With this Decoded Sundays Series I wanted to showcase a number of DJs I consider to be outstanding in their field. Nick Warren is at the top of my list. An exemplary DJ and ambassador for the scene, as long as there’s been electronic dance music, there’s been Nick Warren. He’s that important.
Starting out in 1988 playing reggae and downtempo music in a back room bar in central Bristol, he found fame through being the tour DJ for local trip hop band Massive Attack. From there residencies at Cream in Liverpool followed and an impressive number of mix compilations for Global Underground. Along side his solo success, he has worked tirelessly in the studio as half of Way Out West and as Head of A&R for Bristol based prog house label Hope Recordings. As an ambassador for progressive house, Nick has always been very open and vocal for his love of the music and its with great joy that he has taken a few moments out of his busy schedule to chat with us at Decoded Magazine.
Hi Nick, its an absolute pleasure to chat with you today. We know you’re a very busy man, so whats a typical day like for you?
With all the travelling it does mean no day is the same, but if i am at home I am always up around 7am to do the breakfast and take my daughter to school. Once home its into the emails. A huge number of those are tracks from producers and labels. I listen to absolutely everything, I feel if they can be bothered to send them i should listen myself. Then its off to meet up with Jody to work on the new WOW album, evenings are family time and then its off to do gigs on Thursday or Friday for the weekend.
I wonder if I could talk briefly about those early days. You were working in a record store on Park Street (Tony’s Records) and DJing at night in a pub, playing for want of a better phrase, chill out music. Can you tell us about how you got those gigs and what it was like juggling impeding superstardom with a regular job?
Good Research! We had no idea the scene would grow like it did, but in the early days because I had such a large record collection, friends would ask me to play at their house parties. From there into pubs playing a bit of everything to booking small clubs with friends and doing parties for mainly the art college crowd in Bristol.
As fate would have it, Jody Wisternoff was one of your regulars at the record store. Do you remember first meeting him? He tells me he used to loiter around the hip hop imports section!
Yeah Jody came in as a youngster with his brother and dad, always sporting a Kangol hat and a huge hip hop fan.
But you guys didn’t start working together for a number of years… why was that?
We were into very different styles of music in the beginning, we came together a few years later and took my balearic influences mixed with his Drum n Bass and Hip Hop roots and that was basically the Way Out West sound.
Things really kicked off for you when Massive Attack took you on as their tour DJ right back in those early days, and they were pretty massive! Did you ever go to any of their Wild Bunch parties, or did they learn about you through your residency?
Yes indeed, I used to go to all the Wild Bunch parties and loved them. Daddy Gee from the band and I become very close friends and began DJing together, when they released Blue Lines they were asked to tour a lot and asked me to be the warm up, it was a huge break for me and I owe them a big debt of gratitude.
Are there any tour stories you could share with us?
What goes on tour stays on tour! But I did share an elevator with Smokey Robinson and Morrissey once which was very surreal.
There’s been much debate these past few years about the medium on which the DJ plays their sets. I understand you’ve dabbled with Ableton yourself. Do you feel that this increased use of technology has changed the way in which music is delivered in a club setting? Have we essentially lost the art of DJing?
I found DJing with Ableton a bore. I use it all the time for production and its amazing, but I missed the interaction of mixing. Now I use USB sticks with the CDJ 2000’s and it works great for me.
As an avid music collector and head of A&R, how do you filter the music you play, and moreover, how do you seem to always be playing music no one else seems to have?!
Its an addiction, I love searching for those special tracks, talking to producers; always searching for that great piece of music.
Hope Recordings has been around a long time. From its inception, it has flown the flag for quality progressive music over the years. Who has stood out for you on the label?
Thats a tuff one, Tom Glass had always delivered. In the past Starecase were brilliant, James Holden and many many more
And these days, who do you feel might be the next big star of the scene?
S.L.T from Argentina are shaping up well, we have a release from there this year, I have high hopes for them.
Talking of Argentina, you and Hernan seem to be DJing a lot more together these days. Tell us about how your relationship has developed over the years and whether this is the beginning of a new DJ tag team like Sasha & Digweed was.
We are great friends and the B2B thing works very well with us. It doesn’t always work with people, but we seem to always be on the same tip.
With ADE just around the corner, you’re again going back to back with Mr Cattaneo at Panama on the Saturday. Warming up for that night is local legend Olivier Weiter. How important to you is a good warm up DJ, and who do you think cuts the mustard these days?
Warm DJ’s can make or break the night and good one is like a good woman, if you find a good one try and keep them. Its an art that some people seem to have lost, wanting to make their mark as soon as possible, I was warm up for Massive Attack for years and it taught me great lessons.
Talking of ADE, is there anything during the five days you are particularly looking forward to?
So many things, Kompakt for instance always throw great events there.
In a recent interview with Christian Jansen (C-Jay), he states at ADE more industry work gets done than at say Miami. Is this your experience as well? And in saying that, are these conferences little more than a glorified office party?
Its a great chance to see lots of people who work in the same industry, I would say there is more networking done there than actual business but it is much easier than Miami because its a lot more compact.
Bristol was my home for many happy years, but for those that don’t know it well where would you suggest to them to eat, drink and be merry?
I moved a few miles out of the city and to be honest I don’t spend as much time in the city as I used to. Motion obviously is the club to go to now. Near me, the Pony and Trap in Chew Magna is a great place to eat.
On the production front, I understand you and Jody are working on a new album. Can you give us any details on that?
Its sounding great, we have all the tracks in place and just need to get the production and vocals right, sounding fresh and we will be doing some live shows next year as well as club shows.
Thanks for sparing me the time to chat Nick, its been thoroughly enlightening. So whats happening for the rest of this year for you?
W.O.W. album needs to be finished, a couple of solo tracks are done and loads of gigs, Happy days !