Berlin's Scuba pays loving homage to rave music
Paul Rose (aka Scuba) is not a happy-go-lucky guy. That much you could guess from the crucial role he’s played in marrying German-centric minimal techno to London-born dubstep, a union of dance music’s most serious-minded and borderline gloomy styles. So when Scuba released last year’s “Adrenalin”—a glittery burst of hard-driving trance festooned with unabashedly euphoric synth figures—the London native suspected he’d be pissing off his core followers, those dour young men who can’t bring themselves to dance with their hands in the air.
“Early in my career I was doing left-field dubstep, which is not the kind of music that has much of a sense of humour,” Rose says from Berlin, the city he’s called home since 2009. “So moving from that to making lighthearted, playful stuff like ‘Adrenalin’, I knew that was never going to please everyone and that the reviews weren’t going to be universally good. But, if anything, I was kind of disappointed to not get slagged off more properly by the critics.”
Scuba’s catalogue, which stretches back to 2008, seems almost critic-proof, the Londoner having garnered pretty much universal acclaim for his singles and three LPs, including this year’s Personality. Like “Adrenalin”, the new album plays as a love letter to rave music, the producer variously rendering homage to late-night drum ’n’ bass (on “Cognitive Dissonance”), psychedelic big-beat (“The Hope”), and bottle-popping garage (“Tulips”).
Given his long-standing reputation as a purveyor of bass-driven sullenness, it’s tempting to read Rose’s embrace of melodically rich, uplifting forms as some indication of newfound personal contentment. That’s not so, claims the producer.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten any happier,” he insists. “It’s more about allowing certain musical influences to come out that I didn’t allow out before. I’ve always been into pop music and proper dance music, so making that type of music is probably a reflection of the fact that I’m more comfortable being myself as a producer.”
Rose’s self-confidence is hard-won, built over 13 years of hosting parties (both in London and Berlin) and producing tunes (under his Scuba and SCB aliases). Having established himself as one of the genre’s most respected artists, the Englishman is synonymous with two powerhouse brands in underground dance music—Hotflush Recordings (the highly regarded label he founded and continues to operate) and Berghain (the Berlin nightclub where his Sub:Stance parties set the pace for the worldwide bass-music scene).
In a former life as a teenage rock ’n’ roller, Rose played guitar, an instrument he says he’d like to pick up again after several years of making computer music. Then there’s his desire to break into scoring movies, and to devote more time to Hotflush, which broke into the mainstream in 2010 with the release of Mount Kimbie’s critically adored debut, Crooks & Lovers. For now, though, he can barely find enough hours in the day to be Scuba.
“The last year’s become a bit ridiculous,” he admits. “But this is what you work for when you have no shows and you’re sitting in your bedroom making tunes. Getting to this point now, where I’m playing all these shows and there’s all these demands on my time—I wouldn’t say it’s an anticlimax, but it’s just a lot of fucking hard work.”
Scuba plays FiveSixty on Wednesday (August 1).