Way Out West
… airport … pick-up … hotel …club… soundcheck … hotel … food … shower … club … stage … hotel … bed … airport … plane … airport … pick-up … hotel … club … soundcheck … hotel … food … shower … club … stage … hotel … bed … airport …
“Hiya, is it ok to speak now. Are you lot awake, it’s not too early is it?” “Erm, no, everyone’s about.” “Right then, can I speak to Nick?” “ Nick isn’t actually about at the moment.” “Ok, Can I speak to Jody then?” “Yeah, I’ll pass him over.” “Hello?” “Hi, Jody?” “Yeah, it’s Jody. How you doing?” “I’m cool. How are you guys? How’s the tour going?” “Yeah it’s great. We’ve been here for a week or so, we’ve had DJ gigs and live shows and about two hours sleep a night. The adrenalin kicks in and you get such a rush, we’re all probably gonna get home and drop but at the moment we’re pretty fuelled.”
Jody Wisternoff is one third of the Bristol based trio, Way Out West. Aged 30, he has been in the business for over half his life, having achieved both commercial and critical success as a producer, remixer and DJ. His story starts in the late 80s when Bristol scenesters Smith and Mighty opened their studio to two very young kids, Jody and his younger brother.
They were both self-taught hip-hoppers who had already produced a decent slab of tracks using the most basic of tools, and they were still young enough to sing falsetto, if they hadn’t been preoccupied with a modified belt driven deck and ZX Spectrum that is. They even broke through to the finals of one of the first ever DMC Championships whilst style and music bibles, The Face, i-D and Hip-Hop Connection looked on awestruck at two kids whose balls hadn’t even dropped.
“I was into music at a really early age. I was kinda brainwashed by psychedelic acid rock,” Jody ponders. “They’re probably some of the earliest musical memories I have, I think. My parents were into it and it probably stored some subliminal images in the recesses of my mind. The whole DIY aspect really interested me as well and I’ve got so much respect for John Peel. He was really out there, on a limb, not giving a fuck. Genius.”
During the early 90s, the massive rave scene kicked off and a teenage Jody dived in headfirst. “I was so into it all, the underground scene really took a hold of me. I even put out a few hardcore tunes,” he remembers. It was in 93 that Jody first met his Way Out West co-founder, “Nick and me used to chat whenever he came into the record shop that I worked in but it was actually my dad that suggested we hook up in the studio. Dad even ended up managing us for about 8 years, it was one of those parental things, they wanna take care of their kids. They just didn’t want me rushing into something blind.”
Music obsessed Nick Warren spent his teenage years rifling through record shops for punk, reggae and decent pop before the dance scene exploded into youth culture in the late eighties. He DJ’d around Bristol in the lead up to the 90s before opening the South West’s first balearic night, The Wiggle. His ‘anything goes’ approach to DJ’ing soon landed him a residency at the ground-breaking acid house mid-weeker Vision, where he’d slip in The Clash and Frank Sinatra over cutting edge house.
In 91 he teamed up with local musicians to set up the legendary night 98 Proof. It was around this time he caught the attention of a group of Bristolian lads. They were Massive Attack. Their admiration led to a long-standing and influential association, including a residency on their US tour and remix work. Two years later he met Jody and they collaborated on a couple of tracks under the Echo guise, the Way Out West remixes were most popular and the duo adopted it for what was to become their main act.
The first big track, ‘Ajare’ was released in 94 through deConstruction, its pop hooks, bizarre samples and epic Hindu swirls taking the record to number 62 in the UK singles chart. The harder ‘Domination’ followed, before ‘The Gift’ crashed in at number 15 and established Way Out West as one of the foremost house acts in the UK. Their self-titled first album received huge critical acclaim in 97 and saw them tour across Europe with live shows at Glastonbury, MTV parties and the MIDEM festival in France. Switching to Distinctive records in 2000, second album ‘Intensify’ followed, bringing with it singles ‘Intensify,’ ‘Stealth’ and ‘Mindcircus,’ another top 40 hit and dance chart number 1.
‘Don’t Look Now’ has been just over two years in the making. “We’ve worked on it pretty much every day, in between DJing, touring and the odd massive weekend bender. The last one was my 30th which started out as a low-key affair but then we went to a bar and stayed out for three days” Jody laughs. “With our music we take the approach that you should do your best, no matter how long it takes. Do your best or don’t bother at all. There’s been so many new things already done in terms of dance music, it’s difficult to move in new directions especially with the state of dance music in recent years. The enthusiasm gets knocked out of you by all the doom-mongers saying the scene’s dead. It’s not dead by any stretch of the imagination…it’s just a transitional period.”
And as dance music has evolved, so too have Way Out West. What originally began life as a producer based outfit has grown over the years. With ‘Intensify,’ vocalists included Kirsty Hawkshaw, Ally Keenan and Tricia Kelshall. It was this development that made Jody and Nick decide they wanted to become more of a band. “We wanted a bit more of a culture going on, now we’ve got our secret weapon there’s a lot more unity. It’s nice. Really nice,” reflects Jody. “Talking of our secret weapon, I’ll let her speak for herself. Here she is.”
