Scuffed Recordings operates as an extension of its two founders, Wager (fka High Class Filter) and Ian DPM. The pair bounce off each other with the intimacy of close siblings, finishing each other’s thoughts and folding neatly into one person — the yin to the other’s yang. This becomes apparent when we meet at a pub in Dalston, east London in late September. Ian is running late: he’s coming into London from Portsmouth, where he lives, while Wager restlessly looks around for him. Eventually, a wide smile spreads across the latter’s bearded face as his Scuffed co-founder walks in the door. An animated discussion follows a light embrace; they haven’t seen each other since their Room 3 takeover at Fabric a couple of weeks before, a night they’re still reeling from. The event feels like a natural step in the journey of a label that’s been steadily on the rise for the past few years.
“In a way, that show was validating,” Wager says. The event celebrated the likes of Wigflex, Mall Grab and object blue alongside Scuffed. It was Wager’s first DJ set since lockdown restrictions eased and he played alongside Ian DPM, Dubrunner, Kilig and Maya Q.
“People were really supporting the music we put out over the past 18 months and we carried on doing tonnes of stuff, so that show [demonstrated] that it’s not just in our own heads that we’ve been smashing it.”
Scuffed, like most creative ventures today, was started through a series of DMs and emails. Wager approached Ian after listening to his YouTube channel Definite Party Material and realising they had similar tastes in music. They were living in different cities, but continued speaking for a year, sending each other physical items in the mail as well as digital music they were spinning. Despite having no experience running a label, they released their first recording in October 2017, ‘Cold War Funk’ by DJ Ronald Reagan. “We both wanted to do it,” Ian explains, “and we both kind of had the same idea of why we wanted to do it, but it was like, ‘Let’s just do it together’.”
Those early releases were based on intent and intuition, trusting their gut until it became a habit. The logo — a black-and- white, muscular stick-figure kneeling with a raised fist — was also created based on an effortless decision. Designed by artist Morgan Hislop, it fronts every release, the background colour shifting ever-so-slightly each time.
“We’ve got a very good grasp of what we want to say,” Ian DPM says. “At the beginning, it was more through trial and error. Now, we know what we want in terms of production skills. We try to find things that are in-between the cracks.” Wager echoes his labelmate, adding, “If I get a cold email, I know [very soon after listening] whether it’s going to work.”