The best art doesn’t look within for inspiration, but instead borrows influences from outside its own circle. This couldn’t be clearer when it comes to the twisted mind of Manchester-based Producer, DJ, and newfound label owner Michael Beardsley, better known as Scartip. Influenced at large by his own twisted sense of humour that has grown since his school days, his music at heart is dystopian, manic, yet refined in its abilities.
This personal brand of sonic ingenuity has touched base on a more than impressive number of labels in recent years. Let’s list a few: Incurzion Audio, Four Corners Music, 4NC¥, Off-License Recordings, Audio Addict Recordings, Education & Bass, Pray For Afghanistan, UTM Records, Fragmented Recordings… We could go on.
Not stopping at releasing music on every single drum and bass label on planet earth, Scartip has recently been putting the time into his own soon-to-be imprint Red Face Recordings. Musically, the label picks up inspiration from the sprawling array of electronic music that has made an impact throughout his life, everything from the technical drum & bass prowess of Noisia, to the gritty, early jungle-tinged sound of tape packs. As we discuss throughout our interview however, the influences run far deeper.
Hey! So, as cliche as it is, I do want to hear where your influences come from. How did you first get involved in electronic music?
I used to nick all these old tapes off my sister’s boyfriend when happy hardcore was huge, and I was quickly hooked on all this ridiculous music from people like Scott Brown and Hixxy. I then got a little older and managed to get some CD packs, which used to have these DVDs in them. I always remember this Accelerated Culture one and being absolutely blown away by this completely alien world. People with all these weird faces not knowing what was going on.
There was something special about the sound of drum and bass. I played the drums as a kid, and I realise now that there’s some weird parallels with drummers who go into drum and bass. The music is driving, it’s percussive and it’s abrasive. Naturally, I then got a pair of decks and discovered DJing. It’s been an obsession since.
A lot of people I’ve interviewed in the drum & bass scene have played drums, myself included.
There’s something in that! It feels like some weird psychological thing, like it’s innate within us if you’re into that percussive driving force. I would actually recommend a book on this called This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin, that talks about people’s different temperaments in regards to music. I’m no expert, but I guess if you’re a certain character then it can attract you to certain styles of music.
You’ve been leaning towards the 160bpm realm in certain tunes recently. Does that slightly slower tempo allow for more of this groove that you would lean towards as a drummer?
Yeah, so I’ve always been quite attracted to this tempo range, especially in recent years. There was the whole ‘beats’ thing around five or six years ago with artists like Ivy Lab, and that whole fusion with juke and footwork. It was about playing around with other genres and other ideas. In drum and bass, it can be easy to fall into one lane or subgenre, whether that’s your neuro or your liquid, or your jump up and rollers.
I’ve always been attracted to the idea of just not giving that much of a fuck and blending different genres and ideas together. Go down to 160/165bpm and you’re able to do that. I’m working on quite a few of these projects currently, some which actually entertain the more techno realm of things. Drum and bass will always be the core love, but I’m always conscious to avoid becoming stagnant with it. Team GB is a great up and coming producer who I’ve done a lot of collabs with, like on our recent 4NC¥ release. He comes from that renaissance of jungle and hardcore. I also met Samurai Breaks through this 160-fusion sound.
As you said, there’s this ‘I don’t give a fuck’ feel about it. I went to the Hooversound night at Phonox recently and was actually chatting to Samurai Breaks and Nova Cheq about something similar. There’s this ability to draw influences from so many different areas of music.
Definitely! When you slow the drum and bass tempo down, even by 10bpm, there’s that ability to experiment more and the arrangement opens up. I’m no stranger to making things at even slower tempos as well. I’ve got an alias called Serve Sclavarge which I’m going to reintroduce on my label Red Face Recordings at some point in the future. It’s taking it down to 120/130bpm but keeping that that no fucks given attitude of drum and bass, sonically speaking.
Before I get to the label, I want to chat about your impressive musical output. How do you keep it up?
Thank you! Over the years I’ve released on around 15-20 labels. I get withdrawal symptoms (not physically) if I don’t make music, to be honest. I’m very fortunate to work in the music industry as my 9-5 job, but it’s good to have that creative outlet outside of it. Even 10 minutes a day EQ’ing a hi-hat or sampling something random helps. I feel incomplete if I don’t do something every day. Most people will have some sort of outlet, whether that’s playing sport, drawing or any number of activities. Music will always be there until I die or go deaf.
Outside of music, is there anything that influences you?
Comedy, twisted comedy. This is probably the biggest thing that influences my music in some capacity. I usually try and have some deep embedded humoristic element in there, even if it’s just me that knows it. I’d like to listen back in 20 years’ time and be reminded of something that happened in my life at that time. This sounds a bit voyeuristic, but I went through a phase of taking my Zoom microphone to places like house parties and secretly recording people to then sample in tunes – purely for my own entertainment. I do however really value high production values and technicality, so it runs alongside this subtle piss-taking. I’m heavily inspired by the likes of Noisia, Mefjus and Rockwell, all with that top calibre production quality.
