Paul Rose aka Scuba is a man that needs no introduction. Emerging out of London’s early
Dubstep scene he then went on to headline some of Ibiza’s biggest events and hosting the
one of the most exciting Techno residencies, in Berlin’s infamous Berghain and in the process
becoming one of the most talked about names in dance music today. He is certainly a man that
knows no bounds and refuses to be pigeon holed. After having difficult year with illness Scuba
returned to the studio to create one of his most innovative records yet; Claustrophobia, which
despite being released in March, shows all the indications of being one of the standout albums of 2015.
We caught up with the man himself who very kindly took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us
about his latest studio offering among many other things, he was as frank, honest and outspoken as ever,
it makes for a great read. His generosity does not end there, he is also giving you the chance to sample
some of his fine earlier work – click the link below to download “Gekko” from his excellent
“Personality” album and enjoy!
Hi Scuba, thanks for taking the time to chat with us, firstly congratulations on creating such a brilliant album, how pleased are you with the way it has been received by fans and critics since last week’s streaming premiere?
It's always nice when you've worked hard on something to get a positive response and it's been quite overwhelming actually. There is the contingent of keyboard warriors who will never forgive me for playing in Ibiza and experimenting with house music the way I did between 2011 and 2013 but frankly they're a bunch of idiots and a large part of my motivation for doing that in the first place was to get them to show themselves for who they were. Everyone else, and the people who actually realised what I was doing with the last album, seem to see where I'm coming from with this one and that's great. It means a lot to me.
How long was the album in the making?
It was all done in quite a short space of time in September and October 2014. My previous albums took a lot longer, but this one came together very quickly.
Albums from dance music artists can most often seem like a bundled collection of tracks, rather than a cinematic journey, Claustrophobia certainly feels like the latter, was this something that you were aiming for and considering throughout the production and recording process?
I've always found the album format an interesting challenge and in some respects it comes easier to me than the typical dance approach of making EPs and singles and going for the club banger every time. I knew with this record that I wanted to be able to play a good proportion of it in my DJ sets but also an important factor was making it suitable to be listened to in one sitting in a non-club environment.
Can you shed any light on the name “claustrophobia” does it reflect any personal feelings you have had over the course of creating it?
The title refers to a few things, but the most immediate one was the experience of being seriously ill for most of last summer, the two months before I started making the album in fact. I spent most of July and August either in bed at home or in hospital and that was a very difficult period, especially given that most of the previous 5 years had been spent on the road almost constantly. In addition to that though, I'd felt for a while like I was in danger of getting into a creative cul-de-sac and that was something I wanted to break out of.
Titles such as “all I think about is death” and “needle phobia” certainly suggest that you have poured a lot of personal emotion and feeling into the record – was this the case? And do you feel that as a dance music producer you face more of a challenge when attempting to convey emotion on a record; compared to say a singer songwriter or a hip hop artist?
It's very difficult to persuade people to take the emotional aspects of electronic music seriously, and the position I generally take on things which tends to mix a fair bit of irreverence with serious self-examination people definitely struggle with. But that's their problem, frankly.
There are plenty of dark and almost hypnotizing atmospheric moments on the album, did you spend much time out with a field mic or was it all samples and sound design?
All the atmosphere on the album is recorded, there are some instrument samples here and there but the vast majority of the album was either played or programmed.
Was there any material that you had created for Claustrophobia that you had to leave off the final product in order to make a concise album? If so do you have any plans to release those tracks in future?
Because the writing and recording process was so quick there was very little material that didn't make it, and that stuff is highly unlikely to see the light of day. But I'm always making music and I have plenty of new projects in the pipeline. Although there won't be another Scuba album for at least a couple of years I expect.
I think it is fair to say that you have an ever evolving sound, do you feel that this evolution comes from within you or do you gain influence from your surroundings, emerging sounds and scenes and other peoples material etc?
I get bored easily, once I've spent a while developing an idea I quickly want to move on to the next thing. I have no idea what I'll do next, there are some possibilities but generally it's all up in the air at the moment. I'm going to be spending most of this year touring the album anyway so there won't be much studio time for a while yet.
How have your years in Berlin affected your production style and DJ sets?
It’s difficult to judge because I've been here for so long now. The move from London originally was a hugely refreshing one and it made me realise how parochial the scene there is, despite how creative it can be. But Berlin has its own thing and despite how much it's changed in the past few years it's still a vital place for music and creativity generally.
The vinyl vs digital debate is one that is increasingly polarized, with a re-emergence of the vinyl market and the innovations with Hi-Res audio etc. Do you have any preference with the way music on your label is consumed?
