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Digweed & Muir- Collaborating with Dystopian Icon John Twelve Hawks (interview)
“You must remember we still don’t know who John Twelve Hawks really is. We met him and know what he looks like but apart from the fact that he writes novels, that’s it. We don’t know his real name, nothing of his background, where he lives, what he does or where he goes on a day to day basis.”
John Digweed and Nick Muir recently recorded a new album with bestselling dystopian author, John Twelve Hawks, based on his trilogy of ‘The Traveler’ novels (which were written whilst listening to Digweed’s mix albums and weekly radio show, Transitions).
As Nick points out, little is known about the deliberately undercover author though a quick check of Wikipedia reveals his trilogy (first published in 2005) has been translated into 25 languages and has so far sold more than 1.5 million books.
More informatively it links to a number of the few interviews he’s carried out in which Hawks chatted candidly about living periodically ‘off the grid’ and challenging authority whilst remaining in the shadows.
“Those people I know who aren’t close friends see me as a failure by the American standards of success,” he admitted in an interview published on Joseph Malozzi’s blog.
“Being a “failure” in such a way has been a continual lesson. It’s helped me realize that we make quick judgments of others based on little real information. We assume so much – but don’t know the secrets held within the heart,” he added.
On his own blog, the counter-culture champion promotes his new book Spark as well as a fascinating free download ebook ‘Against Authority- Freedom and the Rise of the Surveillance State’ in which he explores still further the Traveler’s themes of the growing power – and Orwellian nature- of today’s surveillance society.
“History isn’t a chronicle of the lives of kings, or their modern equivalents. It’s the story of a continual war between the people and institutions that have power and that core group in each new generation that decides, “I don’t accept your right to that power, your authority,” he writes.
“And this isn’t just a political and social rebellion. The conflict includes those people who challenge the status quo in science, technology, literature, and art,” he notes.
“In a medieval village, the priest and the local gentry knew what everyone was doing. This informal surveillance was institutionalized when modern governments appeared,” he continues.
“The totalitarian states of the twentieth century created elaborate systems of monitoring and control, but the tools of oppression were always the same: humans watched humans and punished those rebels who broke the rules.”
Chatting to Skrufff about having a (somewhat incongruous) pub lunch with the author recently, John Digweed says their encounter was unfortunately brief.
“He was a very interesting person to meet and both Nick and myself would have liked to have spent a bit more time with him,” he says, “Because we felt honoured that he trusted both of us enough to meet him in person.”
Nick Muir is similarly empathetic.
“He might have very good reasons for concealing his identity, we just don’t know. Sounds a bit cloak and dagger I suppose, but look at the high profile cases of those that have delved into these areas. Their lives are made difficult and extremely unpleasant,” he points out.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Who’s the album aimed at? (does he have more/ less fans & audience than you? how much crossover have you encountered?
John Digweed: “I don`t think we set out trying to aim it at anyone, all three of us involved were genuinely excited about creating a unique project that I’m not sure has been done before and also pushed us as producers. I think the musical element of this project is in keeping with the book and anyone who has read the book will enjoy the album.
At the launch party recently I met several people who were not aware of John Twelve Hawks before we started the promo, but had gone out and bought the book and loved it. I am sure it will work the same for us with fans of John Twelve Hawks.”
Skrufff: You met him in person and went for a pub lunch together- sounds rather anti-climatic; was it? (What was he like in real life; recognisably genius? out there? or not?)
John Digweed: “He was a very interesting person to meet and both Nick and myself would have liked to have spent a bit more time with him as we felt honoured that he trusted both of us enough to meet him in person.”
Skrufff: How do you feel about the camera phone in clubs? and what about ID checks in British clubs- how comfortable are you?
John Digweed: “This is the world we live in now, people want to share what they are doing all the time. Nobody wants an autograph anymore they all want selfies with you, which is fine; I just wish they knew how to work the phone in the first place – or for that matter, not hand it to a stranger who does not know how to work the phone in order to take the photo!”
Skrufff: how did the connection with John Twelve Hawks first come about in the first place?
Nick Muir: “John Twelve Hawks (I’ll shorten to J12H) first came across John’s music because someone on his web forum said it was great to listen to when reading the books. J12H got into it and actually started writing the books with his mixes playing in the background. He got his publisher to send John a copy of the book as a token of his appreciation and John sent a thank you message via J12H’s website.
He replied via email, which, now famously, went straight to junk in Diggers’ email client. He found it in there a year later sent a reply sharpish – the conversation between the two of them started at that point.
Skrufff: In the accompanying press release you talk about the ‘story’ aspect of DJing: how did you set about making the album without slipping into pretentious? Have any/ many close shaves?
Nick Muir: “Pretentious? Nous? We just rely on our on-board cringe-ometers to check when we’re barking up the wrong tree. If I send a version of something we’ve been working on to John and it’s not cutting it or is cringey in any way, I get a one word email back – ‘eek’. I know instantly what that means. Chuck, basically.”
Skrufff: Off the grid living: what’s your take on it? Something you’d ever consider? (Even temporarily?)
Nick Muir: “I think J12H is using his lifestyle choice partly to flag up certain aspects of contemporary communications technology that many people may have overlooked, or choose not to think about. You tend to feel as if you have no choice about these matters, but of course you do and J12H living ‘off the grid’ is an example of that.
When you use social media and other online services you are revealing information about yourself and there may be perfectly legitimate reasons why you would not want this information released.”
Skrufff: Anything else to add?
Nick Muir: “A plug for the album – it’s the most ambitious sleeve we’ve done to date, designed by the very talented David Malone, like a CD sized hardback book with some great images and information about the album including some copy from J12H himself – worth buying just for that really – the music we spent a lot of time over and got it just how we wanted it – worth a punt I reckon Jonty – thanks!”
John Digweed & Nick Muir Ft. John Twelve Hawks The Traveler CD: click here to buy:
Jonty Skrufff: https://twitter.com/djjontyskrufff