Paris Hilton recently tweeted that “House music is taking over!” And she thus marked a new life cycle for a 30-year-old genre. In dance music, though, it's not about what's taking over but about what aspect of the scene has bubbled back up and taken on a new identity.
The house of today is the trance of yesterday (see Kaskade or Deadmau5), and the bubbly, “minimal” techno sound that was so hot five years ago was really just another way of expressing a “progressive” side of the untz-untz world (and “progressive house,” to many, was simply a tamer, more soulful side of trance). Discuss.
While the likes of Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta and Dirty South have attached themselves to the new-house juggernaut, here's an idea: Attach yourself to everything (a la Danny Tenaglia, Danny Howells and L.A.'s own DJ Harvey). That way you can just play whatever's good when the mood strikes. John Digweed, whose new three-disc release Structures 2 features a live mix from Avalon Hollywood, is just such a macro-spinner, and he's in town Wednesday for a special spin session at the Mayan downtown with DJ Kazell.
You can find elements of trance, techno and brooding tribal house in Digweed's sets. He dips his brush in a broad palette of colors, some sublime, some brooding, to control the club's aesthetic and conduct a flowing dance floor symphony.
Known for his 1990s sessions with Sasha and for the duo's Delta Heavy Tour, Digweed has, over the years, fashioned himself as a DJ's DJ, a perennial headliner who's more about the vibe than the pecking order on the invite. Is he one of DJ Magazine's Top 100 DJs? He usually is in the top 20 if not top 10. But for his fans, the correct answer is, Who cares?
Those accustomed to Adele remixes and sing-along pop DJs need not apply. Digweed constructs his own charts.
We recently caught up with the spinner and asked him a few questions:
LA Weekly: Was CD 2 on Structures 2 really recorded live at Avalon, or did you put it together based on inspiration from your appearance?
John Digweed: I record every single show that I do. When I was putting the compilation together I knew in the back of my mind when the night was happening this is a special party. I knew when I played the show March 19 that was the one I wanted to use on the new album.
Were there any problems getting permission to use all the tracks?
There were quite a lot of different labels on the album. A few years ago there used to be problems because people were precious about their tracks. These days a lot of labels are happy to generate extra revenue.
That used to be what you'd do — put tracks together in studio then get a knock back from someone who doesn't want you to use it. It's definitely not as hard as it was a few years ago.
What part of your set did you chose for the mix?
It was a six- or seven-hour set. The CD is from about 18 minutes in. The latter half is too banging. Those early set records sound so much better on CD. If you have a CD that's all banging and fast it's hard for someone to listen to. This one shows a nice curve to the mix.
You also do podcasts and give away your mixes?
I do a podcast every week on Mixcloud — 30 minutes, edited down. You gotta use the platforms that are out there to gain exposure. Being a record label (Bedrock), I'm conscious not to give music away, but rather to let people hear it and buy it. I don't upload it at full-quality. I talk over it. I think I'm doing quite good promotion.
How is L.A. sizing up as a global dance music town these days for you?
It's a very special city. I've been there for 8 of the last 10 New Years Eves. The crowds are very special. There's a massive scene. I don't think there are many cities in the
world that can have me at one party, Paul Van Dyk at another, and Tiesto somewhere else — and they're all busy.
You don't see the scale of the parties that many places around the world. There's definitely been a bit of a new injection with Deadmau5, David Guetta and the Swedes. There's been a big commercial injection which has been massive. These guys are hugely successful on the radio, and the parties they do will sellout.
That can only be good for the scene. It's getting people going out listening to music and it will slip through and maybe they'll listen to me or Richie Hawtin or Carl Cox.
Has the mainstreaming of dance music affected your sets at all?
I don't have a commercial record in my set. I play tunes for myself. I don't have a get-out-of-jail-free card: Oops I better stick on the Black Eyed Peas.
Your longtime Wednesday night crowd at the Mayan is there to hear you.
People love what I play. That's why I love the Mayan on Wednesday. It's people who want to hear good music. They want to do something different from the normal clubbing schedule.
I've had so many memorable nights at the Mayan and it attracts that special crowd. It's not a normal weekend night so they have to make that extra effort. That's the kind of dedication I love from the fans.
How long have you been doing the Wednesday one-offs at the Mayan (which usually happen once, twice a year)?
I think this must be 11 or 12 years ago.
Your Global Undergound: Los Angeles mix-CD from 2001 was inspired by a Mayan set?
That was based on the set that I played at the Mayan on that trip.
There's no better crowd to play to. That's why I love that kind of night. That's why I did that in England with Bedrock — it attracts a midweek crowd.
When you emphasize a sound, other DJs follow. What's your flavor these days?
Musically I've tried everything you can. There's good music in my inbox everyday. Every week I'm buying off Beatport racks that blow me away.
I went through the whole minimal techno sound. The techno sound is still there but it developed into more house sounds and stabby vocals musical elements. It's come full circle. There's a lot of DJs playing Sneak and there's a big U.S. house influence which is fantastic.
You've got great records that the younger generation didn't hear the first time.