As one half of Way Out West, he’s never put a foot wrong when it comes to artist albums. Now Lima makes it four out of four with his mix comps for Global Underground. EQ talks to Nick Warren…
You get the feeling that Nick Warren is something of a perfectionist. Whether he’s spending years working on his next Way Out West album with production partner Jody Wisternoff, or spending months listening to hundreds of tracks for a new mix album, Nick doesn’t do things by halves. The attention to detail shows. Way Out West have rarely put a foot wrong – and if this summer’s single Spaceman was anything to go by, they won’t when they drop their new album some time around March next year. Nick’s mix comps – especially those for Global Underground – also stand up to repeat listens without ever getting old. Now his new mix for GU, Lima, keeps up the winning trend. Every track on the two discs is exclusive to the album, and every one of them is a belter. So EQ spoke to Nick at his studio in Bristol to find out how he tracked down so many good tunes.
It’s quite a daring thing to do, making a mix album that’s filled with totally exclusive tracks…
That’s always been my thing when it comes to DJing. I’ve never been pulled to playing big records, and I never listen to any other DJs. I’ll occasionally listen to Sasha, because he amazes me, but I don’t like to be influenced by anyone else. I’ve always been interested in following my instincts when it comes to picking music, for DJing and for mix comps. And I’ve done so many compilations now, it’s a great way for me to promote unknown artists. It’s tough for them now. When Way Out West started we got a record deal and could stop our jobs to make music. Now it’s really hard for young artists to make a living out of it. So any help I can give to them is really important.
Was it difficult putting together the mix? There must be a huge amount of work involved in choosing a selection of tracks that are completely exclusive.
It took about three or four months. I start by putting the feelers out, letting people know I’m looking for music. Then the tsunami arrives, CD after CD after CD. Some days I’d end up listening to about 100 pieces of music, and none were right for me. With the last two mixes – Reykjavik and Paris – I did a downtempo CD. I didn’t want to do that this time. I thought it would be a bit lazy to follow that formula again. So unfortunately I was getting sent a lot of lovely downtempo stuff that I wasn’t able to use.
It’s a bit of a random process at first, because you’ve got all these records and you’re not sure how they’re going to work together. I normally try to whittle it down from 60 or 70 pieces of music, and figure out what I’m going to do from there.
It must be really hard work trawling through that amount of music?
Not really. I’ve always loved music and loved my job. People ask me if it’s a pain in the arse flying round the world all the time, and I say: “Not at all.” Going through all that music is the same. Fair enough you get a bit bored when it’s all just music you don’t want, but when you put on a track and it’s perfect, it’s really exciting.
There was a lot of unsigned stuff on the Paris album too wasn’t there?
Using a lot of unsigned music was actually something I decided to do about four albums ago, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do since back in the day. I remember James Holden sent me his first ever piece of music and I really championed that. Afterwards, James told me how chuffed he was at that, and how me talking about his music had really helped him. That made my day. So with my mix albums, I’m always striving to find music no-one else has got – that’s your dream as a DJ, but at the same time I really want to support new producers.
A lot of people must expect your mixes to have a lot of big tunes on there though…
Funnily enough, Cream asked me to do a mix album a good few years ago – me, Oakenfold and James Lavelle all did a CD for it. So I picked my tracks, and at the end they said: “That’s all great, but you’ve got to put Ultra Nate in there.” I was like: “But that doesn’t fit.” And they just told me: “It doesn’t matter. It’s a big track. It’s in the top 10 this week. It’s got to go in there.” So I put it in, and it stood out as a completely stupid record to include. It just didn’t make sense. So I really don’t want to include a record just because it’s big. The whole idea of spending 20 years building a career is that people might now trust me to know what I’m doing. I’d like to think I can supply a mix they’ll enjoy without any big hitters on there.
And that must make your mix albums more about you?
Yeah, they’re very personal things to be honest. The records I choose will always be there in the public arena. And finding out that two tracks that you love sound so much better when they’re mixed together is amazing.
Has getting the massive deluge of records influenced your sets?
Yeah, it gives me enough records to play out for a few months. The only unfortunate thing is that dance music has such a fast turnaround that by the time the album comes out and I’m doing dates to promote it, I’ve stopped playing the records on there. I’ve tried not to do that this time though. So I’m really looking forward to the big tour for this album.
How’s Way Out West fitting into that tour schedule?
We’ve almost finished the album already actually, so it’s not too bad. Most tracks are almost there, and we’re just tweaking a few things and adding some vocals. We’re really excited about it, because it’s sounding really strong. We bought loads of new gear for the album, loads of analogue stuff, like a Jupiter 6 synth. And we found a guy in Scotland who hand-makes synths based on the old Arp. His are called Macbeths. It’s about four-foot square, there’s no keyboard to it, no preset sounds, all analogue, so it’s been really excited delving into that.
We put out the single Spaceman in the summer, but that wasn’t really a proper single. We just wanted to get something out because we’ve been away so long. We’ve redone that for that album to make it much more dubby, and on top of that we’ve got four or five downtempo things, a few clubs things and one that we think is really going to fly – once the samples are cleared.
We’ve sort of gone back to our roots with this one – there’s lots of big basslines and strings – but it all sounds like it’s been made now. We think it’s going to be our best album. At least that’s how it’s sounding at the moment.
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