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In conversation with Scott Garcia

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In conversation with Scott Garcia

Scott Garcia. From catapulting to success with ‘It’s a London Thing’ in 1997, to this year’s hotly anticipated release of XXV in January, he has been shaping the UKG scene through the ages. He started MC-ing in London in the 90s, before branching out into producing and later radio presenting. 

Now, Garcia boasts a weekly stint hosting on KISSFM, a new album marking 25 years in the industry and big London shows coming up this summer. 

Here, we talk reflections on the changing nature of the UKG scene, people pleasing and secret MC pseudonyms.

Congratulations on the release of your new album. Tell us a bit about the project; what was the inspiration behind combining your historic releases with new ones, and why have you decided to mark 25 years?

Sure. I wanted to put everything in one place and mark the changing journey across my career. It’s a chronological album, from Dub Monsters, Corrupt (where I had a legal battle and couldn’t release under my own name) right up until present day, with the last track on the album being previously unreleased and the freshest. I actually did a 20 year compilation so wanted to mark 25 years and update it a bit. I wanted this one to be 25 tracks to mark 25 years, but I just couldn’t cut it down from 30, so it ended up being 30. 

It was a meaningful release for me; my Dad died a couple of months before the release date and I ended up putting it out on his birthday to honour him. I’m really happy with how it has been received, but the circumstances actually took away a lot of the usual anxiety I’d feel around a release. I haven’t been obsessively checking metrics; it has meant more than just that. 

I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad. Was he impactful on your journey in music?

If it wasn’t for my Dad, I wouldn’t have known anything about music. He taught me what I knew when I started out. He introduced me to bassline, synthesisers, everything. So yeah, he was a massive inspiration and influence on my music and career and this album is a tribute to that.

 

What are your plans for this year? I know you’ve got the It’s a London Thing rave in April, what can we expect for that?

So it’s a London Thing rave in the first big party of the year which is always going to be a good one. I’m linking up with a couple of the boys from KISS – the Wideboys – we’ve done a couple of back to back sets in cities abroad, but this is the first London one. There are lots more live events to come too.

Besides that, radio is one of my favourite things to do at the moment, and I’m getting to do some more fun stuff now. I was feeling a bit restricted just playing old skool all the time, but now I’m playing a show called KISSFresh, where I’m getting to showcase lots of new music. 

Now you’ve got more freedom when hosting on KISS, how do you go about finding those new, exciting tracks? What’s your process?

I’m very active on social media and a lot of people gravitate towards me. I’d like to think if you’re coming through in Garage, if you’re new to it, I’ll be one of the names that you encounter quite early on. 

I’m always very receptive to anyone who has got new music, I’m very interactive with them. I tend to get a hell of a lot sent but if I hear a great tune that I’ve not heard before, I’m instantly going to give that artist a follow on all socials to make sure I’m aware of what they’re making. 

And if I ever hear anything while I’m scrolling or flicking through the internet, then I will reach out to them and just ask them if they can send me over a promo so I can get behind the record. 

So I’m pretty active, but I also get sent a lot of material anyway. For my KISSFresh show, I spend the week just digging through promos and finding stuff that suits the style I like to play. The process is going through what I’ve been sent and then going through and working out what I’ve really liked, then reaching out to those people to try and get their stuff on the show. 

What advice do you have for aspiring producers?

There are so many resources out there for producers to learn from, but I would say you need an undeniable focus on what you are trying to do. Focus is probably the most important thing, especially in the music industry. Where you put it will decide where you get to and where you are going to excel. I’d really recommend watching Youtube tutorials on how to make great mix sounds.

I suppose it also comes down to what you want to get out of producing too. When I was originally signed and I was producing, it was because I wanted tracks for my DJ sets. Focus, determination and thick skin – all the cliches! Get used to hearing the word no. You’re going to hear a lot of nos before you hear the word yes. Treat every setback as an opportunity to get better. 

You started producing after meeting Gee Smoove at a boat party, after your stint MC-ing as Yung Blud. How important are making those connections and expanding your network in the UKG industry?

It’s going to get out now that I was called Yung Blud. I’ve never mentioned that and it’s going to be a thing now, but it’s true!

