VIBE Interview: House Music Vet John Digweed Reveals DJ Career Secrets
John Digweed's long and prosperous DJ career began way back before some of you new house and EDM heads ever saw the light of day. From running his own Bedrock imprint alongside Nick Muir to playing almost every deck from Miami to Ibiza, Digweed’s CV reads like a how-to playbook for aspiring producers. The latest addition to his ever-expanding list of career accomplishments, is the pristine third installment to his 'Live In Series'. Recorded on March 30th at Ambasada Gaviola in Izola, Digweed takes listeners on a musical expedition through techno and house. Playing everything from Bookashade, Josh Wink, and Jesper Dahlback, Digweed shatters all classifications of genre, exploring every avenue of electronic music. His latest release proves why the seasoned veteran has managed to rise from the underground and remain effortlessly afloat. Even on the rainiest of nights Digweed played an incredible high energy set for a crowd who flocked to the venue from near and far to see the production master at work. VIBE had a chance to catch up with John, before he jets off for a 12-week long residency at the legendary Pacha, Ibiza.
VIBE: Live in Slovenia, released on May 27th, is the 3rd installment of your Live In series, which to my knowledge are completely unplanned. Did you immediately decide after a set that it is one you want to lay down digitally?
John Digweed: Yes, I had not really released a set like the Slovenia mix which is a lot more full on heads down peak time set so after the gig I had a very good idea that this was the perfect set to showcase my more full on sound.
What made you choose Slovenia’s Ambasada Gavioli in Izola to be a recorded session?
It was after the gig when I listened back to the set that I knew that I should release it. During the party I knew it was a special party and that’s what I look for when releasing one of my Live In album series.
Your known for playing long sessions running up to the 10-hour mark, like you did at your 10-year reunion show for Bedrock. I’m always curious how DJ’s find the energy for that?
Well if you love what you do and there is a room full of people that want to hear you play and trust your selections then time flies by and before you know it 10 hours have gone by. Energy wise, the adrenalin from the buzz i get while djing is much stronger than a case of Redbull and a few vodka’s.
Do you tailor your sets to suit the crowd and vibe? Or do you just play what you want?
I play what I want but give the crowd what they want, which is new music. I am not known for playing anthems or big club hits so my fans don’t come with a playlist of tracks they expect to hear me play. This for me is a great position to be in as it allows me to change the mood and style of my set from gig to gig depending on the type of party it is. It also allows me not to go stir crazy by playing the same records week after week because thats all people want to hear from me or leave disappointed.
You’ve seen your fair share of crowds, from large to small. Do you have a preference for festival like settings or arenas versus more intimate venues?
I am very lucky as I get to do both and everything in between on a regular basis. I think this different range of gigs every weekend really keeps you on your toes and also pushes you as a DJ. I love playing to both small and huge festival crowds and experiencing the different atmosphere’s that go with both.
To this day, what would you say your most memorable set has been?
That is a very hard question to answer, as I have had the pleasure to play at some or the best parties around the world. One gig that still really stands out was on Brighton Beach with Fatboy Slim to over 250,000 people. Was it the best set I played maybe not, but looking out to all those people was totally mind blowing and unforgettable - yes it was
In a recent interview Sasha gave his two cents on integral DJ culture and its survival during this transition, stating “I think everyone thinks they can have a pop at being a DJ now. The technology is there for anyone to give it a try and the culture has been glorified hugely.” What are your thoughts?
When it was just two turntables and a mixer it was a level playing field and you could either mix and programme really well or you sucked. Now with the technology today that allows you to preplan and for some to pre mix your sets. It’s hard for the crowd to really know with all the smoke and mirrors that can be on stage to really know whats going on and are the DJ’s really DJing? All I can do is go out there week after week and play my heart out and stay true to what I do. I don’t jump around while I DJ, but I love what I do and I think people can see that I play with passion.
With a mixed bag of emotions coming from pioneers of dance music in regards to the industry changes, where do you still find your inspiration to do what you do?
Listen, change is good and you can’t say it was way better back in the old days, those moments shaped who I am, but I have to look forward and focus on what’s happening now. I get my inspiration from the amazing music that’s being made at the moment, from some of the great new producers out there. Also the technology, like the Allen and heath DB4 mixer and the Pioneer CDJ2000’s players, have changed the way you can play out and do things you could only dream of 10 years ago.
You go way back to the Twilo club days in NYC, can you tell us how the music scene has changed over time, do you see the changes as progressive or digressive?
Twilo was all about the room and the sound system. There was no VIP, no bottle service. and no camera’s so peoples only focus was on dancing. For me that was what made it so special. Cool clubbing without distractions. That suited the '90s perfectly and what goes on now suits the crowds that are going clubbing with people having so much many more choices, plus they level of production that people experience now is out of this world. At least things are moving forward with new clubs and DJs coming into the scene all the time. It keeps me on my toes as I still feel I can deliver great sets in the States.
What were the biggest things you have noticed when playing here in the states versus elsewhere in the world?
I think there has always been a strong underground scene of people who want to search out the cooler side of electronic music without all the confetti. So over the many years that I have been playing in the States I have always managed to find myself playing in the clubs that appreciate good quality electronic music. At the moment the EDM sound is huge in the states and that can only be seen as a positive thing for the scene. It’s not the music that I play, but it is getting a lot of Americans used to the electronic sound which will change and develop over time. History has proved time and time again that nothing stays popular for ever and new and different sounds will come and go all the time. EDM’s time is now and the crowd are having a great time at the events so good for them.
Congrats on landing a 12-week residency at Pacha in Ibiza kicking off this summer, can you tell us about the electronic music oasis? How does the scene compare to other music meccas?
Thanks, I am very excited about the residency at Pacha. As for the white island I think the beauty of Ibiza is that it has everything, relaxing and uncrowded beaches if you want to switch off, amazing restaurants if you fancy some great food and as for the nightlife it has some of the best clubs on the planet with a great mixture of full on clubbers and hedonistic party people. The fact that this is all available on one small island makes it stand out for the crowd and why it has lasted so long as the party capital of the world.
What are your top three reasons why we all should make a trip to Ibiza?
The beaches, the restaurants, and me playing at Pacha!
Back in 2002 you produced a soundtrack for the film Stark Raving Mad, can you tell me how that came about? What was the experience like? Do you see film scoring as something you would look to do again?
The agency I was with at the time brought me few scripts and this one seemed to resonate with Nick and myself and we were both really happy with the end result. We also got the Spiderman the Animated series around the same time. It’s pretty cool to work on a project that involves making music that creates an atmosphere and a mood for something that your watching on a screen rather than creating music that is for a dance floor.
If you were curating your own festival, who would you have headline? Dead or Alive.
Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
One thing you can't live without?
If you weren't making music, what would we find you doing?
A travel agent. I think now and best hotels around the world to stay in guide.
Lastly, anything we should keep our ears and eyes on the lookout for in the upcoming months?
The project I have been working on with Nick Muir details soon at johndigweed.com/bedrock/.