John Digweed on the Intricacies of a VR Festival Performance and the Impact of COVID-19 on Dance Music [Interview]
John Digweed is amongst a rare breed of time-tested electronic music DJs—a dance music veteran thriving in the music industry for almost three decades, without compromising on the quality and integrity of his sound.
One of Digweed’s notable achievements is producing the first-ever commercial compilation for a nightclub in partnership with fellow iconic artist Sasha. That’s to say not much has gone under Digweed’s nose in modern dance music history.
Of course, as the COVID-19 pandemic has ruptured the music industry’s lifeblood of live music events, like most DJs, Digweed has had to adjust. That’s come with hosting regular livestreams, playing virtual festivals, filling the void of empty hours once spent on the road or in the club, and making difficult decisions on when and how to resume live events.
EDM.com recently caught up with Digweed to discuss all that and more. Read ahead for our conversation.
EDM.com: You did a virtual reality (VR) performance for Lost Horizon festival recently. What was that like?
Digweed: It went well. I arranged a green screen for the set and did all of the filming by myself. During times like these, you need to adapt to the situation that’s in front of you and deliver the best that you possibly can as a performer.
EDM.com: Virtual festivals are such a new and uncharted concept. What can you divulge to our readers about what a DJ has to do in preparation for a set like Lost Horizon? In terms of execution, how does it differ from a normal in-person DJ set?
Digweed: Of course, it’s a way different experience from being in front of a crowd. You have to be able to give the same energy and passion as you do during a live set because it’s that much more important that your audience feels connected to you in this way since the physical aspect of the performance is now gone. In my opinion, I delivered a set that, overall, I thought would go down well with the crowd tuning into the Lost Horizon livestream.
EDM.com: Your recently released QUATTRO compilation consists of 4 discs, 4 mixes, and 45 unreleased tracks. What spurred the idea behind curating such a massive compilation?
Digweed: QUATTRO was originally only going to just be a 2 CD release, but as all the tracks started to come in, it just seemed to grow exponentially by the minute, eventually turning into a 4 CD compilation that covers many different kinds of genres and styles of dance music. I am really happy with the result, as well as all of the positive feedback we got from the release.
EDM.com: Given how expansive QUATTRO is, the compilation has a breadth of artists. How did you go about selecting the artists for QUATTRO?
Digweed: It was a very organic selection process, and really just came together over the course of nine months. Sometimes these things just happen because the stars were aligned.
EDM.com: As a dance music industry veteran, what do you think will be the new normal for electronic music in a post-COVID-19 world? Will regular livestreams, virtual festivals, or any other recent trends last?
Digweed: I have no idea. However, for the moment, livestreams are here to stay. Currently, I am up to the eighteenth edition of my ‘Bunker’ streaming series and am certainly positive I will be doing them for many more months to come.
EDM.com: How have you been spending time with the COVID-19 pandemic curbing much of life as we know it for most of the year so far?
Digweed: I have never been so busy before. I’ve been sorting through so much old paperwork as well as sorting my record collection. I’ve also been regularly exercising as well as getting a full 8-plus hours of sleep a night. Overall, my body is not used to not having jet lag for the first time in 25 years. It’s a forced stop, but I am making use of it as much as I possibly can.
EDM.com: We’re starting to see organizers host in-person events with COVID-19 related safety protocols. Do you think it’s a good move? Would you be open to performing in-person if the safety protocols for an event were up to guidelines
Digweed: I think everyone is keen on getting back to normal, but we can’t rush this, or we will be shut down for even longer if it potentially creates more spread of the virus. Ultimately, we need to be cautious of how we move forward with nightclub reopenings and festivals so we don’t end up with even more lockdowns.