Getting Way Out with Nick Warren
by Shannon Petrick
Nick Warren is a legend.
Within a ten-year period, Nick evolved from a local Bristol artist to dance music's most celebrated DJ and producer. He's managed to release numerous albums (four Global Undergrounds, a Back to Mine CD and his latest, the Revelation Renaissance mix) while continuing to churn out groundbreaking tracks like "Ajare" and Intensify with his Way Out West partner, Jody Wisternoff.
Multi-talented is an understatement.
Nick took a break from his busy schedule to talk to Lunar...
Lunar: Let's start at the beginning: how and where did you start DJing?
Nick Warren: I started in the late '80s. I was nine or ten years old and instead of spending my money on sweets or games, I bought records. I remember my first was a Bob Dylan record. I kept buying more and more records and eventually I started DJing in Bristol [England] in '88. I spun indie and reggae records until house music came along. I really got into it and I would play mixes by Paul Oakenfold and others. The guys from Massive Attack came to the club a lot and they eventually asked me to tour with them as their DJ.
Lunar: You formed Way Out West [W.O.W.] with Jody [Wisternoff] in the mid-nineties. Were you already producing before W.O.W.?
Nick Warren: I wanted to start making tracks before that. I went with Massive Attack to Italy and started making something for Flying Records. I enjoyed it and when I went back to Bristol I started to do work with Subversion 3 and Echo. I made some track called... I can't remember the name of it... but it had a mix on it called Way Out West. It kind of stuck after that and plans went into action!
Lunar: What was it about Jody that convinced you he would be a perfect production partner?
Nick Warren: The biggest thing was that Jody was into a different style of music than me. He was into early drum and bass and techno. I really wanted to take my influence of house and his influence of drum and bass and techno and combine them. I thought mixing the two elements would work well. "The Gift" is really just a slow drum and bass track.
Lunar: You said you got the name "Way Out West" from an early mix you did. Does the name have any significance?
Nick Warren: I suppose because we come from the west in England, but no, it doesn't have any significance. It's really hard to think of a name and I think as long as you make a good track, the name will stick.
Lunar: What assets do you and Jody individually bring to your music?
Nick Warren: Jody is more technically superior in the studio. I bring most of the sounds into our projects. When you have someone that's so technical, like Jody, they don't understand what moves people on the dancefloor and what the music actually needs.
Lunar: As far as the sounds, your music's great because there will be one random sound in the track and then it's not used again.
Nick Warren: Oh yeah. I used to listen to a lot of 4AD [Records] music like Dead Can Dance and the Cocteau Twins. They would use a sound in a song once and then not use it again. I think that's how I was influenced to make our music.
Lunar: As far as labels go, you first signed to Deconstruction then BMG and now you're with Distinct'ive Records. Was it your decision to move between so many labels?
Nick Warren: Definitely not. We got dropped from Deconstruction in this strange situation. When we signed to Deconstruction, it was really positive and they had a lot of big names on their roster, like Republica, Dave Clarke and Evolution. BMG took over Deconstruction and after that, it was a different mood. We got sucked into BMG and it just wasn't working. How a record label works is rather than drop you, they'll wait until your next album comes out to see if it works for them. When we let them hear Intensify, they said it was a good album but they didn't think it would go anywhere. It was okay because at least they let us have Intensify back. We were given offers to sign from Bedrock and others but we decided on Distinct'ive.
Lunar: Why did you settle on Distinct'ive?
Nick Warren: I think they just encompassed our sound. I mean, Hybrid and other great producers were on there and Distinct'ive was so supportive of us.
Lunar: So your relationship with them has been working so far?
Nick Warren: It's been really good. I don't think Intensify is our best album and when you've been working on an album for so long and hearing it over and over again, it's really hard to get excited about it. I shouldn't say that but that's the way I feel. We're already starting to work on another album and it's going to be much more indie-sounding. There's not a scheduled release date yet.
Lunar: Do you think your relationship with Distinct'ive will be long-lasting?
Nick Warren: I hope so! But dance music is a really difficult market. When we signed to Deconstruction, the public was very open to dance music. Now it's so commercialized. If we released "The Gift" on Intensify, I don't think it would have been as popular.
