Artist of the Week: Way Out WestOctober 8th, 2009
No raging against any machines for Nick Warren and Jody Wisternoff. The UK producers behind the Way Out West team-up got nothing but love for the electronic wire-beasts that produce their magical tones. Fighting against a predictable formula for more than 16 years already, the guys are now back with a new Way Out West sound, album and live-tour. ‘We Love Machine’ unlocks a fresh era for dance music, conveniently stuck between the full spectrum of dance and non-dance. Way Out West has ever liked to keep its options open. With a pile of past and future hits to back them up and a matured passion for all things music, Way Out West is ready to face their bright looking future.
Off and away
The Way Out West story began long before Jody Wisternoff and Nick Warren teamed up. To be where they are today, it took an ignition of the EDM-enchantment long ago, first. While Nick’s fascination started with the early sounds of Jean Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, it was the drum machine that did it for Jody. Jody:”When I was a kid I was fascinated by drum machines, and I’m sure that was the start of my love affair with electronic music. My parents were really into Devo, and that probably had an influence on my musical taste at a young age. I got my first synth at 15, and alongside a TR808, which I was lucky to find in the local drum shop for $100, and a four track tape machine I borrowed from school. I was off and away.”
Sixteen years ago, the young Bristolites had already spread their own musical wings. Nick was making name with dj’ing a mix of dub, hip-hop and acid house, and touring with Massive Attack during their first tour in the US. Nick:”I had done some production work with Massive Attack and wanted to start making music but didn’t have the studio skills so was looking for someone to work with. Jody was making some great early house and Jungle, we met through his dad and worked on a few tracks and it just clicked really well.” Jody’s father had seen both of his sons, Jody and younger brother Sam, working themselves up to a renowned hip-hop duo, the Tru Funk Posse. Within a matter of years, the young, under aged Jody would already have his first gigs and releases. Developing a strong feel for music, he eventually took the hip-hop knowledge and blended it with house and acid. Jody: “I really fancied a change from the rave scene and my Dads suggestion to work with Nick just seemed like a great opportunity. The hardcore BPM’s were getting ridiculous and a drop to 120 felt like a breath of fresh air. We realized after the first session that we had great studio chemistry, so we just went with it. Up until this point, I had released a bunch of EP’s under the alias Sublove, a well received house track called ’4Am’ under the name Tru Funk and a hiphop record produced by Smith’n'Mighty and with my little bro rapping, as Tru Funk Posse.”
And so, a new duo was formed. Initially, Nick and Jody named themselves ‘Echo’, but after two releases back in 1992, their progressive house would from then on be blasting through the speakers under the Way Out West moniker.
The chemistry of sound
Two guys in one studio. It’s got to take some chemistry and skills to make that work. No problem for Nick and Jody. So what exactly keeps that harmony between them? Nick:”A mutual respect for each other’s ideas and tastes.” Jody:”I think because we both come from different musical backgrounds, so we complement each other stylistically. We both have our own unique elements to bring to the table.” Those blended elements joined forces in big tracks like ‘The Gift’, ‘Mindcircus’, ‘Anything But You’, ‘Don’t Forget Me’ and ‘Killa’. These track would often appeal a large group of EDM lovers and gain support in all different scenes. However, it was the trance scene that completely fell in love with the WOW sound. Thought still fluttered with various styles, the new album ‘We Love Machine’ is much more aimed towards a progressive house sound. Would that mean Way Out West loses its early fan base? Jody:”No, because a lot of the kids that were into trance at that time have hopefully matured their musical tastes, as have we, and I would like to think that they are willing to follow us and trust our artistic development.” Nick: “You have to move with the times and change sounds, otherwise it just becomes a formula. It’s important as a producer to challenge yourself musically.”
That challenge lies within their ‘emotional electronic dance music with a twist of lime’, as both Nick and Jody like to put it. Nick:”We have always had a progressive edge to our sound and try to move with the times and technology.”Jody:”I think the WOW sound of now is closer to house than it’s ever been before, because this is a reflection of what we are playing as DJ’s. I’m not really into the breaks style these days, and trance is just too fast for me now. I’m an old man, haha.”
