John Digweed Q&A: Preview of Sasha & Digweed's April 14 St. Louis Appearance
Kristy Wendt: Can you tell me what’s different about this tour than your previous one, Delta Heavy?
John Digweed: Delta Heavy took place in larger arenas, while this tour is focusing on smaller traditional rock venues, where there are a lot of live acts. We’ve brought new LED screens, and the stage isn’t as full. It’s very high tech, very modern. We did a show in Montreal that we were very happy with [visually], and we got in contact with those production people. There’s a lot more control, and the main room is dark, while the lights are on the stage in front and behind so that Sasha and I appear as sillouettes; I don’t like to be the center of attention. I want the music to be the center of attention. We see familiar faces that have been with us for many years on tour, and many new, young people, who bring an extra bit of energy. As a musician, you want to make sure you deliver to these new people- keep them coming back. And for the familiar faces, because we don’t come through for a long time, there’s a lot of excitement when we do come through.
When people, including yourselves, describe the “magic” of Sasha and John Digweed, it’s usually in the context of what happens when the two of you are working together, something maybe more typically associated with jazz musicians. And the duality seems to be part of what makes you so progressive. How did it happen?
I’d sent a mix in [to Renaissance Club, in Manchester, U.K.] for consideration and Sasha really liked it and what I was doing, so I did a gig with him and we began working together. He was inspiring to me, and we have a mutual admiration for each other’s work. We’ve got different personalities, and we get a little bit extra when the two of us are playing together, sort of like one plus one equals one and a half.
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You’ve described your shows as having a clear, narrative arc. Can you describe for a layman what that means musically or technically?
We’re trying to create an experience from the moment you walk in until when you leave. DJ Kazell sets the mood; I’ve got the security of knowing that the mood will be set for me. He knows how to start the night and where to leave for us to take over. [Technically] you tend to move up the BPM throughout the night to increase the intensity; once it starts to go up, we typically don’t take it back down again.
In the beginning of the DVD released with Delta Heavy, Sasha is thumbing through $3000 of freshly selected acetate disks, and it’s hard for the viewer to imagine what must have gone into that process, especially since dynamics are so integral to the success of electronic music. Where do you find the next big sound?
If you’re a fan of electronic music, then you can appreciate what the Internet has done for it. We update the set even while we’re on tour, so that the show is never the same; it’s always new, always fresh. And we’re very lucky people in that new producers often want us to get the music first, so we’re often the first to receive new music.
Any new track in particular standing out to you right now?
Guy J has a track called "Under Pressure" that we’ve played a few times on tour, and we always get a good response from the audience.
Related to that, can you say how the expectations of the audience change depending on your locality, in the general sense that the present tour is focusing on smaller, more intimate venues, and/or in the specifics of a particular city’s culture?
Sometimes it effects the timing; longer sets versus shorter ones. In Philly we get to play a lot of stuff that’s deeper and techier, while in Nashville, it’s a lot more bangy. The beauty of what we do is you’re not going to hear the same things from place to place while you’re on tour. Each time it’s something new.
-- Kristy Wendt