We’re in an era where networking is really easy; I think it’s a different world now to when I originally started getting into it. But communication is key. The way you communicate  definitely makes a difference. 

The best way I can answer this is to describe not the way I network with others, but the way I allow others to network with me. As long as anyone approaches me in the right way, it doesn’t have to be really polite but, you know, at least say hello before you drop me a link to your tune! Those little things, they go a long way. Some people just drop a link in a facebook message for example, just a link with no explanation. I don’t think I’m going to want to network with that person. But if you can just do the pleasantries, explain what you’re about and then let the music do the rest of the talking for you, you’ll find that most people will engage.

DJs survive on music, it’s the fuel for what we do. So send out your music, ask for feedback, and accept the feedback, don’t argue.

Have you had people argue with your opinions on their music?

I’ve certainly had people get offended, but you can’t ask for an opinion and then get offended if you don’t like the answer. Even if it makes you cramp up inside, and we all get that, you have to accept it. If a million people listen to your music, there’ll be a million opinions. 

It’s not a good move to ask someone to play your music and then when they give you feedback get offended. Sometimes I’ll say to people ‘I can hear the potential in the track but this one’s not for me. But do send me whatever else you do, because I’m interested to hear the progression and how it goes.’ Some people might react to that negatively and think it’s a brush off, but it’s not, I do mean what I say.

Let’s talk more broadly. How would you say the UKG scene has changed over the 25 years you’ve been active? Have you noticed a shift, for example pre and post pandemic?

As we were approaching the pandemic, there was quite a lot of momentum for new garage, which was very exciting. I suppose it was a spanner in the works and slowed the growth. 

I think that break through lockdown affected the unity of the scene a little. I think naturally people went into their own cliques and who they worked with, so you had these pockets of creativity going on rather than the whole scene feeding off of each other.

Post pandemic, from my point of view, has taken a long time to get back to where we were before. It felt like it was going to happen really quickly, but when you look at the numbers it hasn’t. The garage scene is in a better place now than it was even pre pandemic, however if you didn’t have the pandemic it’s stratospheric right now.  So it has had a negative effect but over time it’s getting back to where it was. 

Your success has proved the test of time. Has your own style as a DJ and producer developed over the changes you’ve described?

I think since the pandemic I don’t care as much. I’m not as worried about everyone liking what I do. I’m more worried about ‘is this worth me doing this?’ Before the pandemic I might have thrown so much energy into stuff that wasn’t going to come to fruition. Now, I’m more matter of fact; if it’s not worth me doing it then I won’t do it. I think I’m getting a bit older as well and a bit more grumpy, so that’s probably an element of it. 

The pandemic has put into perspective what I want out of my career and what I do and don’t want to do. Not sure if that goes for everyone, but that’s something personally I’ve noticed. I’m a lot less bothered. 

Has that had a positive impact on your creativity?

It was brilliant. It was something I needed; to let go of the desire to please everyone. You can never please everyone. If I fly the flag for new garage in the next year, then my old skool fans will say ‘you can’t be in the old skool.’ But if I fly the flag for old skool then the new skool fans will say ‘there’s a whole new scene over here and you’re not part of it.’ The position that I’ve managed to work myself into in this industry is a really thankless task. So being able to let go of that element of wanting to please everyone has been massively helpful for me to keep doing it and keep pushing.   

Top 3 UKG tunes at the moment?

  1. Champion – ‘MY Way ft. Daylia Nava’
  2. Aroura dee Raynes – ‘Crazy That You Love (EL – B Remix)’
  3. Y U QT – ‘She’s Homeless’

That last one is such a throwback, it really works for me, smashes it in all my sets. 

Top 3 UKG tunes of all time?

It’s a bit of a statement but I’m willing to say it; I don’t think there’s anything yet in this new era of garage that can stand up to one of the original classics. So three all time and best – 

  1. Together – ‘24 Hour Experience’ 
  2. Myron – ‘We Can Get Down (Groove Chronicles Remix)’
  3. Kele Le Roc – ‘My Love’

But disclaimer, my top 3 change daily! So that’s today, but tomorrow it could be Gabriel, Little Man and Wideboys, Westside. It’s ever changing!

Follow Scott Garcia:Facbook/Instagram/Spotify

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Scott Garcia

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