No one is more invested in anonymous online discussions about Scuba than Paul Rose. His Twitter page is littered with the detritus of time spent trolling dogmatic electronic music forums like dubstepforum and Dissensus, sessions that inspire him to fire off a succession of derisive tweets and log off. At least Rose has good reason to be so invested in what fans have to say about Scuba, for he and Scuba are one and the same.
Last month, Rose released his third album, Personality, and if anyone had anything negative to say in any remote corner of the interwebs, no one heard it louder than Scuba. Personality was in some ways a rite of passage; its colorful, club-friendly posture is divergent from the sparser and moodier basswork of his past, a move that alienated him from some stubborn fans. Such are the growing pains of a blossoming production career. For every handful of new fans, a comment pops up under a dubstepforum thread titled “Tunes you hate that everyone rates.” In the words of the Internet, haters gonna hate.
What was the concept behind Personality?
I was trying to consciously let influences come through that I had been repressing before—like ’90s house and ’80s pop and big synth stabs and stuff that I wouldn’t have thought would have been suitable to what I was making in my left-field beat/dubstep stuff. I just wanted to be able to be a bit more honest to my background and influences.
Why were you trying to suppress influences before?
I don’t think it was a conscious thing. It was just more that I was doing something specific for the first two albums. I was occupying a space in a scene, in the dubstep thing I was still very much a part of. Not to say that it was a dishonest representation of myself, but it was a genre I was conforming to, to a certain extent. I was just trying not to be constrained by anything, genre-wise, and allow stuff to come out that wanted to come out that wasn’t coming out previously.
It’s interesting that you use the word “constrained” when talking about dubstep because I see you as a pioneer of that sound.
Right. I guess it’s as much of a curse as a blessing, being associated with something from the very start of it. It means that everyone always thinks of you as That Guy from That Thing, you know?
So from that perspective, having seen it blow up, do you have a different view of the rise of dubstep?
Well, someone’s going to have to write a book about it, and I hope it’s not someone who was actually there—there were so many little factions and competing rivalries. It’s interesting, the way it’s gone, because the U.S. stuff has completely taken over. That’s fine because the U.S. producers are doing their really hard stuff better than the U.K. guys are. It’s not my thing, but it is what it is. And, obviously, they’ve been pretty successful with it.
Do you see Personality as a statement about that rise?
It wasn’t a conscious attempt to make a mainstream step or reflect upon the mainstream success of other people or anything like that. It was a kind of reaction against the relative success of Triangulation and feeling for the first time ever that people are actually going to be interested in what I did after that. I definitely felt that after Triangulation, people were going to be like, “OK, what’s going to be the follow-up?” One of the few conscious things that I was trying to do was just not to do Triangulation again and not think about people who liked Triangulation or what they were going to want—and yeah, a lot of them don’t like what’s come out of it. But what can you do?
Where do you think those people are coming from? Is commercial viability associated with a club sound?
I think people do associate it in that way. I mean, [Personality] is more dance-y, it’s definitely a lot more clubby, but I don’t think that equates to being more mainstream. I’m really happy with it though. I think it’s my best album, definitely. Not a lot of people seem to think that, but you know, fuck it, whatever. Loads of people do like it, don’t get me wrong. It’s already sold more than the last one. It’s just the Internet. I should stop reading the Internet.
The rise of dance music in general is interesting.
I heard someone speculating that it’s all a big conspiracy to sell more drinks. I’m not sure about that though.
I feel like raves and dance parties are not suited for drinking.
That’s the thing: It always used to be, certainly in the U.K., that clubs didn’t want to put on techno because people didn’t drink. They just drank water. I think it’s a bit different now—I mean, people don’t take as much Ecstasy as they used to, right?
What is the process of DJing like?
Well, I do think DJing is an underrated skill. I enjoy the challenge of putting certain kinds of music in different contexts and trying to make people dance to stuff that they wouldn’t dance to normally.
How is DJing a different process or experience than, say, playing in a band?
You are performing, but obviously you’re not playing an instrument. I think playing longer sets sorts the men from the boys because using different moods and taking people up and down over longer periods is like—you have to think much more than actually do. When you’re playing four or five hours, you have to think five or six tunes ahead.
You said “separating the men from the boys,” which is an interesting term to use, because DJ culture is so male-dominated.
OK, here we go.
Yeah, I know.
As that sentence was coming out of my mouth, I was like, “Oh no, what am I doing.” I think it works both ways. On the flip side of it is, sometimes it can create opportunities for women. If you look at Nina Kraviz, for example—I don’t think she would be anywhere near as successful if she weren’t an attractive woman. I really shouldn’t say that on record. It is right to say that [DJ culture] is male-dominated, but it’s almost inevitable because the mindset that the average DJ has is definitely a sort of male, geeky, trainspotter-y thing, and girls just don’t—this is a massive generalization, obviously—but it just seems to be more of a male trait than a female trait.
Not to say that there isn’t a large sexist undercurrent as well. Using Nina as an example, you only have to read the comments and the reviews of her album, and a large portion of them are like, “She’s hot,” “She’s hot,” “She’s hot.” Which is a fair comment, but you know, it’s not really that relevant to the music.