Clubs: Digging it in the Big Apple

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Indy Lifestyle Online
John Digweed is one of the biggest names in British DJing. He has forged a reputation for excellent sounds and great atmosphere. And now he's branching out - to New York

I arrange to meet John Digweed in Soho after he's bought a few records at Plastic Fantastic. Thousands of clubbers around the world willingly part with their loot to listen to him perform but few would recognise him in the flesh. In addition to filling venues around the UK he also fronts the freshest Friday night gig - in New York. It's a long way from mixing Fatback tunes in his Hastings bedroom.

"I used to practise every day after school and homework just went out of the window," he says. "It was hip-hop or alternative stuff, a bit of everything, but there was no money to be made back then.

"I flunked my exams but managed to get a job in a hotel doing college gigs for pounds 15 a night. It was a lot better than being on the dole."

He moved to London in 1987 to check out the club scene, but didn't exactly find the streets paved with gold.

"I was sending off tapes of my own stuff but kept being turned down because I wasn't a big enough name. I sent a tape to Renaissance. In 1992, they called me back and asked me to play. I worked really hard there and it created a kind of domino effect with other clubs."

Digweed's Northern Exposure partnership with Sasha was initially forged at Renaissance where Sasha was resident DJ. Northern Exposure's collaborations are well received the world over but few know that Sasha instigated Digweed's move to Renaissance after hearing one of his tapes.

"It was a great break for me," he explains. "Sasha was one of the leading lights on the dance scene and he had faith in me."

Sasha and Digweed have forged their own traditions along the way. They're famous for an ability to attract revellers in droves with their deep ambient sound, mixing in tandem, playing monster eight-hour sets and sharing the set a tune at a time, one-off, one-on.

Has he ever wanted to leave the team and forge an exclusively solo reputation? "Over the last five years, I've worked hard and think I've proven that I can fill clubs in my own right," he says. "When I`ve gone abroad without Sasha people always come and support me while the CDs I've released have all done well."

Despite both DJs pursuing solo projects, fans will be relieved to learn that the desire to work together is still strong. The recent release of Northern Exposure II CD won't be the last.

"Before Renaissance, I'd often tried to book Sasha in Hastings without success. When he did play he came down unannounced and we played the top end of the Pier in front of 200 people.

"It was the first time we played `one-off, one-on' together and we just had a laugh. We've always had respect for each other and it seemed to gel right from the start."

The combination has now been exported to New York where their monthly residency at Twilo's is the place to visit. "When we first started in New York I was quite sceptical because Sasha had played in a different New York venue and hadn't gone down too well. However, the night was great and every month that we come back it's the same.

"Danny Tenaglia recently said that `Sasha and Digweed's night rules Friday nights in New York'. When you see something like that in black and white it makes all the travelling worthwhile."

Digweed is now 30, but the love of DJing that inspired him as a 12-year-old is still evident. Presently, he clocks up more miles than ever. Ask him where his favourite venues are and you get a resume of the UK's finest; the Empire in Middlesbrough, Arches in Scotland, Dublin, Brighton, Bournemouth - and New York!

He's appearing at a gig near you wherever you are - just buy your ticket in advance.

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