Personality: Scuba

"Stubborn, antisocial, obsessive..."
scuba.jpeg
Paul Rose heads the critically acclaimed Hotflush recordings, a watershed for all forms of bass and with a roster few can hold melting wax to.

Always someone with plenty on his plate, the Paul Rose alter ego Scuba dropped an acclaimed DJ-Kicks mix last year and generally to’s and fro’s from London to his adopted base in Berlin with a three-gigs-a-week schedule. Despite his own admissions of being lousy when it comes to deadlines, album number three is now in the bag, and here he speaks to Clash about how ‘Personality’ is the same-yet-different from works past - before fans get the wrong of the end of the stick.

Scuba lets on about a hard drive of odds and sods he hopes will never see the light of day, and how character is more or less redundant in music these days.

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Do you yourself think ‘Personality’ represents a departure in sound, or is there a common thread running through all three of your LPs?
“There’s a lot of continuity as well as differences. If you look at the three albums, the first one ‘(A Mutual Antipathy’) was pretty out there, quite deep, with proper electro influences, but still within that kind of dubstep thing, or what was dubstep back then anyway. I think with the last one (‘Triangulation’)...there were elements of drum & bass type stuff on there, and housey type stuff, and that was the premise of the album really, that there were three things that went into it – a dubstep thing, a house thing and a D&B thing. And with this one, I don’t think it’s that different.

“There are definitely influences that come through on it that haven’t come through on my previous stuff. That’s partly where the title comes from: there are things that came through when I was making it that I probably wasn’t allowing to come through before, the kind of 80s pop stuff and mid 90s dance stuff, which is totally different from the early dubstep thing. I think I wasn’t allowing that stuff to happen in my music before. So it’s definitely more in your face than the previous stuff, and I guess it’s more colourful, more – I don’t wanna use the word uplifting, but – it’s a lot more advanced".

“The general mood and ideas aren’t massively different. I don’t see it as different as some people seem to, put it that way.”

Are you a producer who values creating a collective body of work, or separates each album individually?
“They’re all really different, despite what I just said. They reflect where I was at the time when I made them; they’re definitely three separate things. The first one was a conscious effort not to be ‘dancefloor’, a step away from clubs or something that could be played out. It’s a complete opposite of the third one, and I think ‘Triangulation’ is something in between that.”

Do you let yourself put these albums in order of preference, or is that like saying you have a favourite child?
“It’s difficult for me to say whether I prefer any one of them really. One of the big differences between all three of them is how technically good I’ve been in the studio, engineering wise. Really I had no fucking clue when I was making the first one, so I’m reasonably competent with it all now. When I listen back to stuff now I can really tell stuff that I would have done differently had I known what I was doing (laughs). Musically though I’m happy with it, and I think the problem is when people get to the technical side, they tend to forget about the musical side, which I’ve really made a conscious effort not to do.”

Are you someone who’s creative on the fly, or someone who keeps the studio door locked for days/weeks on end?
“I’ve gotta be in the studio, I’m not one of these people who takes their laptop on tour and works on stuff in hotels. I’ve gotta be in the right, familiar settings, and I’ve got to have a few hours just to get into it.”

Did you go through the same rituals/processes/approaches for this album as you used for the other two? Any tweaks in set-up/formula etc?
“With all three albums I’ve pretty much made an album, and then decided it was shit, and then made another album. With ‘A Mutual Antipathy’ I was trying to finish it before I moved to Berlin, and I basically got to the last week and told myself it’s not going to work, so basically wrote it all again as soon as I moved here; I didn’t really go out for two months until I finished the album.

“With ‘Triangulation’, I sat down I think in the January intending to get it finished by June 2009, and...er...didn’t finish it until December. With this one it was pretty similar actually; I sat down in January 2011 and finished it in October. An awful lot of tunes on my hard drive have fallen by the wayside. For this one I think it was like over 50...

So you hoard beats as much as you are spontaneous?
“...well like I say there’s an awful lot of stuff sat there that I don’t wanna go back to (laughs). So they’ve all been pretty similar in that respect to be honest; there are definitely parts of that process that are pretty shit, and where it’s kind of like “phew – finally done”. This time around, in August, I was listening back to what I’d done and thought I’d finished it, and then I was thinking ‘oh no...it’s not gonna work...’ The vast majority was made in September in quite a short space of time, so sometimes you’ve gotta go through that to get to something that you’re happy with.”

Any new lessons you learnt along the way? Any bad habits that you revisited, or put right?
“Any producer will tell you that the hardest thing is finishing a tune. The problem is when you’ve got hundreds and hundreds of sketches, 8-bar loops or 16 bars, and you’re thinking ‘yeah this is gonna be a great track’, leaving it for a couple of a months and then coming back to it to finish it is a mistake I’ve not grown out of. Every time I say it’s gonna be different this time, and I’m gonna finish tunes as soon as I write them...but I think a lot of people have the same problem.”

Are there ever times when you think you’d prefer to solely be a producer rather than a label owner/vice versa? Is the player-manager role a gift and a curse?
“It is a little like that. The easiest thing about running the label is that it really works well with my DJ set in terms of keeping it fresh, looking out for new stuff, and trying stuff out. I can easily spend 50 hours a week in the studio, and I could spend 50 hours on the label as well, you know? I’ve got people that help me out with the label, but it’s still me doing most of it, and it is a difficult juggling act. They kind of take it in turns to take priority, which means there’s always one that isn’t doing as well as it should be (laughs).”

And do you cope?
“Well I don’t have much of a social life, put it that way!”

Is your aim to keep your following on their toes? Are you someone who doesn’t do stagnation?
“Completely – I’m not the kind of person who can stand still musically at all. A record came out this week by another producer (who I’m not gonna name), and it sounded exactly the same as everything he’s ever done before. You just think...do something else. I find it boring when people do that, and in terms of making music, I absolutely cannot do it. You’ve got to move onto something else, otherwise what’s the point?”

To be fair listeners have had a heads up with last year’s ‘Adrenalin’ as to what direction you may take this time around...
“That’s the thing. With ‘Adrenalin’, that’s far more different than anything on ‘Triangulation’. Maybe people will think that this album will be 11 ‘Adrenalins’...”

Now for some obvious ‘Personality’-related questions...describe your own personality in five words or less...
“Er...stubborn, antisocial, obsessive...those three things, though maybe not as much as some people assume.”

Is the album a reflection of your personality, pure and simple, or did you have to get into a particular headspace for the ideas to flow?
“The album title sort of relates to the LP being a bit more of an accurate portrayal of me musically. Not to say that I was kind of, dishonest on the last two albums, but with this one, I think everything’s there in a way that wasn’t before. It’s more honest I guess, more complete.”

Does dance music lack personality nowadays? Particularly in dubstep, where being elusive/faceless is key to a persona?
“That’s true, but it’s not just dance music though. I think pop music generally is a lot more, kind of homogenized than it used to be. If you look at pop from the 70s and 80s there was a lot more individuality there compared to what we have now. What with X-factor etc, it’s box-ticking and has to do certain things - if it doesn’t, it doesn’t get released. People get spoonfed pop music these days. Obviously there’ve been complaints about dance music being faceless, but music as a whole – yeah I think homogenized is the right word for it. It’s a shame really.”

Finally...with three albums now under your belt, when’s the fourth coming out?
“I’m not even thinking about it at the moment, I dunno, maybe 2014, we’ll see how it goes.”

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Scuba's new album 'Personality' is out now.

Words by Matt Oliver

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