The one thing that Paul Rose, better known as Scuba, really doesn’t want you to do is to try and pin him down. His roots are in London’s dubstep scene, but he lives in the techno metropolis of Berlin. His music is located at some unspecified point between those two cities – bass heavy, sparse, full of atmosphere and with propulsive rhythms, but above all impossible to define. His label, Hotflush, is one of dubstep’s spiritual homes, with releases by Distance, Benga and Mount Kimbie, but it also has that hard-to-categorize quality Warp had in the ’90s. He is, in a word, a maverick.
No surprise, then, that his DJ-Kicks mix resists pigeon-holing. A mind-bending 32-track journey, it ranges from the doom-laden ambience of ”HF029B2” by Sigha, to the stripped down squelches and bleeps of ”Acid Battery” by Boddika and the muted keys of Jichael Mackson’s ”Gedons.” It’s deep, a set that engages your mind as well as your feet. ”It’s loosely based around the last couple of sets I’ve played at my club night, Sub:Stance, at Berghain in Berlin,” explains Rose. ”It’s the last set of the night. It’s longer than the other sets. We tend to have lots of people playing for 90 minutes. But the last set is at least three hours or more, so you have more freedom. It’s really varied. You can play more or less anything and people will stay with you. That’s so special. A key thing I’ve been doing in those sets is starting off faster, say 138, and slowing down. It’s really gradual, slowing each tune down a little bit. The idea was to condense that three hour set into an hour. It drops about 12 bpm over the hour, from 136 to 124. Each tune is a little bit slower. I don’t like mixes that jump around, I prefer things to flow.”
”For me, ”An We Drop” by Addision Groove is one of the key tracks,” explains Rose. ”It’s a fusion of two things, that urban, UK kind of sound, and something more techno. It sums up what the mix and my music is about.” It’s also a DJ Kicks exclusive, alongside ”CPX11” by Beaumont, ”Let Me In” by Sigha, ”Streetwalk” by Jon Convex, ”Acid Battery” by Boddika and Scuba’s own ”M.A.R.S.”. Rose also points to ”The Breakup” by Braille as another pivotal track. The skippety beats, jazzy keys and soulful male vocal are a 2011 update of the garage scene on which he cut his teeth.
Rose grew up in London. He was in bands as a teenager during the mid-’90s. He was drawn to experimenting with computers, which led to techno, then drum’n’bass. He started a night in Bristol, where he went to university, called Hotflush. When he moved back to London in 2001, he started playing on pirate radio and launched his label despite having ”no idea what I was doing.”
Rose was a regular at seminal London club night FWD>>, the birthplace of dubstep, from the very start, and 2004 he passed some of his own minimal, bass heavy tracks to to FWD>> resident Hatcha, who loved them. Rose’s music quickly became a fixture on the then nascent dubstep scene. However, Rose never wanted his label to be all about dubstep, ”it just happened by accident because of what we put out”. Hotflush has been going for eight years, but it is only recently that the label has become the wide-ranging outlet he always envisaged.
The fact that he is a Londoner living in Berlin in crucial to Scuba’s sound. ”As a DJ one of my primary aims and motivations is bridging the gap between what I guess people call the ‚Äòurban’ or ‚Äòpost-dubstep’ scenes in London, although I hate both of those terms, and the more straight house/techno mainland European sound which obviously resonates most from Berlin. So much great music comes out of both of those two places and actually I find them very compatible sonically. As a producer I wouldn’t say I fit into either particularly well though.” Probably not. The truth is, he’s taken the two elements to create something new entirely. ”It’s been a while since I felt part of the dubstep thing,” agrees Rose. ”I’m still friendly with a lot of the guys in London who were around it from the start, but it’s moved on so much since I was really involved as a producer or a DJ. I guess I would fit better into the techno thing, but I wouldn’t say that’s a perfect match either – both in terms of what I’m doing as a producer and a DJ, I just flit around too many styles really. I guess you could see that as a positive or a negative.”
It is without question the former. Interesting things happen at the interface of scenes. Scuba is proof positive of that.