Mr. Scruff: DJ, Producer & Cartoonist
As a DJ, Andy Carthy aka Mr. Scruff plays across the board, flitting between soul, funk, hip hop, jazz, reggae, latin, african, ska, disco, house, funk, breaks, soundtracks and loads more. As a producer he makes music that draws on these influences, with a large dose of cheek and good humour. His cartoon drawings illustrate gig flyers, record sleeves and CD covers, and usually accompany him at gigs as live animated visuals.
Carthy’s first encounter with mixing was as a 12 year old in late 1984, when a friend played him some of his uncle’s electro records, notably the Streetsounds LP ‘Crucial Electro Volume 1’, opening his eyes and ears to the art of mixing records. Soon after he was constructing his own crude pause-button mixtapes, inspired by the electro compilations and various radio shows on stations such as Piccadilly, Radio Lancashire & Southside that exposed him to electro and hip-hop, soul, reggae and early house music. Shouts to John Peel (of course), Greg Wilson, Robbie Vincent, Richard Searling, Stu Allan, Lee Browne, Ranking Miss P, Scotty, Tony the Greek, Steve Barker, Gary Hickson, Sam Brown & Waxmaster.
Little by little Andy was building a collection fuelled by this knowledge, all the while improving his DJ skills. By 1987 he was proficient at turntable mixing and editing, although he was still using primitive home hi-fi gear. His first break came in 1994, when he met Barney Doodlebug, a DJ/Doodler who gave him his first Manchester gig, on a Sunday night in a venue called Dry Bar. He also passed on a demo tape to local label Rob’s Records, which resulted in them releasing the first Mr. Scruff 12″ single.
A regular on the Manchester scene through ’94-’95, he released a string of 12”s on Rob’s Records subsidiary Pleasure, as well as sides for Echo Drop, Grand Central & Cup of Tea. His work for Grand Central with Mark Rae inspired some four-deck club performances, including friendly “battles” with DJ Food, which introduced him to the Ninja Tune fold.
Gigging across the UK (with Electric Chair, Off Centre, Fat City and Tru Thoughts) and Europe (with Grand Central), Mr. Scruff signed to Ninja Tune in 1998. His debut album ‘Keep It Unreal’ arrived a year later, featuring the certified classic ‘Get A Move On’, kick-starting his Manchester club night of the same name, borne of a desire to play exactly what he wanted, rather than having to fit in with the music policies of other club nights. These were the beginnings of his famed “all-night-long” DJ sets cheerfully spanning blues, jazz, soul, funk, 60s R&B, disco, boogie, deep house, reggae, ska, rocksteady, dancehall, electronica, electro, hip hop, African, Latin, drum & bass, breakbeat… and bolstered his standing as a passionate, digger, collector and, above all, an unrivalled selector of the good stuff.
‘Trouser Jazz’ (2002); the epic mix CD ‘Keep It Solid Steel’ (2004); and ‘Ninja Tuna’ (2008) cemented Scruff’s rep as a premium freaker of frequencies, the latter featuring collaborations with the likes of Quantic, Danny Breaks, Alice Russell, Andreya Triana, Pete Simpson, Kaidi Tatham and Roots Manuva.
A fistful of EPs and singles populated 2009-2013 including ‘Wobble Control’ (2011), ‘Feel It / Bounce’ (2011) and ‘Be The Music’ (2012). In 2010 Big Chill Festival invited Mr. Scruff to host his own tent, testament to his inimitable raw dancefloor magnetism as are his regularly rammed-to-the-rafters Keep It Unreal sessions at Band On The Wall (Manchester) and KOKO (London).
After receiving a mighty nudge by the giant elbow of Ninja, the majority of 2013 was spent in the studio recording new album ‘Friendly Bacteria’, featuring Denis Jones, Matthew Halsall, Phil France, Vanessa Freeman & Robert Owens.