Scratching & sound systems with Mike 'Ruff Cut' Lloyd

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Backto95 catches up with Mike 'Ruff Cut' Lloyd ahead of his headline set at Ministry of Sound for our 17th Birthday.

Hailing from Hackney, East London the legendary Mike ‘Ruff Cut’ Lloyd first came to our attention in the 90s with his canonical slot on Choice FM and other stints on pirate radio.

With leading mix CDs under his belt, Mike’s contribution to UKG has seen him bag a UK garage award for his achievements, while slots on Kiss TV and Rapture TV's ‘Clubber’ show have cemented his status as one of the best loved DJs on the scene.

Before his headline set at Backto95’s 17th Birthday we caught up with the man himself to talk sound system culture, his stints on pirate radio and what it's like to be one of the leading lights on the garage scene.

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You were born and raised in East London, where your career began. Can you tell us a little bit about what East London was like when you were growing up? How would you describe the music scene at the time?
There is no doubt that growing up in Hackney played a significant part in my musical experiences. Thinking back to the early days, I can remember going to reggae and soul sound system clashes, whether they were in school halls, community centres or empty houses. Electro music was also a major influence as we were all into our body popping and breakdancing back then.

Did you grow up in a particularly musical household? And did your friends and family support your musical endeavours when you were starting out?
I wouldn’t say I grew up in a particularly musical household, but obviously I would have taken influence from the music that family members were playing. Back then I was exposed to quite a lot of jazz, soul and disco.

In regards to support, I owe that to my Mum who gave me my first turntable (not a Technics turntable believe me). She always showed an interest in what I was doing and most importantly of all, allowed me to play music loud.

You began DJing on local sound systems - for those out there who might not be so familiar with sound system culture, can you just describe what it was all about?
Lol, in a nutshell, building speaker boxes from scratch and I mean from scratch, we would buy the woofers, the wood and experiment with designs to produce speakers of optimum output. There was also the lifting and transportation of heavy speaker boxes, being the first at the hall to wire up and last to leave, clearing up. Not forgetting the countless hours shopping for the latest vinyl. But overall, the teamwork, the competition between us, made being part of a sound system extremely valuable.

What sound systems were you involved in? And where did you perform?
We were called “Perfection Soul Sound”, all the guys were from the Bow area and as I was the only one from Hackney, I used to jump on a bus to go down there, hang out and of course put the practice in. We mostly played in the halls and centres around Bow, Canning Town and Mile End.

In the early days you were playing hip hop and electro - how did your taste for these genres develop? Who were your key influencers?
That whole era of body popping and breakdancing was fantastic, the energy, the music, the performances was just infectious. As one of those guys who weren’t that great at the dancing, the DJing aspect was right up my street. Back then it very much revolved around the skills on the decks, how you scratched, your scratch patterns, how you mixed. These were the skills that were needed if you wanted to call yourself a DJ. Early key influencers would include the likes of “Howie T”, “DJ Cash Money” and let’s not forget some of our homegrown talents such as the “Mastermind” and “Rapattack” sound systems.

Your career really took off when you joined London pirate radio station Deja Vu. How was it that you got involved in this?
I owe that to a friend of mine “Muller” who gave me that push to go on there. I had already done pirate radio numerous times before and I suppose I was somewhat content with the type of events that I was doing. But he was insistent and that was the kick that was needed.

What was your ethos behind your radio show and what sorts of sounds were you playing?
The show was myself and MC Munchie and the ethos was just to have fun. We would have loads of competitions, think up some wacky questions and we could both laugh at each other. But at the end of the day when it came to the music I took that extremely seriously. Back then it was predominantly US house and garage all tied up with the emerging, as it was British garage sound, labels like “Nice n Ripe” and “Ice Cream Records” spring to mind. Overall when we look back it was definitely one of the leading radio shows at that time, as I am often reminded.

Now it goes without saying that you’ve been one of true pioneers of the garage movement. Why do you think UKG exploded when it did?
I think one of the major influences that contributed towards the explosion was the fact that it was good homegrown (UK) produced music being played well. The DJs and MCs in the scene, especially in the early days, all have their own unique characters and styles, which I think in turn led to people having their favourites and the mere fact that you could go out on a weekend and see the artists live in action definitely added to the appeal.

Were you aware at the time that you were part of this homegrown movement that was really gaining traction?
For me, there were two main occasions when I thought to myself, something is really going on here. The first is walking down the road and constantly hearing garage music being played loud in people’s cars. The second was when we started being asked to do TV interviews.

At what point did you realise that you had really make an impact in the garage scene?
I’m not sure if you ever really realise that, for me personally, that’s for other people to say. As long as I’ve put a smile on some people’s faces and given them good memories, that’s all good.

We’re incredibly lucky to have you play the Backto95 stage for our 17th birthday on 29 March. For those out there who will be seeing you for the first time, please can you describe your upcoming set for us in 3 words?
Bumpy, Classic, Energy.

Now you’re one of our most popular headliners, what has been your most memorable Backto95 experience?
Without a doubt: Backto95, Box [main stage], Ministry.

And finally what else can we look forward to from you in 2018?
Too early to say at the moment, but definitely just want to keep rolling and enjoying the music.