Mr. Scruff brings us six hours of love. Plus: SF Drag King Contest, Heartthrob, Odyssey, Coyu, more
SUPER EGO Extended DJ sets aren't so rare in our burg -- beloved Garth of Wicked has been throwing his occasional, self-helmed, seven-hour-plus All Night Long parties, and visitors like the almighty Steffi of Berlin or the UK's Lee Burridge like to go it alone for six hours or more. Even though "taking the dance floor on a cosmic journey" has become a press-release cliché (which DJ would admit she merely drops you off at the mall?), as access to more releases and mixing tools has grown, marathon sets have acquired the aura of necessary artistic statements -- and the good ones really do get you a few yards closer to the stars.
Others can veer into endurance test territory, alas, especially if the mixmaster is more interested in imprinting a certain personal "sound" on the crowd, rather than letting dance music in all its wild variety lead the way. Manchester's incredible Mr. Scruff has been dropping gigantic, all-vinyl sets for 20 years now, and is as famous for his global vinyl-hunting skills as his own releases on the storied Ninja Tune label. (He's the dude who seems to know the geek behind pretty much every record store counter in the world.)
Scruff's ear is a various as they come: He got into music via his dad's ska collection -- Prince Buster was an early touchstone — and quickly moved on to gobbling up every other genre imaginable, from Cuban music to Detroit house. And even though it's also become a cliché to praise a DJ's unpredictable playlist, Scruff rides that unpredictability to its extreme. "I used to have stuff I just played at home, but from playing gigs over the years you start to realize that if it's loud and it's in a club then it's club music — even if it's just a guitar and vocal," he recently told Mixmag. When Scruff is seamlessly dropping 15-minute Afrobeat jams, rare 1988 Chicago jack tracks, Jamaican gems, or Brazilian baile funk, it's his sheer love of actually listening to records that moves people to the floor.
In honor of his two decades behind the decks -- and the recent release of roots-y, stripped-down Friendly Bacteria album -- Scruff's embarked on a US tour, during which he'll be spinning six-hour sets, and rebuilding DJ booths along the way for maximum sonic fidelity. I chatted with him by email before he takes over Public Works, Sat/16.
SFBG How large would you estimate your vinyl collection to be? And how on earth do you haul six hours' worth of music around on tour?
MR. SCRUFF I have two rooms full of vinyl, so probably around 20,000 records. My collection has stayed that size for the last 10 years, so a lot of records have to leave the house in order to make room for more. I always bring two boxes of vinyl -- plus some CDs as well.
SFBG A big part of this tour is how you'll be "rebuilding DJ booths" along the way. Can you tell me how you'll be setting up things for sets of this length? Are there any little rituals you perform before you launch into things?