One of the toughest tasks to achieve as a musician is developing an original concept, a unique image or sound that no one else holds. Originality breeds success when it comes to music; mix the originality with talent and this is the formula for the lasting impression that every musician wants to deliver to their fan base. This formula is not lacking in the sound of dj/producer/performer Scartat.
Scartat is a 28-year old former football linebacker from Toronto, Ontario whose unique sound has been blasting through speakers of the electronic music community for close to a decade. His eclectic mix of electronic combined with the scary, yet intense sound of metal music cemented him as one of the most intense dj acts in the Toronto area early on in his career. He used this off-key music element to forge his own desirable fan base. This loyal crop of fans have followed Scartat for his lengthy dj career and still stand by his side as he turns his focus onto the production side of the music industry.
With diverse music tastes ranging from Slayer and Slipknot to DMX and The Panacea (Scartat’s favourite song is The Panacea’s “Rave Music Resurrected”) you could almost certainly expect the unexpected from Scartat when he began to create his own portfolio of anger, rage and intensity. Scartat has delivered exactly this.
His most recent project includes an EP release titled “Gimme a Scream” on Technology Scum Records. The album could strike fear into its listeners as drum lines reminiscent of an AK-47 machine gun tearing apart anything in its path, combined with eerie sounds of heart-pounding creativity blast through one’s ears. “Gimme a Scream” follows Scartat’s five track contribution to Darkstep’s compilation CD “Short Dark Shock 4.” The five tracks include the wall-pounding smasher “Everybody Down”, the quick drum beats of “No Machines”, the fine piano work of “Even the Devil Can Be Pretty”, the edgy and upbeat sound of “Gateway Drug” and the guitar heavy “Contact Established.” The entire “Short Dark Shock 4” compilation is available for free download from the label’s website and is mixed by Zeptyche. The album takes the brain and ears on a violent, piercing and cutting edge rollercoaster across the electronic music spectrum.
Scartat recently took time out of his busy production schedule to conduct an interview with me to discuss his career, upcoming projects, the old rave scene and more.
For as long as he can remember, the athlete turned musician has always been interested in music. Unlike most people growing up who were just interested in the music itself, Scartat was interested in where the music came from, the labels that produced the pieces, what other types of music these labels produced and the differences between major label releases and indy releases. The producer, who honed his craft at Toronto’s Centennial College, did not have a defining moment that made him want to be a musician similar to other artists, it just happened, “I don’t think there was any particular moment when it (the music business) hit me. It was more of a slow realization that grew over the years, beginning with the very first moment I put a record on a turntable.”
However, Scartat did have a defining moment when he decided he wanted to produce his own work. I asked the dark one if there was a specific moment in time where he said to himself “I should become a dj/producer/sound engineer for a living?” He replied, “Actually yes. The first time I heard one of my tracks (Gimme a Scream) played in a Fexomat set. It was a huge confidence boost and made me think that it was actually possible to pursue this.”
As well as learning the music production craft at Centennial College he also relied on the work of other artists to fuel his production fire. He enjoys the work of other musicians, idolizing some. I asked him who these people could be, “The first name that springs to mind is Fexomat. He is a dj/producer from Germany who specializes in harder sounds. His sets were a major influence on me when I was coming up. There is also The Panacea. Again, he was a major influence on me. I can safely say that my sets were never the same after the first time I saw him perform. Of course, I absolutely must mention Locked and JePh. Some of my favourite memories are performing with the two of them and without them my production would not be close to the level it is at now without their help.”
Every musician has their own reason for creating their masterpieces, some enjoy the fame, others create to pay their bills, some enjoy the feeling of hearing their music played live and a lot of artists don’t have an answer. What part of creating music interests Scartat the most? “The part that interests me the most is the attempt at creating an emotional response with each track. Each element serves a purpose, with the ultimate goal of effecting the emotions of your listener.”
In my many years of socializing with music nuts and production gurus I have learned that creating electronic music can be an expensive endeavour. Equipment is pricey and you need a lot of it if you want to create the exact sound you are looking for. Every producer has their own defined set-up. Scartat is no different, what does he use in his studio? “These days I use Ableton Live 8 as my main DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). I find I can get my ideas out much quicker then when I was using Cubase. As far as hardware goes, I use a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 as my audio interface and an Alan and Heath Zed-14 as my mixer. For synths, I use an Access Virus TI, Roland Alpha Juno 2 and Yamaha DX7. My samples are generally played through a Korg Microsampler. FX are generally achieved with various guitar pedals. For midi controllers, I use an Akai APC40, Korg nanoPAD and Akai LPK25. I also use a pair of Mackie MR 5 as my monitors, but I hope to be upgrading them soon.”
An amazing production career seems to be on the way for Scartat, but he started out doing smaller unpaid gigs, similar to any artist; the only difference is he founded his career in the underground rave scene. I asked Scartat about those days and what he thought of rave culture being relegated to clubs rather then being portrayed in warehouses, airplane hangars and hockey arenas of old, “I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, the sense of security that you get from playing in clubs is great. There is a lot less to worry about. There is also more of a chance of random people coming into the club who would not normally hear your music. On the other hand, the atmosphere at club events is generally a little lacking and the sense of adventure is missing.” Does he miss the old days of rave culture? “The underground Toronto rave scene was something special. The sense of community that you felt at those events was amazing and the amount of work those promoters put into making their parties special was truly admirable. The main thing I learned from those events was to be original. Nobody came to those events to hear basic AB mixing of popular tunes. They came for an experience and wanted something different.”
Many interesting stories and people have arisen from those “special” moments of the old rave days, some out of this world, some mundane in comparison to others, has Scartat met any interesting individuals from his days in the old rave scene? “I’ve met quite a few ‘interesting’ individuals over the years, from locals such as Locked and JePh to international names like T-Power, Lenny Dee and Rob Gee. Everyone has been interesting in their own way. I’ll leave it there, as private stories should remain private.”
The rave scene offered many opportunities to Scartat when he was coming up through the dj circuit. I asked him if he had a favourite moment, show or gig and he replied, “I’ve been fortunate enough to play some great shows, but one that really stands out for me took place in Pittsburgh, PA. I think it was in 2007. I was playing a tag set with DJ Dynamic from Rochester, NY. It was a fun party and very well organized. It was not overly big; however, it was the best crowd I’ve ever played for. More energy than I’ve ever felt, even from crowds ten times as large. An added bonus was that they were an educated crowd. They knew all the songs they were supposed to, sang along when they should have and showed actual excitement when something brand new was dropped.”
From his production to his days as a dj in the rave scene, Scartat has created his own kind of sound, stuck with a formula of his own creation and to this day it is still working. Originality is tough, but Scartat figured out his niche market, developed a plan and it has worked to perfection. His style of music may not be for everyone, but is there a style or type of music that really fits every person’s musical tastes? I don’t think so. Keep on doing what you’re doing Scartat, never change.
Scartat would like to thank his family, friends and his wonderfully supportive girlfriend Jo, who as he quoted “puts up with a lot of nonsense in order to let me do what I do.”
I’d like to thank Scartat for destroying my mind and ears with his music and for conducting this interview with me.