Doc Scott's livestreams have been essential listening for housebound D&B lovers during the pandemic. Here, he gives us the inside story behind his weekly broadcasts
It’s a turbulent time for all of us right now. Thanks to COVID-19 we're unlikely to forget 2020 in a hurry – and we're likely to be reeling from its effects for years to come. But if there’s one silver lining we can all take solace in – especially in dance music – it's how many artists have reconnected with the DIY ethos that spawned the whole movement in the first place.
No moaning, groaning or sitting around and waiting for things to happen, just making use of your resources and putting yourself out there in any way you can. It’s how this culture began, and it’s how many artists are approaching the current lockdown purgatory they’ve all be placed in. Take drum & bass pioneer Doc Scott, for example.
Doc by name, doc by nature, he’s been right on the genre frontline during the pandemic, hosting weekly DNBVID-19 streams since before UK lockdown kicked in and raising hundreds for a whole range of charities in the process. He’s now six shows deep and commands a regular stronghold of viewers every Saturday night, with well over 500 fans tuned into his four-hour sets at any one time.
Often based around particular themes or eras and always established with an eye to raising a little money for various charities, they’re one of the most popular and consistent streamed shows in drum & bass since the turbulence began. His next DNBVID-19 show is on Saturday 2 May 2, when he’ll be raising money for Trussell Trust food banks.
We caught up with him to find out more…
Easy to lockdown… not so easy to unlock, right?
"Yeah. And when you look at all the things they’re going to prioritise re-opening, nightclubs are going to be bottom of the list… and when they do re-open, it will probably be at limited capacity. I have no idea how that will be policed. It’s a very weird time, man."
That could be a benefit for homegrown and national scenes around the world…
"Some good will come out of it, sure. It’s a giant reset for everyone and it’s making us take stock of what’s important, what you’ve taken for granted, how you can do things differently.
"When this first started, I thought ‘Okay, I don’t think anything will happen until June,’ but I’ve read that Germany have cancelled Oktoberfest. October! We’ve lost the whole year. Think how big and popular the festival season is. I had some incredible gigs lined up over the summer, but I’ve always been of the mindset to prepare for the worst and they’re just not going to happen."
I’ve spoken to a few DJs who aren’t sure they want to be back among people too quickly. Everyone’s suspicious of each other in public. We are all covid spreaders…
"Totally. I go shopping on a Friday. I’ve got my mask on, my gloves on. I don’t want to catch it. I might even have it and be asymptomatic and giving it to people! I don’t know because we’re not being tested.
"I want to do my bit and not be responsible for any spreading of it. And that means I don’t want to play any performances until it’s safe and responsible for me to do so. Look at how many people are dying even with lockdowns and social distancing. Can you imagine if we did nothing? It’s just maths. Limit the amount of contact, limit the spread."
Can you imagine being locked down in any other era? Now is a good time to be locked in – deliveries exist, the internet exists, we’re all connected through this.
"Technology-wise, for sure. Indoors is pretty fucking good man. Being able to do my streams on the weekend has been a blast. I’ve had a shitload of fun and the fact people are getting something out of it is a win-win for everyone involved. I’ve never been nervous before shows, but before these streams I do get a bit of nervous energy. I’m out of my comfort zone. If it goes pear-shaped and the sound goes down then it’s all down to me."
There’s a strange intimacy to a livestream in that way…
"I’ve really enjoyed them. The interaction, the feedback and real-time feeling of it all.
"It came about because I was watching the situation get more and more serious throughout March and I posted a question to see if anyone would watch me if I did a stream. My thinking was that I wouldn’t be playing for a few months and I just couldn’t not play for that long. All the promos I’m sent wouldn’t get played and I’d get frustrated – it would be like looking at a great meal but being told you can’t eat it! I did that post and there were lots of positive responses, so I looked into it, watched some tutorials and got the kit I needed."
I’ve been inspired by the sheer amount of DIY-ness going down right now. You were very early out of the doors with your stream…
"Well I think that’s just how I react to things anyway. I march to my own beat. I’m not part of a crew: sure I’m affiliated with certain labels, but I’ve never been one to sit there and wait for something to be done for me. I’m an independent artist with an independent label, I’ll do it myself.
"I already had a bit of a following from my radio show and podcast and it was an honest question when I asked if people wanted to hear it. The awesome response was what I needed. I wouldn’t have persisted with it if there wasn’t that type of interest. I think it all happened in the same week."
Yeah, over a few days, I remember that week really clearly.
"That’s right, I got the bits, tested it and went, ‘Fuck it, let’s do it – if it crashes, it crashes!’ but the first one went really well. With the money side of it, I was super honest and said ‘I’m just a DJ, I don’t produce, I don’t have a second job, I’ve got a label but it’s more of a labour of love and just about breaks even, I’ve lost my income for now so if there’s anything people can do if they enjoy it and they can, then that’s appreciated but don’t feel obliged.’"
I think that’s very fair – and fans, people who appreciate it, want to contribute to it.
