By Rob Woo"I got a call from Ninja Tune and thought 'oh yeah, you're that label that releases my albums occasionally, but not when I don't record them,'" quips Andy Carthy, aka Mr. Scruff, about his first new album in six years. Between touring and establishing his tea empire, Make Us A Brew (a spin-off from the travelling tea shop he would bring on tour). "I've been touring constantly," says the endurance-oriented spinner who loves to log time behind the decks: "six to seven hours is cool!"
"I almost forgot to make an album," Scruff quips. He worked on Ninja Tuna for three years, but he didn't forget his rolodex; guests include familiar favourite Roots Manuva, hardcore legend Danny Breaks and mainstays of the jazzy downtempo scene Will Holland (Quantic) and soul singer Alice Russell. The album maintains the diversity of previous guest-heavy efforts Keep It Unreal (1999) or Trouser Jazz (2002). "Collaborating keeps you on your toes, the friction and creative tension makes it really interesting because you are both not doing what you would normally do," says Carthy. 'If you've worked together before it's comfortable, which can be good, but when it's new you can really push it."
Ninja Tuna is distinctly Mr. Scruff, but with a more positive laid-back approach; the playful Hammond organ of "Donkey Ride" is a light-hearted composite of older tunes and later tracks include more adventurously orchestrated upbeat fare like "Kalimba." Russell's sultry vocals give a different energy to "Music Takes Me Up," like the Quantic Soul Orchestra live band with a Scruffy feel, while his sparse dancehall rhythm allows old friend Manuva to lay his patois poetry down on "Nice Up The Function," contrasting instrumentation to previous venture "Jus Jus." As Carthy philosophises, "I'm a raver and roots man."