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Doc Scott: “I’ve got unfinished business!”

Trace drum & bass right back to its earliest incarnations and Doc Scott’s name is there.

As a producer he emerged in 1991 on his own label NHS before really making himself known on seminal, foundation-setting imprints Reinforced and Metalheadz (both as Doc Scott and Nasty Habits) He’s behind some of jungle drum & bass’s most iconic tunes such as Unofficial Ghost, Drumz and Shadow Boxing.

As a DJ he’s been there since the earliest days of hardcore and, alongside the Grooveriders, Fabios, Randalls and Bryan Gees of the world. As a resident at the seminal Speed night, he’s cited as one of the first generation of drum & bass selectors who dug deep across the genres to make sense of the new jungle sound that was forming in the early 90s.

As a label owner he’s played a role in the careers of some of the most remarkable men in drum & bass: Calibre, Marcus Intalex, Ed Rush & Optical, Digital and Friction all enjoyed early releases on 31 Records while Pendulum famously enjoyed their very first release with Scott in 2003 with Vault.

Fast forward and Scott remains a true champion of new sounds and talents. Over the last few years 31 has returned to its rich vein of form it established itself with when it launched in 1996. Notably since the massive Future Beats album in 2014 (on which we enjoyed early cuts from now-unavoidable names such as Skeptical, Scar, Hidden Turn and Moresounds), 31 has really pulled out all the stops to break down the nonsensical sub-sub-sub-genre boundaries and forge the genre into the future… Where it’s always belonged.

With rumours of him making moves back into the studio after 10 release-free years we called him up and took in a deep hit of future, present and the past. Essential reading.

You’re the first drum & bass DJ I ever saw. 1998. You kinda changed my life a bit.

I love hearing those stories… Even if they do make me feel a bit old.

If you’re feeling it, still looking forward and not stuck in any particular era then D&B has no age limit!

True. I had a sticky patch career-wise around 10-12 years ago. I lost my way a bit, I wasn’t playing music I believed in and I lost my identity. Now I’m in a happy place, I play what I want and I’m really inspired again. If you don’t believe in what you do it’s a miserable job. All the travelling, away from home and hotels are only worth it when you’re in love with the job. Your sanctuary is behind the decks and nothing else matters.

10-12 years ago. Mid-2000s. I’ve spoken a lot of original junglists who fell out of love with the genre around that time…

Yeah a few of us experienced similar situations. Personally I was mid-30s. I was like ‘right, I’ve been doing this for a while, am I going to do this forever?’ But much more than that, it boiled down to music. There was a time when I wasn’t enjoying what I was hearing and being sent. I thought I’d fallen out of love with drum & bass and really started questioning myself.

It was a semi-midlife crisis. DJing was all I’d ever known. I’d had decks since 13 and was being paid to play from 18. What else was I going to do? It was tough on me and my family, almost a form of depression. It was something I loved so much but I really wasn’t enjoying it. The online aspect was also influential. Forums rise up and you’re on there getting slaughtered! A lot of people say they don’t pay attention but I don’t care who you are – if someone says you’re shit, it hurts. So for a while I was thinking ‘fuck it’, I was going to walk away and try and make techno.

Wow. Some DJs explain how they used forums as a testing ground/focus group for tracks and direction.

Oh yeah, don’t get me wrong – I was on them, too. I had some great interactions. Forums brought the community together for better or worse. Actually I remember one thread where I was getting a bashing and a year later I realised they were right. I was shit. I had guys like Marcus Intalex pulling me up and saying ‘Scott, what you doing? You’re playing shit music!’ They were right. I’d lost my identity. It would have been 2003/4, thinking about it.

The same time you signed Pendulum!

Yes, I know… Everyone reminds me of this.

This is a good thing!

It was a good thing. They got so much hate it got silly and there was a lot of jealousy in there as well. When I first met them they always had a vision of the live act. I wasn’t surprised at all at where they got years later – it was their goal to begin with. I tip my hat. They had a goal, achieved it and fucking smashed it. I’m proud to have released their first single. I look back over 31 and I’m proud the label has had early releases from Ed Rush & Optical, Digital…

Marcus Intalex, Calibre…

That’s one of the hallmarks of the label. I try to look for new artists and ideas as well as releases from the bigger more established names. The bigger releases help expose the new guys. It’s such a cool thing to find a new person with totally fresh ideas. I get a buzz out of that. I want to share that. That’s what I’ve done from the very start – sharing good music. Ever since I was 15 in school making mixtapes off the radio. That’s still what I do as a DJ, on my radio show and running my record label.

With so much music out there would you say it’s more important than ever to be bringing new talent through and giving them that 31 amplification?

There’s too much music out there! It’s a noisy market with everyone vying for your attention and there was only so many hours in the day. When I sign a new act or play them on the radio I’m basically getting them up on my shoulders so hopefully they’re high enough they might get a second listen. I’m lucky to have made records when I did – there weren’t anywhere near as many people shouting for attention.

