Rock of Ages

A conversation with DJ, producer, and label owner John Digweed

Do you feel that dance music is still producing major stars? I haven't heard of any emerge since Ti'sto. But it seems that, back in the late Nineties, there were quite a few of them.

Ti'sto has been DJing for quite a long time. It wasn't like he just appeared. He had been DJing for seven or eight years, maybe longer, before [his popularity] exploded. I think with a lot of DJs it's that slow process of really finding their sound and their groove. And then, when it does happen, they've got the experience behind them because they've been DJing a long time. They know what they want to do when they start to gain success. DJs don't become superstars overnight; you can't start playing turntables and then six months later become the biggest DJ in the world. It just never seems to happen like that.

Can you name any DJs who are starting to reach that level?

I mean, look at someone like Hernan Cattaneo from Argentina. I mean, he's had a cracking 24 months. He came in at number six in the [2004 DJ magazine Top 100 DJs poll], and he's done that by sheer hard work, traveling, doing mix CDs, doing his radio shows, and just being consistently good when he goes out and plays. James Zabiela is another young DJ who is just on the road, DJing, and playing cracking sets.

You've got your Bedrock imprint. Bedrock is well known for discovering and catapulting DJs into the limelight. In what ways do you support these new artists?

Well, I've got years of experience. Last year I did a workshop; I went around to universities and spoke to up-and-coming DJs. We did a Q and A for an hour, and had a chance to use the turntables and CDs. When I first started DJing, I was very fortunate. I latched on to some great DJs that were playing in my local town. They knew the right way to DJ: how to program [the right records to play in a set], how to build a night ... it's common knowledge, really. But you tell a DJ, look, if you're on first, and there are four people in the club, you don't want all the lights going and the sound as loud as it will go. You're warming things up, setting the mood. It's all little things where, if someone doesn't tell you, you're just going to go in and say, "This is my moment of glory! Ta da!"

Who are some of Bedrock's up-and-coming artists?

Nowadays, for a lot of young DJs, getting their own mix album is almost impossible. A lot of labels aren't taking as many risks on unknown talent. I felt that I was in a position where I could help these guys out. So we started the Original Series. Desyn Masiello, who put together a great compilation [last year called Original Series: OS_01], did the first one. Then we had Jonathan Lisle, who just released his. We've got Luke Fair coming up in the summer. Those are the guys who really impressed me over the past few years. When you're a young DJ, you can give out as many mix CDs as you want. But once you've got an official mix CD behind you, it almost adds that extra bit of clout, doesn't it? It's like, if someone is willing to invest thousands of pounds to push this project forward ... if I can do that to push these guys' careers, then I want to help these guys.

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