It was a Thursday night, and I did not get out of work in time to get to Cleveland as early as I had hoped. Somehow, I managed to get to the show in time to be able to catch the entirety of Spinscott’s set, which was what mattered most. I had been wanting to catch one of his shows for so long now, and something had always come up, be it the weather, my schedule, whatever. If you have not seen Spinscott, you need to move it to the very top of your list. Right now. Watching him do his “Jungle Plus Drums” is something to behold, I promise. As I was watching the crowd react, getting into the music myself while snapping pictures and taking some videos, I noticed Spinscott smiling huge, while clearly feeling the music that he was playing and creating. “There it is,” I thought, “he is in the zone, in his happy place.” Having heard him describe that zone to me weeks prior to this show, while interviewing him for this article, I recognized it immediately, and the music somehow became even more amazing, adding to what is truly an overall unique experience that is a Spinscott show.
When talking with Spinscott for this article, a few weeks prior to seeing him play in Cleveland, I started at the beginning (which is a good place to start). Scott has been an avid fan (to put it mildly) of music all his life. Having grown up in a musical family, and with a father who was both a drummer and a DJ, music was woven into his very being right from the start. Looking to his father as inspiration, Scott began playing the drums himself when he was around four to five years old. He learned to play some other melodic instruments as well, by ear, such as the piano, which is essentially a percussion instrument, as percussion has been his primary focus and interest with music.
When exposed to jungle music, Scott quickly became enthralled, drawn into the complexity of the rhythms. He stated that real jungle, with all the layered beats, is not something that one drummer can do with two hands or two feet; you need multiple drummers for it. He further explained that yes, one drummer can sit down and play a 170bpm jungle rhythm, but you cannot play three different breaks simultaneously. Jungle music is just “a lot more,” he stated, “it’s very satisfying to listen to.”
Scott started buying records during the late 1990’s. He remembers his first trip to the record store and purchasing his first five jungle records, even recalling the catalog number of some of them (Rude & Deadly – “Give Me a Dubplate” on SINC 1200X). He started DJing out at events in late 1998, and then began producing the following year When asked what led him to producing, Scott stated that he was always finding himself searching for tracks with the older breaks, old school amens, the older jungle rhythms; not much was being made as more of the two step beats were popular, variations of early jump up, really (which he does enjoy). Jungle music being released around that time was, to him, more synthetic, more Drum & Bass oriented. When he could not find the sound he was looking for, he decided to start making those sounds himself. He recalled the very first time that he played one of his own tracks out at a party, which was held at The Paradox, a dance club that was in South Baltimore, where he was playing a set in the smaller jungle room (which he always preferred). He had an American DJ single disc CD player, which had a little jog wheel with very little pitch control. He brought one of his tracks on a CDR, and had to hard-drop it in. He recalled that afterwards, someone had approached him and asked him about that track, if it was on Good Looking Records, which Scott stated felt really cool (and he still has those files).
When asked about who he considers to be his greatest musical influences throughout his life, Scott immediately replied that it is his family, overall, as he comes from such a musically rich family. Buddy Rich has always been Scott’s favorite drummer, and has also been quite influential for Scott. As for jungle artists, he has always really enjoyed the work of artists such as Lemon D, Danny Breaks, and Photek, in that order. However, Scott added that he tends to get his creativity through isolation, and therefore naming musical influences can be difficult to do.
My conversation with Spinscott then led to the sampler – which is “what everyone always wants to know about,” he added. Scott purchased his first sampler almost exactly ten years ago, in July of 2012. He bought it to do some Hip Hop beats, as he “was tired of looking at a computer screen all the time.” On the day that he purchased his sampler, he chopped up an old school breakbeat into individual drums, and recorded about a thirty second video of it, which he then uploaded to YouTube. He recalled thinking that surely many others were doing this, at least with jungle, adding that he really wasn’t aware that finger drumming existed, he always thought loop boxes were being utilized. That thirty second video that Spinscott had uploaded to YouTube that day ended up blowing up, with people commenting that they had never seen anyone do jungle music like that. He added that it all “took on a life of its own,” and has now uploaded close to 80 similar videos.
Easily my favorite part of my conversation with Spinscott was about his producing, specifically about when he knows that he is satisfied with his work and can consider it finished. Spinscott has a method to knowing when to stop working on a track: he lies down in his hallway, puts his head back, and lets the track play. If he finds himself thinking that he could add something, say a cymbal at a certain spot, or if he feels some part of it is too loud or too soft, for example, he goes back to it and continues to work on it. He added that everything he does is very meticulous, as it is all single hits. When he is able to listen to it in a disconnected manner (zoning out and not realizing the time has passed), with nothing jumping out as either missing or not fitting – that is when he knows it is complete. He did add, however that nothing he does is ever considered “fully complete,” as he tends to adhere to what he calls “The 99% Rule.” He explained, “in nature, nothing is 0% or 100%, there is always a chance that something could happen or will happen, kind of a quantum physics mentality.” Therefore, his goal with his music is to get it to 99% perfect, because if he does not consider it to be 100% perfect, he never regrets either doing something or not doing something more with it.
In further explaining the concept of knowing when a track “is finished,” and how he looks at that personally, Scott talked to me about how, when driving in the car, for example, he would always find himself drumming an extra beat on the steering wheel, or humming something that he felt would enrich the track that he was listening to, if it were added. Other tracks, however, he noticed that he would not be “adding” to them while listening, citing the example of Drift to the Centre by Aquariaus (aka Photek) as a track that he would never add or subtract a thing to that could be of any value, as it is perfect as is. Another example of a track that he would not consider altering is I Can’t Stop by Lemon D, which he stated is simply and factually the best jungle track of all time, when you consider the definition of jungle music (and he is willing to go up against anyone who says differently). So in terms of his own music, he stated, he looks at it exactly the same way.
Making music is still just as exciting for Spinscott today as it was in the beginning. However, he stated that working on the drum machine has sort of hijacked his production energy a bit, explaining that, as a drummer, he has always preferred the hands-on experience of working with his drum machine to working with computer software, which he does still also do. Most ideas that he has get taken to his drum machine first, and then most of the time, he stated, it ends up as his next video, depending on how the idea evolves.
As for the present time, Spinscott has been playing out at a lot of shows, which he is thoroughly enjoying, stating that he gets to his “happy place,” his “zone,” when he gets into his set, as was mentioned earlier. As for the future, he stated that his strategy is relatively open-ended. He is ready to play in more cities, even in more countries, and see where the music takes him, and where it evolves to. I know for certain that I personally am looking forward to the next time I can catch the musical genius (although he would not consider himself as one) that is Spinscott at a show in a city by me. It was easily one of the most amazing performances that I have ever seen, and encourage you all to go see exactly what I am telling you about.