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Juno Plus Podcast 49: Scott Fraser

Strap yourself in for the 49th Juno Plus podcast as Scott Fraser lays down some sounds for some 2 and a half hours.

The Glaswegian’s re-emergence this year has been truly welcomed by those who buy records, with his productions and remixes appearing across numerous labels. Having marked his return to production after a hiatus with that excellent remix of Virgo Four alongside Capracara, Fraser has contrasted the previous period of quiet with a prolific 2012, appearing on World Unknown, Bird Scarer, Awkward Movements, Horn Wax, Spargel Trax and Astrolab Recordings in one shape or form. Integral to Fraser’s second coming has been old friend Andrew Weatherall, with the former contributing to the latter’s Special Emissions label and currently based in the East London studios the self confessed Luddite runs alongside the likes of Timothy J. Fairplay and Sean Johnston.

Across these releases Fraser has finessed a signature style of expansive, slow burning machine funk that veers between tempos and styles – the mutant disco of his recent Astrolab contribution “The John Hughes Excursion” rubs in an entirely different direction to his acid burned remix of Semtek’s “Bento” and the low slung and rugged “A Life Of Silence”. Given the expansive nature of his productions, it’s natural that Scott would take our open ended policy when it comes to mix length as a chance to lay down an extended set, a mix that should act as a primer for what to expect from the Glaswegian in the confines of a club.

Though a full tracklisting was not forthcoming, Scott did reveal the mix includes a healthy portion of unreleased material from himself along with Timothy J Fairplay and the Asphodells project the producer operates with Andrew Weatherall. Scott was also kind enough to answer some questions we sent over to accompany his mix.

Hi Scott, after your extended production hiatus, this year’s been very active for you, any particular highlights?

Thanks and yes, that’s a difficult question as I have been very proud of everything I have done this year. Generally it would be that I have now set up a really nice studio and a found a way of working that really suits me. If I was to pick a few though I would say that my first individual release of my own material “Remains the Same” on Andy and Joe’s World Unknown label would be one, The Virgo Four remix with Capracara (although that was really at the end of last year) would be another as I have been such a huge fan of their work since the late 80’s. My release on Bird Scarer was a special one, and remix wise I have just remixed Brunswick Drive for Black Merlin which will be the next Bird Scarer 12″ -production wise I think it’s one of the best things I have done. It’s always really nice to work with your friends and having just done a remix for Sean for his new single on Throne Of Blood was a real pleasure.

Starting the residency and playing there with Tim has been a real highlight too, as we have seen it grow every month and it’s back in my home town, something I am really proud of. Finally, doing one of the remixes for Andrew and Tim’s Asphodells album is a huge one as I can honestly say that their album is exceptional from start to finish, so I’m very chuffed to have been asked to contribute my efforts to what is a very special remix roster.

It seems like working in a studio space with the likes of Weatherall, Fairplay and Johnston has proved mutually beneficial for all?

It’s been a really inspiring place to be over the last couple of years, there are lots of ideas and sounds flying around every day and fundamentally we are all great friends so it has been a joy to work here. It’s also really invigorated me in terms of my love of music generally. I have started recording live instruments/ percussion and vocals which I might not have done otherwise. Although I would scotch the viscous rumour going round that we sit drinking tea and eating biscuits while discussing history, current affairs and British light entertainment from the early 1900s onwards all day.

How are your Crimes Of The Future nights in Glasgow with Mr Fairplay going? It’s an outlet for your more esoteric musical whims right?

Crimes has been going really well thanks. It’s always nice to have your own residency and especially when it’s in a great venue like the Berkeley Suite. The size is perfect, the sound is great and it’s run by Meryl and Fergus who I have known for a very long time; they really love what they do and are incredibly supportive of the nights at the venue. Me and Tim have very similar tastes musically, we have built a really nice crowd and because it’s only myself and Tim playing together (we are booking doing some live guests next year) we have been able to create a vibe that’s entirely ours, covering things we love right across the musical spectrum. It’s not all 4/4 and there is the soundtracky stuff, a bit of dub and some trippy rock thrown in too… esoteric musical whims, there’s a good compilation album title in there yeah?We are looking at taking it out on the road next year too.