“Oh, cool. Is Nick around as well?” “Erm, I’m not sure where Nick is at the moment actually. I’ll go find him, here’s Omi anyway.” “Hello?” “Hi, how are you? I’ve been hearing some good stuff about you.” “Aw, really? Good. I like people being nice about me,” laughs Omi, the third and most recent recruit to the Way Out West camp.
Omi, who married last July after meeting her husband on a Diamond White shoot dressed as a lollypop lady, has been around music all her life. “I’m a total Smiths freak, I’ve loved Morissey ever since I was a kid. My mum’s a painter and was exhibiting in a local theatre and gallery up in Scotland where we used to live. I had gone along with her for the day and was bored out of my mind so wandered off into the theatre to listen to the band that were soundchecking. It only turned out to be the bloody Smiths!” she laughs.
Singing since she was 16, Omi first auditioned for Way Out West about 7 or 8 years ago with what she describes as her ‘shouty rave diva incarnation.’ “I hadn’t really worked out my vocal style at that time,” she confides. In what seems to be a prerequisite with the Way Out Westers, she was managed by Jody’s dad in one band before opting to take a more experimental route, working with the likes of Starecase, Timo Maas, an all girl drum ‘n’ bass outfit, Eden and one Peter Gabriel. “The first time I saw him I was waiting to meet the guys when he popped his head round the door to say hi – and I didn’t recognise him,” she shrieks. “There’d been a power cut in the hall we were rehearsing in and he just got on the piano and started belting out all these songs whilst I sat in complete awe, watching him sing by candle light.”
Her influences range from Annie Lennox (“she’s the shit”) to Ella Fitzgerald, David Bowie and PJ Harvey. “I was waitressing in Bristol once and she came in, read a book about murder suspects and had a cup of herbal tea. I acted like a total stalker and just ran over and started gushing at her. She was really welcoming actually,” Omi remembers. “Although she was probably thinking ‘Smile and agree until this woman gets out of my face,’” she laughs.
The past two years have been a learning curve for Omi as well as Jody and Nick. “This whole US tour has been amazing, I’ve seen so many places. A lot of it has been airport, hotel, club, soundcheck, hotel, food, club, stage, hotel, sleep, airport, plane and so on, but the feeling of performing as a band in front of 1,000s of people…it’s just impossible to compare it. On Saturday we were at the Avalon club in LA and the crowd were going mental. It was totally sold-out, the sound system was brilliant and everyone was really going for it. So was Nick. We’ve not seen him since…”
“Aah, so that’s where Nick is?” “Well, we’re not sure exactly where he is,” laughs Omi. “He was really happy with the gig on Saturday night though. Oh hang on a minute, I think Jody wants another quick word with you.” “Hi Jody.” “Hiya, I’m not sure where Nick is. Is there anything else you need to know?” “Can you give me a quick run-down of the new album before you go?” “Yeah course I can. It’s bloody brilliant, definitely our best yet. We didn’t want to alienate our existing fanbase but at the same time, it’s obvious that we’ve moved more towards song based tracks. I think we were stuck in a sampling loop before Omi came along and kicked us up the arse.”
The album moves from the staccato kick-drum and yearning vocals of Omi on upcoming single, ‘Anything But You,’ to epic space age poignancy with ‘Everyday.’ “It started life as a bloody demo for Britney!” laughs Jody. “My god, if you whack it up to 120bpm it sounds like old skool house with some breaks thrown down on there. Not very Britney.” The album’s luscious soundscapes shift gracefully from the textured balearia of ‘Chasing Rainbows’ to the main room dirty odyssey of ‘Killa’ through to rollicking bongo twists and mangled basslines on ‘Fear.’ “It just came out of a mad jamming session we did with our drummer, Damon. He used to be in Echo and The Bunnymen and has a tendency to rock-out every now and again. But we don’t talk about that,” he laughs.
… airport … pick-up … England … Bristol … HOME … BED …
“Hi… is that Nick?” “Yeah, hi.” “How you lot feeling, you jet-lagged after the flight?” “Nah, I’m not too bad, got back yesterday so had a decent night’s sleep last night. I’ve not seen the others since yesterday, God, we’ve been with each other for the last two and a half weeks. We’re all just taking a break for a few days.” “So how was it?” “Fantastic, mate, to be honest. It went really well. We’ve only had about 3 days off but it was great.” “How was the gig at the Avalon?” “Brilliant, I love LA. LA, Montreal and Boston, I had a lot of fun there.” “You did a bit of a disappearing act after the LA gig, didn’t you?” “Ha ha ha. Yeah, we had some time off so I just did my own thing.” “So what have you guys got planned for the rest of the year, then?” “Phuuh! What aren’t we doing.”
After a US tour that saw huge theatres sell-out and the LA movie-star wannabes lose their cool and get down to some dirty breaks, Nick, Jody and Omi are pretty much booked up for the rest of the year. Live shows and DJ gigs at Glastonbury, Creamfields and Homelands were confirmed earlier in the year plus they’ve got a European tour up their sleeve and of course, the release of their best album yet.