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Keeping it Unreal

Posted on 10th February 2008. No Comment

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Horrible Histories
I think I was barely half way through Junior School when she came into my life. A charming, carefree, beautiful but troubled figure over whom I drooled like, well, a schoolboy.

Alexandra.

“If only I had the social capacity, wealth and sporting prowess of some of my peers”, I would muse, “surely, then, she would recognise me”.

As it happened, the great teen romance writer watching over Saltburn-by-the-sea cast my role as the successful underdog. I could, finally, say that there was a God and that he had created me in order to walk hand-in-hand with the most beautiful of human beings.

I relished what kind of future this could potentially hold for me.

Then, without warning, He struck again. Cast only this time not as a string-pulling movie director, but as a middle-aged DJ spinning Abba, The Hokey Cokey, Mr. Blobby and other such classics.

“How on Earth am I supposed to keep her as my girlfriend if she sees me dancing like an ape on methamphetamine?!” I thought.

Not soon after, Alexandra found her way into a new school. I’d like to say it had nothing to do with my dancing, but I can’t. I can’t say that.

Since these turbulent times of adolescence in all their school disco, youth club and Aunties’ weddings hideousness, the thought of ageing DJs operates to do nothing more than send me spiralling back. Thus, the invitation to spend four hours in the company of a tea-brewing, pie-eating, ale-drinking 36 year old disk jockey seemed like a cruel joke; not least when most DJs seem to be barely out of Junior School themselves before assaulting expensive equipment.

So, why did I decide to risk such horrible flashbacks for a man named Mr. Scruff? Well, for starters, he’s a self-proclaimed ‘work alone’ man. Thus, there was not a warm-up DJ in sight. From the crowds cascading down the stairs at 10pm to them falling back up them at 2am, he would be playing. The dedication and confidence was something many obviously wished to see.

Further to this, Scruff seems to take the now rare ‘vinyl knows best’ approach to mixing. None of this MP3 ‘Serato / Final Scratch / Ableton’ business for him – no sir! Wisdom with age, and all that.

Scruffy Stockport Shelf-Stacker
Straight outta Stockport, Scruff (A.K.A Andy Carthy) began cutting rhythms before we (or at least, certainly I) was born. To fund his hunger for vinyl, Scruff worked at Kwik Save in the late 1980s before having his break with a 12 inch in 1994 and signing with Ninja Tune four years later.

What’s more, with an eagle eye for business and the knowledge of how to make the perfect brew (set out in 10 easy steps on his website), Mr. Scruff has expanded beyond the musical to full-on event catering with all kinds of weird and wonderful teas and other bits and bobs to keep his crowds pleased.

And tonight is no exception. A merchandise tent has been erected in the Ballroom, selling everything from aprons, to t-shirts, vinyl, mugs, snacks and, of course, tea.

I am handed one as I stand aimlessly, taking in an instrumental ‘Sexual Healing’ mix, and greet the offer with a mix of genuine confusion and self-defensive scepticism (you should, after all, never take drinks from strangers – especially when they seem to assure you that it is ‘green tea with extra caffeine’).

With tea now firmly in hand, I see a hoard of others stood around taking careful sips from their steaming cups. “Is this a good idea, or are we seriously hampering our ability to have fun?”, I can’t help but think. Sure, the brew tastes delightful, but we can’t dance with them! I get angry enough when some silly prick sloshes his Kronenberg over me, so I hate to think how others would act after being on the receiving end of a second degree burn.

“Hey, Jimmy, someone spill Snakey B on you last night? Rowdy old bastards, eh?!”

“No, Theodore, I was rushed to A&E after a silly knob-end saluted Marvin Gaye and burnt my arm off with his spiced chai. My sutures must be loose.”

“Shit!”

I, however, didn’t mind the idea. It was perhaps best suited to outdoor events (such as the Big Chill, where the DJ frequents), but there was something quite relaxing and nerdishly voyeuristic about watching fizzy drink consumers dance away whilst you stood by.

Wobble those legs!
The time it took to drink the tea also gave ample time to watch the odd catchphrase flash up on the projectors. At first, a shout-out to each college came as their names flipped on and off in his trademark ‘potato style’ font (though he seemed to miss a few out), then later, he instructed us (possibly sans tea) to ‘wobble those legs!’ and warned us of an imminent ‘incoming bassline’. Very kind.

Quite a lot of people seemed content to stare up at these screens for the majority of the night, obviously transfixed by the swirling guitars, musical notes and aqua-marine life. In any event, it reminded us that this was very much a one-man show with music, visuals and refreshments all devised by the man himself.

Though the tracks themselves will have been unrecognisable to most, the crowd nevertheless took pleasure in the fact that the music wasn’t particularly memorable, and yet, it provided them with everything they wanted: the kind of close-your-eyes-in-happiness-and-dance-til-your-friends-leave-you-because-you-look-idiotic music / escapist music / ‘get me that mix!’ music that comes along once in a while from the more eclectic of DJs.

The night was, undoubtedly, a success. The mixing was tight, the atmosphere varied in a way to cater for everyone and the tunes (taken from a variety of his LPs) were superb. Each uplifting track sprung effortlessly from the one before (‘Jus Jus’ and ‘Vibrate’ were particularly good) and, as far as I know, the brews took no casualties.

Mr. Scruff, in a breath of fresh air, was unreal.

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