Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Scratch Perverts: Itchin’ to go

Scratch Perverts
Scratch Perverts Scratch Perverts Scratch Perverts Scratch Perverts

Tony Vegas, one third of master beat-smiths the Scratch Perverts, had had a “phenomenally good” weekend but a “f**king exhausting one” too. It’s 2pm on a dreary Monday afternoon and our phone call has woken him up, but Mr Vegas seems chilled: “Don’t worry, I was expecting you....”

It’s probably more than can be said of Scratch Perverts fans. Vegas, alongside Prime Cuts and Plus One, has blown the dancefloor wide open in recent years; daring to mix random tracks from random genres in a scratch-tastic, rocket-fuelled, unpredictable kind of way. Expect the unexpected - no one knows what’s coming next, no one knows how or even, sometimes, why, but it works beautifully….

Of course the Perverts are continually linked back to hip-hop despite their ‘ambi-decks-trous’ exploits. “It’s fair enough; a few years ago people wouldn’t step out of their musical comfort zone” Vegas explains; “we played a lot of old school hip-hop, but it’s so, so diverse now; we’re so diverse. We’re in our ascendancy; we’ve never been busier.”

The Perverts formed in 1996, a constantly changing line-up of around 8 spinners until their monumental World DMC Team Championships win in 1999, after which they split and re-formed as the current trio. Retiring from competition, the boys pursued live DJing and the bookings started to spiral. It’s the popularity of their live shows that has inspired a new deftly mixed compilation Beatdown, named after their illustrious Fabric residency.

“We’re really pleased with it” reflects Vegas. “It’s a massive taste of what we do but I wish we’d had 2 hours like a proper set; we could have gotten even more creative.” As it stands, Beatdown hops between wildly different but fully infectious tracks like Riverdance on acid; the single, 37-track CD covers everything phat from ravey electronica (Diplo) and rabid drum & bass (Fresh) to dark dubstep (Skream,) and intense robo-house (Laidback Luke.) And all without the faintest whiff of a hip-hop beat. “We’re not just hip-hop, but then we’re not just scene-hoppers either” stresses Vegas. “If you hop for the sake of hopping you’re likely to get a pint of piss chucked at you fairly sharpish. There has to be a reason for certain tracks and a flow; people are getting that now even if we do still surprise them.”

Crucially, the Perverts have been able to move with the times. A lot of their work is on the university circuit where young people from all walks of life are opening their minds and exchanging brave new ideas. The digital boom has had the same effect. In consequence, Vegas and co. is being exposed to an ever wider range of music, and perpetually upgrading sound and style. The boys have witnessed quite a change in the club music scene over the past decade. Vegas himself grew up in the fine independent record shops of Soho such as Soul Jazz and Mr Bongo – the kind of independent shops which have largely perished in the current, fierce recessionary headwinds. Soul Jazz might still be operating, as Sounds Of The Universe, but Mr Bongo is now confined to online orders and there are countless others following suit.

“It’s sad to see stores closing” laments Vegas, “particularly in my old Soho stomping ground; we all miss hanging out at stores to hear the latest records. It’s not just the economy though, or even the fact it’s hard for these stores to compete with downloads and stuff. Take a look at the UK hip-hop scene, for example; I think by and large it’s been on the slide for years now. It’s starting to turn round but in the form of lots of new sub-genres; stuff we’re filtering into our performances.”

Vegas, 37 now, philosophically concludes: “I think people of our age need to accept there’s a younger generation of talent rising up; you need to roll with the changes. I can only tell you we love our gigs at the moment, people are really up for it. We do have solo plans and plans for new Perverts material but it’s really difficult finding the time to brew beats when there’s such a varied and interesting demand to play out. We’re easily distracted… the studio has been out of the window for some time.”

Well, when you’ve got an itch best to scratch it….

The Scratch Pervert’s new mix-compilation album Beatdown is out now on Fabric Records. For gig updates, check

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