"I realised that the most when that first show raised over £500! That blew my mind. I didn’t anticipate a fraction of that. So moving on from that I will donate half the money to a different organisation every week. It’s a win-win for everyone: people enjoy the fact they can tune in on a Saturday night or morning or wherever they are in the world, they have an event or something to look forward to, I get to do what I love doing the most in the world, and we raise a bit of money for myself and good causes."
Yeah, everybody benefits…
"It’s been really well received. I can think of about three negative comments in a few thousand. I can live with that ratio: in this day and age of social media that’s a good positive ratio. I’ve really enjoyed changing it up as well. I did a classics set, which went down really well. I played tunes I hadn’t played in a long time. I had DJs hitting me about that one – Ivy Lab and guys like that. That’s beautiful."
Have you noticed any benefits of not travelling so much?
"Not really, man… I miss it! I really miss it. I enjoy driving myself to my own gigs. I’d drive like a hooligan before, but I just cruise now. One of my little pleasures in life was driving back after a gig, the sun’s rising, cruise control on, motorway to myself. Podcast or a techno mix or whatever on. My work is done. Such a nice feeling. I miss that more than anything. I miss it all, flights, the adventure, being on the other side of the world. I even miss checking into hotels!"
It’s the mundane things you miss the most. So how about musically? How do you think this will influence tunes?
"This is an interesting one. I know a lot of artists are still adjusting to this and haven’t written for a while. Their children are at home, they’ve got responsibilities affecting their creative time. But I think even that will have a benefit eventually as it creates a mindset of being time efficient. Like, ‘Okay I’ve got three hours, I need to smash this,’ and be incredibly focused.
"Actually I’ve been sent some interesting things from artists who don’t usually make the sounds I play, who’ve heard my streams and sent me things inspired by what they’ve heard. That’s fucking cool man because the tracks they sent me aren’t what they’d usually make. Now is definitely the time to experiment, try new things out, check out a DJ you wouldn’t hear play, listen to different music. I think we’ll really appreciate the benefits of that in months to come."
I think we are checking lots of different new DJs as a lot of big DJs don’t have decks at home…
"My set-up was very old and basic for a long time. But when I stopped doing the regular radio show in London and turned it into a podcast which I recorded at home I upgraded everything. That was only a few years ago. I’ve just added my phone to turn it from a podcast to a stream.
"It’s not very high-tech, I’m never going to show my face, you won’t see me bopping around like an idiot. That’s not me. The only thing interesting about a DJ is their hands. Just to see what they’re doing. If you see me bopping on the camera, please drive to my house and throw things at me. Nothing against people who do that, it’s just not my thing."
Everyone’s got their own style, man…
"Totally. I tell what you it is… I did a couple of Boiler Rooms and I hated them. I’ve turned them down since because the whole thing weirds me out. If I’m watching a DJ, I want to see what they’re doing. I don’t give a fuck about their face. I don’t want anyone to give a fuck about my face when they’re watching me play.
"It’s the most boring thing imaginable and the DJ looks like a pleb because of this. Most DJs are dorks and geeks, those of us who’ll admit it – the last thing I need is a camera in my face. Now maybe from behind the DJ? Or an overhead shot? Yeah that’s cool, that’s interesting. Anything else? No."
Your recent series of reissues has been interesting. I guess you had them planned before the lockdown?
"Yeah, I’d been talking to my label manager Chris about it for 18 months then when this happened we thought we’d throw it out there. TeeBee was very kind to do the mastering for me. The original label designer John did the artwork, it was all very simple and quick.
"It’s that DIY thing we discussed earlier. You can get stuff out there immediately. For me the release is strange. Half those tunes I kinda like, the other half I really don’t. It was from a very different part of my life. That’s why I didn’t make a big thing out of it. Let’s be honest, it’s happening so I can make some money and not being released right now for any other reason."
Could that be a benefit? I've seen artists setting up Patreon accounts and working out other ways to raise income – that’s another positive, isn’t it?
"Yeah, I saw some of them. People asked if I’d set one up, but I was at pains to even ask for money in the first place. The whole reason I got into this was through the love of music. I’d never do anything behind a paywall, I don’t want to alienate anyone.
"If you can pay something? Amazing, that’s so appreciated. But there’s a lot of people who are affected by this. Even if I get a tenner out of this, that’s fucking great because it’s a tenner I never had before and can’t earn right now because I can’t do my job. I can’t do what I’ve spent 30 years doing, so whatever happens through this is a blessing."
That’s got to be the best way look at this hasn’t it?
"I think so. And the positivity I’ve experienced from it has been extraordinary. The amount of messages I’ve had from around the world has been a humbling reminder of everything I’ve done. I’m playing music because I fucking need to, it’s helping people enjoy themselves and escape the bullshit we’re in for a few hours and we’re doing something good. I have no complaints right now.
"It’s a trying time for everyone, but if we can all be as positive as possible it'll make it easier to get through this. One day we’ll do another interview and we’ll be like, ‘Remember spring 2020? How fucked up was all that!?’. Until then, we just have to remember this isn’t forever."
Words: Dave Jenkins
Catch Doc Scott's DNBVID-19 livestreams on his Facebook page from 8pm every Saturday