They say good things come to those who wait...
Many apologies to those of you who have been holding tight for this second instalment of our interview with the illustrious Scott Grooves, the follow-up chat after his gig here at fabric (his first UK appearance for over 10 years). At long last, Scott and I both had a moment to sit down and talk through our respective phones in Detroit and London.
So Scott, it’s been a while - sorry it took us so long to connect. Maybe the best place for us to start is the airport...
The airport. Well, actually I recorded all of that and put it on that FACT mix; I recorded getting off the plane, talking to the driver. He’s a really nice guy. The ride was good, the flight was good and, believe it or not, the weather was good - in London, well, you know...
And how was customs - did they ask you why you hadn’t come back in 10 years?
Customs was no problem at all. And no, they didn’t ask me - but I think it was because I had a brand new passport. The other one had expired since the time I was there last, so they might have through it was my first time in London!
If only they knew...
I had a spanking brand new passport. You know, it made a noise when they opened it up, it was all new and fresh...not all worn out like Derrick May’s passport, which looks like it's been run over by a truck! It was pretty good flying in. I got to the hotel, got settled down and the in-store at Phonica was really good. I had a chance to reach people and get some good feedback, just about my music and also Detroit music in general. At Phonica I also found out about what was going on that night, because I had a night to settle in before playing, which is always good. I had told Judy that I wanted to go by fabric and just see the club because I hadn’t been there in so long, I just wanted to see. When I got there, it was really a madhouse - the dubstep had taken over.
Oh yeah, that was actually a Dub Police night...
Oh man, so the Dub Police - that’s like a big outfit there in London?
For sure – they do a bi-monthly night here...it’s big.
Oh ok, it was really a madhouse there and I was like, ‘Wow.’ So when we left there and I heard about Kristian from Âme from Innervisions was over at Plastic People so we went over there and hung out. Judy came on over and I got in a good vibe for the next night. That was cool, Plastic People was really good. Looking at the aesthetics of the place, looking at the ambience of the place I see why Theo [Parrish] likes to play there a lot. It’s right up his alley. That was the first time I ever went.
Plastic always feels a bit like a good house party – such a nice vibe.
Yeah exactly, it was like a house party in someone’s basement. So my first night was cool. Got back to the hotel, and called it a night and just looked forward to the next day. I couldn’t really get to sleep, for obvious reasons, but I just put started listening to CDs and things that I might want to play, or that I might not play...it’s usually what I do a lot of time when I’m in the hotel and I don’t really have anything to do; I either read, if I have some reading material, or I pop in some music that I might want to play. It just reminds me of what I might have brought with me. So I was listening to some music and, next thing I know, it’s Saturday. The big day.
So how about Saturday night – what did you do right before the gig?
I was really eager to speak to Lerato. I always like to - if I can - speak to the person that’s opening up or, as they say, warming up before me. So I spoke to her, she met me at the hotel and we talked...that was good, I got a chance to meet her and kick it with her. And then we met Judy and we went to dinner. And I finally met up with Omar - he came in that Saturday and we all went to dinner – him, myself, Judy and A Guy Called Gerald too. Then I came back, got my records and we went to the club. Lerato did a good job opening and played some nice music. I came on around 2 and it was good, it was very interesting. I was trying to play some good music to keep people dancing, then I started kicking it with the light guy, he was cool. And the sound engineer, he was really cool too. The night before, on that Friday night I had talked to him and I gave him a mix CD – and when I got there on Saturday, he had already listened to it! He was really nice, and he had everything sounding good. Everyone on the staff – well, if you can call it that - to me, their job seems to be a real cool job especially if they enjoy your music. It feels like everyone loves what they do.
Did you enjoy the set?
It was very interesting - when I was playing, I lost the awareness that I was just one of three rooms. This was like a whole campus. And I lost that concept, I didn’t get it back until I got through and I went to the other rooms. I forgot that this is one of three rooms and there’s another two worlds going on with totally different vibes. People have the freedom to mingle and take in different things. It’s like a campus in there; it’s not a club to me, because I’m just maybe kind of old school. To me, with my background, a club has one DJ. I mean, at any given night at fabric, you could just have like 10 DJs. It’s very...it’s like a big old giant music university.
I remember you saying on the night that each room was like a classroom and each DJ was like a teacher.
That’s what I felt when I walked around the club: this is not a club, this is like a university of music, with all these rooms being so different. And some people probably came that night and didn’t know Omar-S or Scott Grooves, and just happened to be there and heard...
...and maybe they got educated.
Yeah, exactly. I really did find that interesting - it was good, really good.
Room Three is a special little room as well, in the sense that people sometimes wander up there by accident, and end up staying the whole night.
That’s one of the draws of a festival, from my experience: you can check out things you like, and at the same time find out something you didn’t even know you were going to like. fabric was like a mini festival in that regard, and I was just trying to keep the crowd entertained until it was time for Omar. I was curious because I had never DJ’d with him so I had never heard him spin. I was curious for myself, just to hear what he was going to play. It was good - he’s a real good mixer, a real smooth mixer...we both represented Detroit well, I think.
But I got into it, it was good, got a chance to play some different music, some Larry Heard, some Detroit classics, I got to play some new stuff by myself, some Brazilian music too...I got a chance to play a lot of different artists.
For me, it was all about that drum track! It’s still the thing that sticks out for me when I think about your set. I mean, the set as a whole was impeccable - really well structured and full of classics I haven’t heard in years. It was just the real deal...it’s really cool to see someone that’s mastered the craft. These days, so many DJs are producers that became DJs, but when you see someone that’s more old skool, it's such an art form...such a creative thing to witness. I’ve got all of that stored away in my memory still, but the one thing that really sticks in my head...
...is that drum track. The drum track, yeah that’s like my hallmark right there. That just breaks it up for me, just to break up the people and see if I can scatter them and then bring them back together...you know, you break up the molecule, you split the atom - you get more energy sometimes when you split things apart and bring it back together. And that’s one track will definitely do it because it’s just so different from the normal 4 on the floor record that a lot of DJs play.
And that build up is just so intense, you have no direction it’s going to go...which is kind of the same feel of your set overall, there was a real sense of unpredictability – in the most artistic way. I also thought that it was really evident in your set that you have a percussive background.
Yeah, I’m a really percussion orientated person. I like drums not just as a DJ, but as a musician - that’s what I listen for, and that’s what I critique when I hear a record. A record seduces me with its drums, so when I hear that track or when I play that track or when I even just stop the music and beat on something myself and make percussive sounds myself...
I was just about to mention that. I’ve seen so many scratch DJ competitions, turntablists galore...but I've never seen someone play the turntables like that. Truly an unmatched sense of rhythm.
To me, the turntables and mixers are instruments. That’s what got me into DJing, coming from a musical background. When I would see Run DMC or I would see Salt N Pepa in concert, they were like the singers or the performers but the DJ was the musician, because they control the music...
Holding down the beat.
Yeah, you can actually play music with the turntable and the mixer, especially nowadays days where they’re making things more and more sophisticated and more intuitive. But I never pre-meditate it; I always just let it strike me naturally. I might do something and never have done it before, or I might do something and never do it again. It all depends.
Keep it spontaneous, and just go with the vibe.
There it is.