Interview: Scott Fraser

With this years much anticipated Bloc less than a month a way we’ll be posting a series of interviews of artists playing at Butlins in Minehead this year in the run up to the festival. First up is Scott Fraser, a DJ and producer currently based in London who alongside Timothy J Fairplay make up the brains behind record label and party Crimes Of The Future. We caught up with Scott to discuss his current residencies in Glasgow, his early collaborative projects in the 90s, the process behind putting out some of 2014’s Crimes Of The Future releases and how he’ll be bringing Bodyhammer to the Friday night at Bloc.

Just want to start with asking about the Crime Of The Future residency at the Berkeley Suite in Glasgow. Despite you and Timothy both living in London now it seems like the nights have been a continuous success. Wondering if you could tell us about how the residency in Glasgow formed and what you think has contributed to it still going strong now. “It started in Glasgow as a result of a friend of mine who was promoting ALFOS with Andrew and Sean, asking me if he thought myself and Tim would be up for doing a regular night in Glasgow. Originally it started on a Thursday, moved on to a Friday and now found it’s final home on a Saturday night. I have also known Fergus who is the venue owner for a very long time and they took on the promotion in house a year ago. The Berkeley Suite is a lovely venue and Fergus and his staff have been very supportive of what we have been trying to create in terms of the crowd, music and overall vibe. I guess this is always important in all the best residencies. Because myself and Tim work together so closely at the studio it’s been pretty easy to plan it and work with them up there or anywhere we have toured it throughout the year. We only play one record each now which makes for a very interesting and dynamic night all in all. I guess that’s why it’s worked so well when we have taken it out on the road. We never plan it so it’s all the better for that too. The night has grown stronger every time we have done it and musically it has formed really well along the way, so I think a combination of friendship, hard work and persistence with the music has carried us through.”

Jackmaster recently did an RA Origins video where he extensively talked on how much Glasgow influenced him musically and all the parties he attended whilst growing up. Being a little older than Jack I wanted to ask if you could tell us a bit about your own musical relationship with the city considering you got to party at the Sub Club possibly around the time it opened? Were there any people influencing you on a local level? “Ha! Yeah I saw that, it was a very honest video. I know Jack and I can identify with lots of what he was saying there particularly in relation to the guys at Rub A Dub and the Sub Club. I was brought up in East Kilbride just outside Glasgow. It was one of the “New Towns” as they called them and had a windswept town centre bereft of decent music establishments (a few tried and failed to crack this nut over the years) so when I started going into Glasgow it was hugely important for me. I guess I first went out to clubs there in the mid 80s, really just before house started to take hold. You would hear a lot of 80s funk and soul mixed up with the clash and early New York music and stuff like that.

“Places like the Warehouse, Fury Murry’s and Tin Pan Alley is where I stumbled across Slam for the first time. Tin Pan Alley was a three floor place and Stuart and Orde had this little room there which was full of weird projectors. I guess this must have been around 88 as acid house was just coming through. I had been to the Sub Club once before with a guy who I used to work with who lived on the south side of Glasgow. We started going there again to Joy which was on Friday night and then Atlantis on a Saturday which Harri was then doing along with them. It really was a special period then, particularly in the early 90s. It kind of felt a little like a secret society I guess, it was the same people there every week and with the music and the vibe it was a great place to hang about.

“I had been into rock music in my early teens and use to go to Glasgow to buy records and go to concerts and had been going to the 23rd Precinct on Bath Street for years which use to mainly stock rock records (I think the guy who started it was an ex US copper). Around 84 I had started going out a bit in Glasgow to clubs where ladies attended rather than that of blokes in leather jackets. This was around the time that they were starting to listen to more 80s funk, hip hop and electro sort music. They stocked all this in the 23rd Precinct in a smaller way so I started buying this and the rock stuff was consigned to history. They got a few house records in and I started buying it all up. It was early DJ International, Traxx and some New York stuff like early Tommy Musto and Frankie Bones material. That was it from then, I was hooked. Obviously when I went to Tin Pan and the Sub Club and heard these records getting played through a club system rather than at home that sealed it for me from then on. The other big turning point was in the mid 90s when I was to introduced to Rub A Dub records and club 69 in Paisley. It was really special for me to then go on and do a monthly Friday at the Sub Club in the mid 90s.”

