Everyone who has been going out to clubs longer than two minutes will remember where they were the first time they saw either Sasha or John Digweed. Fewer have been lucky enough to catch both these decade spanners in action together, but for those who have the experience usually ranks almost the most memorable, and sweaty, of their hedonistic careers.
First cementing their reputation as partners in the booth back in the early-90s, mixes such as Northern Exposure and Renaissance have since been committed to the pantheons of dance music, although it's in a live situation the pair really shine, whether during their lengthy tenure as residents of landmark New York spot Twilo, or at Ibiza institution Privilege, which enjoyed a resurgent 2017 season in part thanks to the two men in question.
Tonight Manchester is equally privileged to welcome both to Store Street for one of the most anticipated Warehouse Project events of this year, and they gave us some thoughts on the house and techno scene, their approach to sharing headline duties, and more. Eyes to the front, then.
How has autumn and the start of winter been treating you? Any particular highlights in terms of travels/clubs/events?
John Digweed: "Really well thanks, been a great start to Autumn / winter with great gigs in Brighton and Bucharest and some exciting parties in Dublin, Barcelona, Bulgaria, London, Bristol and Manchester to look forward to. Highlights over the Summer would be the Resistance residency in Ibiza plus all the Resistance world wide shows taking in South America, Asia, Europe and the States. Glastonbury was great fun this year and so many great worldwide club shows- it's been a stellar year for me."
Sasha: "Summer was really chaotic and crazy. I normally stay in Europe for the summer but this year I had multiple trips to the USA, Asia, and South America doing a lot of Ultra Resistance parties, so this Autumn I’ve been staying close to home and not doing so much travelling over the last couple of months which has been nice. Had a great show in Bucharest playing with John, our first show there together in a long time. Sub Club Glasgow was awesome too, second time I’ve played there, I’m hoping it becomes a yearly fixture in the calendar. I was just back in fabric too, I hosted Friday 24th November for Last Night On Earth."
2017 has seen you both play together again on the regular (Privilege), what was the catalyst behind the decision to start doing more B2Bs?
JD: "After we did the surprise show at Ministry of Sound over Easter 2016 there was a huge amount of interest and The Social Festival that year really got people excited about seeing us play together. We really wanted to do a series of special parties and when Resistance came to us with the idea of playing for their worldwide events plus their new residency in Ibiza it seemed the perfect fit. The production they put into their shows is incredible and everything went really well on all those gigs."
S: "We took a bit of a break from touring together, neither of us thought it would last that long but it ended up being that way as we’ve just both been so busy with our own projects. Then it was just working out what was the best way to get back into it, and would it gel the way it used to…
"We did the tester show at Ministry where John was hosting Bedrock’s birthday, and I crept in a DJed with him. People didn’t realise until about halfway through the set that we were both playing as we kept it really dark. That was a great way for me and John to have a set together, there was no pressure. The reaction off the back of that was so crazy, the phone started ringing and offers started coming in.
"Nic Fanciulli and The Social crew were really instrumental at getting us to do our first proper announced show. The production those guys put together, and that room at The Social where we play, is fantastic, probably the perfect room for me and John. We’ve got a long history of working with the Ultra guys, we did the first ever Ultra on the beach in Miami, so when they came and offered us a deal to play Resistance it really made sense. Our sound meshed well with the whole branding, and Ibiza, South America... ijust fitted together really seamlessly."
In terms of your approach to preparing for a B2B, how planned and predetermined are they - do you have a clear idea of what will be played or more just an idea as to what it should sound like overall?
JD: "There is nothing planned at all except who is going on first that night, we have been doing this long enough to be able to get up there and play so each gig does have a spontaneous feel about it and no gig is ever the same."
S: "We both kinda know what we bring so we never really plan anything out, the only thing we might plan out is talking about who is going to play first, and what were going to open with. We try and play different sets every time we play together. "If I don’t see John for a month and we play together again, we usually play completely different music. It’s very rare that music lasts much longer than a few weeks unless it's something we’ve made or is exclusive to our labels. We really try and change it up and surprise each other, which I really think is why the relationship works and we keep things fresh. We have a funny kind of competitive streak with each other where we’re constantly trying to out do each other with tracks that the other one doesn’t have, its healthy competition."
