Interview: John Digweed

If you know dance music, you know John Digweed. He has established himself as one of the most prolific DJs in dance music history with a groundbreaking portfolio. The progressive house DJ started at a young age of 15 and has moved on to work with big names like Sasha, Danny Tenaglia, Underworld and New Order. Besides being an innovative DJ and producer, John doubles up as a promoter for his Bedrock label with partner Nick Muir, which recently celebrated its 12th year! The label has also led the soundtrack to the 2002 film Stark Raving Mad. His Kiss100 radio show has also become of the of the most successful dance music shows in the world and it has made him one of the most respected DJs in the world. We’ve got the Bedrock exclusive interview to share with you. Chekkid.

So how are things in the world of Bedrock and John Digweed?
Things are great at the moment – the label is firing on all cylinders. We’re having a great year. We’ve had some fantastic releases and the profile of the label seems to be at its best for quite some time. The club night Bedrock we just do a couple of nights in London – the birthday and at Easter. We’ve been doing nights around the planet too. We did one in Mykonos and we have one in Bulgaria and we also hold Bedrock arenas at Global Gathering and of course we have SW4. We don’t do as many events as we used to, we’re just very selective to make sure we do the right gigs around the planet.

What have been your highlights of the year so far?
Highlights would be the first time I have played in Belarus at a big festival there – they have an amazing crowd reaction. That was definitely one of the best gigs I have done this year.

Bedrock 12; It’s the first time your night has taken place at the Brixton Academy. What made you choose this venue? You have played here before right?
Yes I have played Brixton before, I did an after show party for SW4 a few years ago. All the greats have played there so for the 12th birthday we wanted to do something really special. It’s the biggest production we’ve done. We wanted it to be something memorable for the fans.

What do you remember about that night? It was with Sasha if we remember correctly?
Yes it was. Last time I played here it was great. The venue is really good. You have the balcony where you can look over the stage and see what’s going on down there. Then obviously the dance floor for the people who want to get in the thick of it!

Is there anything you particularly like about the academy?
It’s a great historic venue, there are very few left in London now. The Astoria is gone which is a great shame. So it’s nice to see that this venue is still here and every night of the week there are still shows going on that are selling out. So to have a Saturday night here in October is fantastic.

So how do you think Bedrock will adapt to a concert style event like Brixton Academy?
I think we’ve been around for so long we have adapted to the big venues, the big festival set-ups alongside the very small intimate rooms that we’ve done. So I think it’s important that for the scale of the room we adapt the scale of the productions and visuals aspects. Everyone will definitely see a large scale of production at this night.

So in many respects Bedrock 12 will be a combination of what people expect from a Bedrock arena at Global Gathering, SW4 and a club show whether it be at Heaven or Matter.
Yeah, there will be a good on-stage visual but we’re going to make the room have a club feel as well. It’s not all going front loaded on to the stage and nothing on the top. We want it to feel like a club with a big room.

Does it make you feel proud to see that Bedrock is still a prominent on the capitals clubbing calendar?
Yeah, obviously you work hard with something over the years you want to see it do well and maintain its potential. I think our fan base has been very loyal. People know when they come to the night it’s going to be quality music, good DJs and a friendly up for it crowd, which is what most people want. They want to go out and see smiley faces in the room.

Do you think it’s that crowd that keeps Bedrock so successful over the years?
Well, at the end of the day a club is only successful as the crowd that come to it. If the crowd wasn’t really friendly and knowledgeable of the music I would have stopped it years ago. But the fact we are here 12 years on and there is still a lot of people that came to the first night that are still coming to the nights we run now. It shows the strength of the night.

What makes the Bedrock crowd so special?
I think the fact they are very open minded they want to listen to good music. They trust my judgment with the line-ups and the people we have perform for us, so I think that’s a testament of me being the man behind it. I try to be creative with the line-ups and who I think should play and try to bring something new and diverse to the line-up each time we put on a show.

What memories do you have of the first Bedrock in London?
Well I’d played Heaven quite a few times before we started doing regular nights there. It was always one of my favourite venues and it was one of the first venues I went to in London so it was always a special place to me so the fact we started doing monthly nights there was a dream come true. I never thought it would take off the way it did and the fact it was so successful for such a long period of time. But I think that was a tribute to the fact we worked really hard, we put on a good value for money night, the line-ups were diverse on a monthly basis. I think if you put on something that’s good people are going to go.

What night would you consider as your most favourite Bedrock night?
I’d say one of the birthdays when we had Rabbit in the Moon play. It was the first time they had ever played in England. They put on a fantastic show. And for the people that hadn’t seen them it was a pretty mind blowing experience. So from that aspect that’s one of the nights that stick in my memory.

What were your original aims of the night when it first started?
The aim for the night was just somewhere for me to play on a regular basis and to invite my favourite DJs to come and play alongside me. And it just grew and grew. The reason we chose a Thursday night is that I really wanted to bring a crowd out for this night. I didn’t want a crowd that was going out on a Saturday night already, so you had to make the effort. I think people made the effort and that really showed with the energy on the dancefloor.

