Scott Diaz is a UK born producer who is a regular collaborator with both Matt Jam Lamont and Low Steppa, but has also released solo tracks on labels including Defected, Simma Black and Nervous Records.
Grand Plans is a label Scott Diaz recently launched as a platform to showcase him music without compromise, plus sign other artists who have caught his attention. The next Grand Plans release is soon to drop and features music from the label boss himself, so we took this opportunity to catch up with Scott and also asked him to record us an exclusive Change Underground podcast…
Hi Scott, how old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and Djing?
I am 35, I currently split my time between the UK and Philly in the U.S. My hometown is Brighton. I’ve been DJ’ing and buying records since I was about 16, so that’s 19 years. I’ve been producing for almost the same amount of time. Me and some friends had a small setup (Akai sampler, Behringer desk, Novation Supernova synth, Amiga 1040) right after we left school. I guess I’ve been making music in a ‘serious’ way for about 10 years now.
2. Where do your musical roots lie?
My musical roots lie in hardcore, jungle, drum and bass and UK garage. My very first memories would have been taping top 40 stuff off the radio and hearing dance music like The Prodigy, Moby, Chemical Brothers, and cheesy tracks like Whigfield, Ultra Nate, Culture Beat at youth club discos and under-18’s club nights that I went to. When I was around 12 I actually used to record 2 tracks on separate cassette tapes and then try and blend them together. My love for electronic music was really sparked when I borrowed a Dreamscape XI tape from a school friend. For months I fell asleep every night with that tape playing in my headphones. I fell in love with it and it just snowballed from there really. I ended up meeting a group of like-minded people at a local record shop and we were going to both legal and illegal raves at age 16 onwards and buying records at age 16 too. I then discovered UK garage around 1998, and got heavily into that for a number of years before properly moving into making house around 2010, although today I make house and garage music across the board, really.
How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning?
It was definitely a challenge. It doesn’t come easy to me at all. I don’t think I’m a natural – it’s just I don’t know what else I could be good at it. I’ve wanted to make music and play music for as long as I can remember. i didn’t even have a piano lesson until I was 21. My understanding and love for it was purely from a DJ’s perspective, really. I did a music technology course when I was 19, at Northbrook College in Worthing. I’ve had tons of good advice from many people along the way – Mick Fuller, MJ Cole, Matt Jam Lamont.
What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you?
Drums are generally the easiest. I enjoy the layering and building the foundation. Drums usually dictate so much about a track in terms of the feel and energy. Mixdowns can be troubling. I like complexity and interest in my tracks, and sometimes that can work against me. Mixing vocals is a challenge, too. That’s a real art, recording and mixing vocals. If I hit a block I find that a rest works well, maybe moving onto another project or listening to some reference tracks. After listening to other tracks I usually feel better if I can hear that mine is actually pretty close to those, sonically.
Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
I don’t have a job other than this. This is my career and my livelihood. A normal day for me consists of waking up around 9am, having some coffee and checking my emails. If there’s anything that needs attention straight away then I’ll reply or action it. After that, it’s onto the creative stuff, whether that’s working on a track or remix, or sound design project. I might do some promo stuff too, depending on if I have remixes coming out or an EP on the label, etc. When I’m not working on music I like to read, make cocktails, spend time with friends and family. I have an awesome fiancé and we like travelling.
Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic?
I listen to as much non-electronic music as I do electronic stuff, perhaps more. Favourite genres: 90’s Hip Hop RNB and New Jack Swing. Disco, Funk. Tom Misch, Couros, Tourist – I’m all for the yearning, emotional bits. I love jazz and have lots of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington etc. These definitely influence my own productions and vibe.
What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
First physical music I ever purchased was K7 – ‘Come Baby Come’ on cassette. I was about 12 when I bought that. Haha. Last vinyl I bought was some classic UK Garage, and the purchase before that was about 20 records from a record shop in Philly – was a mixture of disco, funk, soul and bargain bin albums for sample digging. I still buy a lot vinyl.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
I can’t swim. I hate rollercoasters. I hate tea.
Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
I’m not sure if they’re overlooked, cos’ they’re probably happy with their lot, but I think producers like Brawther, DJ Steaw, Fouk, and Max Graef should be a lot bigger than they are. They’re some of the most talented people making dance music today, in my opinion. Also Secret Reels is a label which I really like and I think they should get a lot more love as well.
Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
Those listed above are hugely talented and among my favourite artists, for sure. Black Loops are consistently excellent. Tourist is incredible. FKJ is ridiculous, as is Tom Misch. Kaytranada is dope as f**k. MJ Cole is my musical hero for his outstanding musicianship and garage productions. He really can do it all. I also admire all the greats – Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince, Bob Marley, Tribe Called Quest etc, as well all the stuff that my dad used to listen to – Tom Petty, UB40, Paul Simon, Sting, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, BB King. If I need to get inspired I’ll often spend an hour listening to my iTunes on shuffle. Definitely puts my in a good frame of mind.
There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
I think it’s a real process and I couldn’t even tell you if I have a unique sound. I think maybe i make too many styles. In any case, it takes time. Ultimately it’s a combination of all of your influences, conscious and unconscious, added to your personality and tastes. I think these days you really have to be experimental. Being able to twist things up and push the envelope is a benefit, especially with the technology that’s available. I would strongly advise learning an instrument, or 2. It will give you a massive advantage, both in finding a unique sound and in making understanding music enjoyable.
If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
Wow, this is a toughie! There are so many records I love. It would have to be non-house I think. Perhaps Massive Attack – ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, or maybe Onmi Trio – ‘Renegade Snares’. I guess it if was garage – Roy Davis Junior – ‘Gabrielle’, or MJ Cole – ‘Sincere’. And if we were going to go totally emotional it would be: Sia – ‘Breathe Me’ or Jamie Woon – ‘Spirits’. Crying porn right there!