IN CONVERSATION WITH SKATMAN
Interview and words by Dean Sanders dean__sanders
Skatman (Aziz Haddad) is a Tunisian-born, Berlin-based producer, DJ, and label head of Scatcity Records. With a unique melodic sound and releases on esteemed labels like Innervisions, TAU, and his own Scatcity Records, he has become an exciting figure in the underground electronic music scene. His mission is to redefine melodic electronic music, bringing innovation back to the sound he loves. We had a conversation with Skatman on his new album ‘Rewarped’.
Can you tell us about your journey as a producer, DJ, and label head? How did you get started in the music industry?
Hi, thanks for having me. I actually don’t remember exactly when I started to produce music seriously but I think it was just after I moved to Berlin in 2013. I was very influenced by the club culture in the city and I wanted to be part of it. In the beginning my main focus was to spend as much time as possible in the studio to develop my own sound, then little by little I started to release music and play more and more in clubs.
It’s interesting to hear that after finishing you very successful track “Funkadelic,” you were uncertain about its sound and thought it was different and not serious enough. How did this initial perception of the track affect your decision to keep it hidden and not share it with others?
At the time when I produced Funkadelic, my style of productions was a bit different. Producing Funkadelic was very fun and refreshing as I did stuff that I didn’t do before and the workflow was completely different than how I worked at the time. After I finished it I wasn’t sure about it because it was very different from the music that I produced before, it sounded less serious to me. Looking back now, I think that Funkadelic was a huge turning point in my career, my approach to music production is never the same since then and so is my sound.
What made you finally decide to play it with a friend?
Actually I didn’t play it with a friend. My friend played it from my USB stick. I think if he never played it I would never play it myself or show it to anyone. When he played it at the party, it sounded so good, it was the track of the night. The reaction of the crowd was unbelievable. That is what made me believe in the track and finally send it over to some DJs and actually playing it out myself.
Let’s dive deeper into your new album ‘Rewarped’:
“Rewarped” showcases your ability to remould and reanimate the past by combining jacking house, melodic techno, and old school hip-hop samples. Can you tell us more about the creative process behind merging these musical eras?
It all started as an experiment. I wanted to experiment more with samples in my music and hip hop vocals were part of that experiment. Before last year I barely used samples, so this world of sampling was completely new to me. Sometimes when we experiment with new tools or workflows something special comes out of it and I think that was the case with Rewarped.
The title “Rewarped” hints at the audio warping process you used to stretch the vocals. How did you approach incorporating these techniques in this album?
In Rewarped every track uses a vocal chop from a different hip hop song, those vocal samples are usually rap passages that don’t really have a constant bpm, which made me warp them to work with the quantised house music that I do. In the process of warping, some vocals got distorted or pitched down/up a little, something that gave the vocals a different character in some cases.
Two standout tracks from “Rewarped” are “Don’t Give a Fuck” and “I Used To.” Can you tell us more about those two specific tracks.
I love the beastie boys and I think their style of rapping is pretty unique, their style is often labelled “Punk Rap” and I think that that name fits perfectly with what they do. When I was looking for samples I went to search for some acapellas from them. I found the passage where they say: “Don’t give a F*** about the golden rule”. It hit me instantly so I decided to use it. The rest of the track was actually almost done before I found the sample. so I just took the vocal sample put it on the rest of the project and voilà the track was finished.
“I Used To” it was a bit similar, I was visiting old projects and I found an old project that had a loop with just the chords and the beat of the track. I thought the loop was really nice so I decided to continue working it. As I was working a lot with hiphop samples at the time I searched for the perfect rap sample for the track, it wasn’t long until I found the track’s vocal sample and it was the perfect match.
“Optical Illusion” and “What You Gonna Do” showcase your exploration of hypnotic kicks, electro-minded machine funk, and a journey through the decades and your own musical influences. Can you delve into the inspiration behind these tracks?
The inspirations of “Optical Illusion” and “What you gonna do” are actually coming from two separate influences of mine. “Optical Illusion” is directly inspired by the techno played in Berghain. I used to go to that club a lot and it has so much impact on me and my music, “Optical Illusion” comes directly from there. “What you gonna do” main influence, was early Innervisions records that I used to like back in the time, there was something special about those early records of the label, something that I always wanted to bring in my music.
“Rewarped” follows your previous releases, including the “Superstitious Thoughts” EP and the collaboration “Manus in Mano” with Ikaro Grati. How do you see this album as a progression in your artistic journey?
For me “Rewarped” is a turning point in my career, where I completely redefined and reshaped my sound. It represents the start of my new artistic identity, that I think will stay for some time.
Looking ahead, what are your hopes for “Rewarped” and its reception among listeners? Do you have any plans for upcoming performances that we can look forward to?
I hope that I bring something new to the table with this album, and I hope to inspire many upcoming producers to make music that doesn’t fit into a box. As for upcoming performances I have a pretty busy and exciting summer tour schedule, I will be performing in countries like the UK, Tunisia, Dubai and Copenhagen and some more.
As a DJ and producer based in Berlin, how has the city’s vibrant music scene influenced your artistic development?
The club scene in Berlin is the main reason why I decided to produce music in the first place, so it definitely has a big impact on my music. Living here changed my understanding of the culture and educated me on what this music is about.
the unique cultural diversity and openness of this city deeply also shaped my personality not just as an artist. I am very grateful for the experiences that I had the privilege to live in this city.
In what ways do you incorporate your North African roots into your music?
My first touchpoints with music were in Tunisia where I grow up. The first instrument that I played for example was a keyboard with some oriental scales. Those scales have a very special character and I still use them sometimes in my productions. I also very often detune my synth oscillators to achieve a similar effect. Even though the influence of those years is not very obvious in my productions nowadays, It is still there in my music subconsciously.
How does your own label “Scatcity Records” contribute to your mission of bringing
innovation back into melodic electronic music?
My label is actually not called Scatcity Records anymore since last year now it is called Cognitive Prophecy. The mission and the philosophy behind it stays the same though. With every release the goal is to present something that moves our genre and scene forward instead of saturating it even more with the same music. I am usually doing 2 to 3 vinyl releases of records that in my opinion offers something fresh to the listeners.
What upcoming projects or releases can we expect from Scatcity Records? Are there
any new artists you’re excited to showcase or collaborations you’re working on?
Next on my label is a collaboration EP from me and Tal Fussman that will be released by the end of the summer or the start of the autumn. I know that few people are eagerly waiting for this release and I am also very excited about it.