On Saturday at Alfresco, we have the one and only Strut Records hosting a stage! Since the late 1990s, Strut has been one of the UK’s leading record labels dedicated to unearthing the lost gems of dance music past, covering music from hard funk, underground disco, original breaks and Nigerian Afrobeat to old skool hip hop and forgotten music library classics. Set up in 1999 to document important areas of dance music’s history, Strut’s releases cut no corners, bringing together killer dancefloor tracks as well as giving a full context to the music, telling the story of the characters behind the tunes, the clubs and the scene of the time. The albums are mastered from original tapes wherever possible and feature extensive sleevenotes, researched and written by respected journalists, rare photographs and memorabilia
Headlining is one of the world’s most revered selectors, Mr. Scruff. Formerly a fine art student part-time at Sheffield University, Scruff decided to explore his strange passion both in rounded line drawings and music. An electro-ska-hip-hop kid and bedroom bod from what hip hop fellas call time, Carthy started making tapes in 1983 using the very finest in pause button technology. His passion for hearing music that he couldn’t hear out anywhere else led him into the world of DJing – first of all as a kid with one deck – then hearing electro albums and being determined to mix. The result was that by 1994 he was out DJing in clubs.
Despite DJing being his first and foremost love, Scruff had always messed about with the recording process; age 8 he started making up tapes of pretend radio shows (oh where are those tapes now?) and then faffing about on drum machines; by the age of 13 he was having a laugh with mates being in silly bands with silly names. The very end result of all this was a good few vinyl outings on Rob’s Records and Pleasure, including the now-legendary track, Chicken In A Box – simple maybe, but simply bloody barmy-good. “A happy accident,” he claims. “Well, more like an educated guess…” Whilst his total love of DJing informs his music-making ability, he doesn’t consciously try to make something that will work on the dancefloor; he’s more likely to want to know “Do you like it? Does it make you go wibbly. Does it frimble?” Questions we should all be asking ourselves.
Since his first vinyl excursion he has recorded for over 25 labels including Warp, Sirkus, Disorient, Blood & Fire, Cup Of Tea and, of course, Ninja Tune. He has remixed Nightmares On Wax and Bim Sherman and refused to remix Nigel Kennedy. He’s worked with Mark Rae and Grand Central. He has DJed all over the bloody shop, turning down more gigs than he takes on. If they won’t let him have a long spot, he doesn’t bother; a ‘take-the-money-and-run’ merchant he certainly is not. He has dug in crates and found obscure records with references to marine fauna. He’s done bloody loads, basically, all of it with more than a vague hint of humour. France Telecom (the French equivalent of BT) were suitably impressed and used his single Get A Move On as part of their national TV advertising campaign, as did Volvo in N. America – the Scruffy one didn’t see it as something to get excited about. And he’s got more fans. Most notably, Madonna recently said in Mixmag of music she was playing at home, “And Mr Scruff I love, that weird little album (Keep It Unreal) that’s got so much personality”. Mr Scruff was characteristically unimpressed.
Also holding down the fort will be the legend that is Terry Farley. Terry Farley is a bona fide UK house legend. Having been on the dancefloor since day dot, he has produced some of house music’s most enduring cuts under various guises, including Roach Motel and Bocca Juniors, as well as with Pete Heller as Heller and Farley. A bastion of knowledge when it comes to acid and deep house, as well as dance culture, soul boy trends, and more besides, Terry is also much lauded for having launched house music fanzine (and label and party series) Boys Own with Andrew Weatherall, Cymon Eckel and Steve Mayes back in the day: it was something that very much went on to document and dictate the trends of the time.
A fascinating character with a real passion for dance music and its cultural roots, Terry is a learned selector with old school values who can really make dancefloors move with a whole range of sounds. He does so everywhere from fabric and Ministry of Sound in London to festivals around the world on a regular basis and always educates as much as he entertains. Now very much a scene curator and archivist as much as an enduring DJ talent, when Terry Farley’s in the house, everybody listens, as his essential recent compilations, Acid Rain and Acid Thunder, have proven in spades.