Scuba is a man who knows what he thinks. The Berlin-based producer, also known as Paul Rose, has no problem dealing out real talk. Whether he's commenting on his own work, the parochial nature of the British dance music industry, or the superior quality of Arca's solo work to his collaboration with Björk, Rose can be counted on to deliver his opinions without a trace of bullshit.
Thankfully, he has the track record to back up his opinions. Recent years have seen the steady but exponential rise of his label Hotflush Records, which has broken the likes of Locked Groove, Sigha and Mount Kimbie. Since 2007, Rose has been a regular face at Berghain with his SUB:STANCE residency. He's also released four albums of his own-the latest, Claustrophobia, will be released on his label this March.
Claustrophobia feels like Rose's most personal effort to date. It came together in just ten weeks during a period of illness-a speed that is reflected in its coherency. "I find the challenge of writing an album much more interesting than just churning out 12"s," he says. "Something [about Claustrophobia] just clicked and it all happened very quickly."
"The title refers to a few things, but most immediately the experience of being seriously ill for most of last summer," he explains. "I spent the two months before I started making the album either in bed at home or in hospital, and that was a very difficult period."
Track titles reflect the dark shades of this album, with names like "Why You Feel So Low," "All I Think About Is Death," and "Black on Black." But Rose says this closed-off period also provided a rare opportunity for introspection. "The flipside was that I had the chance to get some distance from touring and have a serious think about what I wanted to do with the next few years."
In some respects, Claustrophobia is new territory, but it is also an affirmation of the producer's growth across his discography. When asked to compare it to his previous albums, Rose declares that it is "definitely a big step away from Personality," which was "a lot closer to Triangulation that most people seem to think." Ultimately, Claustrophobia may be his best effort to date. "I'm certainly a lot happier with it than I was with any of the first three just before the release," he remarks.
One of the biggest challenges posed by an electronic record that looks inwardly is how to communicate those ideas to a dance-floor. "I'm a DJ so I want to be able to play some of my music in a club setting. With my producer hat on, I never want to be limited to that, but it's an equally important part of my sound."
Producing without limitations is also a running theme in Rose's take on dance music as a whole. Having emerged as a dubstep producer before establishing himself with a far more techno-centric sound, Rose still thinks the division of dance music into separate genres is still totally relevant. "People need to be told what they're listening to. If they're not given that guidance, a lot of the time they switch off, he says, admitting that this fact is "a bit sad really, but it's reality [and] a rule you don't have much choice in playing by."
He gives an example of this regrettable reality. "I was reading recently about some supposed new genre called deep tech which is apparently massive in the UK now. Maybe it is, but the music just sounds like bad tech house. People just want things packaged in a new way, so they'll think it's cool for a few months and then move on to the next repackaged thing."
This obsession with fads is one of the reasons why Rose became disillusioned with the British circuit. "The UK is a very parochial place, musically. Lots of producers and DJs there don't think internationally at all, which is stupid because almost all the best clubs and parties are outside the UK," he says. "There's a view that if you've got a good party in London then you've made it. But where does that take you?"
It is no surprise that Rose is now firmly Berlin-based, although even that prefix isn't without its perils. "Living in Berlin as a DJ now is a complete cliché," he says. "I thought I was late moving there in 2007, but now it's beyond a joke."
So why stay there?
"[Dance music in Berlin] is much more of a long-term thing, you have far less of the passing fads that you get in the UK. The clubs have door policies, which mean the crowds tend to be much better than they are in a lot of other places. The whole point is that if you act like an idiot you won't be let in. That's what keeps the parties good," he explains.
"It doesn't matter if you're a house legend from Chicago or whoever," he continues, presumably referencing a recent episode with Felix Da Housecat getting denied entry at Berghain. "If you're not acting the right way then why should you be treated any differently? No one owes you a living."
As for his favorite recent releases, Rose gives kudos to Arca's debut album, Xen, which he says he likes "much more than his work with Bjork which I found a bit emotionally gratuitous."
"Most of the more left-field dance stuff that people get excited about I find fairly pointless to be honest," he continues. "Dance music is supposed to make you dance and intentionally putting things out of time or out of key is self-indulgent bullshit, frankly."
Then again, Rose is in the position of having many of the acts he is most enthusiastic about signed to his own label. "Our newest one, Auden, is doing some great stuff. Locked Groove has been making a lot of amazing music over the past few months, his current release with Mind Against is a really big one and he has more to come."
His policy with Hotflush echoes what he values in dance music as a whole: consistency and investment in quality. "I very rarely just sign one track, I need to be convinced that someone is going to develop over a few releases and that there will be something that can be built up over time. I can't give you a checklist of what makes that though, it's just whether I get the gut feeling."
Claustrophobia is released on Hotflush on March 23