Yeah, about that… Why aren’t we hearing Doc Scott or Nasty Habits productions these days?

My goal is to have a release this year actually. But honestly? I haven’t had an inclination to write for years. I did a VIP of Unofficial Ghost for some special b2bs with Goldie and Randall and the reaction boosted my confidence. Plus I’m in a position where I don’t have to write. I only wanted to be a DJ, so just doing that I’m happy… But I do feel I have unfinished business.

I’ve still got ideas in my head. I’ve got the creative itch again and I haven’t had that in years. I’m going out and driving home with loops in my head. That hasn’t happened in years. Ghost loops me and Goldie used to call them. They don’t actually exist yet, you’ve created them from the mixes you’ve heard. I remember an Exit night at Sun N Bass. Darren, Stray, Skeppy, Loxy were playing and I was so inspired by the tunes at that moment I thought ‘fuck it, I’m getting the studio up and running again.’ There’s a gap in the release schedule with my name on it. My last release was 2007… 10 years is too long.

The End Of The Beginning EP… Apt name! Did you know at the time it would be your last EP for a bit?

Yeah deep down I did. I went through the 90s as a bit of a blur. People ask about certain tunes and I’m like ‘I don’t remember what the fuck happened in the 90s!’ Not cos I was off my head or anything but because it was so crazy and intense. It was such a golden time – everyone bouncing off each other, you’d have Blue Note and Speed and all these places where everyone would be playing this fucking amazing music. It was pre forums, pre internet, you were free to make music. On your terms.

Shame it’s a blur… I wanted to know the story of Shadow Boxing

I can remember making that one! It came about driving home from a Blue Note party inspired by the music we’d all been playing. I wanted to make the ultimate ghost loop. The one you wake up to in the morning and it’s just there in your head, you can’t ignore it. It needed to be simple. I’m not the most technical of producers. I never have been. It’s always been a struggle – that’s why it was easy for me to jack in. So it was simple. I don’t get sucked into the technicalities – I use my knowledge of what will work on the dancefloor. Rough around the edges. Around that time a lot of productions were getting very technical which wasn’t DJ friendly. The dancefloor focus was being lost in favour of science.

People say that about certain aspects of neuro today…

Yeah I can understand that. What it is, in my opinion, is that there are leaders and copiers who look at the technical aspects and emulate them but lose the soul. Look at Calibre. He makes the most amazing music but the hundreds who copy him don’t. You can hear what they’re getting at but it ends up sounding like Generic Liquid Roller #73. Same with Noisia in neuro, they make incredible music with soul but the copiers don’t quite find that groove.

Saying that, I know a lot of people who do love the technical dexterity of that side of drum & bass and do go out for nights where they can marvel at it. That’s the massive umbrella drum & bass has become. In one way it’s great – we have so many choices. But people’s tastes can be very acute, which isn’t great… It cuts off so much exciting music. I love aspects of it all. Serum’s release on 31 last year is a good example. Some people were like ‘eh? Jump up on 31?’ Firstly, you’ve got to come off that horse! Secondly he’s a killer producer!

Thirdly, he’s not strictly jump up…

Exactly. He just makes amazing energetic drum & bass. I fucking hate subgenres. Real DJs play across the board. Lazy DJs just stick in one subgenre and play to that specific crowd. There’s no challenge. I love getting those mad bookings when you’re on a dubstep line up or after a techno DJ. It’s nerve-wracking even after all these years. It’s like, ‘right… How am I going to win them over? What dots can I join here?’ I love nights like that.

I guess it’s all about taking risks. Investing in chance. A bit like the label, too…

That’s the mentality we come from. Reinforced Records – me and Goldie were there at the same time. Reinforced gave birth to Metalheadz, Metalheadz gave birth to 31. It’s the attitude – be open minded, listen to everything. Don’t ever think you know everything – there’s always something new to be heard or tried. I hate that snobiness between genres. Especially towards things like jump up and dubstep.

Did you hook up with J:Kenzo from dubstep nights you’d played at?

No I’m just a massive fan of his and Youngsta’s show on Rinse. I listen to it religiously. When he upped his tempo to 165 I got in touch and asked for a release. Not specifically a 165 tune – he could give me three 140 tunes and I’d have put them out.

What other curveballs are you about to throw on 31?

We’ve got a release coming from Current Value soon actually. We’ve never had someone from that hard techy sound on the label but he’s got a groove. He can roll it out but still be hard with it. I got in touch with him and he was up for it. Raise a few eyebrows in the process. We’ve also got a Voltage release coming…

Awesome. Any more names? Any more albums? Hidden Turn broke the album seal last year…

Maybe! Hidden Turn’s album was a labour of love. I have a lot of time for him personally and musically. He was sending me so much music and it was all amazing so we decided to turn it into an album… It was the perfect conditions for it: His range, his body of work and ideas. He didn’t just come to me and say ‘yo, here are 10 standard club tracks, let’s do an album’. So we’re talking to a few of our artists about that. Who knows? There might be another Future Beats album one day too….

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