John Digweed has been spinning records since the tender age of 15 and has been an ever presesnt figure in the electronic music scene ever since. He has established himself as one of the most repsected DJs and producers on the scene thanks to a distinctive presence within the DJ booth and countless releases on his Bedrock imprint. His exploits over the years earned him the title of being named DJ Mag's number 1 DJ in 2001 whilst continuning to hold down residencies at some of the most high profle clubs in the world. Later this month you can find John Digweed going to work behind the decks for Circus, in assosiation with Groovefest, at their regular haunt of the Arts Club on the 27th of February. Ahead of the event, we caught up with the man himself to talk extended sets, residencies and vinyl vs digital.
You’ve just got back from BPM Festival in Mexico with your party being voted as the best there by a large number of people. What do you think it is about the festival that resonates so well with your style of music?
If you look back 6 or 7 years ago you could hardly book a DJ in January as most were on holiday for a month or playing a few gigs at the start of the year in Australia then taking the rest of the month off. The guys at BPM have really tapped into something extremely clever. Hosting a festival when loads of DJ’s are free and hosting it in a place which can double up as holiday and meet up with all your peers. I think this festival works so well as every big House and Techno DJ is playing there, plus it is attracting like minded people who want to hear great underground music in a tropical setting. The Bedrock parties seem to get better each year with a well-travelled audience supporting the party. Its fantastic news that people thought our party was one of the best.
You’ve just announced the eighth installment in your mix CD series, John Digweed Live In Montreal. It was recorded at Stereo nightclub and you played for a total of 11 hours on the night. Why do you prefer to play extended sets?
I only prefer it if the set up is perfect and you have an open-minded crowd who go with the flow. Stereo in Montreal is well known for it’s amazing sound system and die-hard party crowd. They go out late and go home in the afternoon, so you know going into it that they are there for the long haul and you can pace the night exactly how you want to. I was only planning to play until 10Am but the crowd was so good and the build just seemed to fly by and before I knew it 9am had arrived and I still had loads of music I had not played, Then I aimed for a midday finish but it took me a hour to find the perfect record to close out with.
Are there any other DJs in particular who influenced you into playing longer sets or is it something you found you love out of experience?
There was a DJ from Brighton called Barry Page who I used to go and watch when I was 17 and he blew my mind with how he played for 5 hours and took you on a journey with a variety of music but it all made sense. I took over from Barry at the club when I turned 18 and played the whole night 9pm to 2am and for 3 nights a week. You had to do your own warm up and set the mood for the night. You learnt how to space records out and how not to peak too soon, giving the crowd a balance of new and familiar tracks. Coming from that background has made me who I am, I am comfortable playing a deep warm up as much as I am banging out peak time tracks. I think the early part of the night is more rewarding sometimes as you set the tone for the whole night.
In a similar feat to DJs who play extended sets, resident DJs are another element of club culture that has started to be seen less over the years with big names being what the focus is all about. Do you think the role of a resident DJ is important?
A great resident DJ is key to any great club. Someone who knows the room and the crowd can set the night up for the guest in the right way by leaving the music at the perfect point for the guest to take over and take the night to the next level. A resident who tries to take the glory and smash the dance floor before the guest comes on is not doing his job correctly. A resident helps maintain a consistency that both he and the club will benefit from over time.
Can you tell us about some of your residencies over the years?
I was resident at Bedrock in Hastings in the 90’s which was the first night I started and really gave me a platform to get me gigs around the country, I then had a residency at Rage in London at Heaven playing before Fabio and Grooverider, then Renaissance In Mansfield which really put me on the map. The next big residency was Twilo in NYC, which was my favourite alongside Sasha. Playing the same club often is a great experience, as you know the crowd inside out.
The Live in Montreal mix will be sold as a 6 CD album. What’s your stance on the vinyl revival and the argument versus digital formats and digital DJing?
I have always said that it does not matter what format the music comes in as long as people enjoy the experience on the dance floor, that’s all that matters, Yes vinyl sales have increased in certain cases but on the whole, physical sales are down every year and digital sales are nowhere near making up the difference from years ago, and as for streaming, whoever thought that the percentage that Spotify offers for its plays really didn’t make a good call, as they heavily impacted the smaller players in music industry. Running a record label has always been an incredibly hard business to be in, but now you really have to make sure every release is a winner and use every resource to push and promote each release, as there is so many releases every week to compete against. Its still a great feeling when you hear a track for the first time, sign it, release it and then see all the great feedback come in for that artist.
It’s been 17 years since the initial release on Bedrock, the label you run with Nick Muir. How has the evolution of you as a DJ affected the label and its output?
We just try and put out music and albums we like, we don’t want to be a Sony and we tend to take decisions based on our heart not on the balance sheets. I would like to think that we release great new talent and give them a stage to shine on. I am lucky that I get loads of great new tracks sent to me for consideration for the label
You will be playing for Circus in Liverpool on the 27th of February at Arts Club. How does your approach to shorted club sets differ from your longer ones?
I like the fact that every week is different, some weeks its a 90 min set, the next could be 5 or 6 so it keeps you on your toes and allows you to push yourself musically on nightly basis. Circus has a great reputation and fantastic crowd so I am sure it’s going to be rocking.
The club is running this party in association with GrooveFest, which is a festival that started last year in the Dominican Republic. What do you think about smaller, boutique and luxury festivals opposed to the large scale ones that are seen more widely?
I think people are starting to favour the smaller festivals as they tend to aim for a more underground crowd that want quality lines ups and less main stage EDM / confetti / C02. Dance music has always gone through different fazes and at the moment I think the smaller events are where people want to be at for sure.
Interview by Josh Plews
Photos courtesy of Neigbourhood PR