I'm not so sure that the vinyl market has re-emerged, there are niche things that do very well on the format but it's become more and more of a specialist thing ever since we've been running Hotflush. I don't really mind how people listen to my stuff to be honest, the way people interact with music is as much about context as anything else. You can have a life-changing experience to a song coming out of a transistor radio on a beach at night, it doesn't need to be in a treated room off a fresh piece of vinyl on the best turntable you can buy.
Many people will have read your comments on the “Deep Tech House” sound that is popular in the UK at the moment, are there any emerging scenes and sounds in dance music nowadays that you feel do have an air of integrity and genuine innovation?
The "deep tech" thing is just embarrassing frankly. That's what I mean about the UK being parochial, no outward-looking scene would ever be fooled by something like that. The re-emergence of ambient is something that I'm interested in though, it's a genre which has come in and out of fashion a few times and while it's certainly as much prone to clichés as anything else, it's great that something like that can come to the fore again in today's musical climate.
Please tell us about what else you have planned and in the pipeline for Hotflush Recs over 2015 and beyond.
We have some really exciting stuff coming up from Alan Fitzpatrick, Paul Woolford, George FitzGerald amongst others. And we have a load of remixes of tracks from the album to come too. It's a big year for us.
Now this question is a standard one for artists and label managers being interviewed here at JD but I suspect that your answer may carry more weight than the average – which up and coming producers are you tipping to blow over the coming months and years?
There's a guy in Berlin call Barney Khan who I think could be one to watch. But generally I don't like to give too much away about the new people I'm watching; other labels always try and steal them.
Do you have any final thoughts or shout outs?
Just that it's nice to be working in electronic music at a time where it's really popular again and while the lowest-common denominator stuff is always going to be prevalent, the good stuff is getting a look in too. It's healthy at the moment, which is great.
Long-standing Japanese house ambassador Gonno return to the mighty International Feel family. And he's done so with three full-flavoured creative departures: "Obscurant" is like standing under a powerful waterfall. Refreshing, stimulating but dangerously strong that you may well lose your footing. "A Life With Clarinet", meanwhile, is a firing breakbeat jazz number that sits somewhere between S.P.Y and Bonobo. Finally Houndstooth's Call Super calms us down with a deep, dubby tech twist on "Obscurant" that switches the original's howling gales to a misty sea breeze.
Of the many Surgeon classics there are, there's one that arguably can't be topped for cheers and whistles once its synth arrives, and that's "Syllable". This is the third release from Surgeon's SRX label which is remastering Surgeon's loved and previously unreleased DAT tape to suite the sound systems of the present. Take one listen to the bassy pulses of "Cable" and you'll be scrambling for your next/first gig on a Funktion-One rig. "Wire" and "Wave" are opposites in that the former is beat down and in your face, while the latter is deep and moody - both, however, are extremely danceable. Furthermore, "Particle" shows signs of Autechre influence while "Optic" is a production very much made by someone inspired by Jeff Mills.
Bass hero Zed Bias (aka Maddslinky) has been delivering some sizzling jams on a host of like-minded labels of late. Now's he's hooked up with 81, a sub-label of Swamp81, and he's taking no prisoners with two raw cuts of nasty electro - the minimal sleaze-bounce of the title track and the dark tropical claustrophobia of "Chokehold". Restless electronic beatmaking at its best.
It sounds like Loco Dice's label is embracing techno purism if this release is anything to go on. The work of the owner of the Etruria Beat label, Optical merges the hypnotic qualities of loop techno with the cavernous sound of Modern Love's reverb-heavy dub. On "Swiss Train", this combination is thrilling and exhilarating, with the rolling, rollicking rhythm boasting more twists and turns than a train ride through an alpine tunnel. In other instances, like on "Bubbles" or "High Pressure", the snapping percussion and insistent pulses almost knock the listener back like an electric shock. The dubbed out chords of "Synthesis" sound almost mellow by comparison.
Rotterdam's emergent Electronic Emergencies continues to be a label that rewards the electro fan; ushering in a new album from Dutch wave icon Das Ding for their first release, EE went on to provide a platform for the unheralded SOS and now they welcome Visonia. Nicolas Estany's project has previously impressed on Last Known Trajectory and Lux Rec and the Chilean's romantic vision of electro feels quite at home on Electronic Emergencies. The five tracks on Nausicaa might be his most accomplished set yet, and in "The Moon Doesn't Want to Look at You" possesses a lead track that will grip your attention. The two A-side tracks will lighten up any dancefloor whilst the B-side finds Estany veering off into more introspective territory before ending on a hopeful note with the glistening title track.
