MxCx Interview#16 "Spinscott"
Spinscott is a DJ, producer, and lifelong drummer who created and regularly performs a live format called Jungle Plus Drums. Each unique DJ set features 100% LIVE Loop-Free Jungle played real-time on the drum machine, combined with mixing of original & classic tracks on CDJs and drum rhythms played with the music. Spinscott has been active in the Jungle / Drum and Bass music scenes since the mid 1990’s, and has performed hundreds of DJ sets at the national level.
Attracting global attention through his Live Jungle Drum Machine videos that showcase freestyle jungle on the drum machine, Spinscott continues to create viral music content across media platforms, driving demand for live appearances at music events. In 2015/'16, Spinscott played shows in over 18 cities, performed live at the Pioneer USA and AKAI Pro booths at NAMM, and became a premier finger drumming lesson artist for Melodics. He has charted releases on multiple labels including: Dynamix Records, Faction Digital Recordings, Wicked Jungle Records, and forthcoming tracks on vinyl & digital for Elm Imprint. Spinscott also hosts the Monday night weekly Jungle + Drums radio program on jungletrain.net, which often features appearances by his pit-lab mix MC Baxter.
Where is your hometown?
I am from Maryland, USA, and grew up in an environment full of music!
When did you start a music career?
I have been involved with music in one way or another since a very early age. First picked up a pair of drumsticks when I was about 4 or 5 years old, and played drums and percussion throughout school and later in several bands. In the early '90s, I started DJing locally, playing popular music at parties. When I became aware of Jungle a few years later, it captured my interest immediately (from a drum and rhythm perspective), and I began mixing Jungle vinyl about a year after.
When did you first hear Jungle? At that time, what did you feel the charm was in "Jungle"?
The first time I heard Jungle was in the Autumn of 1995, on a mixtape by a DJ called Mastervibe. My sister had bought it at a local party, and I made a copy and listened to it everyday for at least six months... so much so that the tape eventually snapped and I had to make another copy of the original! The charm was definitely in the complex rhythms. Having been a drummer for many years, I was intrigued by the beats and rhythms that could be done without the limitations of two hands and two feet on a drum kit. In those early days, I would play mixtapes in the car, and drum every single note on the dashboard, starting the tape over if I missed even one note. A bit crazy I guess, but that is where some of my chops come from today when it comes to playing the drum machine.
As for my favorite producers, without a doubt the first two names that come to mind are Lemon D and Danny Breaks. Lemon D produced many of my favorites records, including my all time favorite Jungle track "I Can't Stop", which in my opinion is an absolutely perfect track that showcases many of the best elements that Jungle has to offer. He also made tracks like "Feel It" and "Urban Style Music", among many other classics that I still spin to this day. Danny Breaks released some world class favorites too, including "Step Off", Firin' Line, and others on his Droppin' Science label. There were so many pioneers and innovators with amazing tunes coming out during that era, that it would be difficult to create an all inclusive list of favorites, but the output from those two artists really struck a special chord with me.
When you first heard Jungle, was there a Jungle scene in the US?
The "Rave" scene here in the US existed long before I got into it, with healthy local, regional, and national events representing a vast array of musical styles. At the time I found it, there were great parties going on regularly in the area here, including Fever, Buzz, Rise, Ultraworld, and many others. Jungle was often well represented at these events, which hosted DJs from all over the world and provided a gateway to learn about the origins of the music. Jungle vinyl and CDs could be found at various record shops around here, including Modern Music, Yoshitoshi, Music Liberated, and others. I used to shop at these places, and also used to order records from other stores around the country, with a personal favorite being Breakbeat Science, New York.
When did you first make a Jungle track?
In late 1999, I was very much still into the earlier Jungle styles, but unfortunately was having a difficult time finding new releases that had the classic drum break samples, clean 808 and Reese bass lines, and other elements I enjoyed listening to & mixing. Much of what was available at the time was more of the straight forward Drum And Bass styles, and while there were great tunes being released, I was searching for a bit of a different flavor. I decided to start creating my own tracks with that "oldschool" vibe using a program called Madtracker, and by the following year was mixing some of my own tunes at shows.
When was your MPC style born? Why did you try to play Jungle in the MPC?
