Death’ could potentially be understood quite literally?

That particular title refers to a number of things, including its literal meaning. Sitting in bed for three months being seriously ill wasn’t pleasant. I was never told I was going to die, but I’m in my 30s now and you do start to consider your mortality a lot more consciously than you do in your 20s. It was a new experience for me; I’d never had such an extended time off and you do think about things you wouldn’t otherwise. 

But it’s paid off, right? You seem to be more active than ever…

I’ve definitely got a new sense of perspective on what I want to do with my musical life. I suppose you could call it a fresh start; refocussing on things that are important. Last year was a good year; the reaction to my album was great and I’ve had a refocus on where I want to be musically: going back to proper techno feels like coming home for me. I’ve moved around a lot stylistically, but techno was the very first genre of electronic music I fell in love with when I was 16 and first started going out buying records. It feels right. I won’t be moving on from my techno any time soon. 

It’s such an expansive genre that’s open to so much interpretation, certainly compared to the restrictions of dubstep, for example…

That’s the thing about techno, it’s so widespread. However, lots of people have different and strong ideas about what it is and what it’s supposed to be. My favourite comment I’ve heard from a purist is ‘If you have clap or a snare on the second and fourth beat then it can’t be techno’. That’s about as purist as you can get! There’s vitriol between different scenes but, for me, it’s all techno and I want to showcase as much of it as possible during the 12 Weeks Of Techno residency. 

When was the last time you had a weekly residency in a UK club? 

It’s my first weekly residency ever! It will be interesting. I’ll be doing [quite] a few warm-up sets, too. I think that’s important; resident DJs have become a lost art. I know Craig Richards has always been recognised, and XOYO have brought resident DJs back into the public eye. It’s about going back to what proper club DJing was about in the first place. 

Will you be informing XOYO’s door staff on some of Berghain’s policies?

Maybe not to the door staff! But we will probably have a policy on phones and cameras. I don’t know if we’ll completely ban them but the dancefloor is for dancing: the fewer phones you have there, the better. We’ll be trying to make it as much of an authentic clubbing experience as we possibly can. 

You were denied entry on your first time to Berghain, weren’t you?

I was! I’d just moved over there and wanted to check it out. Like a lot of people, I was denied. But I have a lot of sympathy for the policy; it takes a lot of work to keep a club so good. You need to restrict the crowd to those who really want to be there. They do a great job; it’s a global tourist attraction and they refuse to dilute the experience. I’d be very interested to see how it would work in the UK. Or if it could work at all. It’s a very tricky thing to explain why certain people can’t come in, even if they are there for the right reasons. 

So what happens after 12 Weeks Of Techno? More new music? 

I’ll be moving to London for the 12 weeks and just reconnecting with the city and enjoying time with my family. As for new music, who knows? I’m always working on new things and will release things when it feels right. I’m certainly not thinking about another album. Right now I’m just looking forward to spending more time in the city I grew up in and getting to know it again. London is the most important place for new music in the whole world; the vitality, the turnover of styles that happens in the city. You don’t get it anywhere else. 

Scuba’s ‘12 Weeks of Techno’ runs every Saturday at XOYO until March 26