Who The Hell Is Scout 22?
Who The Hell Is Scout 22?

Who The Hell Is Scout 22?

With a musical history that flexes through house and techno to dubstep right the way through to his current position on the harder, uncompromising end of drum & bass as Scout 22, Matt Jones has spent his adult life immersed in a wide array of beats.

Finding his sound and honing his production chops over the years, Scout 22 is the zenith of Matt’s journeys and explorations so far. Armed with an exceedingly deep, emotional and personal story behind the name, and a dystopian sci-fi / cyberpunk aesthetic to the Scout 22 signature, he launched the new project with a release on Program just months before the world succumbed to covid shutdowns.

Using his time wisely – including launching his own label Shadow Net – he’s returned to our collections and playlists recently with appearances on Eatbrain and Dispatch. We called him up to find out more.

Lots of stuff going on for you… Your hard work over the years is paying off!

Thank you. Yeah I was chatting to a friend, Obeisant, who started releasing drum & bass the same time as me – this was after my dubstep days. He’s a more seasoned D&B producer than me and was saying congratulations on how far I had come. We were both saying about how it’s all starting to take off, also globally now. It’s crazy how it all comes together at once and it makes you realise that the work does pay off. It’s like you set these goals and start down a path and just by enjoying the process you end up one day in your dream future.

Yeah sometimes it feels like you’re not going anywhere then something happens that makes you realise you are heading in the right direction. Tell us about your dubstep past. This was as Jetpack Assassin, right?

Yeah that’s right. So I’ve been writing music for a good 20 or so years but only seriously for 12 years, and drum & bass for the last three or four. The rest, as a producer, was focused on dubstep, techno and house. I also used to run a dubstep night called Dub Opps, too, but I don’t really have any interest in event promotion on top of everything else I do. I just wouldn’t have the time.

Anyway, I had some pretty good moments with releases on Smashed Beatz and I was signed to Play Me around 2012. My first album was mainly dubstep but had a lot of multi-genre tracks on there. It end up in the Top 10 across dubstep/glitch and electrohouse and D&B at the sae time. For a few weeks it was just behind Skrillex’s Recess album.

Peak dubstep era!

Yeah it was a good time, I had some releases and got some momentum and was invited to play in countries like Spain and stuff. It was cool. But then I was much more interested in writing D&B so changed my name and set up Scout 22. Sometimes I regret changing my name a bit…

I don’t know man. There are two ways of thinking about this. It’s great to have a blank canvas but it’s hard building a new following from scratch isn’t it?

That was my way of thinking. Although getting gigs is difficult now because everyone thinks I am yet to earn my stripes. For example I used to headline festival stages with acts like Delta Heavy and The Upbeats and have previously supported Calyx & Teebee, Dillinja and Taxman. To name a few. But now I’ve gone back to being an unknown act which is frustrating – but I love a challenge and I know I’ll be back out there soon. But year, I initially changed my name because it was a very different sound and scene and I didn’t want to confuse people. I did the same with house music under the name Ritual Specialist. I might return to these aliases, who knows? We live and learn!

Woah, I didn’t know about Ritual Specialist…

I didn’t release anything under that name. This was a DJ alias when I played up north. My background, and my first sound, was house and techno. Especially Detroit techno, Underground Resistance, Drexyia and Detroit electro which is pretty much D&B to me anyway.

I also loved Warp Records, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and that’s where it all started for me. I was about 14 and watching guys like Andrew Weatherall and Dave Clarke and was being shown some really great music by friends. They even got to have Andrew down to play as a resident a couple of times a year. What a legend. RIP. So yeah, I’ve been on a real musical journey. But it’s all about Scout 22 now.

Where did that name come from?

So Ritual Specialist means a shaman and I see DJs in a similar light. I’d go and see a DJ at the end of the week and shake off my weekly worries. But with Scout 22  I wanted something that I felt fitted the music I wanted to make and meant something to me but didn’t have connotations for anyone else. It’s flexible enough to become a band or a project or anything and allow the music to do its thing. I got it from the Neil Blomkampt film Chappie. I love that film, I’ve watched it over 100 times, can’t get enough of it. It was also the last film I watched with my old man. He passed away the morning after we watched it.

Oh damn. So sorry to hear.

It was a while ago now. In a way I kinda see writing electronic music as like a downloading of consciousness, which is the main theme in the film Chappie. That’s what we do as digital and analogue artists. This new project needs to be better than anything else I’ve done and more professional and just the best I can do as an artist, you know? Something that dad would be proud of. So I felt the name was appropriate. We loved watching films together, it was something we shared, so it meant a lot to me.

Do you think he’d be proud of what you’re doing now?

Yes most definitely he’d be giving me a high five and saying ‘yes lad! Remember to stick to your drawing as well though. Props to my old dear, too, she was always pushing me to go to music college as well.