Lunar: "The Gift" and other Way Out West tracks, like "Mindcircus" and "The Fall" have really memorable vocals. Do the words have any meaning to you or do you just pick them for aesthetics?
Nick Warren: Probably for the way they sound. "The Gift" was just this old loop sung by Johanna Law. "Mindcircus" was written by Imogen Heap but we had another singer perform it. Short vocals definitely work more than long, cheesy ones!
Lunar: I've heard the vocals from "The Fall" in a jazzy-sounding song. Where did you get the lyrics?
Nick Warren: We got them from a Cole Porter song called "Autumn Leaves". It was an old jazz song from the 1940's.
Lunar: I know all your fans have their own opinions but what do you think distinguishes Way Out West from the masses of producers?
Nick Warren: We spend so much time on each track... probably too much. We'll spend two or three months on the same song, adding layer over layer. I also think we're distinguished because we'll use forty sounds that only appear once in the track. I'll take cello music and only use one note from it. I think our music is a collage of sound and it really has a psychedelic feel.
Lunar: Do you and Jody ever have major disagreements over the way you want a track to sound?
Nick Warren: Not really. It sounds so stupid but we've never had an argument. What we tend to do is, if I do something, like put a certain bassline in a track, and he doesn't like it, he tells me. We both have to be in agreement over something before we use it. It also helps that we don't socialize outside of the studio. I'm a lot older than him... he's a young whippersnapper! [laughs]
Lunar: You're not that old...
Nick Warren: I'm getting up there!
Lunar: Do you have an all-time favorite Way Out West track?
Nick Warren: Definitely "Domination". It sums up everything I like in a song. When we perform it at our live shows it's the song that stands out from the rest.
Lunar: Where do you see yourself and where do you see Way Out West in a few years?
Nick Warren: I have no idea! But that's what I like about it... it keeps evolving and I'm not sure where it's going. I do know that if I stop enjoying production or DJing, I'll stop. If I don't like it anymore, it won't be fair to me or my fans to keep at it.
Lunar: Do you think you'll ever produce anything other than dance music?
Nick Warren: Not really. I still haven't made my best record!
Lunar: I know a lot of your fans that would disagree... Since we're talking about the future, what do you have planned for 2002?
Nick Warren: I know Jody and I are going to go on a DJ tour of the States later this year. It's hard to do a live tour because we'd have to bring all that equipment over. But I'll give you a little insider information; you guys will be the first to know about it. I'm doing another Global Underground that will be out of Reykjavik, Iceland. It's going to be the first-ever Global Underground chill-out album. I'm already picking out some amazing tracks for it. It'll be really good!
Lunar: You're really good at chill-out albums. My favorite CD you've done is Back to Mine. Did you like mixing for that?
Nick Warren: Oh yeah, definitely. Back to Mine is my favorite by miles.
Lunar: Does Global Underground give you the freedom to pick out your own tracks?
Nick Warren: Yes, they do that with all the DJs. They're really good about that and that's why all the DJs like making CDs for them.
Lunar: What was your favorite tune of 2001?
Nick Warren: I can never remember the name of it! It's my favorite tune of last year and I can't remember the name... but I know it's by Planet Funk. It's a really slow house track, about 100 bpm. Very downtempo. But here's another one: Royksopp, "Melody AM". They're a Norwegian chill-out group.
Lunar: Those tracks are really slow. Do you ever get to play them out?
Nick Warren: Mmmm... sometimes. I mean, obviously I didn't play them at Twilo or anyplace like that but sometimes I start out the set with chillout tracks.
Lunar: What do you think about the Winter Music Conference?
Nick Warren: I love it! It's a bit scary because all the British are here and sometimes I lose control! But it's really nice because I get to see people that I haven't seen since last Conference. I absolutely loved the Balance boat party last year. That one really stands out.
Lunar: OK, finally... do you have any New Year's resolutions?
Nick Warren: Yeah, stop smoking! I'm doing really well... only three spliffs a night now!
Thank you to Andrea Zarate and Roxanne Calomfirescu from Nettwerk America
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