Friendships, Communities, Relationships, Families, Love and Compassion have all one thing in common, they are deep connections from the heart.
Scott Monteith aka Deadbeat is a figure that has kept his career on a solid and long-lasting path. With the attitude of a wise man and the excitement like a kid makes him a wonderful person, artist and never stopping producer of his own, a bright shining spirit. We met him in Mexico City in November after Mutek 2019 because of his long history with the platform. Our first meeting was set to happen in the hotel lobby in La Roma, CDMX followed by lunch with local fish specialties around the corner. To be fair it was the morning after his live set at the festival … a too ambitious interview set up … we had to improvise and got the chance to talk with him a few days later.
In our conversation he told us he moved to Berlin for music, a decade ago. He always accepted his career with great gratitude and passion, however life challenged him. The long and close connection with Mutek not only played a decisive role in this, but he also calls the people behind it a family, as original as it can be. Scott has been part of the global music scene for 20 years now, and he feels ease in his work environment, although he does not neglect the reality and seriousness of a career and his responsibility as an artist. That everything is not always rosy and that you need a lot of discipline and courage is a dazzling insight that does not change or feel different even after 20 years. Let the light come and stick you is the antidote. Let us tackle the hurdles and challenges and be there for one another like a family with confidence and compassion.
Pat: And how was the festival?
Scott: Fantastic! Absolutely mind-blowing. I have been going since the very first one, and I have lots of friends here. I was supposed to be here for a week but I arrived Thursday night and had to leave on Monday, so heartbreakingly short! But as far as the festival experience goes it was amazing.
Pat: By friends you mean fellow artists or?
S: Friends from DF, Mexican friends from all across the country really, both artists and beautiful souls in general I have had the pleasure of meeting. I laugh more in Mexico than any other country in the world by far. Mexicans have an electric spirit. I’ve known Damian Romero, the director of Mutek MX, for almost 20 years now, as well as many of the key players who have built the whole Mutek organization down here. I have been involved with Mutek in Montreal from the very beginning. I played my first live set on the first day of the first Mutek in Montreal. That’s real family for me, it doesn’t get much more family than that. And for me the Mexican contingent is an important part of that as well.
Pat: Sounds like you had a lot of cool people around you, so what made you move to another continent? You live in Berlin now, don’t you?
S: That was a very unfortunate and practical decision. I was living in Montreal for 12 years, and when the music stuff started to get going for me, I was playing in the US a lot. At some point, in 2007 or 8, I got kicked out of the states for going down to play there without a visa. It was an instant 7-year ban, and at that time there weren’t enough gigs to be done in Canada or Mexico for the kind of music I do. The only alternative was going to Europe, and after a couple of months spent traveling every other weekend between Montreal and Europe, I realized that It didn’t make much sense doing this. I was killing myself with travel in a very real sense. So It made more sense to make Berlin the base. At the time I was working with a label called Scape, which was based in Berlin and I developed some good friendships in connection with this in Berlin. So it was a sad move, but it was logical.
Pat: Do you think the whole situation and the scene has now changed, as you said, “for the kind of music that you were making”? Are there more clubs, gigs, opportunities, more of everything, in Latin America and Canada?
S: Absolutely, hugely! If you look at the US it has grown exponentially! Mexico has grown exponentially too, there are so many crews just in DF, like NAAFI and many more. I remember playing in Guadalajara in Bar Americas, it was the first tour we ever did in 2002, and it was tiny. Now in the second room hosts a thousand people every weekend. If you look at Colombia, Chile, Argentina or Peru, they have their own ecosystems now, and it’s expanding beyond that. I am not talking about bullshit big-budget EDM stuff. You can play respectable underground music and find like-minded people everywhere on the continent.
Pat: Do you think the Latin American scene became more homogenous and united?
S: I am not from Latin America, but from my point of view, there’s a commitment to experimentalism, whether you looking at the Uruguayan minimal scene, which has become the kind of associated with the Perlon and Romanian sound, or at Colombia, probably some of the best hardcore rough neck techno DJs in the world are coming from Colombia nowadays. Perhaps more than anywhere in the region Mexico has one of the richest and most diverse electronic music scenes, from bleeding-edge experimentalism to banging techno and soulful house, and more so all of the local hybrids like electronic cumbia, reggaeton, or tribal from the north. If we consider things globally as a circle, the edges of the radius of that circle being pushed most aggressively and consistently in Latin America and that is really exciting.
