We were pretty pleased here in CDR HQ to hear that Scrimshire had new music in the works, and from what we’ve peeked so far is sounding pretty tasty, aside from his brilliant recent release with Emma Jean-Thackray. A producer, mix engineer, label head and artist, Adam has done it all in his time working in the industry. 12 years since his first CDR we dive into Scrimshire’s memory of that first visit and the fascinating journey that proceeded.
Photo credit: Shelly Mantovani
Talk us through your first CDR experience
Plastic People, I went alone, hoping I’d know a couple of people, I knew a few regulars through the Brownswood online forum that I spent loads of time on (pre-facebook days, I’m old), Aaron Jerome (SBTRKT) was a regular, a neighbour and friend of mine, from the same part of the world as me, but he wasn’t along that night.
I’d released one single on Wah Wah 45s at that point, it had done alright, but despite some production training and programming for years, I was still pretty basic at mixing. And I had terrible “monitors”, not even, really. So I wanted to actually hear my track.
I took down the piece When The World Was Young, Part Two. I remember turning up and handing it over and realising not many people I really knew were there, and I was really quite nervous about meeting people (still kind of am). I chatted briefly to one or two people I’d met through the Wah Wah stuff, my friends Ben who was a big part of that community and another Brownswood bloke, Rob, but I mostly hung back against a wall and took in the amazing productions that were getting played. The respect and the listening was amazing. Such a different atmosphere to anything else I’d been to. When it got to my track, it actually sounded about 1000% better than I expected. It was an incredible buzz to hear on that system. But what was amazing was after it was played, loads of producers who were there came up to say hello and talk about the music. Kind, complimentary, deeply supportive. Hugely warming experience.
What has been your musical journey from then up until now?
I’ve released quite a lot of music since then. Not long after that, I released my first album Along Came The Devil One Night. Then two more albums in the following 3 years, three six-track EPs, a load of disco and soul edits. I’ve produced for a couple of people and I’ve been trusted to mix some records for people, including Daudi Matsiko, Bastien Keb and more recently Mark de Clive-Lowe’s Rōnin Arkestra.
I became a director/owner at Wah Wah 45s and got involved in the A&R process and being a part of the studio experience, process, and to some extent, decision making with a few bands including Dele Sosimi, The Milk, Hackney Colliery Band, Stac… I launched another label, Albert’s Favourites a few years back and have gone through a similar process with releases for Hector Plimmer, Jonny Drop, The Expansions… And I started another project called Modified Man with one of my Albert’s co-founders Dave Koor.
It’s been about 12 years since that first CDR. I’ve learned a lot, but even in the last few months, as I’m finishing my fourth solo album, I’ve gone back and reassessed my whole approach and was only the other week trying to plan to get along to another CDR.
How has attending CDR sessions shaped your journey as a Producer / Artist?
I think it was incredibly helpful to see producers I respected being in there amongst that community, questioning their work, seeking to improve and also to support. I wish I had attended more. I think in a post-social media world, we all need to know everybody is still experiencing this constant questioning and development, and the perpetual presentation of success that we often get sucked into, is not the real/full picture. The warmth I experienced at those early sessions gave me a confidence to proceed that I deeply needed, and brought me into the world a little bit more, which I tried to embrace, despite nerves.
What has been your most memorable session?
It was definitely that first one. I hadn’t met many other producers at that point in my life and had been intimidated. It was really formative as an experience. I wish I could have bottled it and kept it over the years… or maybe I should have gone to CDR “therapy” more often!
How was the club scene change in the time you have been attending?
It’s a bit of a moving target in London, I guess. It feels like it moves like a compass over the years. I know when I started everything happened North. Having lived mostly in south (west and east) London for the last 20 or so years I’m selfishly, incredibly happy that so much is focused near my postcode now.
As the music industry went to shit (totally coincidentally timed around the release of my first records) in time so did a lot of the venues we used to rely on for solid line ups and good music. Hard to remember that Cargo was so central, with residencies from Gilles, Karen P, Wah Wah 45s, Friends and Family… Nights kind of scattered to the wind for a while. When the smoking ban came in there was a bit of a rise in warehouse parties, particularly around Hackney. Some incredible parties I will never forget. And there are a fair few parties that endured those times, Beauty and the Beat was always amazing to turn up to then, and now, I know.
