In 2003 when Paul Rose was sitting in his bedroom in north London stuffing promos into envelopes little did he know that a decade later his label would be regarded as one of those most important labels in UK electronic music. Rose – better known to the world as dance maverick Scuba – and his Hotflush imprint have since helped shape the UK’s bass-heavy landscape, starting with early dubstep and gradually teasing its dark, bass-heavy sonics into funky, new-school garage, jacking house and cavernous techno. They are the underground tastemakers behind era-defining club smashes like Joy Orbison’s dubstep/house crossover Hyph Myngo and last summer’s Untitled and ubiquitous piano house banger by Paul Woolford. And they launched the careers of innovators as diverse as Mount Kimbie, George FitzGerald, Boxcutter and Sepalcure.
As a DJ and producer, meanwhile, Rose’s personal achievements have seen him join the ranks of UK electronic luminaries. He has released three artist albums, spun a mix for the esteemed DJ Kicks series, run a night at Berghain, and most recently, unleashed a next-level live show that won a DJ Mag Best Live Act award in 2013.
A musical contrarian, Scuba has deliberately pushed against dance music currents, changing course when it suits him. After the melancholic dubstep statement that comprised his 2008 debut A Mutual Apathy, he released 2010’s Triangulation, a masterpiece steeped in shadowy cross-genre electronics. It was swiftly followed by excursions into deep 4/4 rhythms under the pseudonym SCB and then, almost out of nowhere, the release of 2011’s Adrenalin EP which paved the way for the following year’s jubilant 90’s house-inflected Personality album. “Even though Triangulation was incredibly popular I made a very conscious decision not to continue in that kind of stuff” says Rose, “I kind of intended for a good proportion of the people that were into Triangulation to hate Personality.”
As a label, Hotflush’s output as changed as much as the constantly developing Scuba sound. “I can’t think of many other labels that have changed so much repeatedly and played important parts in different musical movements,” says Rose of Hotflush’s chameleonic legacy. “When you think about labels like V Recordings or Strictly Rhythm, they epitomised a time and a place. We’re not like that.” The label works closely with developing artists, something Rose finds “more satisfying that having a hit record.” The recent direction of the label has been towards, as he puts it, “the grassroots nitty gritty dance scene stuff”. He continues: “We made a conscious decision to move away from albums and just release singles last year, which worked really well. We’ve released less and tried to make each single more of an event.”
Scuba has been changing up his headline shows, too. His subtle live set, which he debuted at Oval Space in London in 2012 and toured at festivals like Primavera and Parklife last year, has been described by DJ Mag as “a show that whirrs and flashes without ever trying to engulf the senses — he wisely leaves that job to the bass-heavy intricacies fired from the speakers.” “I wanted to challenge myself in a different way and do a proper show as opposed to just turning up as a DJ and doing what everyone else does,” he says. “It was also a way of playing a lot of my material that I wouldn’t ever have played in a DJ set.”
Moving forward, 2014 heralds a fresh musical approach. Speaking frankly, he explains: “I thought long and hard about the direction I wanted to go in after Personality and came to the conclusion that I’d taken that approach of being intentionally contrary to its fullest conclusion and that it’s time to do something different.” The Phenix series of EPs is the first sign of that: a darker, more introspective musical direction melding dancefloor dynamics with brooding atmospheres and spectral vocals. What the future holds for Scuba and Hotflush is as unpredictable as ever but one thing is for certain: it will be essential listening.