WE LOVE ARTISTS that evolve and yet never forget their UK Garage roots, and that’s just what Scott Diaz has done.
Scott Diaz has always been a big favorite and friend of ours at 5 Mag. Now shuttling back and forth between the UK and the US (namely Philadelphia), Scott’s created a new label with some very beautiful sounding music that goes by the very grand name of Grand Plans.
Scott Diaz: A 5 Mag UKG Mix
Scott Diaz: The 5 Mag Interview:
Scott, it’s good to have you back at 5 Mag! Congrats on all your success…can you tell us more about Grand Plans and your latest release?
Thank you for having me! Always honoured to be a part of what the magazine is doing and even more so when it’s a celebration of UK Garage, which is really where my dance music roots are. Grand Plans is a new label I’ve set up as an outlet for my more jazzy, organic sounding productions, even though it’s looking very much like I’ll be moving mostly in another direction musically for 2017.
The idea for Grand Plans is that it will be a very carefully curated imprint where the focus is on quality and longevity. This will inevitably mean only a few hand-picked releases a year, but in all honesty I think that’s the way it needs to go. It’s important for me to be proud of what I’m doing and I think is a good way of sharing only records that I really believe in, and that I genuinely believe will last. The latest release, Lovesick Part II, is basically a re-release of some older tracks but with two fresh dubs that fit with the vibe of where Grand Plans sits, sonically.
How do you divide your time between the UK and the US? And the whole crazy visa process I take it is all done now?
It’s all over the place, really. It just depends on what’s happening and when. Sometimes I’ll go back for the summer for shows like I did this year, sometimes it’s for family stuff and other times I will combine work things and meetings with whatever gigs I have already lined up. The visa process is pretty intense – you really have to provide a lot of evidence and then evidence to back up that evidence. It’s a real time killer. To anyone who thinks that the US government just lets people “pour in” and that they have no idea who’s coming into the country, trust me – that’s most definitely not the case!
It’s hard to have truly life-affirming and life-changing moments in your formative years if your formative years are spent drinking in your college dorm instead of being at an illegal rave, or at a club.
Having lived in both places now, what would you say are the differences in how each side consumes music, gets inspiration and then disseminates it?
Well there’s a number of very big differences in terms of club culture, drug culture and geography. Even the drinking age plays a part, I think. To explain in real detail is way beyond the scope of what’s possible with this answer but my experiences of parties and gigs here is very different to what I’ve grown up with and was exposed to in the UK and Europe. People naturally have different expectations and different standards because of it. People are not exposed to the music in the same way from a young age. There’s more of a focus on college and education here, and by the time people can drink and go to clubs legally at the age of 21 they’ve mostly left college and likely have a bunch of debt, actual responsibilities and a career to start. You’ve got to start being a grown-up right away. It’s hard to have truly life-affirming and life-changing moments in your formative years if your formative years are spent drinking in your college dorm instead of being at an illegal rave, or at a club.
I’m not saying there’s no culture or underground here in the US, because clearly there is in spite of these challenges, but it exists on very different terms to what we have in the UK and Europe.
In terms of how people ingest music, radio is very corporate controlled here in the US and so it’s much, much harder for independent artists to get mainstream radio play whereas Radio 1 is (and has been) synonymous with dance music and pioneering DJs for many years, so that really sets the tone for the other broadcasters. You can turn on most radio stations and it’s likely you’ll hear dance music of some kind within the hour. And even when you look past legal radio there’s the whole pirate radio culture of course, and that movement has been responsible for the rapid growth and creation of UK urban and dance music styles, including Grime, Dubstep and Garage.
Where have you been playing most these past few years?
Mostly in the UK. I’ve been here 3 years in March, and even though I spend 80% of every year in the US I’ve done many times more gigs in the UK than I have in the US. I’d love to be able to say that wasn’t the case, and that it’s been a positive experience that has benefited me musically, but it hasn’t really. I’ve traveled a lot and met some great people so it’s been fantastic and rewarding in other ways but not in terms of gigs and my music career, that’s for sure.
I remember the last (and actually only) time I got to see and hear you was at the 5 Mag party at WMC several years ago. How would you say you’ve changed as both a DJ and a producer since then?
Well, I’ve moved away from the Funky/Jackin’ House sound and there was a conscious effort on my part to do that – partly because I think it’s a little derivative but also because I quickly realized that there was a glass ceiling for anyone making that stuff. It’s a great sound and fun to make but didn’t see an ecosystem or many opportunities for development. I wanted to get back to my Garage roots and start creating some more upfront club tracks, which I’ve been doing via Simma Black and some remixes over the last couple of years. Also I’ve been into Jazz for a number of years, and the mix of Jazz, Hip Hop, House and those dusty, organic vibes was really refreshing and exciting to me. So I wanted to make some of that too. Which is what we’re doing with Grand Plans.
UKGx3: Originally published in 5 Magazine Issue 144, the last of our three issue series dedicated to the sound, the artists and the timeless influence of UK Garage and featuring Scott Diaz, Wideboys, Sunship and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full Access to Real House Music for only $1/issue twice per month.