But with dad, he was more of a Hendrix and Led Zeppelin fan but I think if he knew the scope of drum & bass and the types of labels I’ve been working with then he’d be very supportive. I don’t think he’d like some of the swearing, but the work ethic is something he’d be proud of would have respected the most.

It’s mad. He knew all his life that he was going to die at an early age. He had bronchiectasis and was told at the age of 10 that his life would be significantly shorter than it otherwise could be. He passed away at 66 so he did well but his health deteriorated badly for the last 10 years. I was used to him being ill and being in and out of hospital but it was still a painful thing to go through. I was literally just finding my flow when the illness took him, so I buried my head into D&B production after that. All the more distraction, right? It’s crazy how grief can motivate you.

Oh massively. And it makes everything you do as Scout 22 so much more meaningful.

Yes it does. And back to the name Scout 22, it comes from the police robots in the film and he’s robot 22… Before he has his AI consciousness installed and joins a gang (not to spoil too much of the film, sorry) It sounds a bit old hat now because people jumped on the cyberpunk thing but D&B has always been there for me, right back to Virus and Moving Shadow, and I knew it would take me a long time to get my head around the craft and production side of drum & bass as the levels are so high.

The first Scout 22 release was on Program’s 100th release, right? That was a wicked way to make an impression.

Thank you. Yeah that was Rogue Transmission and that blew me away. That came out in December 2019. Then of course 2020  happened but I’ve had some releases on other labels like Vermin with Victim on Citrus Recordings and a release on Druid Recordings – the Cybernetic Synthetic EP, which I felt showed more of the robotic ethos behind Scout 22. That had a few remixes from Dunk and Barbarix, which I love. Then I did a collab with Exile on Digital Terror which was more of a roller one. Then I started a label…

Yeah Shadow Net. I like the tag line you have for the label… For the people holding up the scene from the shadows.

That’s right. That’s the ethos behind it giving people light and kudos… I would find some unknown artists and the put together a remix by a more established artist and a remixer who were either friends with or I’d felt had been overlooked by the scene.

Putting together the first release of Stenchman’s first D&B release with Meloki and Joe Agreeing to remix it was just an amazing feeling. That got a Radio 1 play, which felt really special. It’s a lot of work to do everything yourself – finding the artists, the remixers, commissioning cover designs – but it was well worth it.

Also moments like being sent videos of Mampi Swift playing Exile’s remix of newcomer Akuma’s On The Wall was very satisfying. The artists were really grateful and it gave me a real sense of purpose. It was a good feeling to know I had helped other people. Especially people who I felt, at the time, had been overlooked or not championed enough.

You had Tim Wright on the label who’s a bit of a legend!

Yeah Tim, or Tubejerk as I first heard him, is a massive legend and a big pioneer of bass music in my opinion. He was my next door neighbour for a while and is the entire reason I write music and got into it. So yeah I always wanted to involve him in stuff as he’s been such an influence on me. I left the label there for a while now so I can concentrate on my own music and knuckle down on my production.

Which I guess led to the recent Eatbrain release?

Yeah exactly, and they have a very high standard with production, so to be on the label has been a dream come true. I sent the tune to Jade and he didn’t reply for a few  weeks as he was touring massively at the time. But when he replied he said he really liked the song which was almost alien to the ears for me. As a fairly new D&B producer you’re not used to gaining traction with big labels like Eatbrain. So yeah, he asked if I would be up for being on the Divergence IV compilation. I had to pinch myself.

That was a statement of a compilation with a lot of exciting names!

Yeah man. Most, if not all, of that tracklist are my favourite producers on this side of D&B. And also some of the new guys on there – it’s not your average neuro album is it? It’s a very forward-thinking collection and an honour to be part of that.

Neuro is evolving

Yeah Eatbrain especially. The Burr Oak stuff, for example. That’s pretty far-out stuff isn’t it? It’s a new benchmark of electronic music as a whole. Nickbee seems to setting a benchmark at the moment. I’ve done some one-to-ones with him and had some video lessons with Joe Ford which have been opening my eyes to new techniques and neuro’s evolving sounds.

Nice. So what’s coming up next?

I’ve just released a collab with Dunk which has just dropped on Dispatch. I’ve got stuff coming on Dirtbox and some collab work with Impex, Deadzodiac and a singer called Friendship and some others.

I’m now taking submissions for the label again and I’m also working on more material for Eatbrain and Dispatch. Jade has asked me for some tunes for his new minimal label Fraktal as well. Besides that I’m finishing lots of tracks off and getting the mixdowns right. I also offer my mixdown and mastering services for people of all sorts of genres so and find time for some one-to-one lessons. I’m always learning new things so it’s a never-ending process and I’d love to get back to gigging as well next year as DJing was always my first love. If any promoters want to book me, hit me up – scout22music@gmail.com. So yeah that’s where I’m at right now. Watch this space.

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Author: Dave Jenkins

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