I wanted to touch on your recent Astrolab release, was there a specific reasoning behind calling it A John Hughes Excursion? Are you a particular fan of the director? And if so what’s your favourite film?

Ah, you noticed… not a huge fan per say but Tim and myself had been talking about 80’s Hughes films, and the week I had been finishing the track in its original full version I was completing the final mix and Tim ran into my studio and asked me if I was playing a song from a Hughes soundtrack… I think he was suggesting Home Alone. I then thought voila… “A John Hughes excursion” and so the title was born. Not a huge surprise I suppose, due to myself and Tim’s penchant for 80’s films… although it has to be Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Weird Science or Uncle Buck!

Where was this mix recorded and how?

It was recorded live at my studio in the bunker with my Technics 1200’s and Allen and Heath XONE32 on a somewhat chilly November evening with only a couple of lagers and the gentle thud of Tim’s 808 coming from the other room for company.

At nearly 2.5 hrs long, would you say this mix is an accurate representation of what people could expect to hear you playing over the course of a DJ set?

You could say that, I played a little slower and deeper in the first hour and then stepped it up a bit from there. I guess it has that after midnight feel to it. I toyed with lots of ideas when you asked me to do it but came down on the side of just letting the mix take its own shape with things that I have been playing recently along with some new material from the bunker. It felt good all the way along so I just let the record run and it ended at 2.5 hours…

Do you try and maintain a balance between old and new music in your DJing?

Absolutely, I have been buying house records since 1985 so there are lots of records which still work on all levels that I have bought over the last 25 years; the Elbee Bad tune fitting so nicely with the Alex Israel 12″ on Crème being a perfect example. I still play vinyl so it’s great to be able to listen to some old records you happen across during we week, come across something you have not played for maybe 10 years and then take it out and watch everyone go mad for it. I have been playing the old Reese and Santonio’s “Bounce Your Body To The Box” on KMS again regularly…I bought that in 88 and the energy in the room when you play it is still just as amazing now as it was then.

It ends with a pleasant curveball too, nice end of the night feel to that track. What’s your favourite end of the night track?

Yes, Jaki Whitren & John Cartwright: Stay Cool on Emotional Rescue, Stuart who runs the label sent me the album and I absolutely loved it, this track being particularly good. Its leaves a lovely warm feeling in the room when you play it, which is what a last record should always be about. In terms of a favourite…Crumbs, that is a very difficult question depending on the night/ crowd etc. There have been so many over the years. I think there is always something special about end of the night tracks and having the bottle to play one that’s more well known or off the pace of the set you have just been playing, having come into clubs in the mid to late 80’s I guess I have always had a bit of a love of that 80’s soul/ funk and boogie stuff like Vance and Suzzanne’s “I Cant Get Along Without You” or D-Trains “Music.”… I also have others from the 90’s like the red zone dub on Clive Griffin, Sheer Taft Cascades on Creation. Fallout the morning after is another one I play a lot or Lil Louis “Blackout/ I Called You” and of course Nude Photo and UR’s “The Final Frontier” are always winners…. oh well that’s about 10 now then!

Given that it’s the end of the year what labels and artists have you been impressed with over the past 12 months?

There has been so much great music around this year it could be a long list, but artist wise Tim, Sean and Andrew are obvious choices. Sean has really started to develop his own unique sound this year and Tim’s music has hit a whole new level in 2012.  I have really enjoyed Danny Wolfers’ stuff as always, Jason Letkiewicz has been consistently good in all his various guises, Lord of the Isles and the Firecracker crew have been great all year, Dan Avery of course and Matt Walsh who I have been doing some additional production work with, Willie Burns, Madteo,  Levon Vincent, The Rhythm Odyssey, Mike Huckaby has been on fire this year, Perseus Trax, the Red Axes remixes and edits, Baris K and those Mutant Beat Dance 12’s… oh Svengalisghost too.

