[Interview] John Digweed Reflects On 20 Years Of Bedrock
One of the planet’s most popular DJs, John Digweed‘s music never falls out of favour with clubbers the world over.
The summer of 2018 marks several milestones in John Digweed’s musical journey, specifically with two projects released that celebrate and encapsulate the complete nature of his legacy. Firstly, released today, 22 June, “Bedrock XX” celebrates 20 years of John’s iconic imprint in the form of a 5x Vinyl/4x CD Deluxe box. Then, on 27 July, John releases the 10th instalment in his “Live in” series, this one coming straight from the Contact dancefloor with “Live in Tokyo”.
With one on the shelves and the other imminent, we managed to speak with John and reflect on 20 years of Bedrock, and more.
“When I started, the DJ at a club was just one up from the barman and glass collectors”
Looking back on 20 years of Bedrock, can you reminisce on those first moments when you launched the brand? What were your goals? What were your thoughts upon launch?
To be honest, the label grew out of my Bedrock club night at Heaven in London in the 90s. Taking place once a month on a Thursday, it was an incredible party packed every month with energetic clubbers. Most of the music industry record labels used to come down and loads of DJs and producers would also hang out there. So many producers would hand me their new tracks asking if I could think of a label for them — they were being influenced by the Bedrock night and sound so it made sense to create a home for them rather than pass the records onto other labels. I also wanted to have my own label to release my collaborations with Nick Muir as well as my own compilations and it was great for us to have control of each project from start to finish. I had no idea how to run a label at the start and it was a steep learning curve at the beginning – signing too much stuff and having a schedule that was too full. But we all learnt as we went along and the label grew and grew in quite a organic way.
You are celebrating the anniversary partly with a huge new, fully curated and mixed compilation. Was this always the thought of how you would celebrate? Was it always your thought to curate tracks produced specifically for the compilation?
I was not sure what I was going to do so I started reaching out to some artists and seeing if they would be up for submitting a track for the project back in October last year. The reaction was incredible and very positive. Obviously a lot of these guy are very busy so I started working round rough deadlines and was very happy when everyone delivered on time. It would have been an easy option to pick 20 tracks and get them remixed for this project but as we have always wanted to keep pushing things forward, I felt it was more appropriate to deliver a album of completely brand new tracks. Malone Design, who have done all the artwork since the first release, started coming up with ideas for the packaging. Including a vinyl box set to the release adds another complication (adding extra time to the manufacturing process) so everyone has been full on with this for months.
On the compilation such artists like Josh Wink, Marc Romboy, Paco Osuna, Pig&Dan and more feature. What were your criteria for selecting the artists featured? Did you supply any parameters as to what kind of tracks you were looking for? Or, perhaps, set it around a tangible theme?
I did not give them any parameters on what sort of track to deliver — they could have sent in an ambient track and I would have been happy. I respect every artist on this album, and I didn’t do a blanket email out to everyone. I just worked through a small wish list and once an artist confirmed I contacted another. As the tracks came in I would road test them in the clubs and after a while I knew I had the beginnings of something special in the pipeline.
Do see any personal highlight tracks on the compilation?
Thats a really hard one as all these tracks have been worked on by producers I really admire and that are all different in their own way. Having had the pleasure to have been playing them all out for the last 4-6 months they are all special to me.
Actually, now that I think of it, how long would you say this project took from conceptualization to release? What was the most difficult part of putting it all together?
This has taken about 6 months from initial first emails going out to finished artwork and delivered to the manufacture. I have an incredibly loyal fanbase who really support the label and I’m very appreciative of that. This album has been on sale since March 29th so its taken nearly 3 months for the box set to be ready.
Describe the branding behind the multi disc presentation of the compilation? Its visual is designed by London based house, Malone Design. Why did you go with them to create the visual look? In your opinion, what does their visual look portray to listeners?
It was important for us to create something really special with the vinyl box set so we added slipmatts, a lanyard and key ring plus exclusive prints, one numbered and signed by me. With so many people downloading and streaming their music these days, having something physical that feels very collectable is important I think. I love Malone Designs’ vision of creating a minimal look that is a piece of art on its own right. It does not need to shout out to you “look at me” and it only needs the basic information on there. Less is definitely more.
Of course, there have been many highlights for Bedrock over the last 20 years but what have been some moments where you questioned the longevity of the brand? Have there been any?
The whole period when Napster and illegal downloading started to take off we (along with many other labels) got caught in a massive downturn in vinyl sales, getting bumped for money from distributors that had gone bust. It took a lot to pull ourselves out of that period and sadly the industry lost a lot of great labels due to no fault of their own. The music industry is a tough business.
What do you see for the next 20 years of Bedrock?
I don’t think there will be a Bedrock 40. I think it’s not good to plan that far ahead. I still can’t believe we have been here for 20 years which is a major achievement in anyone’s books. As long as I keep getting sent music that inspires me I will want to release it. Bedrock has always been about find good quality music that covers everything from ambient to indie, breaks to techno, progressive to tech house. We don’t want to be put in a box we just want to put out great records.
In this 20-year time span, what are some of the primary ways you have seen the industry, and release protocol change?
The change from vinyl into digital was by far the biggest and I think we are going to see the music download change over the next few years into complete streaming in some shape or form — at least on the consumer side of things.
Finally, as I ask all artists these days, what are some ways you maintain mindfulness through the rigors of the job? After all these years have you developed a certain routine, process or protocol to keep you grounded through all the travel, deadlines, and demands?
When I started, the DJ at a club was just one up from the barman and glass collectors, so I think I have a more grounded approach to the whole industry. I have worked with a lot of the same people for over 20 years so we all know roughly what we are doing and all pull together when the time is needed. The travel can be a great adventure or days of sleep deprived exhaustion, however there is no other job in the world that when you turn up for work there are 3000 people cheering when you walk through the door. Whatever job you have, people experience delays getting to work so we cannot moan. There are far more pluses than negatives in my world. I wanted to be a DJ from the age of 11 so I am beyond living my dream — not only playing out but having a record label, a worldwide radio show, studio productions and remixes with the amazing Nick Muir. All these things put more on my plate but they are things I never thought I would have when I first started. My passion and love for this scene is why I have all these other projects on the go. You have to work really hard to get success then work even harder to maintain it. It’s very important to look after yourself and listen to your body when you might be doing too much work and not enough downtime.
“Bedrock XX” is available 22 June & “Live in Tokyo” is available 27 July on Bedrock Records