Would I also be right in saying a lot of your early connections were made from going to clubs in Glasgow? Weatherall and Peter Walker are people who spring to mind. “Absolutely. I first heard and met Andrew at the Sub Club when Stuart and Orde put him on there. Peter used to go to the Sub too and he also came from EK like me. The Sub is definitely hugely important in terms of my connections and friendships and still is today with Harri and Domenic still together there on a Saturday night and Mike Grieve being one of the directors.”

As someone who’s only discovered your 90s work as Bios with Alan Baxter and Peter Walker in the last year due to a track called ‘Basic Black’ (which I reckon would slay a dance floor if dropped now) I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your time as Bios and possibly the music that influenced you guys to set it up in the first place. “Ah thanks! A blast from the past that one. I think it’s 140 BPM too! Did I really used to make records that fast? I met Peter through an old school friend Alistair at an Orb gig at the Barrowlands if my rusty memory serves me right. Alan was a mate of Peter’s and me and Peter started hanging about as we were both into the same kind of music but from different places. He wad gotten into it via the Belgian stuff and I had came in via the early Chicago stuff and really we met in the middle on the early Detroit records from Juan Atkins, Derrick May and co. Alan would agree he was not into dance music at that point at all really. Both him and Peter were big Depeche Mode fans. I recon thats how they hooked up but I might be wrong. Anyway, once we all got together and started mucking about with the keyboards and drum machines Alan started to get exposed to techno and absolutely loved it. Both myself and Peter were mad into DJAX records and I think that informed all our early experiments and ultimately influenced and shaped our sound as an outfit along with the rougher Chicago stuff that was out there.

“We tried going into a recording studio in East Kilbride that the arts council had set up but it was doomed as the engineer was into bands and seemed to want to use the flashy new EMU sampler he had to put barking whales over the top of the tunes we were writing so we kicked that into touch and worked out of Peters spare room from then on. Here I basically taught myself around the shoddy desk, effects and DAT we had and learned how to mix and record the primitive clanging we were pissing his neighbours off with till the early hours. After that we moved it to Alan’s for a bit and then when Alan stopped working with us we eventually got a small studio space round the corner from Rub A Dub on Dixon Street which sadly got broken into by some local wrong un’s and we lost most of the gear and six months of music from the computer they nicked.

“I also want to mention Marty McKay at Rub A Dub here as he was really pivotal for me in terms of my record buying and this heavily influenced our musical direction too. At this point me and Peter had been going to club 69 in Paisley a lot and this had really introduced us to UR, Basic Channel and a lot of the more left field stuff coming out of the UK and Europe. The early records came out on Andrew Weatherall’s label due to a chance meeting in Rub A Dub during the day and then bumping into Andrew in the evening at a night that Martin and Wilba had Andrew playing at. He came up and said he had heard some of what we had been playing and asked would we be up for putting something out and it went from there. When we went down to London, we met Alex, Lee and the guys in Fat Cat and they introduced us to the Black Nation stuff which is how we hooked up with Jay Denham and doing the EP which Basic Black appears on. We ran a monthly Friday at the Sub Club called Lo-Fi and we booked Jay to do the opening night. He came and stayed with me at my house and we just all got on great.”

What was it you felt you wanted to do different musically that Bios eventually came to a natural conclusion? “Combination of things really. We had lost everything in the studio and had to start again from scratch and moved all the stuff back into my house again. We had less and less time due to me and Peters personal commitments and I guess I hit that point in music where I got a bit jaded and gave it up for a while. As I had the studio in the house I was still pottering around a little at home and did a bit of solo material which I still have and then I moved down to London permanently. The usual musical tale of musicians, bands and woe I suspect.”

Despite this would you say some of your newer records such as ‘White Of The Eye’ might have drawn some small influences from this era? “Absolutely, I have always liked that sound that got me into electronic music and clubs in the first place and this very much influences me to this day. At the studio I am still using a lot of the same machines and keyboards that I used on those early records and despite the doubting Thomas’s out there I still find that gear sounds fresh and relevant now. You can mix, arrange and effect something in so many ways. Despite the core sounds being constant you can make a 707 sound like something emitting sounds from another planet if you push it hard enough. Gear is just so damn hands on and tactile. With ‘White Of The Eye it started out like I usually do; drums and percussion first and then move along from there. I wasn’t intentionally thinking ‘I want to do something like that from then’. I hooked in Claire Elise for the vocal as I had done a remix for her previous outfit Featureless Ghost last year and was into what they were about. Juan was a natural choice on the remix as he had offered to do a split with me at some point and this record felt just right. Me and Tim still play a lot of the early Chicago stuff at the club so that probably had a bearing on me there too.”