Are the song names themselves usually some sort of inside joke, or is there often a bigger concept that you’re trying to attach to the music?
It can be both! I’m not alone here. There are a lot of producers whose track titles are obviously inspired by some weird humorous moment at an afterparty or something similar. Again, regardless of where the career goes, I want to look back at this music in time and have it bring back memories. It’s like my catalogue of the years in some way. It might remind me of a certain era, or who I was hanging around with at that time, or who I sampled in some cases. It’s like an audio scrapbook.
Now looking forward, you’re soon to launch your own label Red Face Recordings. What sparked this?
The initial concept was born out of a weird drunken conversation with a friend when I lived in Derby back around 2016/2017. Said friend and I were big fans of cartoons like Salad Fingers and Beavis & Butt-Head. We’d always had that influence of weird, slightly adult, twisted humour. We were talking about how we should set up a label based on this weird demonic entity that mocks humankind and finds them a bit of a joke. It was purely a nonsensical conversation back then, but then over time the idea of setting up a whole label around this became more and more attractive.
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I’ve got a strong desire to create something other than just a label and incorporate this creative vision I’ve had since my childhood. It’s fusing that concept of humour with those inspirations from weird cartoons, and ultimately creating something with a narrative. Over time, the idea is that Red Face will not just be a label but will have its own story going on alongside it.
Do you make the artwork yourself?
Not at the moment. It’s a combination of a very good friend of mine from school called Sergio who is a very talented artist, and a quality graphics designer named Hannah. It took quite a few evolutions to get where it is now. The concept started out as more of a human face, but it looked too human. What we have now is crude, imperfect, and exactly the aesthetic that I had in mind. The Red Face character is all hand drawn with red and black biro, and while it has of course been transformed to digital, it still holds on to that DIY attitude.
The concept of the label – at least for the first few releases – will be based on the classic vinyl format with an A and a B-side, despite not releasing vinyl to begin with. The first release from myself features the A-side as As We Introduce and the B-side as Special Moment. Each side will have its own piece of art, as I want there to be a strong visual element running through it. I don’t want to just put music out just for it to disappear into the ether within two weeks. Releases can feel quite throwaway these days, so I probably spend more time on the art concepts than the actual music.
If you’re making a label, you’re creating some sort of permanence for yourself already, I guess?
Yeah, I think so. One thing I’ve always felt is that I’ve never really conveyed my personality through a lot of the music I’ve released on labels. This, plus there’s a control element to it. I’m a firm believer that the track and final sound pre-master should remain as it is from the artist’s perspective. It is art at the end of the day, and it should remain so.
On the face of it, Red Face may just look like this ridiculous devil face, but the brand principles are all based around being authentic, energetic, outrageous, and controversial. It’s based on the fact that we all have this inner deviant, or this inner devil. It’s encouraging people to be whoever the fuck they want to be, to feel that inner aggression and harness their inner devil. I don’t mean to a point where you’re going to burn houses down or anything mental like that, but to tap into that aggression in a positive way.
Is the label mostly focusing on your own music for now?
The first couple of releases will be from me, but I will have others on the label, hopefully including a couple more collabs with Team GB. If, down the line, people like what’s going on and they want to join the party then the door is always open. The label will primarily be focused on drum and bass, 160 and jungle, but also abstract forms of techno and left-field electronic music. Essentially though, it’s got to be out there, it’s got to be different, and it’s got to have that middle finger attitude otherwise I’m not too bothered. It’s going to start life as a record label but there’s a lot of scope for creating its own animated series with it, which is where I want to go.
Looking forward to watching the journey! Have you had any challenges so far?
Loads. I briefly mentioned it earlier, but my 9-5 job is as an event programmer at a music production and video content company called Virtuoso. Making music on top of this, plus running a label, and you’ve suddenly got a serious workload. There are loads of bits I’ve never had to do before, even things like setting up a limited company and a website.
The least challenging thing for me is the concept and the music itself. I guess those are the bits I’m in it for, the rest is the challenge. Nothing good came easy. Even if no one is listening to the music but the art amuses someone, then I’m happy. I am confident with it though, and a lot of my close friends and associates that I show the future ideas to have given great feedback.
Is there any more Scartip music coming soon?
Currently, the only forthcoming Scartip stuff is through Red Face. I went through a long flurry of releases just before the end of the year on the likes of Incurzion Audio, 4NC¥, UTM Records and Audio Addict Records. However, now I want to focus fully on the label for a while and build a steady catalogue of Scartip tunes that are getting weirder and more abstract while – in my opinion – still holding a high sonic quality. Red Face will allow me the freedom to push that.
Any final shout outs?
I want to give a big shout out to yourself, Dave Jenkins and UKF plus Team GB, Sergio, my graphic designer Hannah, Mark Crawford who is a great house & techno artist (ANU / Macious) who’s helped me out with video assets. Shout out to my partner Megan who constantly puts up with me doing all these mental hours, and anyone else who will hopefully support Red Face Recordings in the future. Big ups.