Day in the Life: Andy Carthy aka Mr Scruff, DJ, producer and cartoonist
'I also have my own tea company. I like a good brew'
Saturday 07 February 2009
If we're playing a gig more than four hours' drive away, we'll set off the previous evening rather than getting up at ridiculous o' clock in the morning, because otherwise you just end up feeling really tired by the time the gig starts. That means we'll arrive at the venue somewhere between 6am and 8am, and then sleep in until about 11am so we're waking up at a time that fits in with the clubbing clock – a different version of nine-to-five!
Once we're up, the first thing we'll do is go into the venue. We have a breakfast rider, so we all pile into the dressing room and have a cup of tea and some breakfast. Over the years we've refined that rider so that when we get up there is stuff that everybody wants to eat and we're not faffing around.
This in when we load all the stuff from the tour bus into the venue. I pretty much bring all my DJ kit so it's a lot of stuff: all the records, DJ equipment, screens, projectors, banners, drapes, merchandise and tea shop stuff. It's a good hour's work just to get everything in. Then we'll start setting everything up: the venue gets bannered, we set up the DJ and record tables, put the screens up and generally assemble stuff for a couple of hours.
I design all the flyers for my gigs. It's not normally something I do on tour, but if it's last-minute I have my scanner with me on the tour bus, so if we need to do any bespoke visuals for the evening I can scan it in and get it animated. I have my own tea company, though my partner in the company, Elise, sorts the business side out. I get to do all the interesting stuff, like drinking loads of tea and doing cartoons! It's nice to do something that I'm not an expert in – I'm not the Jilly Goolden of tea, I just enjoy a good brew.
Depending on whether we encounter any problems with the in-house sound system, the soundcheck will probably take about an hour. However, we might discover that some speakers are out of phase or maybe a couple of cones have blown; it's surprising how badly the sound is set-up at some venues.
After that I'll have a shower and relax for a bit. Then there might be a couple of interviews; if not I'll just go through my records and have a little play around really – there might be a few records I've not heard properly, or I'll have an idea for a mix that I want to perfect for the evening.
We always allow three hours before doors for food. It's good to have some proper time off because of the long night ahead.
Wherever we may be we'll try to get along some friends who live locally, so we can chat and catch up. Afterwards we'll go for our ritual coffee – a proper espresso – to snap us out of relax mode and put a full stop after the meal.
We trundle back to the venue and either potter or do some last-minute tidying up. What I like about travelling around is getting involved with a venue, rather than turning up and just playing for a couple of hours. I find it easier to DJ more individually at each event if I'm playing for the whole night.
The doors are generally at 10pm so straight away I'll start DJing and do that for the next five or six hours. For the first hour no one's dancing: people are coming in and chatting, so it's nice to set the scene and people-watch, get your head around the venue. The music I'll play is just dead mellow, a case of introducing myself and playing some tunes I like while people are getting rid of their day's stress and getting ready for a night out.
From midnight it goes up and down and all over the place for the rest of the evening. Once you have that collective energy in the room there's a natural increase in pace and excitement. It's great fun, the buzz of sharing your favourite records with people on a great sound system.
Say you play a tune by Fela Kuti, it will naturally build over the course of 15 minutes, doing the same thing that I could do subtly with three or four tracks. It also gives me the chance to go to the toilet or go out and have a chat with someone for a few minutes, step back and enjoy the atmosphere. That's the closest I get to having my regulation DJ union break!
For the last hour people are properly going mad, so rather than mixing and doing things very smoothly I can do individual tunes, little bombs that really go off. I can just play a tune and leave a gap; people make a bit of noise then I put another one on. Once we get to the curfew I'll play another couple of songs if I can get away with it, which is always nice. Then, because I've been on a stage separated from the audience, I go round the front and have a natter with people until the bouncers get a bit agitated. It's always good to see the regulars and it means I can avoid the first half hour of packing up!
It takes about an hour to get everything packed up and back on the bus, then we'll head straight off to the next gig. We all have a beer and a bit of food on the bus and do the night's tour report, which means making a note of anything we can improve for next time. Perhaps the stage was a bit wobbly, the lighting was a bit harsh or the air-con wasn't quite right, so we'll make sure it's sorted for next time. After that we can relax and go to bed!
Mr Scruff is on tour. The album 'Ninja Tuna' is out now on Ninja Tune, with 'Bonus Bait', an American-released double-sided album, available for download on 15 February. To download, visit www.mrscruff.com, where you can also buy Mr Scruff merchandise – and tea
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