Interview: Scuba Dives Deep Beneath the Surface of EDM
By Scott T. Sterling
After gorging on the immediate gratification of beats and drops prevalent in the world of big-room bangers, certain facets of EDM are slowly starting to go “one deeper.”
A phrase borne from DJ Dillon Francis‘ comedic alter ego, DJ Hanzel, “one deeper” is a cheeky reference to digging further in the crates beyond the obvious hits to unearth music more obscure and ultimately more gratifying that exists on that mythical “next level” beyond the current zeitgeist.
While purist-approved techno won’t be replacing Beatport Top 10 hits on the main stage of EDM festivals anytime soon, more and more fans and artists alike are mining deeper into the myriad dimensions of electronic music for more curated sounds and genres; even Deadmau5 surprised many listeners with his recent album, While (1<2), which eschewed the smooth tension and release of previous releases to produce a much moodier and nuanced effort marked by minimalism, droning passages and restrained beats.
Going much further beneath the surface of modern dance music is where UK producer Scuba (born Paul Rose) exists, meticulously crafting his own ever-evolving sound that’s touched on deep house and classic techno after spending years helping build the original dubstep movement in England with his record label, Hotflush Recordings. The well-respected imprint has a stellar track record, and holds the distinction of issuing the first-ever releases from such notable artists as Joy Orbison and Mount Kimbie.
“I’ve been tentatively working on an album for about 18 months now, and I haven’t gotten any closer to finishing it, to be honest. Doing the Phenix EPs is a reflection of the different stuff I’ve been doing, and are a conscious step away from what I guess a lot of people know me for, which is kind of house-y, straight dance stuff,” Rose said during a recent phone interview. He’s just released the second of three proposed Phenix EPs, which aim to capture his latest take on underground sounds. “Obviously there’s a lot more than that in my catalog, but what I’ve released over the past couple of years, from the (2012) Personality album has been sort of like that. I’m repositioning, I suppose. It’s a good way to get some music out without having to release a formal album quite yet.
“I’ve changed my DJ set quite a lot over the past three or four months,” he continued. “I’m playing much harder, more techno and atmospheric beats, but pretty hard. It’s very reflective of the music I’ve been producing lately. I move around every year or so and change what I’m doing.”
Rose talked about that same musical wanderlust that finds him never settling into one sound for very long, making a concerned effort to change things up before he has a chance to get too comfortable at any one thing.
“Just wanting to do something different, really,” he said simply, when asked about what keeps him from getting entrenched into any one groove. “I started doing kind of the uplifting house thing as a reaction to what I’d been doing before, which was more esoteric, moody dubstep stuff. I wanted to completely challenge people’s perceptions of me, which I think I did quite comprehensively. I don’t like playing big, glitzy house Ibiza type parties. That’s not really me. I much prefer playing underground raves.”
Scuba’s move away from house music comes as the sound is enjoying quite the revival, led by the breakout success of Disclosure and augmented by the rise of such emerging artists as Duke Dumont and Hot Since 82.
“When you get something like that that comes back in a big way, you have to take it with a pinch of salt,” Rose mused of the current revival of ’90s house. “But there’s a lot to like about that music. One of the great things about it is that it makes for a very positive club atmosphere. I’ve noticed over the past two or three years how much better the club scene has become in America in various cities. It’s no coincidence that good house music coming back has been a part of that.”
While many artists and pundits alike stump for the theory that as EDM continues to dominate youth culture, it will create a bigger market for the deeper, more nuanced aspects of electronic dance music, Rose cautiously disagrees and offers up his own ideas on where the mass popularity will lead.
“When something becomes as big as EDM has, what often comes next is a backlash against that. I fully expect dreadful punk rock stuff to come back in the near future,” he said with a laugh. “Having said that, EDM is definitely a gateway for certain groups of people, particularly with some of the more palatable artists, like Deadmau5. I don’t see (underground music) blowing up on a mass scale, but it’s certainly been a shot in the arm to the grassroots scene and the people who’ve been blasting away for all these years running nights and making an effort to put on good music. Hopefully that will continue long after the whole EDM flash in the pan has fizzled out.”
Spinning parties around the world for most of the summer (he has dates booked from Japan to Amsterdam), Scuba will be bringing his sound to America with a slot at this year’s Electric Zoo festival in New York on August 30. He’s also scheduled to perform at Decibel Festival 2014 in Seattle on September 24, and is set for a most unusual gig in November of this year when he sets sail on Pete Tong‘s All Gone to Sea Cruise from Miami alongside Calvin Harris, Steve Angello, Nervo and more.
“Jackmaster and Eats Everything are on that one as well, so I think we’re gonna stick together and see what it’s like,” he chuckled. “Pete is a great guy, and what he’s done for dance music down the years is pretty amazing. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all pans out, as there’s going to be some music played that’s not necessarily to my tastes, but you know. I won’t be making any musical compromises while I’m there. I’m just going to do my thing and hopefully people will like it.”