Surly and Scatta met in real life for the first time in October last year, when Surly visited New Jersey to DJ alongside Scatta’s duo The Heights (with DJ Los) at a local club night, and hang out for a few days. Although it was the first time they’d met in real life, thanks to their membership in Los Angeles-born, but globally minded juke/footwork collective Juke Bounce Werk, the two electronic music producers had been in conversation online for over a year.

Although Surly hails from New Zealand, he spent several months at the end of 2017 touring through the US and Europe to play shows alongside, and collaborate with, the international community of footwork, juke, and footwork-jungle producers he’s connected with online since joining up with Juke Bounce Werk in 2016. Since then, he’s been picking up ears everywhere, with a unique take on these Chicago-born dance music forms, one equally rooted in the hybridized 160 BPM experimentation born out of the UK post-dubstep scene, and a love for classic European jazz.

Scatta linked up with Juke Bounce Werk in 2015, after visiting the West Coast of the US for the first time and playing some shows with DJ Phil and DJ Tre from Teklife. Like Surly, he found his way to footwork and juke through the UK post-dubstep scene’s late 2000s experimentation with 160 BPM elements. Scatta poured that influence into his take on it when he started making music with DJ Los as The Heights.

At the start of January, Scatta released his new solo EP Disquiet through Juke Bounce Werk. Available in digital and limited edition vinyl, it’s a concise exploration of how to make footwork, juke, UK jungle and silky smooth RnB sit together as a compelling suite. Between its explosive 808s, vibrant rave stabs, subaquatic bassline pressure, and syncopated drums and samples, Scatta finds the centered calm that only exists in the eye of the storm. Within stillness surrounded by chaos, he draws strength from directly facing - and powering through - those slow-motion moments that seem to last forever when everything you don’t want to be going on, is indeed going on.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in January, I visited Surly in Auckland. Sitting in his backyard, we jumped on video chat with Scatta, and the two producer DJs discussed how they came to production and DJing, connecting with JBW, participating in the global footwork scene, what went into Disquiet, and more.

Surly: Let's talk about how you started making music and DJing, and when you released these were going to be important parts of your life?

Scatta: I would say 2012 was when it all kind of clicked. I was doing these really rough iMovie mixes. I didn't know how to mess with any audio programs. I actually didn't know of any audio programs. I was so new to it all. I'd only been into drawing and painting before then. I just remember having iMovie, and a demo of Djay, and a demo of Audio Hijack? I would just rip stuff and make mixes. The homies were digging it. After I'd done three or four, I put some juke in a mix for the first time. Before that, I had been listening to a lot of dub[step]. UK dub[step] was it. It was Deep Medi, Hyperdub, Mala, Kode9. I actually heard about juke and footwork through dubstep, I was listening to a dubstep mix, and I heard 'Footcrab’ [by Addison Groove]. That whole thing got me into it. I've always enjoyed stuff like jungle and drum and bass, but I never got put onto any of the artists. I just appreciated what I would hear from time to time. With juke and footwork, my ears just pricked up.

Surly: 'Footcrab' was very important for me as well. I knew it was slower than real footwork, but it certainly helped me understand it, and made me want to know more about it.

Scatta: So, the first time I recorded a mix with juke and footwork, it was with a bunch of tracks I found on compilations, or ripped off Soundcloud or whatever. I was speeding those tracks up, and no bullshit, I remember after I did that mix, DJ Rashad tweeted it. I was bugging out. He was like, “Yo, that mix was cold!” I was tripping the fuck out. Never in my life has anything I've created been heard by someone who influenced me and been received by them like that.

Surly: You started with the iMovie mixes, but how did you go from there to production?

Scatta: Not long after that last mix, maybe autumn that year? Los [who I work with in The Heights] had already been in a band; he understood music. He was pushing for us to make this music. I'd only had a BOSS SP-303 Dr. Sample. I had put samples on it, but I didn't know how to export samples from it. I knew how to chop and cut samples, so I thought “Alright man, if you're saying we can do this, let's go!” Los started looking up programs, and we started producing using phone apps and shit. Pretty quickly we got into Maschine. After a couple of months on there, I don't know how, but we heard about Ableton. The computer I bought off my old roommate had it on it, and I was like, “Let's go!”

Scatta, photographed by Ryan Summers

Surly: At what point, did you realise you were going to go super deep with making music?

