Nick Warren Interview
Nick Warren visits Tantra Nightclub in Calgary on September 2nd, 2007 along with Rank 1. Advance tickets are $20, available at Ticketmaster, Hot Gossip, Play and Giant45.
It’s been more than twenty years since Progressive House superstar Nick Warren first crawled behind the decks at a little club called Wiggle in Bristol, in the UK’s southwest. Barely out of his teens at the time, Nick’s early years as a DJ were spent playing reggae and indy rock, and working his way into the gritty yet vibrant Bristol underground that was incubating such legendary musical acts as Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead and Roni Size. “Most of my working life has been a case of being in the right place at the right time,” explains Nick, who quickly found his many varied influences as fodder for building increasingly diverse DJ sets as his reputation grew. As dance music exploded in the UK it took the young Bristol DJ with it, with Nick quickly gaining a reputation for mixing the likes of Frank Sinatra and the Carpenters into his bombastic sets of house, breaks, dub and drum and bass.
As the 1980s became the 1990s, Nick found himself touring the world with his old friends from Bristol, bringing his sound to an ever-widening audience. Before long Nick started to make his own forays into radio-playable music, forming a partnership with fellow Bristolite Jody Wisternoff. Wisternoff, who first made waves as a remarkably talented producer in Bristol’s underground hip-hop community, had wound his way to the DMC hip-hop championship finals before his teenage years had begun. After growing disillusioned with the UK’s increasingly aggressive hardcore / jungle scene, Jody’s father lined up a rendezvous between Nick and Jody with the hopes of helping his son chart a new direction into more melodic and accessible grooves. The resulting production team, Way Out West, quickly established itself as one of the finest underground and crossover acts of the 1990s, with a number of releases crawling up the charts and even landing the duo an appearance on Top of the Pops.
One of the main reasons for Way Out West’s continued success has been the positive and professional relationship between Jody and Nick, despite the age difference. “Jody and I are great friends,” Nick explains. “We work so well together. We don’t hang out a lot together, but we get on really well.” They have toured extensively together, recently supporting Faithless on their most recent world tour. Their music is firmly in the mainstream psyche, appearing in a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy and featuring as theme music for the MTV show True Life. Their latest album is well underway, and will feature a mix of both club-style fare and downtempo productions. “It’s sounding really phat,” says Nick. “We’re both really pleased with the way it’s coming together, with one great club track almost finished, and around eight others already started.”
Central to Nick Warren’s unique sound is his early immersion in the Bristol scene, which focused on organic grooves and the extensive use of live musicians to complement sample-based compositions – as anyone who has listened to one of his DJ sets or compilation CDs will attest. Similarly, Nick is a firm believer in colouring outside of the lines, drawing together music from a wide variety of genres and making it work in his mixes. “Too many DJs tend to play very specific styles now instead of across the board,” he says.
Nick has also recently completed his most recent Global Underground compilation CD, his seventh for the long-running compilation series, based on his experiences in the nightclubs of Paris. True to form, Global Underground 030: Paris is an eclectic mix of deep house, melodic progressive and downtempo grooves, including a large number of tracks by upstart young producers and remixers. “I suppose I just enjoy finding those unknown gems and promoting those artists, rather than going for the obvious names,” explains Nick. “Young producers early in their careers can be very open-minded, and their enthusiasm transfers to their music.”
As a DJ, Nick is a DJ’s DJ, eschewing software-based assistance while in the booth and lamenting the downfall of vinyl. “I still love the physical side of mixing,” he says. “I use CDs exclusively now, with all the restrictions on what you can carry on planes now – vinyl is too hard to carry around with you.” Nontheless, Nick is still an avid vinyl buyer, spending thousands of pounds a month of the habit and transferring his purchases to CD for club play.
In addition to his duties as international DJ and one half of Way Out West, Nick somehow finds the time to run A&R for the popular progressive house and breaks label Hope Recrodings, which is home to such artists as Starecase, Jaytech, Matt Rowan, and Parellel Sound. Hope has also released tracks and remixes by Max Graham, Timo Maas, James Holden, Grayarea and Luke Fair, among others. “The label is going really well,” Nick says. And just what sort of tunes has Nick been keeping his ears open for? “I always look for tunes with style and energy, but also intelligence,” he says. “There are some great artists hopefully coming to the label, and I would like to get some more material from the 16 Bit Lolitas!”