In some respects Brixton Academy is more used for gigs instead of club nights so essentially people will be coming just for Bedrock.
Yes, definitely. If you’re a Bedrock fan you’re going to come down and check out the level of production and see what we’re doing. It’s also nice to have a bit of a change. We’ve gone from Heaven to Matter and now we are here to do a one-off and I think people will want to come and see what we’re doing.

What was your DJ setup 12 years ago and what is it today?
Just two turntables and a mixer, now it’s two CDJs and a mixer and an EFX Unit – it’s only changed slightly, but the music’s changed as well.

So do you miss playing vinyl?
Yeah. There is something really nice about flicking through your record box choosing a record putting it on a turntable. There’s that whole aspect that I enjoyed for many years. But the fact you can be in Greece or Buenos Aires and download a remix from one of your colleagues and play it an hour later is amazing. You just can’t beat that feeling of having so much access to music at your fingertips. I miss vinyl but I don’t miss the fact that if you’re on the road you’re limited to how much new music you can introduce to your set.

How do you think your sound has progressed over the past 12 years?
I think I’ve tried to move with the times. I don’t think I jump on the band-wagons, I just play music I like in a way that suits me. So I take the best of techno records I like, and the best of tech-house, deep house, and the best of progressive if it sounds good. For me it’s about not trying to play one sound, it’s about listening to all aspects of music and putting that into a set.

Carl Cox is the very special guest at Bedrock 12. Please give us your thoughts on Carl.
Carl is a definite legend. He’s one of the very few DJs to carry that legendary status. He’s pushed the boundaries musically over the years and it’s a great pleasure to have him play on the night. I think people are really going to enjoy it. He really brings the party every single time.

Your Structures compilation is currently dominating the Beatport chart. Tell us about the concept behind the mix?
Basically we released the Bedrock 11 LP last October and there were some fantastic tracks on there, some of which had only just come out, so we had a few of those remixed and there was going to be a remix package to start with. Then I signed some more original tracks and had some more remixes done of new tracks that were not on Bedrock 11. So it kind of made sense to put out a new compilation, but I didn’t want to call it Bedrock 12 or 11.5 so I thought lets try and think of something else. So the way the album was structured together with me structuring different pieces it just seemed like a good title to call it. This time we’ve done a bonus DVD with a documentary of my last South American tour and it’s also got my first ever commercially available live mix, recorded at the Bedrock night at the Vagabond Miami. So as a package it offers fantastic value for money. We just wanted to put out the best showcase of the label of where we are now. And by judging on the reaction from Beatport and iTunes people are really enjoying the album.

How is Structures different to your previous mixes?
It has different records! I just think we’re trying to incorporate new artists and new remixes. We have Vincenzo on here for the first time doing a track. We got a bunch of new artist album features. So it’s important for us to keep incorporating new talent as we go along.

Bedrock records have been extremely busy in the recent months what releases are upcoming?
We have a new release from Nick Warren, which is due out at the end of October, and Pete Heller’s Nu-Acid single is just out, with an amazing remix by Robert Babicz. Also, to celebrate Bedrock’s 12th anniversary, I’ve compiled 21 exclusive tracks and remixes from established and new artists to form the Bedrock 12 album. It showcases the sound of the label in 2010, featuring deep house, tech-house and techno, joining the dots and forging the future with established stars like Robert, Quivver, King Unique, Christian Smith, Nick Warren, meeting new and upcoming talent like Maetrik, Wiretappeur, Max Cooper, Wehbba, and lots more.

Who are you favourite producers at the moment?
Robert Babicz is making some fantastic music. Vincenzo. Guy J sent me over some bits from his new album and it sounds fantastic. I like Luis Junior who is from Madrid, and Ian O’Donovan from Dublin is a new face carving his way in the industry.

Are there any producers that you’d like to work with that you haven’t had the chance to?
At the moment the schedule for remixes is so tight. Nick and I have just remixed a band called Mr Fog. We’ve also just done a remix for Tom Middleton, which is out soon. We’ve got another project we’ve worked on with a really well known producer, which I can’t talk about yet which is coming out pretty soon. But production wise I’m just happy working with Nick.

Is there a record that you just can’t stop playing in your sets right now?
I’d say Chemical Brothers ‘Swoon (Boys Noize Remix)’. It’s just a great end of set bouncy, up for it track that’s probably my end of night record. As for a track I can’t stop playing I’d say Vincenzo’s remix of Mutant Clan’s ‘On And Amp’. It’s just a great bouncy, summer vibe track.

So what can we expect musically from John Digweed in the next 12 months?
The radio show on Kiss celebrates 10 years in September so I’m really excited about that. The label will have more releases. More remixes with Nick and more shows across the planet.

Finally, what can we expect from John Digweed at Bedrock 12?
It’s going to be a night of forward thinking music, and a few classics thrown in for good measure, to give the fans a big thank you for all their support.

More John Digweed at www.johndigweed.com. Thanks to Bedrock for the interview hook-up! Visit Bedrock at www.bedrock.org.uk.

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