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Touring with dance music enterprisers Sasha and Digweed

Though we've all done it, name-dropping can sometimes make you look stupid. "One time I tried to talk dance music with my less-than-knowledgeable cousin," a friend and fellow house-head told me awhile back. "He asked me if I liked Sasha and Digweed. He only knows the big names."

Though we've all done it, being a music snob can sometimes make you look stupid, too--but that didn't stop us from having a good laugh over the cousin's failed attempt to show his "hip" dance-music knowledge. That said, there's no denying that U.K. trance DJs Sasha and Digweed are among the most visible figures in the global electronica community. (You may remember that Digweed played the party hero in the San Francisco rave movie Groove.) There's an irony behind my friend's conversation with his cousin--and, for that matter, in the DJ community at large. Sasha and Digweed have achieved a rock-star level of status and income. But like most DJs, they rose from an underground culture that revels in antiestablishment ideals.

Respecting the rock? Sasha and Digweed
K. Westenberg
Respecting the rock? Sasha and Digweed

Consistent with their massive success, the progressive house icons are embarking on their North American tour, Delta Heavy, under the aegis of mammoth promotion firm Clear Channel. I caught up with the DJs at the 2002 Winter Music Conference in Miami, where they launched the tour. The super duo's WMC set boasted a sedative sound and screen projections of masks and tribal objects--the latter provided by L.A. visual design group Imaginary Forces, who created the opening credits for the movie Seven. And if that's not enough celebrity appeal for you, Sasha and Digweed are currently crossing the Land of Liberty (with opening DJ Jimmy Van M.) in a souped-up tour bus. You'd think they were rock stars.

 

CITY PAGES: What is unique about the Delta Heavy tour?

SASHA: I think that no DJs have ever presented themselves with this kind of production before....We've always had trouble with the way DJs just stand there and...[he lifts his arms in the air as if conducting a crowd]. I think that's bullocks. When we decided do to this tour, we thought, Now, what are we going to do visually? Have fire-eating and stand on our heads? Because it's kind of like watching someone fix a car when you watch DJs at work. It's not really the most visually stimulating thing. But when the visuals came back from Imaginary Forces, it was like, wow. They helped us develop an identity for what we're doing.

CP: Do you think visuals are especially important now that you're playing in large arenas?

SASHA: Yes....Some inspiration for [our visuals] came when Daft Punk released their Homework album and basically spent a load of money on lights and production and centered everything around the DJ booth. They ended up literally setting fire to the DJ booth at the end of the night. People who saw it told me it was stunning and created a huge energy. John and I hate being lit up in the DJ booth: We feel really naked. So the focus on this tour is definitely not necessarily going to be John and me.

CP: What's it like to tour again together?

SASHA: Well, we've never toured like this: I mean, living on a bus together. If we're still talking by the last show, then we've succeeded.

CP: What's the bus like?

SASHA: We haven't seen it yet. Q magazine did a special feature on bands on tour.... There's a lot of insights in there: Bring your own pillow, don't shit on the bus, don't let freaks on the bus. We're picking our bus up in Montreal.

CP: You guys could easily fly to your tour destinations. Why a bus?

SASHA: The problem with flying is that I think it's half the stress of touring. New flights, new hotels, unpacking your clothes. It takes up so much time. But now we're going to have this one place that we go back to every night. I don't really know what we're in store for, though.

DIGWEED: The journeys we take are mostly, like, six or seven hours. You leave the hotel, wait in the airport, and--especially with increased security--by the time you're done doing the airport thing you could be in the next town already.

SASHA: And they always want to search everything. And when you have 20 pieces of luggage and have to take every single record out of the box, it's like, Aaaaagh! But no [DJs have] done this before, so it's surely a challenge.

 
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