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Personality traits

Scuba on his fight against boredom and why he wanted to have fun with his new record

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Personality traits | PlayGround | Music Features
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“Art is the escape from personality”, T.S Eliot once said. A quote that Paul Rose – known to most as Scuba, producer and head of the Hotflush Recordings label – likely didn’t bear in mind when naming his latest album. When questioned about the intentions behind the music on “Personality” during a recent phone conversation ahead of its release this week, Rose admits that honesty perhaps best defines what he wanted to do with this third opus. “Honest is a good word. That’s what the music on there is, not an attempt to sell records. I just wanted to put myself in the studio.” Listening to the album while going over the notes and transcript from our conversation, honesty does indeed seem to best encompass what Rose tried to achieve thus making it more a case of art as honest representation of the creator’s personality rather than an escape from it. Sorry T.S.

Having relocated from his hometown of London to Berlin in 2007, Rose hasn’t yet lost all of his London twang, and still seems somewhat a little uncomfortable with the need for publicity, in line with his previously admitted lack of sociability. “Personality” is Scuba’s third solo album in four years, marking him as the only artist I can think of from dubstep’s original days to have released that many full lengths, Skream being a potential exception if you include the Magnetic Man album. Hotflush was founded in 2003 and despite its recent moves towards being “more of a house label than anything else” as Rose himself admits, it remains – for some at least – one of the five key labels from dubstep’s foundation years alongside Hyperdub, Tempa, Big Apple and DMZ. Let’s be clear though, every album since his 2008 debut “A Mutual Antipathy” has clearly marked Rose as much more than a just a dubstep artist. Each full length release has seen him move towards his own admitted first musical loves and influences such as techno and electro and on this latest offering 80s pop and 90s dance music. We’re no longer dealing with a dubstep artist – not that we really ever were in the first place – yet Scuba’s never really shaken the original affiliation to that genre.

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As for the new album, the music and its intent I wondered if perhaps the choice of title was an attempt to indicate it as being a personal piece of art that Rose was putting forward? “That’s one side to it. In the last few weeks I’ve had a few people tell me that I want to go commercial and be really big as a result of this album,” he says, unable to suppress a chuckle immediately after telling me this, “which isn’t really how I was thinking about it when making it at all. It might sound like bullshit to a lot people – and let’s face it, it will anyways – but I certainly didn’t sit down and think of it like that. I was just trying to let influences come through that I hadn’t allowed to before, such as 90s dance music and 80s pop stuff.” Listen to the album’s 11 tracks with this in mind and those influences are clearly apparent at times. “With my previous releases I didn’t allow these influences to have any impact at all on what I was doing. I was overthinking stuff a lot more than was healthy. When I was finishing ‘Triangulation’ [ed note: his second album] that was the first time I felt really confident in the studio from a technical point of view. One potential result of which is that you give yourself more freedom and that is definitely what I took from it. I felt like I could do what I wanted and it wouldn’t really matter. So this new album is just much more me in terms of the influences that went into it compared to my previous output, which isn’t to say that the last two albums were dishonest. Personality is I think ultimately more me.”

An unfortunate by-product of honesty in music today, or as Rose puts it releasing something that an artist feels represents them more than anything before, is that people – and thus fans – are potentially more likely to misunderstand the intention behind it and the music itself. Comparing Rose’s admission that honesty defined the music on “Personality” with some of its public reception so far, including claims of selling out or being uninteresting, certainly gives some weight to this idea. Being established as an artist can also play a part in this as Rose further explains that “there are different ways you can react to being established. After ‘Triangulation’ came out I felt it was the first time people were actually going to pay attention to what I did next. And you can react to that in a number of ways. I think some people react to these expectations by just trying to do what they did again while others go completely the other way, reacting against it. For me it was trying to find a spot in the middle of those two. I didn’t want to completely break from what I’d done, and I feel there is a lot more continuation between ‘Triangulation’ and this record than people seem to be saying. There are other influences and styles, as I said, but it’s still a continuation.”

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Rose’s mention of balancing continuation with moving forward reminded me of Kuedo’s recent explanation that too often fans can carry expectations from one artistic vision to another even when these no longer apply. “I think there is a fair amount of predictable ‘why doesn’t this sound like Triangulation?’” Rose concurs with a laugh. “I also had that with the ‘Adrenalin EP’, in fact maybe even more, even though I’ve publicly said that ‘Adrenalin’ was tongue in cheek. It wasn’t serious, it was a fun project. There are elements of that in the new album too, such as the lyrics in ‘Hope’. I think you can have a sense of humour about something serious without making it into a farce.” This is perhaps best exemplified in the album’s introductory 20 seconds as Rose asks to no one in particular whether or not we are all unique before claiming that “most people are fucking boring to be honest.” Back to the subject of expectations, Rose is quite conscious that there is “going to be a lot of bitching. It’s never nice to be dismissed by people who liked your previous output but you’ve got to deal with it if you want to carry on. It sounds pretentious but I know I can’t and don’t want to do the same thing twice. There’s going to be continuity in the music because it’s me but I just can’t do the same things over and over again – it’s bullshit and boring.”

Looking over both Rose’s discography and that of his label, it would be hard to take that last claim away from him. The fact that “Personality” takes this idea much closer to what Rose relates to musically is perhaps what makes most people uncomfortable about it. You don’t have to be a devout fan of his music to be able to appreciate the honesty, humour and attempts to push forward musically (while looking back) that are to be found on the album. It’s never been easier  publicly to dismiss something as unworthy or irrelevant because we don’t like it thanks to the internet’s free-for-all soap box mentality. That’s something which we’ve all indulged in and which Rose himself hasn’t been a stranger to either, yet the value in engaging with those feelings beyond mere dismissal is still there. As Rose put it when I asked what his biggest hope for the album was, “I hope people don’t take it the wrong way really.”

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