Scatta: It's been gradual. It's really a trip for me anytime I get behind Ableton because I always try to approach it [like a] new [experience]. The journey through sound has been a surreal one. I'm bugging that we're having this interview. I came out with an EP, and it's about to be on vinyl. Is this even real? I'm still tripping any of this happening. It's probably going to really kick me in the ass when I drop the record for the first time.

Surly: How did you hook up with Juke Bounce Werk?

Scatta: I’ve got shout out Regent Street. He's really been a big player in linking a lot of people. He's a cool and friendly dude. I met Neuropunk through Regent when he came out east. I guess they had been track sharing online. Neuropunk crashed with us and we played a show together. It was the first time I played out in public.

They came out here in 2015, and I went out to LA that same year. We'd already been making tracks for three years. Man, I really just winged it going out to LA. I didn't have a job, I just kind of hit up Neuropunk because he was the only person I knew who liked footwork as much as I did outside of this area. By chance, I met up with DJ Phil and DJ Tre. We went to Los Vegas and Portland. They grounded me a lot. Those two, RP Boo, and Crossfire were big influences on me. It was a real surreal experience getting respect from the OGs. I remember one time I was chilling with DJ Spinn, DJ Manny, and J-Cush from Lit City Trax and they were like, “You got it, you got it.” I was like, “What the fuck? For real?” Here I was thinking I was going to make instrumentals for rappers to spit on, because I was always a big fan of hip-hop, but here I am. This footwork got me, bro!

Surly: It's addictive.

Scatta: I had no idea the crew would ask me to become a part of Juke Bounce Werk during that trip though. When they asked, they also asked if Los would be down. I was like, yeah. Actually, we were driving to Vegas when I called him. He was asleep, so he got the message the next day. He was like, “Hell yeah.”

The 405: You guys are in a scene and community that is very internationally connected through the internet. There are cats all over the world making and DJing footwork and juke and sharing it with each other. Europe, Japan, America, New Zealand, etc. Facebook threads and group chats. What are your thoughts on that world?

Scatta: Yo, sometimes it's too much. I sway from indulging to dialling back. Recently social media has gotten a bit strange for me. I don't want to say I don't care about it, but I've distanced myself from it in recent months. I find myself digging through Soundcloud more like I used to.

Surly: I need to do that more. I wouldn't even be on the crew, or anyone's radar if wasn't for Noir digging on the cloud. She found me when I had 17 followers.

Scatta: Right? I discovered a lot of music through digging through actual records. Being part of this online community is dope, but it's also weird.

Scatta, photographed by Edward Amezquita

Surly: Part of the thing about the footwork community is everywhere you go, you are actually playing small shows. There isn't a lot of money in it, but the people who are into it, have worked to get there. Everyone at those gigs is clued up, they know the tracks, and if you try to play it safe, you're fucked. You have to go in. The little tour I just did, all those connections came through chatting with people on the internet. People offer to arrange gigs for you or let you sleep on their couch. That's something that is really beautiful.

Scatta: Definitely. There are a few folks who have caught my attention online. I'm strong on visuals. I hate to be biased, but I'm drawn to certain aesthetics. Certain things catch my eye. This steers me towards certain people. I appreciate these things on the internet, and that's what I find myself utilizing about it. Let's just say I don't use things like facebook so much. I'm not in the Facebook community like I could be. I do find myself connecting with people on Instagram a lot more. Part of it is I don't have the facebook app on my phone. That's definitely healthy. It feels great.

Surly: When you first encounter footwork and juke, the music and the culture has a lot of aspects and quirks that aren't immediately easy to understand. You kinda need an entry point for it. Now that you're all in it, are there things about the music and the culture that were alien at first but seem normal to you now?

Scatta: There was stuff, but I think I adapted pretty quickly. I remember playing Planet Mu's Bangs & Works compilation to my boy Jamal 213, and him looking at me like, what's going on? I like the things that break the structure. For example, I really did that track you did with Moondoctor, 'Going In Circles.'

Surly: That track is hard to mix. It feels like it's in 3/4 rather than 6/8. I didn't know how it was going to go down, but that track got the biggest reaction out of everything I played in Chicago.

Scatta: I want to get into the different beat counts myself. Those are the things that really pique my interest, when it feels unfamiliar until you zone into it. I've been listening to a lot of the old math rock that helped me through high school lately, stuff like Tool, Glassjaw, Mars Volta, etc. I've always listened to a lot of shit, and I don't want to sound like I'm saying nothing is new, but anything that makes my face look like I'm sucking on a lemon is the way. These tracks do that for me, Earl's tracks do that for me. Manny's track 'Real Shit.'