I’m 15 years older now though and I’m (semi) ashamed to say I don’t get out like that as much, it’s mostly working now. Having been a part of jazz nights in London throughout those 20 years though, it’s truly exciting to be able to play jazz to club crowds a lot more often, alongside broken beat and boogie and afrobeat, and for it to work better than ever.
Who has been on heavy rotation on your audio player of late?
Errrrm… Embarrassing timing, mostly me as I’m testing and tweaking my album mixes. Spending a lot of time on that and needing to rest my ears when I’m not.
And when not doing that, it’s label related, which is fine, cos obviously I love that music. From Wah Wah 45s, Time Grove, beautiful jazz music from Tel Aviv, album mixes from the forthcoming album by The Milk, new Paper Tiger. And at Albert’s the forthcoming Rōnin Arkestra EP and album and new Hector Plimmer.
Beyond the nepotism… Ben Hayes’ new stuff over and over. The latest Georgia Anne Muldrow record. Hejira, Clever Austin… Insolito Universo is never far from the record deck at home. And almost no week passes without a revisit of The old Rustin Man and Beth Gibbon album.
Talk us through the track you last [cmd] ‘S’d ? ([ctrl] ‘S’ to PC users)
It is the first single from my album.
The track is called Won’t Get Better and it features Emma-Jean Thackray on vocals and trumpet.
It’s an odd track in that it started out for a different instrumental project of mine, but the “Scrimshire” side of me got jealous and could hear more of a song developing from it. I’d been programming a beat derived from afrobeat, but the feel wasn’t right and I wanted live drums, which isn’t supposed to be in the vocabulary of this other project anyway.
So I took it for the Scrimshire album. And approached Emma-Jean about being on it.
The afrobeat is supposed to be a sub-beat that feels alive and deep but ultimately background as if in a different space to the rest of the track. I had a very specific vision of what it was supposed to be and I’ll be totally honest, I haven’t achieved it. I wanted it to feel like two different songs played over the top of each other. One organic and one electronic. But the pursuit of it was derailing me and may not entirely have made sense on the album anyway, so I landed midway.
My friend Chris Boot has played and co-produced all the drum recording on the album and the end of the track comes from him just letting go for the last section. I wanted to swap the electronic beat into organic and put the organic beat into an 808 and flip everything and then he let loose and it was insane. I had been on the edge of cutting the end section.
Emma-Jean delivered this incredible vocal that played more to the garage influences behind the electronic part of the track. We were buzzing about it. Her energy was so inspiring.
I was nervous about the whole mix really as I didn’t know how to do it, and Emma is such an incredible producer/mixer, sending it back over was always going to be nervy. But she’s amazing anyway and I should have remembered my CD-R lessons about other producers being kind.
I probably experimented with about 6 different approaches and mic combinations before settling on this current mix (and however many revisions of this mix after that!?). I tried having super wide mics, hard panned and leaving the centre empty for the electronics, a few versions of that, but it actually, not surprisingly, narrowed the sound a bit and was difficult for mono and for headphone listening.
In the end, I just went for a tight multi-mic drum sound and used reverb to generate a bit more space and push it back. Panned the whole kit slightly left and then used a room mic over in the right more prominently. Rolled the tops of in general to make it all fee a bit more distant.
Everything else is then just quite dry and upfront, but with tiny amounts of short room verbs to lift them away from the background.
What words of wisdom or advice would you give to newcomers?
I feel so reluctant to offer anything as I still feel like I’m at the start of my journey after 25+ years.
Meet other people and share ideas. Educating yourself in the principles is vital, seeing talented engineers push and break those principles when needs be is also vital, especially in building your own confidence to forge your own way and sound.
Being ordered in your projects is the true key to creative freedom. Some time spent at the beginning of work, making all the calculated decisions about routing, some basic effects ready to go, track organisation, bussing etc. Prevents you breaking the creative flow when you’re in the mix. Mixing should be meditative and creative.
You will find yourself doing things the way you’re “supposed to” or the way you “usually do” sometimes, without thinking/listening – mixing your way into a maze you can’t get back out of easily. Stop yourself. Turn the music off. Remember what you were trying to achieve in the first place then go back in and listen. Do what your idea and the music is asking for. It’s so easy to forget to listen. “Do I honestly need to compress that?” Is never a bad question, for example.
Anything else you care to add..Really anything!
Ask for help. People are nice. Everyone is struggling. If you’re struggling, it’s a good sign. It’s cos you care.
Thank you CDR for making that idea a community reality, that people can experience.