Among the more memorable performances of Movement 2016 was that of John Digweed. The English DJ/producer’s name became nearly synonymous with progressive house in the ‘90s, and even as the tides of electronic music have turned in recent years, he remains one of its more prolific figures.
After rising to fame for his legendary back-to-back sets with Sasha at London nightclub Renaissance in the ‘90s, Digweed would go on to win the title of DJ Mag #1 in 2001. As long as it’s been since the global electronic music community’s sights shifted away from the UK, however, he’s remained one of the more influential house and techno artists on the circuit
Shortly before his set on the third day of the festival, John Digweed was gracious enough to sit down with us and offer his perspective on topics ranging from Movement to production to house music.
Take a look below to see what he had to say, and enjoy.
Welcome back to Movement! How do you like spending time in Detroit for these events?
John Digweed: I love playing here. It’s such an incredible festival with so much history and so many amazing acts playing here, and it’s nice to be invited back for the third time. So yeah, I’m excited to be playing.
As far as house and techno are concerned, you’ve really earned a reputation as one of the more consistent and respectable artists out there. What do you feel has set you apart in such a saturated scene?
John Digweed: Just my passion for what I do. I really love DJ’ing, but I also love the music – and I’m focused. If you take your eye off the ball you can slip, but I’ve always tried to be consistent. Every gig you’ve gotta give 100%, and you’ve gotta make sure that you leave the crowd wanting more and wanting to see you again. That’s always been my policy from day one; I want people to come away from the gig like, “John played the best he possibly could.” That’s something that I’ve tried to do and will continue to do until I stop.
Back when you were coming up, more of the production side of electronic music was done with analogue synthesizers. Do you still make a lot of your music that way or has your creative process in the studio changed?
John Digweed: I work in the studio with Nick Muir, and he’s still got a few analogue keyboards and stuff, so some of it we use for that, and the other is in the computer. It’s a kind of mixture, really.
There’s a distinctly English quality of sound that seems to have endured in the music you guys put out, even well after the ‘90s. What do you think the UK’s identity in dance music is nowadays?
John Digweed: I don’t know, I’ve never really analyzed it that much. Well, we’ve definitely gotten a lot better at it. There was a time when the Chicago and Detroit guys were making the best house and techno, and I think England’s caught up – but Germany’s making amazing music. So many artists out there are really on fire.
Overall, a lot of people have just got a real grasp of making interesting, exciting music, and that’s across all corners of the globe. The technology’s there now and it’s a lot cheaper than it was 15 years ago, so that allows younger people who probably wouldn’t have been able to afford that equipment 15 years ago to make music and suddenly become international DJs off the back of a couple records. That’s an exciting aspect of it as well. If you’ve got some talent, there are opportunities to rise a lot quicker than if you did 15 years ago.
A lot of the youngest generation of electronic music fans are graduating from more mainstream music, and with that, the underground is starting to change shape as well. What do you think might be the next frontier in the more underground genres?
John Digweed: I’ve always tried to stay away from questions about what’s coming next, because I never know – and if I did, I’d be trying to find every artist under the sun who’s playing it. You just have to go with the flow, because sometimes a scene is created out of a certain club, or a certain festival, or a group of DJs. You can’t just go, “alright, we’re gonna do this,” and make it happen.
It’s about a collective of people that just stumble across something and just do it, and it turns into something. That’s more organic, and it feels more natural, and hopefully if the press don’t jump over it too quickly it gets more of a chance to grow and become bigger rather than just being over in a flash.
Outside of house and techno, another more classic style that’s regaining popularity, especially in the US, is trance – because of events like Dreamstate. It’s been suggested that some of trance’s seminal influences might have come from yours and Sasha’s 1996 album, Northern Exposure. Do you suppose that might have been the case?
John Digweed: I mean, it was probably trance with a small “T.” It was melodic European house music that had melody and stuff like that, but it was never that kind of full-blown trance. I think what we had was house music with emotion, and at that time, it was maybe a good starting point for people to listen to music that was probably not what they were used to. We captured a very European sound in house as opposed to what was being played in New York. We had our own take on it, but it was definitely not the full-blown Tiësto-type stuff.
That concludes our interview with John Digweed, but we’d like to thank him very much for his time.