In the Summer of 2012, after using the tracker for years,I decided to experiment with some hardware. I knew what MPC Drum Machines were, and that they had been used for electronic music production for decades. I was also aware that drum machines and their rack sampler counterparts were used in the production of many of my favorite Jungle tunes, but I had never seen anyone play live rhythms on an MPC. I picked up my first drum machine that summer, and that evening I decided to search around online to see if anyone had done "live" or "real-time" Jungle on pads, but didn't find any. I decided to record a quick 50 second video clip of some freestyle Jungle drums just for fun and to see how it would turn out. Honestly, I was pretty shocked at how much attention it got, but I love playing music for people, and the audience was there, so I continued to make new programs and videos. I began integrating the drum machine programs into my DJ sets, and that is where my "Jungle Plus Drums" format was born. As for the drum machines I own, I have the MPC 1000 that I currently use for videos and live tours, and have acquired and sold a few others over the past few years. Always keeping an eye on the new gear that comes around, and am currently evaluating some new pieces.
Your MPC Live is very accurate, without even listening to a click. So, if someone listens your live set with eyes closed, it sounds just like it is sequenced. How do you keep the rhythm going?
I do not have a sense of rhythm. Please tell me something good way to practice.
Thanks for commenting on the accuracy! :) Being a drummer most of my life definitely has been a key factor in the rhythm aspects of my live drum machine playing. Many of my relatives are or were drummers too, and I was lucky to be born with a bit of a natural time-keeping sense. My goal since the very first time using a drum machine has been to play using only one shot samples, with each pad hit triggering a single note, not a sequence of notes. It is very much like playing hand drums, like bongos or conga drums. Occasionally people do initially think that there are sequences involved, but I always try to film the videos at an angle where people can see what is really going on, and often have projectors displaying clear views at events. As for keeping the rhythm going, I am not really sure I can explain it... I really just go into a zone when playing and it just kind of happens.
As for some ways to practice for you, don't worry about having a sense of rhythm or not to start with. Practice by simply putting on one of your favorite songs, and trying to tap out parts of the beat on a table or other surface. Also, learning the standard drum rudiments is a great way to learn the basics, and there are many videos online from drummers of all styles. There are also finger drumming lesson programs out there, one of which is called Melodics, which has various levels and styles of playing, so even beginners can start and build skills with it. Fortunately there are many inexpensive controller based drum pads on the market that enable people to learn basic skills without having to make a huge investment upfront.
Please tell me about the process of music production.
Do you distinguish to MPC live and music production? or, or,Do you make a song to make it easier to play in Live?
I have various workflows for different types of projects. For the real-time drum machine videos, I do all of the sample processing, sound arrangement (pad layouts) and effects in the drum machine itself. For producing tracks for commercial release, I use the MPC for building concepts, and build the track and mixdown in the tracker, and other audio programs for editing. For production projects I use Yamaha HS monitors. When performing the Jungle Plus Drums DJ sets, those consist of the live drum machine routines, combined with classics and original tracks mixed on CD players with a 4 channel mixer.
Here is a quick list of some previous releases:
Limbic System / Trust Me (Dynamix Records)
The Rhythmic Induction EP (Dynamix Records)
Lights / Achromatic (Faction Digital Recordings)
Variations (Dred Collective)
The Greeting (Wicked Jungle Records)
No Control, Scottie Remix, Ricky's Bad Day, etc (soundcloud.com/spinscott)
** lots more schedule for release soon :)
What do you think of scene of the current state of US Jungle now?
I think that today is a great time for the Jungle scene here in the US. The music is getting heavy support from promoters around the country, and there are many new and long-time producers creating fresh music. There are some fantastic hard working labels pushing a lot of quality music right now. The DJs here are doing great things as well, from traditional all-vinyl classic mixing, to innovative use of controllers and players, to integration of live elements and drum pads. I love seeing the growth and success of artists here! I've been fortunate enough to see various regional scenes this year, having played events in about 20 different cities around the country and beyond this year... and the loyalty, dedication, and love of the Jungle scene I see is awesome and quite inspiring.
Please tell me about the future of the schedule.
Lots of exciting and new things hitting the schedule! For releases, there are tracks slated for release in both Digital and Vinyl formats on various labels. I am working on a full length LP as well that has been an ongoing project for quite some time now. On the drum machine side of things, I'll be doing some very special demo projects and lots more custom videos into next year. For the next tour, I am working on coordinating performance dates in many different parts of the world, with some Winter/Spring shows to be announced very soon. I keep an updated schedule of events on my artist page: www.facebook.com/spinscott
**This interview was recorded on October 12, 2016**