Pat: Ok, back to you, looking back at everything you have achieved, during all these years, what were the most unexpected things that happened to you or most important moments in your career?
S: The fact that it all has actually happened at all! I am not religious but to use a religious colloquialism I would say I have been very blessed, I happened to be at the right place, at the right time, at a few key junctions. Linking up with the Mutek crew from the very beginning and being part of this very organic international expansion was the first and really crucial part of my development as an artist. Those travels took me to Chile, Argentina, China, Japan, and of course Mexico. And Meeting more friends and collaborators over the years, and being honest about what you do in terms of music and not chasing whatever the sound of the minute is. It hasn’t been a walk in the park, I have been doing it for 20 years now, there were good moments and there were great years and there were absolute shit years when I couldn’t even pay the rent, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. As I said, I feel like I’ve lived a very blessed life.
Pat: What was helping you not to give up, to keep going and making music?
S: All the sort of cliche things. Friends, both locally and abroad, and the greater sort of global family dynamic. Being involved in a tight-knit scene and feeling part of something dynamic, magic, and special. There is this more pragmatic way of looking at it as well, as I really don’t know what else I would have done. This is the road I chose to travel, and whenever things have gotten tough, when I put my head down and say “Ok, this is a bad period, put your head down, keep trucking”. It always ends up paying dividends. It always ends up working out in the end. I think, and I hope, it’s able to sustain itself in this way for a long time to come.
Pat: Do you feel part of a scene, and well, in your case, how would you actually define a scene?
S: Not a scene per se, and I apologize for repeating myself, but I really count my blessings in this regard. I’ve managed over 20 years to develop this widely drawn family network, so when I go to Mexico, I have friends I’ve been friends with for 20 years, when I go to Japan, I have friends with whom I’ve been friends for close to 20 years, Montreal – even more so. If I go to the States – the same. I don’t know really how to define it so well, but there’s definitely a really large community of people who have the same kind of philosophy which is kind of “Keep your head down when things get tough, keep rolling, don’t worry about the press, don’t worry about anything, just keep doing your stuff that feels right and what feels good to your head and your heart and trust in doing so”. And I think, as a result of that, although we may make widely different music, we managed to sustain amazing friendships and make amazing collaborations. It might sound a bit cliche, but there’s this true-hearted, true headed mode about the way certain people do things. Put the stuff out that you love and people come to it, if they don’t sometimes, that’s also fine, but if you stick to it, they will come.
Pat: That’s true, absolutely. You seem to be quite focused on hard work, you have this approach work hard, stay true to yourself. Is that true?
S: I guess that’s it, yes. And that also sort of sticks to my studio regime. I am in the studio every single day, from Monday to Friday. It’s important to be creating all the time, and pushing, and exploring, and challenging, and trying to break the safe parameters I have set up for myself. It’s like a constant process of building a house and burning it to the ground over and over again.
Pat: Do you think this approach helped you to keep the balance, overcome creativity blocks? I mean, if that ever happened to you, I don’t know, maybe it didn’t.
S: I would say, if not on a daily basis then on a weekly basis certainly. There are definitely moments when you are like “What the fuck am I doing here?”.This is a disaster, this is an absolute disaster! You have to just push through these things, that’s the only way to do it.
P: I wanted to ask what shaped your style and approach to making music? You have been called “the Canadian dub explorer”, did it all start with dub music? What brought you here, where you are now?
S: Chronologically I guess you could say I arrived at this passion for dub in reverse. Initially, I discovered dub based stuff within the electronic realm in the mid-90s with people like the Orb and Scorn, and all of this sort of dub-influenced electronic stuff. And from there I kinda went backward into older sounds, the UK steppers things, dancehall, etc, and eventually arrived and discovered all of the Roots Jamaican dub stuff, King Tubby and Prince Jammy, Lee Scratch Perry, etc. On an aesthetic level the spaciousness of it and the endlessness of it, and questing for the perfect loop always really appealed to me. As I started learning about the technical side of it, the idea of using a studio as an instrument also appealed to me because I am not a trained musician at all. I can play a little bit of bass, a little bit of piano, a little bit of guitar, but nothing well in a conservatory sense. I certainly wouldn’t get up and play an instrument on a stage, so the idea that the entire studio, that sort of living organism of a studio, could become your instrument, was instantly appealing to me.