Interview with Ruf Dug

rufdug

Does «Ruf Dug» mean something?

Nope, nothing at all really. The name came to me really quickly. I thought ‘Rough Doug’ sounded like some dodgy guy you would meet in the pub and then I thought well I’m just gonna spell it wrong. That’s it.

Why did you stick with cassettes and not tapes?

Well cassettes are cheaper. I got a 4-track Tascam for £30. I really want to use tape, obviously 2-inch studer 24-track would be the best but even a Tascam 388 would be amazing. These things get more and more expensive to buy and maintain each year, and you know cassettes are just a deep thing in my life… They’ve always been around, in my dad’s car, playing ZX Spectrum games, listening to my Walkman on my paper round as a kid and now they’re back everywhere… They’re some of my oldest friends!

What do you think about modern electronic music scene in England? Do you agree the main focus moved to Germany now?

I think the scene in England is really good — there is lots of great music being made, lots of people putting on all kinds of interesting parties and nights. As to whether the main focus is on Germany, it feels like it’s probably split all over the world now a lot more — so many places now pumping out tons of great music that’s reaching everywhere. It feels like maybe 10 years ago some of these countries could only contribute 3 or 4 artists to the ‘world scene’ but now everything is much more spread out, mostly I hope because the internet has weakened the grip the conventional elites had on distribution. That’s how it seems to me. Maybe if you look at this EDM vibe then the main focus is just on America now and things are worse than ever before..!

Do you mean the domination of L.I.E.S.?

No I don’t really think that L.I.E.S. are dominating in the same way that people like Steve Aoki and all the other mega star EDM dickheads… if only L.I.E.S. were winning Grammies and reaching the hundreds of millions that all that stadium shit does, that would be wicked…

One of my favorite records of you is Dirty 12″. Tell me about samples and the whole process of making it

Oh man, this was one of the quickest ever… The drum & horn samples come from ‘lalabye’ by D-R-U-M and then I played a kind of distorted rhodes piano patch for the lead and arpeggiated a synth, put a big kick under it and some hand claps and that was that… I made it literally in about 45 minutes to give to Trus’Me at a party he was supposed to be playing at in Manchester, hoping maybe he might sign it or something… I hung around for ages but he didn’t come and I ended up leaving without giving it to him. Driving home a little sad I played it in the car again and thought ‘this is OK you know’… I then came up with the name Ruf Dug and made a Myspace, put the track up on there and emailed loads of people anonymously. A few people got in touch and in the end Chris Duckenfield ended up putting it out. Mega buzz!

How did you find Glowing Palms?

We were both at RBMA but in different years… Mark Pritchard hooked us up. I lived in Sydney and became friendly with Mark and when I was coming back to Manchester he said I should look up this guy; 3 days after I arrived home I went to a Sunday night thing he was putting on in town — we became pals pretty much straight away.

I remember, you played almost all tracks from his EP on Boiler Room and Soft Rocks and guys were really excited about it. Have you plans to put out Glowing Palms in the future? Maybe some collaboration between you and him?

Yeah, you can read my mind! We have been working in the studio on some tracks when we get time together and the next Ruf Kutz is gonna be a split edit EP from me and him and maybe 1 other… He is working on his first completely original artist EP at the moment.

Didn’t know you lived in Australia. How did it happen? Can you compare it to England? :)

I visited Australia in 2000. I bought a one-way ticket, was only supposed to be in Sydney for 9 days and ended up staying for 8 years. The weather is very nice and it’s a very beautiful place, but it has a very dark side that isn’t maybe immediately apparent. Quite similar to England in that regard at least…

Do you feel cheesiness of balearic term?

Hell yes and in a very good way! This concept of ‘cheesiness’, it’s not a bad one really. Anyone can play a load of obscure music, it’s not difficult in the slightest. What’s the point though? Is it a success when you completely baffle the audience? If you play an obscure tune and the crowd recognise it, have you failed?

I meant Balearic in terms of production, not DJing. There are too many music labelled with this word. And for me this term changed the meaning: from obscure and romantic to impotent, trivial and meaningless.

Ah yeah well this term ‘Balearic’ is always a tricky one isn’t it? Because the word ‘Balearic’ was originally applied to such a wide variety of music, it means you can pretty much call anything you like Balearic and get away with it. I spend a fair amount of time in Ibiza and let me tell you that ‘true Balearic’ music is ultra repetitive big room minimal house with really bad reverbs. That’s the real sound of the island!

Are you a football fan?

Yes, I was raised a Man City fan by my Grandfather, I had no choice in it. The last few years have been hilarious. My wife comes from a United family; derby days are difficult.

Besides music, what you want to try to do?

At the moment I’m trying to perfect my poached eggs. Got a long way to go yet. And I need to get more flexible too, I want to be able to touch my toes.

Have you a teacher or musical guru?

I had a pretty insane music teacher at school, he was fucked up but onto some out there sounds. Simon Caldwell in Sydney was/is probably the biggest teacher to me DJing. These days I’m lucky to have some Manchester royalty around to help me on my path… People like Moonboots, James Holroyd, Luke Unabomber — you talk to these guys and you find great music you never knew and you hear amazing stories but more importantly they don’t give the slightest fuck about anything bullshit-related in this game and that is inspirational.

What was the most stupid song you were asked to play on a party?

