A man with a legacy that spans decades, his contributions to the electronic music scene can only be rivaled by a handful. From his early days at Renaissance, his legendary Northern Exposure mixes alongside Sasha during their dominance over the Top 100 DJ charts, several Global Underground albums, the founding of his influential Bedrock record label, all the way up this day and age, John Digweed’s name has been etched in the upper echelons of electronica, as one of its most revered figures.
Always a trendsetter without ever setting out to do so, always in movement, John’s sets go way past blurring the lines that divide genres, as he curates visions from the future in each one. His label, Bedrock, is a true testimony of this reflex. It would be hard to find a better word for a rock-solid imprint that has become a symbol for quality and cutting-edge music over the years, showcasing the artists who share Digweed’s vision and building an awe-inspiring catalog in the process.
Electronic Groove: Hello John! Thank you so much for being here with us, it’s a true pleasure. How are you holding up with the whole quarantine situation? Has this ordeal made you think about the future? Do you envisage some personal changes going forward?
John Digweed: Hello, thanks for the invite. I normally spent Sunday to Thursday at home, most weeks, unless I was on an extended tour, so spending an extra 3 days at home is no problem. I’ve been using this time to do so many jobs I never had the time to do before and also a lot of clearing out and trying to get on top of a lot of things. Spending more time with my family, regular exercise, and no jet lag for the first time in 25 years has been really good for my body and my mind. I really do miss the connection of being at a club or festival and I hope we can get back to some sort of normality in the future, as so many good people are involved in the nightlife and music industry and everything is on hold at the moment.
Electronic Groove: ‘Quattro’, this is it’? Does it get any bigger than this for you, record-wise? How did it come about? Was it like ‘hey, I’m sitting on a truck-load of music’ or was it a planned thing? Was it all there, or did you have to ‘commission’/make certain pieces?
John Digweed: ‘Quattro’ is up there as one of my favorite projects that I’ve compiled and mixed. Originally it was just going to be a 2xCD package with a CD of original tracks and a CD of remixes. As the project moved on, more tracks appeared and I also asked some producers to make some downtempo/ambient versions or original tracks to add a 3rd CD. Nick Muir and I had also been working on a side project that we decided to finish off and add to the project as I felt it really fitted the vibe. Originally, the album was going to be unmixed, but after a long flight I managed to mix the whole project and it really came to life when I heard how well they all worked together on each CD.
Electronic Groove: So, right now you should be on tour, promoting the album, but as we know, everything has to be postponed until there’s a solution to the COVID crisis. Has this misfortune only amped your desire to share ‘Quattro’ with everyone on the dancefloor? Can we expect some sort of special presentations showcasing ‘Quattro’?
John Digweed: This album has had a really organic release with word-of-mouth playing a massive part in its success. The limited-edition 500 5×12” vinyl sold out in days, and the initial CD run also sold out quickly. During the lockdown, I think people have used music as a sense of comfort and I am so grateful to all the fans who have supported this project since its release, as it means a lot to me and all the artists involved.
Electronic Groove: Now, digging straight into the album…Do you see the ‘end product’ clearly before you start? Or is it something that just evolves until the point where you just go ‘Ok, this is it’? Whenever these big compilations happen, do you have to ask artists for new material and certain pieces, or is it more of an ‘Ok, I’ve got a ton of stuff, let’s see how I can put this all together’ thing?
John Digweed: One of the main points to make is that I did not put a deadline on this so that it would be done when I was happy with it and that allowed me not to be pressurized into rushing it. I own the label, so I’m flexible on what the schedule looks like. One other thing to point out is that the artwork and design for this album is outstanding and Malone Design really delivered a CD and vinyl pack that people truly wanted to own.
“I really do miss the connection of being at a club or festival and I hope we can get back to some sort of normality in the future”
Electronic Groove: Talking about your label…Do you feel like the ‘Bedrock’ sound is set in stone by now, or do you envisage it as an ever-evolving thing? You do ever wonder about the label’s long-term future, like maybe 10-20 years down the line? Or is the sound of the label so tied to you and your vision that once you’re done with it all, Bedrock goes with you?
John Digweed: We have already been going for 22 years, which is about 20 years longer than I ever thought we would be! I just try to release good music that I like, I don’t want every track to sound the same or be from the same producers all the time. One of the reasons I think we have had such a long-running label is due not to following fashions and always trying to give our fans the best quality releases we can, with exciting new producers or established producers delivering solid releases time and time again.
Electronic Groove: About the mixed CDs, a common staple on Bedrock… You’ve said before that the format is standing on its last legs. How do you think labels will replicate that ‘extra value’ that the physical format holds in the digital world? Or is that ‘extra’ thing something we’ll kiss goodbye to?
John Digweed: Even if you still like the CD format you can hardly find anywhere to play them on new audio systems and in cars these days, so you have to own a CD player and love the format to still support these releases. With the rise of streaming services, people are now happy to just rent music basically, as you never really own anything when you stream and when you stop paying, you lose everything. I am really lucky as Bedrock has an incredibly loyal fanbase that really supports our physical releases at the moment.
Electronic Groove: And that loyalty and love can certainly be found in your ‘Bunker Sessions’. You’ve been one of the most active streamers during this quarantine. And as we can see, you’ve been having a really good time during these. Was it hard, having to re-adjust? Do you navigate through these with a ‘clear head’, without having to ‘read a crowd’? Or do you live them as though you were playing in an actual club setting for thousands?
John Digweed: The Bunker Sessions have been so much fun to do and seeing so many people tune in every week is really heartwarming. The reason I started doing these was simple – I just wanted to stay on top of my music and still DJ while clubs are closed. I also wanted to create an environment where it felt like you were at a house party with me playing, but the focus is not on me, it’s on the music. I don’t really care about being in front of the camera and nobody needs to see me dance! What I have also come to love is having the opportunity to showcase the wide range of music I love every week is different and people really seem to connect and we have built an amazing clubbing community online every week with like-minded clubbers joining in from all over the world. I have also been a strong supporter of Mixcloud, who steam my bunker sets live and pay the rights holders royalties for the tracks I play, which is so important during this time of no gigs as most other streaming services pay nothing or cut and block the stream.
Electronic Groove: And, about this exciting mix you’ve put together for us to celebrate our 800th episode…What can your fans expect?
John Digweed: I’m very happy to be part of this excellent series and contribute to the 800th episode! ☺ I wanted to make something summery, uplifting, and perfect for a beach party sunset or afterparty sunrise, so I hope you like it!
Electronic Groove: Thank you so much for your time, John. It has been a true pleasure. All the best to you in the future.
John Digweed: Thank you for always supporting the Bedrock releases and artists, and wishing Electronic groove every success now and into the future.
John Digweed’s ‘Quattro’ is now available. Stream and buy here.