Exclusive Interview with John Digweed

John Digweed
Photo Credit: NPR
John Digweed and Nick Muir’s partnership has been one of electronic music’s most fruitful pairings, leaving a body of work that’s seen them become one of the world’s most highly regarded production duos. While science fiction and electronic music have intertwined at numerous points since the emergence of the genre – from Jeff Mills to Global Communication and beyond – together with bestselling author, John Twelve Hawks, Digweed & Muir have taken the relationship into new territory and the album, ‘The Traveler’, is the result of this symbiotic connection.

John Digweed The Traveler
Check out the exclusive interview we did with John Digweed!

What was it like working with John Twelve Hawks to produce the music to his trilogy “The Traveler?”

 It was great, but also quite strange because he maintains a level of secrecy about his identity. This meant that communication with him was kept to a minimum, we only met him for a very brief period of time to record his spoken contributions and we never knew where he would be at any one time. Nonetheless, he was very approachable, extremely professional, interesting and motivated; a fascinating character in fact and we count ourselves very lucky that he wanted to work with us. His vocal delivery was excellent, great timing and really clear; it makes the album in fact. It was a risky thing to do in a way but it turned out really well.
What was your process when creating the sounds for the emotions and feelings that go with the story “The Traveler”? 
We took our cues from the mood of the book and the passages that John read – the story is slightly futuristic but with very recognizable elements from our everyday world, so we tried to reflect that in the music, taking familiar sounding material and bending it out of shape a bit. Also the idea of The Traveler’s journeys to other realms, certain passages of the album are made to take you out of yourself a little, to capture that state of mind, or our impression of it anyway. We wanted to make the album a good listen so the music is not willfully obscure, it’s quite serious but also lots of grooves in there which hopefully feel good – we had a ball making it, actually.Can you tell us about the track “Am I Awake”? What is the Dreamworld like and what is the message of this track?

The track is a reflection of the passage that John reads from the book and is one of the more cerebral moments of the album. The idea of a ‘Dreamworld’ doesn’t necessarily conjure up a beat-heavy treatment so we wrote something more atmospheric which hopefully matches the mood. I would say the message is that if you find yourself in a thoughtful frame of mind, then give it some time and space, don’t immediately snap out of it as we all have a tendency to do.

What was your reaction when you found out that John listened to your Transitions radio as inspiration while writing his book? Do you feel like this helped you connect to his book? 

It’s always great to hear stories of unexpected situations that the Transitions show finds it way into, especially when it involves prominent and creative people. It’s really gratifying because finding new music and presenting it on the show and in my dj sets is my passion, to think that it might be having an effect on people and contributing to other creative processes is an unexpected bonus.

John made it plain in the correspondence that we had prior to making the album that he was into the music – it was that fact that made the album possible – he sent me the book after having listened to quite a few of my mixes and I immediately saw the connection.

How do you relate to the message of “The Traveler”?

The book deals with the possible dangers of high levels of communications technology and a lot of the issues in the book are now coming to pass, large amounts of personal data are now available to whoever has the wherewithal to access it. I think this relates to everyone who uses social and communications media because forces them to stop and think before they reveal too much about their personal lives to all and sundry.

The book is set in the future. Where do you see our society in the future?

That’s a huge question and I’m afraid I don’t have a crystal ball. There’s so many elements that could come into play to change the course of history. Somehow or other it would seem that we have to get our priorities right but if we do that then society could achieve extraordinary things, no question about that. It won’t happen unless we sort the basics out though, which includes keeping The Earth habitable.

What is the future of music?

We’ve had music for thousands of years and we will continue to have it as long as we continue as a species – or maybe even notwithstanding that, who knows. There’s a few elements that resonate with us, people love rhythm, that’s something that runs very deep, also the ability music has to stir emotions just by certain arrangements of notes and frequencies, it’s instantly recognisable but the way it actually works is still very much a mystery. Interestingly, the technology seems to have settled down a little since we’ve been able to make computers powerful enough to handle audio successfully so maybe an organic approach to making music might become more popular. You can make organic music on a computer, incidentally.

What inspires you?

People who are motivated and have a passion for what they do, people who have an understanding and fluency in their chosen medium. People who do something which is obviously tricky or difficult and make it look easy. It reminds you that if you make the right kind of effort you can do something great.

How do you wish to inspire others through music and what does music do for you?

If we can communicate the feeling that listening to a cool piece of music gives to us then we’re doing the job properly. A great new piece of music is always a thrill to discover and listen to,  it allows you to appreciate the moment, takes you out of yourself and if you’re in the company of other people, at a party or a gig maybe then it’s the most fun you can have (with your clothes on, as the old saying goes!)

Stay up to date on John Digweed’s tour here.

Written by FestPop Staff Writer

Suzanne Ledford
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