The Sasha and John Digweed combination has been world famous since the Renaissance and Northern Exposure days, do you ever feel the weight of expectation can be counterproductive though? People think they know what they are going to get, and then perhaps are disappointed when they get something else? Or perhaps it’s the opposite- those expectations lead to pleasant surprises in the crowd?
J: "When you reach any level of success there will always be people that will prefer what you did when they first heard you play, you have to be happy with what you do on stage and with your productions and that will show more than you trying to make everyone happy."
S: "I think people that really know our music know we’re not the type to turn up and play a load of classics that we used to play. I think people who follow us and keep up with our music are always going to be expecting to hear new music and something they’ve not heard before.
"There might be people who haven’t been out in ten or 15 years that want to hear and re-live something, but we’d never start doing classic sets. Whenever we drop an old track into our sets it's a surprise and we often get great reactions to that. John and I are always associated with thinking ahead and what’s next. It's good to dig out the odd gem and surprise everyone now and again, but classic sets isn’t a route we’d ever go down."
Neither of you play ‘progressive house’ as it sounded during its peak, late-90s early-00s, but there’s a lot of the deeper, more ethereal techno gaining attention at the moment, which is heading down that direction. Is there anyone you have played with in recent times that you would particularly recommend for this type of music?
JD: "Stephan Bodzin is making some incredible techno that has spine tingling synths in there."
Sasha, you debuted your live show this year, and will be up in Manchester early 2018 for another outing of the format. Why was now the right time for this to happen?
S: "I was certainly ready for a creative endeavour; I was ready for something to push me to my limits with music and what I can do. The time was right in terms of people being accepting, there’s been a big leap forward in regards to what you can do in a live environment. Korg, Roland, Electron, NI... They’re making equipment that’s fantastic to use live, they’re stable, they react well.
"A lot of the old school equipment that people used to make tracks with in the 90s isn’t that reliable when you take it out on the road. The technology is really there now that allows you to be creative in a live environment. And I think I just wanted a new project!
"When they asked me to do a live show at the Barbican, I was just blown away that a venue like that would be interested in my sort of music. there’s been a big turn towards people being accepting of electronic musicians in more concert environments and are looking for something a bit different to regular classic musical concerts.
"I was certainly ready to take a big project on. I’d talked about doing a live show ten years ago but I couldn’t get my head around it, now it just felt like now I could actually do this. Seeing Nicholas Jaar, Jon Hopkins… the guy that really blew me away was Nils Frahm at the Barbican, he blew me away and got my creative juices flowing and got me thinking how I could reinterpret my old material."
And John, when can we expect Bedrock Live?
JD: "Never, I am happy playing out as a DJ."
Obviously you’re both on the road a lot, or in the air at least - there’s a constant narrative about the UK scene being in decline, aside from the most commercial end of things. Up against many places you visit, how healthy is Britain’s nightlife right now?
JD: "There is still great scenes in all the major cities, yes it might be smaller than it was ten years ago but the promoters are full of passion and are booking forward thing DJs and nights. The amount of festivals not only in the UK but in Europe also has a massive effect on clubland as they eat into people's entertainment budgets, which makes them really pick and choose which gigs they are going to support."
S: "It doesn’t seem like it's in decline to me, every time I’ve been over it has been fantastic. There is always new stuff coming through and I think some of the most exciting producers are coming out of the UK, everyone there always looks at music differently. I know Germany has a lot of talented producers, but there are a lot of artists pushing the envelope in UK."
Finally, what are you doing for Christmas, and New Year?
JD: "You can find me playing in San Francisco on December 29th and I will be playing an extended set at Output Brooklyn NY on NYE.
S: "I’m playing at The Midway in San Fran with John on 29th December, then on NYE I'm doing a Last Night On Earth show in Toronto, with Henry Saiz and Dubspeeka."
Sasha and John Digweed return to The Warehouse Project on Friday 1st December. SOLD OUT.