Is this also indicative of the type of gigs you now play and what you enjoy DJing or would you still throw some of the 90s stuff into your sets? “I have played in lots of different clubs all over the world over the last year and the one thing I would say is that every single time I have played, all of the older stuff still goes off and is absolutely as relevant now as it was then. I play on balance mostly new stuff but maybe about 1/3 of it comes from the back catalogue. I’m telling myself you’ve got to always remember that when you have been buying dance music in some form since the 1980s most people in the club you are in now have never heard these records and its absolutely right you take them out and play them now. I don’t really pre plan sets, maybe the first couple and then I go on from there. So I will spend some time in the week, listen to records and then make a bag. A lot of the time you are pulling old 12’s out and that makes you think of another and so it goes. Never mind the 90s I’m still playing 80s stuff ha! I was playing at Animals Dancing in Melbourne on New Years Day this year which was fantastic. I played that League Unlimited Orchestra version of Seconds and this young guy runs behind the DJ box and he is going what the hell is this it’s amazing. So I tell him it’s the Human League and he is amazed. That sums up why older tunes are still relevant.”

Speaking of your Animals Dancing gig in Australia were there any particular highlights to the OZ tour and how did you find your music translated to an Australian crowd? “To be honest, they were all great in different ways. There is a great scene in Australia. There’s those young guys in Melbourne Sleep D with their Butter Sessions Label, Dro Carey/ Tuff Sherm, Animals Dancing, Tornado Wallace, Pelvis and Noise In My Head. I also met the Haha industries guys in Sydney who have been doing it a long time. I could go on. Kevin at Stable music and the Picnic guys had UR live at the venue I played on NYE in November. The thing that really struck me was how much they were into it and really open on the music front. I figuratively could play whatever I wanted. There are some fantastic 2nd hand record shops in Sydney and Melbourne too. I met some really lovely people over there so will definitely be heading back for round two this year I hope. Then there is the food and the weather! It was my wedding anniversary on the 27th December. We spent it on the beach this year, what’s not to like.”

Going back to Crimes In The Future, the record label itself put out six great records in 2014 including one of my favourites by Antoni Maiovvi. Along with Elizabeth Merrick-Jefferson, these are both artists based overseas so was keen to ask how those two records formed precisely and if you might have an A&R process to records you might release. Also can we expect a similar release output for 2015. “Thanks, we think so too! Antoni Maiovvi is originally from the UK but has a very exotic name (I’m sure he knows how exotic it is) Elizabeth-Merrick-Jefferson is a well known Detroiter under a different name and as I was a huge fan of their other stuff thats how that one came about. We’ll leave people to ponder who. With Antoni it’s a bit of a story but basically ‘Love Magnetic’ was due on another label but they changed their mind so we said we would put it out on Crimes instead. He then sent us ‘Black Jesus’ and ‘Spunnowt’, which are such strong tracks and backed with Tim’s remix, hey presto. Lucky us eh! Black Jesus is probably one of the biggest dancefloor slayers we have put out. In terms of the A&R, it has been lots of different things but mainly we have been approached by people who we both like (be them friends or otherwise) with really strong music that both me and Tim felt fitted with what we were trying to do. Basically records we would play at the club be it at the start/ middle or end of the night. This year we both feel we have a fantastic schedule lined up already and its only January. We have an amazing EP from Perseus Trax who both myself and Tim are big fans of. After that it’s “The Haunted Doorbell” which is Tim and our friend Matilda Tristram. This one is a proper old school jacker with twist. Then we have “Bulb” which is a bit of a special one because it’s a collaboration between me, Tim and Willie Burns that we recorded live together in Willie’s studio in New York when we played there last year over a few days. After that I’m keeping tight lipped but we have another three fantastic records lined up with a couple of ridiculous remixes on there. The plan is to put out a few more than last year also, with another couple of special one offs in between like the coloured vinyl we did for Sugar Puss. Gig wise, we got lots of requests to play together at label nights in clubs around Europe and beyond last year so we’ll hopefully be doing lots more of them too.”

