Diversity on the Dance Floor

British DJ Andrew Carthy (aka Mr. Scruff) spins an all-nighter at the Block in Tel-Aviv

Mr Scruff (photo credit: Courtesey)
Mr Scruff
(photo credit: Courtesey)
Tel Aviv may be a fair distance from Manchester, but for a DJ whose trademark genius is smoothing over mercurial musical connections to bring clubbers the world over together, it’s just a small hop in a dance floor stride.
For well over 20 years Andrew Carthy’s (aka Mr. Scruff) marathon DJ sets have become the stuff of legend, where clubbers can dance all night long to a full musical spectrum. And when I say full, I mean full. His no-genres approach to DJing has enabled him to celebrate music for what it is without sacrificing to the subcultural rules that can surround some styles of music. Quite simply, the guy is a sonic encyclopedia of dance music, a library of sound and a keeper of the dance floor.
He hasn’t just turned his hand to DJing; he has also been a successful record producer on seminal UK label Ninja Tunes, having released four critically acclaimed albums and selling more than half a million records worldwide. Not stopping to be solely satisfied with refreshing the minds and souls of clubbers, he has also brought out his own brand of tea.
Growing up in the 1980s, he would listen to a broad range of radio DJs to fuel his insatiable appetite for music.
“I’m just excited about finding something new,” enthuses Carthy.
“My foundation in music was listening to DJs in the 1980s that weren’t too specific. There weren’t enough generic records to satisfy a particular group, so I ended up listening to a broad range of DJs on the radio” Radio is a place where DJs have made it, yet Mr. Scruff’s career has come out of the clubs and dance halls of the big UK cities like Manchester and London. I first saw him in 2001 playing 93 Feet east, where I heard him playing 1980s dance tracks alongside UK hip hop, funk with breakbeat, reggae with soul, disco with ska. Wherever there was a connection, he made it and it felt natural, And, above all, it sounded great to dance to.
What was the most exciting time for him in any type of music? “For me, when genres are being created or, as I call it, the ‘gestating period. is the most exciting time for me. That’s when music is at its most creative, before the rules set in.
Because to my mind, genres aren’t important. Tunes matter!” True to form, he keeps reiterating the inclusivity of his perspective.
“I love specialist music, and I am always taking notes from specialist scenes. Despite what I said about not focusing in on any one particular genre, I still value specialist music scenes and always like to keep myself involved with them. For example, I might play a Ramadanman tune and know that the clave in it comes from a ‘70s track out of Benin. Which, by way of a drum and bass track, got into the hands of US producer Timbaland and then ended up getting sampled by Ramadanman. It’s that knowledge and being able to make connections that comes from listening to music across the board, old and new.”
The marathon six-hour DJ sets are a testament not just to his passion but also his stamina and drive. For a DJ to play as long a set as a clubber does a night out is rare, but it shows that he really loves what he does.
“It’s all about fun and not forcing music, getting the magic combination where all the elements rub against each other where they can.”
Tabac, the club hosting Mr. Scruff at the Block, recently played host to worldwide DJs such as Gilles Peterson and international breakthrough sensation James Blake.
Peterson has played Tel Aviv many times, but this is Carthy’s first trip to Israel.
“I’ve never been before, but other DJs I know have. The Block sent me a picture of the mixer, and it was so obvious that the layout of the mixer has been crafted by someone with an obsession for making it the most pleasurable experience it could be for a DJ, clearly a visible passion,” he says.
Mr. Scruff’s “Keep It Unreal” hits Tel Aviv for an all-night session, celebrating music in what may well be remembered as one of the clubbing events of the year.
June 14, The Block, 157 Salame Street, Tel Aviv. For tickets and information: www.block-club.com