“Things can be too sugar-coated and very false. I don’t really want to hear nice things for the sake of it. I would much prefer realness and honesty, because that’s what you’ll always get from me…”
1 More Thing chats to Simon Skuff one otherwise unremarkable Monday afternoon over Zoom and the interview couldn’t be any realer and honest if either party tried; Simon lost his father two months ago and is instantly upfront about his mood and mental health.
“I’m better today than I have been, but it’s hit me hard. Harder than I thought it would. I lost my spark for a bit,” he sighs. “But I’ve got my mojo back in the last few days and got back on the beats.”
For Simon the day isn’t unremarkable at all. It’s a pivotal turning point as he transitions to another stage of grief. One that’s manageable while focusing on creative pursuits. The sense of loss never leaves, but it can move a seat or two further from the steering wheel. “Usually you can’t stop me,” he smiles. “It’s not something I choose to do. I’d say it’s much more of a calling.”
It’s a calling that came a little later in life for Simon than it has for some of his peers. While he got into DJing and regularly hosted on pirate radio stations such as Lush FM and Renegade FM during the late 90s and early 2000s – and still boasts his 1210s and a sprawling vinyl collection to this day – Skuff releases did start surfacing until around the mid 2010s with a series of outings on Ten Tons Deeper.
The release rate has been gradually rising in velocity ever since. Most notably in the last few years since Simon made his debut on Rebel Music. Still only three years old right now in 2022, Ben OB1’s Rebel Music was barely a year old when Simon first released on the label.
“Ben found me through Soundcloud, I think,” Simon recalls. “I like how he runs things. His support has been consistent and the label’s run in an old school way. He’s one of those rare honest people who I only want to work with. I love working with them actually.”
Skuff is now on his third standalone release on the label: his All In The Mind EP is generously stacked eight tracks deep with that space-gazing cosmic funk he’s become known for. More of a mini album than an EP, All The Mind is his seventh appearance on the label in total (including tracks on compilations and collabs on other artist’s EPs) but Skuff and Rebel Music hit it off from the off: His debut Pushing Buttons was well supported, pushing the buttons of a very well respected pioneer.
“That was the first time LTJ Bukem had heard my music,” Simon explains. “He came back saying something like ‘loving all these Rebel bits, if you got any more Skuff things please send them over.’ I was blown away when Ben forwarded the response. I messaged Bukem on Facebook to say thanks. About six months later he hit me up, we struck up a conversation and we chat often now.”
This has got to the point where Bukem recently rang Simon for dubplates ahead of his recent tour. A dream Skuff scenario that he couldn’t have imagined years before. “He even rang me when he heard about my father passing. Even some mates who I’ve known for years didn’t go out of their way to do that. That shows the measure of the man, really. Plus Good Looking was one of my biggest influences and had a huge impression on me and the sound I’ve always been into,” says Simon.
You can tell; often described as timeless, Skuff beats carry a weight and space that’s synonymous with the Good Looking legacy. It’s a sound you can hear on Magic Box, a beautiful liquid gem he’s given 1 More Thing Patreon supporters exclusively for free…
That shimmering reflective glow, those melancholy chords, that sharp switch when the beats kick in, that long undulating groove; Magic Box sums up the Skuff vibe. “’Sounds old but new’ is another description I often get,” adds Simon who’s also developed a fine line of cuts that work well for MCs. This year alone has seen him work with veteran barsmiths such as Illmatika and AC MC. Releases like For Certain and No Debate have landed on DJ SS’s Formation and more is expected to land on the mighty V Recordings.
“Yeah that’s insane!” Simon smiles. “That’s another massive dream label I’ve always dreamt of working with. Bryan’s signed a track called With You. It’s a little ballad rap type of thing and Bryan’s been all over it. It’s got these old school strings and it just rolls.”
Skuff’s profile continues to roll, too. Set for a release later on this year, With You once again features the vocals of Illmatika, plus singer Syren Rivers and adds to a growing a body of work between the two artists both in the studio and on stage as the pair have collaborated live many times this year.
“That actually makes me think of dad,” Simon pauses to reflect. “I took a load of videos of us doing shows and sent them to him and when he stayed in a hospice he would show all the nurses the videos on his phone. Bless him. It’s nice knowing he was proud. The longer it passes the more important that means.”
And the longer it passes, the more comfortable Simon is getting back in the studio and continuing to build the consistent and prolific body of work he’s been developing as an artist over recent years. Magic Box was one of the last tracks he completed before taking time out to grieve and this interview is one of the first professional commitments he’s taken on as that process changes.
“I’ve got a remix on Ruff DnB – Blue Frequency’s Inside Of Me – which I’m finishing and then I’ll get back to my usual speed over time,” says Simon who admits that his most successful tunes have all been written under dark clouds. “I know it won’t be easy, some days I won’t be able to handle it at all. But to even have this type of outlet for me to put my emotions into… Well, I’m blessed aren’t I?”