Comeme has already released one of the great records of 2015, Lena Willikens' Phantom Delia. Now it's the turn of label owner Matias Aguayo, who delivers the second installment in the El Rudo Del House series. "Tomada" is a rowdy as a bar room brawl in Tijuana during spring break, its drums smashing and crashing with the ferocity of chairs and tables being flung by tequila-fuelled trustafarians. "69 Ground Floor Left" sees the Comeme boss edge closer to the dance floor with a buzzing bass and wired vocal samples, while the hardcore stabs of "Gato Disco" and the hard percussive stomp of Loca Dance is the most techno-centric track. However, soon enough Aguayo lurches back towards the blind-eyed lurch he started with as "Ese Pompin" proves that he's a producer of considerable range.
Flu is Considine's debut single, but it contains a maturity that belies his youth. The drums are tough but funky and rolling, there are some subtle jazzy licks and garbled vocal samples and the whole thing is held together by a relentless slap bass. It's interesting that Considine cites proto-disco DJ Danielle Baldelli as his main influence because "Flu" does feel like the result of finding and reconstituting a wide range of parts. Apart from his own production, the youthful label owner also deserves praise for his A&R skills, commissioning remixes that veer from the rolling and loops (DJs Pareja and Craig Bartley) to the slow and tripped out (Cannibal Ink) and, best of all Drvg Cvltvre's grungy, throbbing bass take.
The mysterious Summe debuts on Ostgut offshoot Unteron with a stark, purist release. The "Schleife" tracks on Summe are all techno-based and range from the stop-start slinky rhythm of "Schleife 1", through the ticking percussion and pounding industrial beats of "Schleife IX", before ending with the relentless, acid-fuelled minimalism of "Schleife III" - which sounds like Plastikman's remix of System 7's "Alphawave" getting cosy with the firing, visceral minimalism of Rob Hood. It's not all peak-time techno however; "Objectness" is a slinky, angular minimal house workout in the early Akuen vein, while the release starts with the short but powerful ambient drones of "Erosion".
The fifth instalment in this series sees the mysterious producer laying down more raw, primitive techno. "Solitary" is the deepest cut, a throbbing low end and tough kicks supporting a wave of filtered melodies. By contrast, "Ghost" is stripped off musical elements and sees the headless one lay down pile-driving concrete beats and slamming, jarring rhythms. It has a distorted, even overdriven feeling, but it still pales compared to "Cannonball". Shrieking riffs that sound like they were summoned up from the depths of Hades, married to relentless beats and a claustrophobic rhythm, make for one of the most intense rides you'll hear this year.
Danish duo Northern Structures make their fifth appearance on Adam X's label, and like the previous releases, Pressure strikes a balance between eerie atmospherics and subtle but bleak industrial rhythms. The rather grandly titled "It's Some Men's Faith To Face Great Darkness" is the best example of these two approaches coming together as stripped back broken beats provide the basis for creepy, swirling textures that hang like ghosts over a swamp. "Untold Secrets" is more subtle and the beats are rickety, but the duo quickly swings back towards a menacing approach. "The Cut" sounds like Hoover bass caked in layers of soot, while "Skagerrak" is a dense, clanging rhythm that sounds like the pair is dropping metal bars down a lift shaft.
Fresh from teaming up with Wrong Assessment on Parachute, Italian techno veteran returns to the familiar surroundings of his own M Records imprint, the label he used to launch his career some 15 years ago. Opener "Exceeding Brightness" sets the tone, with nagging, intergalactic loop melodies riding a forthright, heavily compressed techno groove. He opts for a deeper approach on "Architectural Lie", with woozy, near dreamy melodies, thumping kick drums and trippy top-end percussion creating a hypnotic, locked-in groove. Finally, he indulges his melodious side with "Scape Sequences", where looped Marimba melodies tussle with hissing cymbals and stretched-out percussive builds.
Arnaud Le Texier's label showcases two fine upcoming producers on this split release. First up is Mental Resonance, who has put out material on underground labels like Sonntag Morgen and Dark Rose. "Erosion" is like a tougher, darker take on Sandwell District's austere, icy techno, the clicking percussion and subsonic tones set to rolling, powerful drums. "Eternal Adolescence" is much deeper and tranced out, and has echoes of early 90s artists like Cherry Bomb, while "Dagger" from French producer Coldgeist shares a similar, albeit acid-soaked space. However, he also drops "Thelema", a dense, rhythmic groove that rolls and twists its way to a bleep-soaked climax.
There's no information about who is behind this project, but suffice to say that it'll appeal to anyone who likes the frazzled, hypnotic club techno that the Vault Series specializes in. Confusingly, "Truther" is not available in its original format, but instead the release features two edits. Sawlin's version fuses insistent bleeps with gargantuan kicks, a pounding industrial rhythm and ear-splitting screeches. Label owner Subjected's version is based on a similar approach. The percussion rattles like loose teeth in a skeleton, the tonal bleeps are pushed into the red and those pounding drums are covered in layers of distortion. It makes for tough loopy techno at its finest.