Surly: I can think of a few Manny tracks that make me do that. DJ Compton as well.

Scatta: I'll be at that point where I feel like I've heard it all, and yo. It's a raw quality that certain people put into their tracks. I definitely fuck with that.

Surly: What sort of experiences have you had touring out of town?

Scatta: LA has been my second home. I've been going there since 2015. Anytime I go to LA; I try to go somewhere else. The first time was Vegas and Portland. Then we did the shows in Texas. Oh man, that was the time Neuropunk, Tre, Manny, DJ Lucky and I all drove from LA to Texas for SXSW. We were supposed to play at Swisha's AirB2B. Everyone else from JBW was there, and we got pulled over by border patrol.

Surly: Swisha setup this AirBnB at SXSW with mad artists staying at it, but it was an AirB2B, with a DJ live stream running the whole time.

Scatta: I've haven't been out of the country yet, but Noir and Jae Drago and myself are looking to go to Central and South America to rep Juke Bounce Werk. I believe it will be Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil. I'm bugging. I'm glad I finally got my passport. I also want to go to Asia bad as hell.

Surly photographed by Khalid Farquharson

Surly: Tell me about Jersey City? What's it like compared to other places you've been?

Scatta: I like that it is mad chill. That's where it gets its nickname "Chill Town." I remember hearing that from my brother's friends when I was just a kid, so it's been that way for at least twenty years or more. It's just outside of New York, so we have that influence, but not everyone goes to New York, so it has its own nuance.

Surly: Central Ave in The Heights out there is amazing, every shop is a different ethnicity. It's all shops and bargain shops, and food and coffee shops from all around the world. It's awesome.

Scatta: I loved having that diversity around me while I was growing up. In hindsight, I made friends from all over the world. I also love the proximity to the city. I've been going to New York since I was in high school. My cousins are in the Bronx, so it's always just been a part of the fabric of my character. I come back home and absorb all that. Skateboarding really opened things up for me. I wasn't properly aware of what Jersey city had to offer until I skated. Then I picked up a camera and started filming all these places, and thought, man, I really love my city. I love my peace and solitude, and I can always get that here.

Surly: Is that solitude part of your writing process? I want to talk about what went into your EP, and your processes?

Scatta: In the beginning when I was making music, there were always friends around to collaborate with. It was great, but when it came to the EP, I felt like I needed a different headspace. There was a focus I was lacking. I was constantly thinking about creating it. Some of those tracks were written under crazy pressure, be it relationships or friendships, or family, or financial shit.

Surly: I remember after this one breakup I went through, about a year later I looked back at all the tracks I'd made and the vocals were all heart-wrenching. I know some of those tracks on your EP aren't just straight up battle tracks, some of them sound like more of a process has gone into them. There is somewhere you're exploring a bit more. Where did that come from?

Scatta: Regent Street staying with me for a long time and I took inspiration from him. I love what he does. He's always taking risks. I was inspired by your shit as well, and listening to other people in the crew. I would say that you and Regent had some tracks that really had me like, “Yo, hold up.” You gave me the confidence to go some places I felt insecure going. I just love experimenting with shit.

Surly: What has always caught me about footwork is the more I try to break the rules and experiment, the more people seem to love what I do. That's what really had me hooked. Until I run out of ways to surprise myself, and new ways to break things, I won't get bored of this genre, you know?

Scatta: I'm not going to say I got bored of making music for awhile, but maybe I didn't know what else to do? Once I found peace with myself, I found a way to pour it into the music. It was this serendipitous thing that happened, and I just started finding the right samples. Recently, I saw this doco on how Burial made his Untrue album using SoundForge (a basic audio editing program). I was like, “Are you serious?” I had no idea. It's got me wanting to go back to my old ways. I was just talking to a friend in Singapore. They were asking how I did my mixes back in the day, and I was like, “Yo, I used iMovie.” They were like, “How the fuck did you do that?” I didn't have anything else, I had a ten-minute demo version of Djay, and I couldn't record on that, so I had a ten-minute demo version of Audio Hijack. Once I had found the right pitch, I would lay that section into iMovie and build a mix like that. Do little volume fades and export, etc.

Disquiet is out now through Juke Bounce Werk (Stream/Buy).