This gives me a nicely tenuous link to labels… L.I.E.S. have been great all year, Nation always great, Magazine, Clone, Comeme, Workshop, Running back, Toytronics, Will Bankhead’s Trilogy Tapes label and not forgetting Bird Scarer which I think has found its own unique little space out there. I bought the whole catalogue of Kassem Mosse’s new Ominira label which is excellent and all very different.  Emotional Rescue and Response has been consistently top drawer this year too. On the Glasgow tip how good have those Dixon Avenue Basement Jams 12’s been? Of the less dancefloor variety I have enjoyed The Great pop supplement label, Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo, Personal Space comp, the Frances Bebe album, and Andrew kindly introduced me to the music of Michael Chapman which I have been really enjoying too…the list could go on and on, itis been a splendid year for fine music…

You’ve been working with Robi Insinna of late right? We heard about that song featuring Nitzer Ebb’s Doug McCarthy when is that getting released?

Yes, Robi contacted me about doing a remix for him last year which I did for him and he was really pleased with. I then went on to release an EP on Relish (The Light Sleeper) which both Robi and Tim remixed tracks on.  Andrew and Sean have been playing “Paraphrase Mine” regularly at ALFOS over the last year or so, and Tim did a lovely deep job on “Centerville Lapse”; this is getting a vinyl release towards the spring next year, so it will be nice to have it on plastic finally. After those Robi approached me about co-producing something with him and we got to work on a track bouncing ideas back and forth. I sent Robi the instrumental over and he told me he had a really exciting vocalist organised, which was Douglas – it was brilliant as his voice fitted the track perfectly. Douglas recorded the vocal at Robi’s studio in Berlin and he then put them onto the track. The results are pretty special. It’s getting a release on vinyl and digital early in the new year. Daniel Maloso and Sean Johnston (in fine Hardway Bros style) have done the remixes, there is a dub and full vocal version and I am doing a special revision myself so it’s a really strong package.

Were Nitzer Ebb an influence in any way?

Not directly, but in many ways the music they made and the sound of that period went on to influence Detroit techno in a huge way as we all know. I was not massively into the industrial sound during that period as I was buying Chicago house records but have come to love many of them now. The slower heavier take on things being a good example in some of the music I have been making of late.

I also spotted you’ve remixed the Headman classic “It Rough”, did you have any difficulties approaching that given it’s already got a classic Chicken Lips revision?

Not at all, although this was an interesting one really. The Chicken Lips one came out in 2003 I believe, at that point I had been pretty much immersed in playing other styles mainly Detroit techno/ Chicago house and electro stuff. So in all honesty I completely missed that one and had never heard the Chicken Lips version. I basically applied the same principles to it as I do with every other remix. I listen to all of the original parts, took the ones I liked, re-programmed the drums, bassline and wrote a new hook. I felt that kind of early 90’s sound would work nicely with it and that’s how I think it came about in the end. Once I completed it I asked Andy Baxter, who also resides at the studio selling fine vintage bass guitars, to let me have a listen to the Chicken Lips remix on Youtube (he being the only non luddite who haveth the only internet connection down there), and that was the first time I heard it; aside from the vocals it’s completely different. I am really happy with the remix and it has been consistently smashing it on the dancefloor when I have played it out, so job done.

Aside from all this, what else can we expect from Scott Fraser over the coming months?

Lots to come on the music front, I am just in the middle of remixing Andrew and Tim’s Asphodell’s project and then I have remixes in the pipeline for Kid Who, How The Other Half Lives, Nuno Dos Santos and a few others on the radar which I can’t mention just yet. I remixed Sean’s next single “Shorty” which will be coming out on Throne of Blood in the new year, I have done remix for a great new band called the 2 Jackals which will get a limited 12″ release next year…

Myself and Richard Sen have put together a joint remix double sider (he of me, me of him) which will be out in the new year and we are also going to be working together on a separate project/ label idea too in the new year. I have been co-writing some great stuff with Andy Blake which will see a release next year which we both feel is sounding pretty special. On the solo production front, I have just completed a new track which is quite different to most of my recent stuff; the lovely Louise Quinn is currently penning a vocal for it.

Club wise, myself and Tim’s residency is continuing to build nicely in Glasgow at the Berkeley Suite with Alan at Transmission promoting it (we are planning some live guests for the new year starting with Plaid which will be amazing), we are also looking at taking Crimes of the Future on the road next year which will be brilliant… As I said before I have started taking DJ bookings again after taking a couple of years off to focus on writing music, so I am looking forward to getting out and playing records regularly next year. I just played at Salon Renate in Berlin which was brilliant and did the Tusk event in London. So plenty to be getting on with in 2013.