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Artist Profiles :: John Digweed

John DigweedWhen they see him DJ, many people assume that John Digweed must be a miserable git. Those who know him, however, tell a different story; his stony face in the DJ booth is simply because he’s concentrating so much on what he’s doing. He didn’t become famous for long, crafted sets and perfect mixing by dancing around like a loon and shaking hands with every wide-eyed clubber who wanders up, you know.

John Digweed always wanted to be a DJ. He began sneaking into clubs in his native Hastings on the south coast of England at the age of 15. He spent two years working part-time as a gardener to save up for his first pair of decks, before landing his first gig in a local hotel. After that came a Friday night residency at the Savannah club in Brighton.

Things really started to happen when John moved to London to work as a bar manager and paid a visit to the Delirium night at Heaven, the influential venue which has contributed more than most to the UK dance scene. Inspired by what he’d seen he abandoned any thoughts of a career in the bar industry, returned to Hastings and set up a night at local club The Crypt. On a whim, he named the night Bedrock and booked local boy Norman Cook as his first guest.

Then John hooked up with another local promoter, Martin Webb, and together they launched Storm at Hastings pier. The first night featured Derrick May, Grooverider and Harvey, sold out in days and over the next couple of years became one of the most successful parties on the south coast.

All this time, John had been mailing out his mixtapes to all and sundry. One found its way to Pete Tong, who gave John a break on his Friday night Radio 1 show and helped him get a gig at a weekender in Pwlheli, Wales, alongside Paul Oakenfold and Graeme Park. He progressed to a warm-up residency at Rage, the infamous Thursday night at Heaven credited with the birth of jungle/drum’n’bass, where he met Nick Muir, who would become his partner in all future Bedrock productions.

By 1992 or so John was a regular on the south coast circuit, but little known anywhere else. Then he got the break which really made the difference; another of his tapes found its way to Geoff Oakes, who’d launched Renaissance in Mansfield with Sasha as resident DJ. Digweed’s tape was exactly what Oakes was looking for and after impressing Renaissance with his debut set, Digweed joined Sasha as a resident.

The Renaissance residency was the making of John Digweed. All of a sudden, clubs across the UK wanted to book him. He initially held out for six months, but became one of the biggest DJs in the country over the next couple of years and won the DMC DJ Of TheYear award in 1995. Meanwhile, Sasha and John had become firm friends, forming a partnership that would last until the present day.

In 1995, Digweed launched the monthly Northern Exposure night at The Zap in Brighton, with Sasha and himself installed as the resident and only DJs. Northern Exposure moved to The Old Barn in Kent for six successful months; in fact it was so successful that Northern Exposure went on to tour the UK and Sasha and Digweed signed a three-album deal with Ministry Of Sound Recordings.

Since they met, Sasha and John have DJed together all over the globe. They are especially popular in the US, particularly in the Florida and San Francisco areas, and today hold a prestigious residency at Twilo, New York.

But things change fast in the fickle world of dance music and progressive trance mutated into ‘epic house’ in the mid-nineties, associated with endless breakdowns, pompous, overblown trance tracks beset by weak vocals. Sasha and Digweed were criticised as the worst offenders. They adjusted their sound as a result, introducing breakbeats and cutting out much of the weaker material, but point out that some of the key producers whose material was condemned as epic house are amongst the most popular nowadays, such as Paul van Dyk and BT.

John’s musical career began in 1994 with Bedrock’s For What You Dream Of, released on Positiva and later gaining notoriety for its inclusion on the Trainspotting soundtrack. He and Nick Muir have remixed Danny Tenaglia, Farley & Heller and Satoshi Tomeii and their latest creation, Heaven Scent, charted at number 35 in 1999.

Even as his DJing career flourished, John still wanted to keep the Bedrock name alive and, although there was a three-year hiatus, he currently promotes and DJs at Bedrock parties in three cities, Brighton, Dublin and London, which sees John return to a London residency for the first time since Rage, at Heaven, co-incidentally. The night runs on a Thursday so as to attract a crowd into the music and also take advantage of the fact that guest DJs are easier to come by on midweek night.

Want to know more? check out this CD...
Global Underground 19: John Digweed In...
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