Growing up in the South West of the UK in the 90’s has given me a unique musical heritage. Bands like Portishead, The Dragons and The Korgis rub shoulders with luminary dance acts like Smith & Mighty, Massive Attack and The Propellerheads. DJs as diverse as Roni Size, Jamie Anderson and Stanton Warriors all share the same city; Bristol. Another resident of this wondrous musical Mecca is Jody Wisternoff.
Jody burst on to the scene as a precocious 13 yr old boy, competing in the 1986 DMC World DJ Championships, 2 years later he returned with his brother Sam (SJ Esau) as Tru Funk. So began Jody’s career as an entertainer and DJ. Being part of a duo has defined much of Jody’s illustrious career, in the early rave days he was in Sub Love (with DJ Die) and Way Out West (with Nick Warren). Formed 18 years ago and originally called ‘Echo’, Way Out West is one of the UKs most successful electronic bands. They have written 4 albums so far and had a top 15 single in the pop charts with ‘The Gift’ in 1996. There album tracks have appeared in many television series from The OC to CSI and even in the video game Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’07.
A proficient producer and DJ in his own right, Jody has a coveted Beatport number 1 with ‘Hot Girl, Cold Drink’ and many releases on labels such as Anjunabeats, Distinctive and Ministry of Sound. He also holds down some high profile radio shows on Frisky and Proton. Recently Jody became resident DJ for Leeds brand InProgress something he hasn’t really done since the late 90s for Temptation at Lakota in Bristol ran by Hope Records boss Leon Alexander.
We caught up with the Bristol legend ahead of his set at InProgress vs. Convert Records on March 28th at Mint Club, Leeds.
Hi Jody, lovely to meet you. Thanks for taking the time to chat to us at This is Progressive. How’s your day been so far?
Great to meet you guys too! It’s my pleasure to chat. Days been cool so far, beautiful morning here in Bristol and went for a jog with the wife after a nice big bowl of porridge. Rock’n’roll !
Tell us a little about the young Jody. You were a DJ from a young age, what influenced you back in the 80s?
Wildstyle was the film that really got me into hip-hop culture and DJing. My dad was also friends with the wild bunch who were to become Massive Attack, and he used to drag me along to house parties at the weekend when they couldn’t get a babysitter.
Did you have a favourite scratch? Where did you learn turntablism?
I taught myself using a crappy belt driven turntable. When I finally scored Technics it was a dream come true! My fav scratch was the flutter (Jazzy Jeff etc)
You’ve been described as a ‘rave pioneer’ for your part in Sub Love. How did you meet DJ Die? do you stay in touch now?
I met him in the skate park. He used to practically live at our house for awhile; we were just making beats everyday when I should have been doing my A-levels. Yea, I spoke to him the other day actually and love the stuff he is doing right now.
Dance music folk lore tells how you met Nick, your production partner in Way Out West, in a Bristol record shop. We would love for you to expand that story a little. Which store and how did the meeting occur?
I’m pretty sure he was working in the legendary shop called Tony’s records on Park Street. I used to loiter in there wishing I had enough money to buy the latest hip-hop imports, prancing around wearing a kangol hat and name tag on my belt lol. He must have thought I was a right oddy :)
Did you start writing music together straight away?
Na, this didn’t happen for years. My dad hooked us up at a time I was becoming fed up with the rave scene as it was getting really dark, and Nick’s Balearic vibe was like a breath of fresh air.
What studio experience did you have at that time?
Well, Id been releasing records under the name s of Tru Funk and Sublove for about 6 years so was pretty confident.
When I’ve heard you live (as Way Out West) its always been a live show of your own productions. Did you ever DJ together?
Yep, quite a few times over the years actually.
As a solo DJ, I’ve seen you many many times. I remember one night in Cafe Blue you played a progressive breaks set to rapturous applause. These days your sound is synonymous with Anjunabeats. How do you feel your sound has changed over the years and what is it that motivates you to keep playing?
Actually Anjunadeep lol. My sound these days Id like to think is cutting edge house, moving with the times is extremely important but it’s also a balancing act with staying true to your original vibe. It’s still predominantly about melody for m, taking influences from everything that is hot right now and will be in the future. The extreme talent of producers out there at the mo and the challenge of creating something great is what motivates me I suppose.
