If you’re a believer of numerology or just a trader in uncanny coincidences: it’s here, in 5 Mag’s 200th issue, that we’re celebrating alongside John Digweed and Nick Muir. That’s because Bedrock Records, their label, has marked their own 200th release — Jonathan Kaspar’s remixes of Digweed & Muir’s “Live Off The Grid” (featuring John Twelve Hawks) and ‘Stand Still,’ released in July 2022.
“We wanted to do something special for the 200th digital release,” Digweed says, “so we reached out to Jonathan Kaspar with regard to remixing one of our releases. He’s been making some amazing music of late and we really wanted to get him involved on the label.”
It has been 23 years since Bedrock launched with Digweed & Muir’s “Heaven Scent” — and nearly 13 years to the day when the label pushed off into the “uncharted waters” of digital music. Digweed, Muir and Bedrock rarely look backward, but took this opportunity to talk to us about the label’s history, along with some bold glances into the future from their unique vantage points as one of electronic music’s most enduring collaborations.
Congratulations on 200 releases! That spans I think about 23 years? What do you remember about making & releasing BED1, which I think was by the two of you as “Bedrock” the production duo?
John Digweed: Thanks so much, this is the 200th digital release but there’s been many other vinyl and CD releases as well over the past 23 years. “Heaven Scent” was a great track and release to start everything off and it’s amazing to look back now at the huge catalog of releases, along with all of the super talented producers and artists we’ve been lucky to work with along the way. From all of the vinyl and CD releases through to all of the exciting artist album releases we’ve put out over the years, it’s been quite a journey.
Nick Muir: John wanted a big record to kick the label off, so we set to and came up with “Heaven Scent.” The idea was to encapsulate everything that was going on with the monthly Bedrock club nights at Heaven in Charing Cross in London (hence the title) and I think we did that. I remember John playing the track at the club after it came out — the roar was like a goal had just been scored in a football match! A special moment.
What can you tell us about the latest release? Fittingly it looks back to a couple of your earlier tracks.
John Digweed: We wanted to do something special for the 200th digital release so we reached out to Jonathan Kaspar with regard to remixing one of our releases. He’s been making some amazing music of late and we really wanted to get him involved on the label. He chose “Live Off The Grid” himself as a track he really wanted to work on, which was a collaboration between Nick Muir and myself and John “Twelve” Hawks based on his The Traveler novel which we released back in 2014. “Stand Still” was featured on one of the more recent Quattro releases so it was great to hear that Jonathan also wanted to remix this track.
Nick Muir: “Stand Still” is a track we have various versions of that John had been playing and it’s great that Jonathan agreed to remix it. He’s on fire right now. Also to get one of the cuts from The Traveler redone by him is such a buzz, I love that album!
‘I remember in Amsterdam in a club asking one of the guys what kind of music he liked and he replied “the right kind.” You know it when you hear it.’ —Nick Muir
If I’m doing my math right, you started up just a couple of years before the vinyl distributors started going bust and blowing up quite a few labels with them. Is it wild to remember there was a time when that was the only way to release music — make a bunch of physical records and ship them to some place that puts them in a big warehouse? Do you remember which was your first digital release, and did it feel strange?
John Digweed: Yeah our distribution network collapsed in 2007 but it had been a shaky few years before that for physical product. We’re very lucky that we still have demand for vinyl and CD formats from the Bedrock fans so we still do these formats on key releases. We even did a limited edition collectors tape cassette last year.
It’s almost 13 years to the day when we released our first digital-only release by Dirty Mongrel titled She Speaks On The Outside EP which I must admit seemed strange at the time as it felt like uncharted waters. But pretty soon the labels and the artists adapted to this new format. Over the years it’s evolved and there’s been a surge in physical releases again in recent years, so much so that there’s now 4-6 months waiting time on vinyl releases due to the demand.
One of the things I thought of while thinking about this interview was how many labels back then were releasing mixed compilations on CD. Far from abandoning it, you’ve released them at a pretty steady pace, and John actually released the Live In London one earlier this year. I can’t think of many labels of Bedrock’s vintage as well as vitality that still do them. How important are they to the label, and do you plant to continue for the foreseeable future?
