Manchester b2b London. Keep It Unreal b2b Run Dem Crew. Two titans of UK club culture go b2b for only the second time in a friendship going back decades. A special special three hours of Mr Scruff and Charlie Dark, recorded live at the TRTD Yemen Emergency Fundraiser in partnership with We Out Here Festival, at Pickle Factory London on 5 Dec 2021.
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You've known each other for a couple decades, but your set at our Yemen Fundraiser last year was only the second time you've played b2b. How did you find the set?
I love Scruff to bits, he’s been a huge inspiration to me over the years as both a DJ and producer and he’s one of the few people who entered the music industry around the same time as me who is still actively out there and pushing the musical vibes. Playing with him is always a pleasure and I loved every moment of our set together, particularly as it was for such a good cause. Hopefully we’ll get to do it again this year.
Charlie and I click musically. We are the same age, and have a very similar open and celebratory relationship with music. We bounce off each other really well, and rev each other up energy wise. I had such a good time!
In pulling the lineup together, we invited DJs to personally invite someone to play alongside. What made you reach for Charlie?
We have known each other for ages, but not connected nearly enough. After the frankly ridiculous We Out Here Love Dancin’ B2B2B with Charlie & Mikey D.O.N in 2021, we have been talking a lot about taking and making opportunities to play together again soon. This was one of those opportunities.
Any standout moments from the set you’d like to highlight?
There were so many great musical moments but my favourite highlight was the amount of young people in the space who were really digging the records we played. When you play a 40 year old record and see a dance floor of people who weren’t even born when it was recorded erupt and react with such positivity it brings a big smile to the face, which really warms the heart. You can tell from the photos from the night that we all had a beautiful time.The energy in the space was infectious.
No, the whole thing was an absolute joy!
Throughout history, people have fought for the right to dance for a variety of reasons, from the personal to communal. Why is dancing and, more broadly, dance music such an important part of your life?
Dancing is a form of expression at the best of times but dancing in the dark to loud music can be liberating, life changing and primal in ways you could never imagine. Dance music in all of its various forms has been a huge part of my life ever since I first tuned into pirate radio way back in my early teens. I lived through so many incarnations and variations over the years and it still excites me just as much as it did when I walked into a club for the very first time. It’s soundtracked my life through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows and memorable moments I'll always remember. It’s my medicine and I can’t thrive without it.
Dancing with other people is a very powerful act. A way to connect communally and physically as a body of people. Physically showing appreciation for music and the people around you is a powerful statement, and when we all lock into the rhythm it's a phenomenal feeling. Definitely more than the sum of its parts!
Taking a step back, how has community been important to your journey in music? Was there a community which offered your first route in, or one that continues to give you strength today?
I started clubbing in the mid 80s, when clubland as we know it now was still in its infancy and being part of a tribe or community came hand in hand with the music you followed. I started as a hip-hop die hard, which opened the doors to a love of jazz and soul music, quickly followed by an interest in the fledging house sounds sweeping through the airwaves. Warehouse party culture taught me that in order to get things done, a crew consisting of different talents was essential to success and it's at the heart of every community I’ve created since. I always tell people that Run Dem Crew is basically my attempt to recreate the most important lesson I learnt back in those early days and share them with as many people around the world as possible. The best dance floors you can play to are intergenerational, multicultural, and diverse both in class, gender, sexuality, politics and beliefs just like the old school communities I was brought up in.
Finding friends through music has been my story since I was a teenager. It is such a great way to connect will all kinds of people, and the way that everybody contributes to the community in their own way ensures it goes from strength to strength and has longevity and a lasting legacy. Looking for the perfect beat so that we all resonate together.
If you could go back to any dance floor in history, what would it be and why?
It has to be Plastic People in the golden years. There hasn’t been a dance floor I’ve experienced since that could handle the musical freedom that the DJs I heard in that space play. I felt my most free when playing on those turntables and Ade the owner was and continues to be a huge influence on the music I play. I’ve played on dance floors across the globe and had some incredibly memorable nights but Plastic was the club that really taught me what it means to be a DJ.
I would like to be transported right back to the dance floor in Plastic People. The environment that Ade and the crew created there was mind-blowing.