Way Out West

Way Out West Biography

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 into a full-fledged band fronted by a pint-sized but powerful vocalist in the Dido/Sarah McLachlan vein, Omi.

Group co-founder 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 '80s. He DJ’d around Bristol, England 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 called 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 Wisternoff and they collaborated on a couple of tracks under various guises. The Way Out West remixes were most popular and the duo adopted the name for what was to become their main act.

Wisternoff's 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.

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.”

The duo's first big track, "Ajare," was released in '94 through deconstruction. Its pop hooks, bizarre samples and epic Hindu swirls took 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, the second album Intensify followed, bringing with it singles "Intensify," "Stealth" and "Mindcircus," another top 40 hit and dance chart number 1.

Singer 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, featuring on tracks for Starecase, Timo Maas, an all girl drum ‘n’ bass outfit, Eden and one Peter Gabriel. “The first time I saw him I thought he was the cleaner,” she shrieks. “There’d been a power cut in the hall we were rehearsing in and he just shuffled in, got on the piano and started belting out all these songs whilst everyone clapped along.”

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.

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