John Digweed: Yeah it’s something we’ve always done as a label and will continue to do as long as there is a demand there for it. We’re very fortunate that Bedrock has such a great passionate fanbase that allows us to keep continuing these types of releases and it’s great for me to be able to showcase some amazing music from live sets that are recorded at different clubs around the world like Fabric in London, Output in New York and Stereo in Montreal to name just a few of the Live In… series.
On the subject of format changes, we’ve now seen the rise of streaming in the last 5 years. Does the question “How will this play on Spotify?” come up in the A&R process? Has it changed, or does it influence the music that Bedrock releases?
John Digweed: Not really if I’m honest. There are certainly some times where you might have a release that you think “We should have a radio edit of this track,” not only for radio but also because it might get more coverage and plays on Spotify. But the music we sign to the label is never influenced by a particular platform, the most important factor is the music itself.
Have you, or can you imagine, DJing from a streaming platform?
John Digweed: Over lockdown I did it very regularly with my Bunker Sessions to stay in touch with the music and also to try and provide an outlet for people during a very stressful time. The Bunker Sessions grew organically; initially from a Facebook live stream format which put you in direct contact with your fans and music lovers worldwide but sadly there was very little revenue being distributed to the artists whose music I was playing. This was at a time where nobody was doing gigs or live events, so it was very important that we find a way to overcome this.
After speaking with Mixcloud we found this streaming format to be the best way of both connecting with listeners but also ensuring that the artists received some payment for the plays their music was receiving. Streaming a DJ set certainly doesn’t come close to do a live gig and being amongst the crowd and feeling the energy from the dance floor but for what we could do at the time, it was the best way of connecting with people.
What would you class as a “sleeper” release from Bedrock? One that people overlooked or didn’t get the love you think it deserves?
John Digweed: Over the years there have been a few where we’ve scratched our heads a bit on releases that have been a bit overlooked, but then it’s equally amazing when a cool underground track that you signed because you really liked it, suddenly blows up and takes on a life of it’s own. From a DJ point of view it’s always great trying out the new releases and just seeing how a good track can just totally blow up. I’d be playing Aubrey Fry’s “The Loop” as a closing track on my South American tour and the hype for that release when it came out was unreal.
Nick Muir: Wow ok — that’s a lot of music you’re talking about there. Going back many years there was a track by Salt Tank I really liked called “The Energy” which didn’t seem to get much love… Also I have to give a shout to the album we made with John “Twelve” Hawks, called The Traveler. I’m just so happy we did that record and I thought it got overlooked. Jonathan Kaspar has just brilliantly remixed “Live Off The Grid” from that album though so hopefully people will go back to it.
You have what is probably one of the most enduring music production partnerships in dance music (I’m thinking even Louie & Kenny, whole years go by between collaborations there). What’s the secret? I was watching the Beatles documentary but really any documentary about a band eventually gets to the point where one’s drunk, one’s high and one has a religious guru and they all want to punch each other.
John Digweed: Ha ha and wow that’s quite a compliment referring to MAW. I think it’s all about mutual respect and understanding what each of us brings to the table. Nick is an incredible musician and studio boffin and has the incredible ability to know exactly what sounds I want creating for tracks and remixes. Sometimes there is back and forth on tracks but we always strive to get the finished track as good as possible.
Nick Muir: We get on as friends and I think we both understand where each of us is coming from. Also musically we understand what each other is talking about when we’re making tracks or remixes. I’ve found this to be quite rare in my career as musician — when John makes a comment about the music, it makes sense to me. The other thing about John is he’s a very private person but conversely very loyal. He tends to continue working with people he knows can do the job.
Trends come and go and you’ve seen a few come, go & come back again. What sound do you think is next?
John Digweed: To be honest I’ve never been one for following trends, I’ve always played a broad range of music in my sets since I started DJing. Depending on how long the set is that I’m playing the musical genres that I’ll play can go from anything from deep house to breaks, through melodic house right up to full on banging acid techno tracks. It’s all about good music and not too much of the same sound as that is boring.
Nick Muir: For me, you’re aware of genres and the kind of ebb and flow of varying styles and their popularity, but I remember in Amsterdam in a club asking one of the guys what kind of music he liked and he replied “the right kind.” You know it when you hear it.