Over the last 20 years we’ve all seen genres come and go. Have you a favourite period of dance music history, a time when the music really spoke to you? What made that point in time so special for you?
I’m a great believer that we are living in an incredible time of creativity right now, but at a push I would say the mid 90s Prog scene was really special as so many timeless classics were made then.
Time to talk tech. What’s in your studio set up these days? Which are your favourite toys?
Main DAW’s are Ableton and Protools. Hardware synths including Jupiter 8 , Prophet 5 , Macbeth M5N , SH5 to name a few .. Most used plugins at the mo are Diva, D16 Lush101, Omnisphere, Kontakt and Reaktor. Writing in Ableton, mixing in Protools HD.
With soft synths and hardware emulations improving all the time, do you ever see a point where you’ll sell everything off and just work from your DAW?
No chance. I’d sell my kids before I sell our synths lol!
Let’s move on to your DJ set up. I remember a time you played vinyl! I guess those days are long gone now, so what’s on the equipment rider now?
Standard CDJ2000, usb dongle vibes. Flirted with Ableton for DJing a few years ago but realised it was too powerful a tool for such purposes as I just ended up adding loads of sounds to each track just because I could . Audio mush! I do miss the days of playing vinyl though , way more spontaneous , and am really excited about doing this vinyl set for InProgress.
You’ve recently taken up a residency with InProgress in Leeds. What attracted you to them?
They are a really cool bunch of guys and Leeds is one of the spiritual homes of house music. I love playing up north, a residency in the UK is something I haven’t done for years and I really fancy a few gigs where I don’t have to get on a plane first ;)
March 28th sees you play a classics set along side Renaissance resident Ian Ossia and Progressive House legends Blue Amazon as part of a record label showcase for the mighty Convert Recordings. When you play classics sets, what percentage of the tracks you choose are ones you love vs. ones people expect to hear? How do you achieve a balance?
I very rarely play classics set actually, and I find they can be too predictable so for this it’s not going to be obvious choices at all. I’d say 80% personal faves, 20% obvious biggies.
One of the striking aspects of your radio shows is how fresh the tracks are you play. Do you still enjoy digging the crates or is everything through promo lists?
Yea I think it’s important to cover all bases. I have a lot of friends who recommend me stuff too and also tracks directly from producers etc.
What’s your current top 10?
Well today, I would say this.
1 Jonas Rathsman – Hope I’m wrong
2 Robert Babicz – Centurian ( Jody Wisternoff remix )
3 Kidnap Kid – Stronger
4 Chopstick & Johnjon – Pining moon
5 Indiana – Solo Dancing ( Joe Goddard remix )
6 Dobie – Cloud 98ft Ninety Nine ( Bodhi remix )
7 My Nu Leng – You’ve been gone
8 Daughter – Get Lucky ( Shadowchild VIP)
9 Madben & Yann – Neighbours
10 Lorca – Forgive me love
Are there any artists who you are really on fire for you at the moment? What makes their tracks stand out for you?
The majority of artists listed above I think are really on it right now. Great tracks just have that extra bit of magic; maybe it is just that they are extremely talented producers.
As for many DJs, you have to balance a home life and kids with the madness of DJing and touring. How do you keep sane?
They compliment and balance each other out really nicely, infect I would say I go insane if I don’t DJ. Saturday nights in watching Ant&Dec is enough to send me over the edge.
We understand you and Nick are writing again. How’s the new album going?
Yep, we’ve really gone for it lately and I think its shaping up to be the best stuff we’ve written for years! Can’t wait to get it out there ;)
What else is on the cards for 2014?
The Anjunadeep06 compilation is almost completed too, scheduled for a summer release. I have a bunch of solo remixes scheduled to come out soon too, the first being the mix for Babicz . Lots of touring and generally avoiding Ant& Dec as much as is humanly possible..
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us Jody. We wish you every success with the new projects. One final question, had you not been a DJ, what do you imagine you’d be doing now?
The pleasure was all mine guys, thanks for the interview! Something creative I would imagine, or possibly a dinner lady ;)