I don’t know about stupid, I don’t mind people asking for requests even if they are for shit tunes. Somebody once asked me for some ‘streetwise bhangra’ though. I tried googling it afterwards and I can’t find anything about it.

The most unexpected place where you bought the record?

I got an Italo banger in the basement of a dusty sheet music store in Budapest. ‘Wot Times’ by Model 11-29.

Were you involved in a DJHistory forum thing? If yes — tell about these times.

I used to post lots of badly informed opinions on the 313 mailing list. I was always a bit overawed by the geniuses on the DJHistory forum and so I was much too scared to post but I would read it religiously all the time when I was in Sydney when the music was mostly really shit. DJH, Lovefingers blog and Donna Slut were like the only places u could get hooked into this kind of music over there… I remember someone telling me about Dream Chimney and literally making me promise not to tell anyone else about it.

So the times changed. Do you feel the need in musical journalism, blogs etc today? Maybe you have ideas how you want to see it in the future?

It feels like there has on the whole been a decline in the quality of ‘pro’ music writing; maybe it’s just that I’m older and more cynical now. When I was younger we had absolutely amazing mags like Jockey Slut and Straight No Chaser and it’s a shame you can’t go to the shop and get something like that any more.

This is just me being a bit nostalgic though, I think — that quality of writing can still be found; just in a bunch of different places online, typically run by enthusiasts rather than professionals. You go to one site for a good interview, check another for reviews and you know occasionally RA or Fact or RBMA will put up a really good piece amongst all the other stuff.

The great writing is all out there, you just have to put in some effort as a reader to search it out. It just would be nice if more of the people who actually claim to do this for a living were a bit fucking better at it.

Tell about your Island album. Where do you want to move after it?

It’s been out on vinyl for a little while now and has sold decently and I’ve had lots of really nice comments from people… It was really special to have the time and space to devote to an album, as well as an outlet for it in Music For Dreams. I have to say how amazing Kenneth Bager has been in the whole process. All along the way he has helped shape the album in little ways — he suggested getting a vocalist on, tweaked the song order, had the idea to do the cover on raw cardboard, even helped name it… All of this without getting in the way, and while letting me do whatever I wanted to do. It’s been a year now since I started recording it, it’s a very long time to have a single work so close to you and I still feel very fond of the whole thing even though I must have listened to it a million times now. I couldn’t be happier with the whole process, with this lovely end product and the fact that the music is triggering the kind of responses I hoped it would.

In terms of where to move afterwards, I really enjoyed the album format and it would be a thrill to make another; I think the next thing like this I will do is going to be a Vaporwave album for Dream Catalogue; the concept is that it’s a soundtrack for a 5-dimensional spa in the future. There will be a menu screen and a variety of treatments.

Describe your approach to edits. Who are good in it these days?

For me with edits you have to change the track but there still has to be a sense of reverence toward and understanding of the original. Just extending an intro or cutting out a jazzy middle 8 isn’t good enough. It helps if you can completely change the context of the track. Jamal Moss is a killer editor, who else can turn Banarama into something you could imagine Surgeon playing? Andi Hanley is my current fave — his edits are super simple, he hardly does anything to things, just extends grooves and slight re-arrangements but he always absolutely transforms tracks and is the king of turning a 2 minute pop song into a 10 minute tempestuous burner.

Are you impressed with today music scene in general? What projects excite you?

Yeah, I’m dead impressed.. When I was 16 and wanting to make tunes I didn’t know where to turn. Samplers cost a bomb, a DX7 cost a bomb, I couldn’t even afford MIDI cables. Eventually I got stuck into using Protracker on the Amiga but it was really tricky and takes a long time to get your head round. Nowadays all you need is a cracked copy of whichever sequencer you fancy and some VSTs and you’re on exactly the same platform as some serious pros. That massive easing of the way into making electronic music makes me fucking happy, and the fact it’s happening with DJing too is really good.

People might complain that ‘it means loads of bad music gets made’ but that’s just straight ignorance at best and outright arrogance at worse. There has always been loads of ‘bad’ music, it’s just music you don’t like. If more people are making beats than ever before then that’s a good thing in this world. Who cares what they are like, people are trying to express themselves and there’s not much wrong with that really.

I’m excited about Dream Catalogue, the Vaporwave label which came on the scene just as many of the so called cutting edge music heads declared the genre dead. Since then it’s clocked up 100 releases in just over a year, all available for free from Bandcamp and is now getting glowing praise from the same blogs which said Vaporwave was dead not so long ago. Mega buzz.

Also Vakula is my total hero. That Voyage to Arcturus album is my record of the year and I can’t wait for this new Jim Morrison project.

Describe your usual day

During the week I usually wake up around 9 — smash a load of coffee while emailing and making plans. Ride into the studio around 11 or 12, stay there till 6-7 working on tunes / parties / general scheming, maybe make a visit into town for a dig or a meeting. Ride home, dinner with wife, that’s it.

And the last question: how many music can floppy disk hold?

Ooh depends on how you do it! If you had a really simple sample set and stored songs as midi sequences you could have a LOT of tunes… I remember old Amiga Music demos that would come with little jukebox menu screens and you would have 20-30 tunes on a single density 3.5″ floppy… Good times!!!

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Words Sasha Tessio & Artem Super Ikra
Cover drawing Sasha Tessio