2012 is looking rosy for Andy Carthy, aka Mr Scruff, British DJ, beatmaker, artist and tea propagandist - returning to base camp after a month of gigs in Switzerland and France, the Ninja Tune veteran has artwork and studio stuff to take care of before heading off on a stretch of UK and Ireland dates, plus his first festival set of the year at Snowbombing in April.

A busy start to the year, but not a bad way to make a living? "I love DJing!" Mr Scruff tells The 405 over a virtual kipper tie. "We have a good crew, put a lot of effort into the gig productions and it really pays off in terms of enjoyment and atmosphere. On tour, I'll be playing long multi-genre sets of both new and old music...it's a great way to test out my new productions too."

Mr Scruff will be playing at the Southport Weekender 25th Anniversary in May this year, alongside legends like Jazzy Jeff (no Fresh Prince), David 'Ram Jam' Rodigan and Gilles Peterson. A good opportunity for a cuppa and a chat with fellow hotshot DJs and producers, before smashing the place to bits? He jokes, "I always pack the secret soulful weapons for Southport!" but actually, this is a man who has packed dances full of party people with killer seven-hour marathon sets full of eclectic selections for over 15 years. "I am a lot less competitive nowadays, though I recently enjoyed sharing the turntables with Floating Points at Plastic People and Kelvin Brown at the Big Chill, six-hour DJ sets where you play a few tunes each. When you get two DJs together who are fearless selectors with broad tastes, special things can happen!"

Music-making and production technology has evolved considerably since Mr Scruff's first full-length self-titled album landed in 1997 and the creative process of putting a track or remix together has, as you'd expect, moved on for him. "20 years ago, it was sequencers, a desktop and hardware in the studio." he explains, "Now the writing process is more laptop based, though I still record and mix down in the studio, I tend to arrange on my laptop whilst at home or on the road." This is a man very much still serious about his music - take his current playlist for example:

  • Gregory Porter 'Be Good', on Motema
  • Neon Jung 'Delerium Tremens', on Magic Wire
  • Hint 'Aliens Enter', on Tru Thoughts
  • Quantic and Alice Russell 'Look Around The Corner', on Tru Thoughts
  • Cooly G and Karizma 'It's Serious', on Hyperdub
  • STL 'Walking Blind', on Something

So – a jazz vocalist and Grammy nominee's sophomore album; an elusive producer's next psychedelia, electro and future bass cut; a bumping, raw hip hop track featuring a killer sample, a heaven-sent combo of Latin beat maestro and soulful singer; upbeat Balearic house with dubstep undertones and an eleven minute bouncy glitch track. That's probably just his Monday listening pile too. Oh and artist recommendations for the 405? He has them. "Dro Carey, Danny Drive-Thru, Bare Traina, Blacksmif, Black Phoenix, Denis Jones and Krystal Klear." Phew.

Knowing how much Mr Scruff likes his hot leafy beverages, the 405 makes the mistake of trying to talk Dunkology with the tea-fu master. Chocolate Hob Nobs FTW, surely now? "There is a lot of talk about biscuits and tea" Mr Scruff sagely explains, "But for my money you can't beat a slice of fruit cake and cheese with a brew...however a dunked cake can quickly lead to a ruined cup of tea." Tea, with cake and CHEESE? Good gracious, man.

Last week, DFA Records boss James Murphy announced plans to launch his own range of coffee. A few months ago, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan revealed he will be opening a tea house in Chicago. Well, never mind those US hipster schmucks, Mr Scruff has been extolling the virtues of tea for years now, and has the goddamn t-shirts and merchandise to prove it. Champion Brew Technician tea towel, 'Executive Beverage Consultant' mug, or 'Make Us A Brew!' tea caddy (complete with teabags) anyone?

As a visual artist with a very unique and personable style to his records, CDs, merch and screened animations at live shows, Mr Scruff is maybe more immune from download culture and death of the physical product than other artists - fans want to collect his work rather than nick it. His take on the transition the music industry is currently going through, is cool and collected, "The music industry has been in constant flux since the first recorded media appeared in the late 1800s. There have always been 'format wars' between manufacturers - I can appreciate both the convenience of mp3s and the sound quality of vinyl and CDs. Things are being shaken up at the moment, which is no bad thing, as it can put independent labels on more of an even platform with the majors."

Some of the best independent UK labels pushing hip-hop, funk, soul, electronic and crossover artists, such as Ninja Tune and it's imprint Big Dada, Low Life Records, Tru Thoughts and others, have provided the perfect vocalists for Mr Scruff's sonic adventures - Braintax, Niko, Alice Russell and Roots Manuva have all appeared on his records. Who might he want 24 hours in the studio with? Sun Ra, of course. "I would just make the tea and let him get on with it!"

On a philanthropic tip, the DJ has been raising money for a number of charities via Make Us A Brew, his very own company set up to sell organic and ethically produced tea at festivals, gigs and clubs with a percentage of profits going to charities - currently WWF's Western Gray Whale campaign, an interest close to his heart as many a fan of his sea-obsessive tracks can testify. Mr Scruff also plans to take part in an event called 'Dilla Changed My Life' with proceeds going to the J-Dilla Foundation and Lupus UK, after an invite from hip hop DJ Spin Doctor. "It seemed like a really good idea for an event, and will attract a great crowd and encourage the DJs to really dig deep and pull out some gems, so it will work well culturally and as a fundraiser. I think that the most important thing that an artist can do is to create good work, if they have the time or the inclination to become involved with good causes, whether privately or publicly, then that is their choice."

And in a nice twist of reverse karma, a nine-piece band called Introducing are recreating some of Mr Scruff's biggest tunes live around the UK in 2012, almost like the ultimate tribute act. Weird or cool? "Both. I am happy with DJing, so it is cool that they are playing my music live. It will be weird to see them perform, but I am looking forward to it!"

Nice words from a very nice man, we reckon. Raise your china to the Ninja Tuna, for 2012 is looking very rosy lee indeed.


Mr Scruff plays Koko in London on Saturday 18th February. Tickets are available at www.gigsandtours.com