John Burgess Interview | DJMag.com Skip to main content

John Burgess Interview

With his revolutionary club Bugged Out! John Burgess brought a new kind of clubbing experience to Manchester's Sankeys Soap (now Sankeys) in the mid '90s.

Infused with the spirit of acid house, but with an open-minded attitude that embraced breakbeat, techno, house, electro and everything in between, Bugged Out! has grown into a monster that's spawned innumerable offshoot club events and 12 years later is still going strong. There could be no better time to drop a special retrospective compilation - 'Bugged Out Classics' - out 3rd September on New State Music. DJmag snared Burgess to get the full lowdown on the new comp and more…

Why is the time right for a Bugged Out! retrospective now?

"It's been 12 years since we started and this year in particular there's been a lot of focus back on dance music after a few years of the media's attention shifting towards indie bands. So it feels to me that there's probably a lot of new young kids getting into dance music at the moment, which is represented on the last disc of the compilation. The sort of stuff along the lines of Justice, Simian Mobile Disco and Digitalism. And now they're gonna discover all the great tracks that have soundtracked the club in the '90s as well. There's quite a bit of similarity, with Daft Punk, the Chemical Brothers, they've influenced a lot of the people on the last disc. And then there's a lot of people who may have come to Bugged Out in the mid '90s but don't go to clubs so much anymore, but still like to try and follow the music now, so it does feel like this is a good time to put something like this out."

Why do you think that Bugged Out! has endured for so long?

"Partly the people involved, we're all constantly surprised by all the music that comes out. With dance music for me there's always something different every year that keeps you interested. You've had electro-clash, electro-house, minimal, nu-rave, every year there's something that makes you think - 'wow'! This is far more interesting than rock music. It just mutates, and to me that's what's so interesting about dance, and Bugged Out! tries to reflect that - the evolution of electronic music. Rather than being stuck in one genre, we like to evolve with what's fresh and cutting edge."

Many of the tracks on the comp are from the last few years - do you think it's a particularly good time right now?

"Definitely. I guess we could have delved a bit deeper into the mid '90s as well, but for me, from 2001 onwards, the whole electro-clash, synthetic thing was pretty revolutionary, it was as revolutionary as acid house in a way. It sparked so many good ideas and good clubs, and new labels, and was far more influential than people give it credit for. That's why it might be a bit more top heavy on the more recent tracks."

Any particular favourites on the comp?

"At the moment I'm playing a lot of the less obvious hits, things like Kiki and Silver Surfer's 'Wasp' which wasn't a huge record, but hopefully records like that people will discover for the first time on this comp. And also the LFO track on there, which was originally released as a flexi-disc on Jockey Slut magazine, and we actually mastered that off the flexi-disc, so that's a real exclusive. It was also really heartening putting it together, because quite a few people helped us cut through the red tape to license their tunes. The Chemical Brothers have two tunes on there and it's unheard of to get more than one of theirs at a time. And Ed Banger helped with the Daft Punk one, a lot of people we've built friendships with over the years, there was literally one track which we couldn't license. Carl Craig helped us with the '69' one, because he remembers playing gigs with us in the mid '90s."

What's been your favourite or most memorable Bugged Out experience?

"The one that really stands out is the fourth birthday when we had the line-up all in place, and obviously putting those together is one of the most enjoyable things to do. And we approached Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk to play, and he turned us down, two weeks before the gig. But then he came back and said he wanted to do it, but didn't want to just DJ, he'd play a live set. Then Pedro Winter, Daft Punk's manager, phoned up as well and said: 'Actually Guy De Homem-Christo wants to come along too, so you can bill it as Daft Punk!' We didn't tell anyone 'til the night, and all the people who turned up were gob-smacked. They played Stardust 'Music Sounds Better With You' for about 15 minutes, and then played Stevie Wonder's 'Happy Birthday' for us 'cos obviously it was our birthday! It's special when you have a night that's as good as the line-up says it's gonna be. Those are the moments when it all comes together really."

What's next for Bugged Out?

"Keep on keeping on. Every year something new and fresh turns up and invigorates us, and makes us want to keep the club going. And every year there's a new set of kids turning up and getting excited by the DJs and the music and the history of the club, so there's no reason for us to stop."