Focus on concentration
After three albums, ‘Way Out West’(1997), ‘Intensify’ (2001) and ‘Don’t Look Now’ (2004), it was time for a little time off from the Way Out West team-up. Jody: “We took a little break after the 3rd album, but it was never a permanent thing. We just needed a bit of space after the touring as a live band stuff and both really fancied a small change. Also, I damaged my hearing and had to take some time out for a bit.” Nick:”We didn’t really take a break, Jody did some solo work and I did a couple of remixes but my heart has always been focused on the WOW project.” Whether they had a break or not, both men were more than busy with their solo work.
But after two years of solo-touring and collecting inspiration for the new WOW project, the guys got back in the studio. The first single of their ‘We Love Machine’ album, ‘Only Love’ announced their return. A progressive crowd pleaser for sure. But was it ever Nick and Jody’s intention to top the success of their previous biggies? Nick:”It would be nice, but we never make music specifically aimed at chart success. We live in a different era now and dance music rarely enters the UK charts unless it is extremely cheesy or mainstream and this new album is not aimed at that market. We would rather concentrate on building our existing fan base than trying to cross over again into the mainstream, because you can only really be true to yourself when making music .”
‘We Love Machine’ shows exactly where both Nick and Jody stand musically wise. Jody:”I just think it’s a really cool collection of tracks that represent where we are at right now. The sound has matured, we are using a lot more analog vintage synths and relying a lot less on samples for sound source and hooks. In this current climate where most people make music purely in the computer, I like to think that our extensive use of hardware synths gives us a sound that hopefully stands out from the pack.” To be able to stand out, and bring something new, the guys decided to work with Jonathan Mendelsohn instead of Omi, the vocalist they’d been working with on ‘Don’t Look Now’.
Nick: “Again, it was to do something new. We had never used a male vocalist before and while we love Omi and her voice we felt we had done the dreamy female vocal thing already.” Jody: “He sent me a demo a few years ago and I was really blown away. I’ve always wanted to work with a male singer, so we just went with it. We tried a bunch of different females on this album too, but nothing seemed to work out. Jon’s vocals just seem to suit the vibe right now.”
Another thing that suited their proggy vibe, were cinematic effects. Nick :”Always, movie soundtracks are something we would love to do in the future and they are a constant influence on our sound. Our music has always been filmic, right from the start. That’s one of the WOW trademarks. Film soundtracks are a huge influence to us and most dance music producers I’m sure. Vangelis’ Bladerunner soundtrack is probably the reason I make music, it just totally blew me away when I was a kid.”
All together, the 12 tracks of ‘We Love Machine’ are the perfect showcase of what Way Out West is about today. Nick: “It’s a snapshot of where we are in 2009, slowing the tempo’s and letting the music groove. It was great fun to do.”
True to the WOW vibe
Along with the release of the album, comes a new live performance by Nick and Jody. First chance to see them perform will be at Armada Night during Amsterdam Dance Event, October 21st in Escape, Amsterdam. Nick:”We will be showcasing the new material and playing some of our classics as well.” Jody:”We are now doing the WOW soundsystem as opposed to the band setup. It sounds much better in clubs, and is more true to the vibe. Before, we were almost trying to be a live band and that really isn’t what Way Out West is about. Ableton is the way forward, I think it’s the best invention since the wheel. Expect all the new club tracks plus a bunch of classics, mixed up in a crazy way.”
And more new stuff and Way Out West input is on the menu! Nick:” We are putting together a remix album of ‘We Love Machine’, choosing some of our favourite producers to choose a track, it is shaping up very nicely.” Jody:”The next single is ‘Future Perfect’, with Henry Saiz on remix duties. Watch this space.”
More info on Way Out West, check their website.
Order the ‘We Love Machine’ album at Astral Music.
Or download the album at iTunes.