English DJ and producer John Digweed has been active since ’89 and has seen the Brit scene blossom from its humble beginnings. The technology has evolved beyond recognition, but that’s not the only significant change that electronic music across the Atlantic has seen.
“It’s way more of a business and brand lead these days,” Digweed says. “At the start, random people threw parties and clubbers went and had fun. As time went on, promoters became more professional with how they ran events and placed more care and attention on sound, lighting, and production. This made the events more organized and licensed, which resulted in less illegal events that ran the risk of being shut down by the police.
Honestly, it needed to go in that direction because safety standards are crucial when you have hundreds or thousands of people at an event. This was particularly important during a time when certain promoters were only interested in making money and not in the welfare of their party guests. Things have grown steadily within the UK since those innocent beginnings with ground-breaking club nights and world-dominating DJs. I do miss the early ethos that those parties held, as they had a real organic feel to how they grew.”
In the beginning, British rave was all about illegal parties in warehouses and barns, often broken up by the police.
“There was something really exciting about the early rave days in the UK — nobody knew what they were doing and we all jumped aboard,” Digweed says. “It was a rollercoaster thinking that it might only last a few years before another scene took over. The energy and vibe that prevailed in the clubs and warehouses during that time were incredible. People were thinking on their feet and spreading parties via word of mouth; this was way before social media so everyone really felt like they were a part of something secretive.
Finding out about and going to one of these events was always accompanied by the thought that it might get raided by the police. There was genuine excitement that came from driving in convoys down country lanes and carrying your box of records through a dark field to play in the back of a truck in the woods somewhere. I do miss that moment but it got to a point where they got increasingly shut down, so it was never going to last. I’m very glad to have lived through that period.
Nowadays, Digweed tries not to suit his own sound in a box.
“I want to be known for playing good music,” he says. “Anyone who caught any of my ‘Bunker Sessions’ sets in the past year heard a different set every week, ranging from ambient breaks, house, and techno that suits the style of what I feel like playing that week. As for what I’ll play at my next festival or club gig, I’m sure it will be more house and techno leaning but who knows. I love playing great tracks and if you present them in the right way you can make different styles work within your set.”
Digweed is preparing the release a mammoth 4xCD album called QUATTRO II, the sequel to last year’s QUATTRO.
“The themes are the same as those in the first edition with ‘Soundscape’ being a more cinematic type album,” he says. “I am so happy with all the tracks on this CD as they work so well together and the it sounds so complete. ‘Tempo’ is more club-orientated with 13 fresh tracks to rock any dance floor. In ‘Redux’ we dip into some of the Bedrock back catalogue and get some amazing remixes done by some of my favourite artists. Lastly, I hand the reigns over to Robert Babicz to work his magic on CD 4 ‘Juxtaposition’ where he delivers an album of futuristic electronica and ambient textures. What I think works on these albums is the quality of music over 4 CDs with loads of variety but still making sense as a coherent body of work.”
Looking ahead, the DJ and producer is going to be staying busy in 2021.
“I am keeping busy with my Bedrock records label and radio shows and waiting for the green light for when it’s ok to start playing live again,” he says. “The whole nightlife community has been through so much in the last year. I hope we can meet on the dancefloor and enjoy those special moments where music brings people together as one again soon.”