You tend to work with a lot of other producers for different endeavours be it with Andy Blake, Robi Headman, Jonny Burnip, Timothy, Sean Johnston. Have you locked down a process where it’s comfortable to work with other producers or this just down from years of knowing each other. Can you tell me individually what you like about working with these mentioned producers. “I think you naturally gravitate towards people you like in any walk of life, and in this sense it’s generally fairly easy. Most are good friends or have become more so through working together and to be really honest it was all pretty smooth. What I have found is that because I tend to work in a live sense in terms of the writing and recording process that kind of works with whoever you are working with. Tim and Andy work pretty much the same way as me and with Jonny he really enjoyed the whole way we did that Virgo 4 remix as it actually ended up more as a cover than a remix in the end. We really completely destroyed the original because Merwin and Eric did not have any parts of the original track. With Robi, we worked on it separately at first with me finishing the music in London and then him recording Douglas’s vocal in Berlin and sending me that to edit onto the music. We then did a bit of work in his studio in Berlin over a weekend.

“Of course, with Tim and me having our studios in Andrews’s place it’s really easy for us to work together and again, we both work in a very similar way. Tim has quite often played some guitar on some of my music and so on. Because we are working together down there every day doing a remix together for Black Merlin was really easy, it just flowed along. Tim is a bit younger than me (ha) but we both come from a similar place musically, with that love of the Chicago stuff, the Bunker stuff from Holland and so on.”

Can you tell us a little bit about the Fini Tribe mixes record you got coming out with Timothy on Record Store Day. One Little Indian is a great name to be associated with. “Davie from Fini Tribe contacted us and asked us if we both wanted to remix 101 which is a great thing to be involved in as it’s one of those seminal records that was pretty much slept on at the time south of the border. Andrew remixed it back then and some would say it’s one of those so called “Balearic Classics” now I believe. They were a band that were up there with the best of that first wave of UK electronic outfits and it’s great to see them back again (despite the fact that they are from Edinburgh) There was always a great connection between Glasgow and Edinburgh, particularly through Pure and Keith and we went over there a good few times to the venue for a knees up. Obviously it was never as good as the Club 69 though ha It’s a special orange Vinyl release on One Little Indian for record store day with myself and Tim’s remixes on it which is such a great thing to be a part of based on the history of that label.”

Having been making music since the 90s what are some of the key things you’ve taken away from what you do? “I can’t work from home. Surround yourself with the right people. My never ending interest in weird noises.”

Aside from all this, what else can we expect from Scott Fraser over the coming year? “A busy year shaping up gig wise already. In March I’m obviously playing at Bloc which I am massively looking forward to. We are doing Bodyhammer there on the Friday night. It’s just great to see it back and the lineup over the weekend speaks for itself. We are heading to Manchester to do our first Crimes of the Future there in February, then back to Glasgow for our first one of the year there. In London I’ll be continuing at my Bodyhammer residency with Joe Hart and Charlie Bennet which is a regular monthly party. We’ve got one of those at the end of February. On the road, myself and Tim have a couple of exciting tours brewing abroad this year already for Crimes which we will announce when it’s all nailed down. Looks also like we have finally found a venue in London where we can do smaller Crimes Of The Future parties although we are also looking at doing a couple of bigger ones in bigger venues later in the year. There have been a couple of interesting booking enquiries that will hopefully come off too, and you might well be seeing and hearing something fairly special in Carcassonne again this year.

“Music wise, full steam ahead at the bunker. I’ve got two EP’s that I am working on for two labels that I absolutely love so I am pretty excited about that. I’ve got a couple of interesting remixes to do for the spring and then I’ll probably get back into the process of recording something longer, maybe a double pack 12” or something like that for Crimes. I’m also going to be re-issuing some of that stuff I talked about previously and also a couple of house tracks under the Freeman alias. There is also some thoughts for some more experimental harder edged stuff I have and what I might do with that in terms of releasing it. Collab wise myself and Richard Sen are going to have something come out again together this year I suspect, but this will be material we have done together at my studio rather than the remix package like last time. Myself and Tim have an interesting remix together for an Australian outfit from Melbourne also. Lastly I’m working on some original music with Pete Astor who is formerly of the Weather Prophets and David Shephard who now work together as Ellis Island Sound, which is quite different to what I’m normally producing. That’s enough to be getting on with I think, although there are a few more bits I’m keeping for myself for now.”

Riccardo Villella
Riccardo Villella

OG at Truants / Graphic Designer / DJ Twitter Soundcloud

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