If you didn't know that Ekman was from Holland, you could probably guess; his distorted, saucer-eyed take on techno sounds tailor-made for dark, dusty squat parties in Rotterdam or The Hague. Here he returns to the mighty Berceuse Heroique imprint with another formidable chunk of Dexter-on-acid rave sorcery. "GMMDI" brilliantly blends relentless techno rhythms, recorded-in-a-cement-mixer synths and dancing rave melodies into the sort of throbbing techno banger that could have been recorded at any point over the last 30 years. Ekman's old pals Breaker 1 2 provide the alternative remix, simmering things down whilst retaining the original's foreboding chords and thumping beats.
Having previously featured on a compilation on Deca Rhythm, the label now gives Brukrode a full release to articulate his/her sound. The world that this producer inhabits is an inherently bleak one, as "Sedan" in particular demonstrates. Over a high-paced rhythm and a walking bass, Brukrode unleashes a series of high-pitched shrieks, intense enough to raise the dead. The sound and tempo are less intense on the title track, with Brukrode delivering an industrial rhythm that throbs and thuds. It's not like he has mellowed out, but the presence of a muffled vocal sample deep in the arrangement shows that Brukrode is human after all.
Not everyone attending the WMC will be soaking up the candy floss EDM and cardboard-strength deep house - representing the freaks, there's the latest compilation on Boysnoize. Inspired by the rawer forms of American dance music, this collection includes the loopy disco house of Housemeister's "Be With Me", Madame's dark Chicago-style jacker "Compact", the bleepy ghetto grind of Jensen Interceptor's "Sexting" and the hip-hop meets filtered house of Gold Rush's "Drop Low". The compilation also showcases some of the label's more European-leaning music, with Boys Noize himself delivering the tweaked acid of "Travis" and Djedjotronic's jacking techno "Stables" sounding like the menacing chords of early Dave Clarke.
Ben Mill steps from the shadows of his A&R job for Gynoid to deliver this killer techno release. "Citizen One" is an eerie, pulsing groove that veers into deep, dubbed out textures without losing its dance floor focus. "Citizen Two" meanwhile sees him maintain this atmospheric feeling, but applies it to a tougher backing track of spiky beats and sharp percussive bursts. Given his day job, it's not a surprise that Mill has selected two excellent remixers; Giorgio Gigli's version of "Citizen One" is powered by a dense bass that brings the listener to a tranced out, bleep-heavy place, while Fanon Flowers' take on the same track is more subtle. Starting with ticking percussion and subtle off-beats, the US producer puts a focus on Mill's textured sound scapes to make a mysterious, reflective track.
Following two inspired outings under the Bronze Teeth moniker, Dom Butler and L/F/D/M return to Diagonal with a new alias, Green Gums, and a suitably fuzzy and angular set of tracks. Opener "ZoZoMoNo" sets the tone, layering wild waves of acid atop an EBM-inspired rhythm pattern. There's more distorted electronics and thunderous low-end bounce to be found on "Dag", while "Cestoda's Labyrinth" sees them combine the worlds of acid, industrial and analogue techno in a thrillingly atmospheric, rhythmically intense way. Closer "Tap Dancing Goat Man" flips the script, slowing the tempo to a druggy chug, thus allowing their trippy electronic refrains a chance to breathe.
Valcrond Video invites you into the world of Helmer's "Roccale". Helmer's second release picks up the pummel that began with his first release, and continues the attack with three tracks of thoughtful, pulsing darkness. "You Say I for Me" presents a forbidding metallic landscape, a snake winds through it in the aural form of an eerie growl, making its way among the crunch and clutter to periodically emerge and rear with menace. "Corrib chun Mask" is what they play for prisoners sentenced to hard labor in the gulag of the future, if hard labor = dancing for days. "spry -Env", the closing piece on Roccale, is perhaps Helmer's most masterfully evocative. We have walked in on a ritual, dominated by an incense pendulum that swings and smokes, and carries with it the sound of an ancient transgression.
Even by the usually robust, dystopian standards of Berceuse Heroique, Serpent's Promise is fiendishly raw. It comes from Australian producer Eugene Ward, best known as Dro Carey and Tuff Sherm, breaking out his lesser used PMM guise. The result is a trio of raw, fuzzy, distorted and, in truth, nightmarish techno jams that are not for the faint hearted. The title track comes across like the soundtrack to a modern-day pagan ritually played out in a dark, subterranean car-park - all bleak, concrete-clad beats, paranoid electro motifs and in-your-face distortion. There's an Autechre-like, out-there electro shuffle to "Growth Hacking", while "AACF1" slows the paced to a smacked-out crawl, layering elastic electronics over razor-sharp shards of rhythm. The whole EP is uncompromising, but better for it.