Scott Brown - A Real Live Wire
When we decided to put the Unity party on our cover, there was only one DJ that could be the face of the event – UK hardcore producer Scott Brown. A bona fide legend of the genre, his set at Unity is set to blow minds, bodies and soles. 3D’s Cyclone caught up with the Glaswegian.
Hardcore dance gets a rough go beyond its diehards. But, while the scene has had its ups and downs, the music is still here two decades on. In contrast to its rock cousin, punk, hardcore was never corporatised and, as a consequence, it could be the last real rebel genre. Even then, hardcore is more about extreme energy than radicalism.
Glasgow’s Scott Brown, who embarked on a music career as a teenager back in 1990, can claim to be one of hardcore’s godfathers. Hardcore is tribal and Brown is aware that the music inspires strong feelings in the wider dance community, with Motor City techno purists especially hostile.
“It’s rarely we cross swords, to be honest,” a laughing Brown counters of the haters. “It’s very rare anybody says anything like, ‘Your music’s shit.’ I don’t know if it’s to do with the fact that I’m quite big in size, or the fact that people don’t wanna approach me. It’s something that very rarely happens.
Maybe it’s because a punch in the face would be more appropriate,” he laughs mischievously. “In general, people are pretty cool. We all respect our own scenes and we go out and have a good time – and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
The Technophobia producer is associated with hard dance, but his roots lie in Chicago house, Detroit techno and UK acid house like 808 State. He began experimenting with music on a toy Yamaha keyboard. Brown abandoned a vocation in science – he studied physics at university – for electronica. Indeed, it was at college where he befriended Gordon Anderson, the two conceiving the outfit Q-Tex.
Q-Tex struck a deal with Glasgow’s 23rd Precinct and issued the Equator EP, which received Pete Tong’s stamp of approval. However, as rave spawned harder styles such as Belgian new beat as well as Dutch gabba, Brown lost interest in an increasingly mainstream dance. By 1993 Scott was producing music on his own, pushing ‘bouncy techno’, eventually setting up his Evolution stable – although he continued to release music as Q-Tex, albeit hardcore.
Still, Brown’s development from house/techno/acid fan to hardcore pioneer is a large arc. “There was nothing such as hardcore, there was nothing at that BPM,” he recalls of his entry into party culture. “At the time here in the UK, dance music was like Pete Waterman stuff, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, when they came over – that was what was happening in the clubs in the UK. But there was [also] this subculture of acid house, Detroit techno, Chicago house, that was all coming through – and people were like, ‘What is this fucking music you’re listening to-’ As times went on, the music progressively got harder, faster – or it changed, morphed. The speeds of it actually took me by surprise, because I was still playing at maybe 130/135, and the speeds had suddenly jumped to 145/150 and, before you knew it, they went up to 170, so I had to follow suit!”
Ironically, Brown was never particularly keen to DJ, but he submitted to promoters’ demands. He toured Australia in 1995 with Carl Cox. Brown unleashed his signature record, Elysium, in 1999, just as hardcore, eclipsed by hard house in the mid-’90s, was making a resurgence.
Those inevitable lulls in the scene are partly due to generational turnover, with hardcore, more than house, inherently a youth movement. “Now I’m meeting kids who are saying, ‘Oh yeah, my dad saw you in 1993,’” Scott groans. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m that old!’”
Many producers turn ‘soft’ as they mature. Not Brown. “A lot of guys started making hardcore and got into trance – and I did it the other way. I think it’s because, in one way, I’ve managed to carve my own market. I know my place. If other guys do different things – trance, whatever – I do this. I get a lot of bookings for it and I’m happy.”
Brown has achieved veteran status. Along the way, the DJ departed Glasgow for Manchester – he found himself playing more down south – but he often returns to his Scottish hometown as it again now boasts a huge scene that supports arena events.
Brown’s most ambitious project recently is the DVD Livewired, which entails a documentary element. “I was brought up very working-class and had to work for everything I’ve got, so I like to think that the DVD conveys that,” he explains.
Scott has other endeavours planned for 2009. “There are a few albums – I can’t really talk about it,” he teases. “People can probably guess what’s coming up. But there’s a lot of new music. I’m just sitting on it at the moment, playing it out, gauging reactions. I think I’m gonna go for a big launch in January or February.”
His desire is to keep evolving. “It’s funny because a lot of times when there’s been droughts in the scene, and it seems like nothing’s going on, I’ve sat and I’ve been writing music where I thought, ‘This is good, but I don’t know if it’s gonna sell’ – and sometimes it doesn’t sell and sometimes it does. So I take influences from a lot of different kinds of music. I like a lot of metal, I listen to a lot of chill-out music – I take a lot of influences from these things. But I find a lot of hardcore producers will only listen to hardcore and copy what other guys are doing, so you end up in a repetitive circle.”
And Brown believes that he has the potential to reinvent himself. “At the moment I’m still looking for a new sound – I’ll tell you when I find it.”
His commitment to hardcore isn’t in question. Scott remembers cutting drum n bass and realising that it’s not for him. “I made one drum n bass record about 14 years ago – and I never dabbled with it again,” he confesses. “I would like to do it, but my hands are tied doing so many other things. I’ll leave it to the guys who are good at it. I feel if I started it now, I would be a bit of a learner.”
Brown may be on a roll for a while yet, with hardcore the ultimate ‘credit crunch’ relief music. The DJ imagines that, with a looming recession, the dance scene will surge, rather than contract. “We had a recession in the UK in ’92 and ’93 – and I never saw anything that was bad. Everybody was coming out, parties were great, everything was packed out... I’d like to think that the same will happen. It’s just a bit of escapism. The weekends come up – people will wanna go out and party. They’re always gonna want to do that.”
WHO: Scott Brown
WHAT: Plays Unity at Sydney Showground
WHEN: Saturday 6 December