Filed under: Interview
After a three year hiatus on the Tokyo tour dates, the “what’s with Nick Warren and Japan?” rumour mill had worked up enough steam to power a light reactor by the time the Global Underground veteran made it to Womb earlier this month, suggesting anything from a dislike of Japan to a phobia of sumo wrestlers. The real story: “…. I was meant to come twice and there was an issue each time where I was booked to do the [Way Out West] live thing as well, and that had to come first for a while”, he explained, cagily putting a stop to all this idle hearsay.
And a welcome return it was for the artist who has chalked up a record six Global Underground releases – the latest offering, Shanghai 28, showcasing a variety of new talent from James Holden to Kosmas Epsilon and Derek Howell, and giving the proverbial nod to timeless classics like Hardfloor’s Acperience 1. We caught up with Nick in his self-described favourite club, before a blistering set of his trademark hard yet happy vibe – thumping percussion and lumbering basslines, and an energy that few live dance acts can match.
Interview & Introduction by Matt Cotterill (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : Nick, thank you very much for your time and …. 3 years I think since you were in Japan ?
Nick Warren : Yeah it is, it was a long long time ago.
HRFQ : It is a long time.
Nick : I was meant to come last year, but we were doing a lot of the Way Out West live shows so I cancelled a lot of the DJing and I was gutted as Womb is probably my favourite club in the world, it is a fantastic place, I love DJing here.
HRFQ : Well we were a bit worried about the reasons why it has been so long.
Nick : Mmm…. well….. I was meant to come twice and there was an issue each time where I was booked to do the live thing as well, and that had to come first for a while.
HRFQ : So it isn’t because you don’t like sushi or anything like that ?
Nick : No, no.
HRFQ : Let’s have a look at this, Shanghai 28, the album that you did, the 28th installment of Global Underground, your sixth, which is quite prolific. It’s characterized by a lot of new talents – Kosmas Epsilon, Derek Howell, James Holden, and it has a very international feel to it as well. And it struck us at once as being cutting edge, also quite progressive at the same time.
Nick : The main reason I chose these people is because I thought about when I started [making music]. We made some records as Way Out West got a record deal, got a publishing deal, we had the money to go and make our first album and build a studio. But that has all gone now. Young kids don’t get that anymore. The record companies are not giving young dance producers a record deal. They might give them a few quid for a single deal and the next single, but there is no ‘here is thirty grand, go make an album’. That’s all gone, and going around the world I get given so much amazing music by young kids working at home, and I wanted to make a platform so people would hear it really.
HRFQ : Sort of showcase the new talent.
Nick : Yeah, yeah exactly.
HRFQ : With a lot of the new sounds coming in, there has been this obsession with Electro, acid house and the early analogue sounds, and almost a backlash against what is called ‘progressive’, which has almost become a bit of a swearword, what is your take on that?
Nick : For me it’s like the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ people..saying ‘it’s really good isn’t it’ and actually it is all sounding very similar, and the whole electro thing hasn’t evolved very much. I think lots of the progressive guys have taken it on board and there is this whole wave now. And stuff I will be playing tonight, a lot of it is slightly tinged with electro but then it has almost a progressive techno vibe to it. Big bass lines, there are analogue sounds but it is very uplifting and it is very chunky and very pushy, and that has always been my vibe. I have always wanted stuff with energy. I don’t want to hear just a ploddy old Yamaha synth, for ten minutes, it has got to evolve. I think the good music is there but you have just got to search for it. And I think with the file sharing now it has almost got to the stage where lots of the First division of DJ’s, rather than the Premier league, are all sharing the same music. They are all getting sent the files and then going on AIM or whatever and sharing it. And so everybody has got the same tracks, so it is getting really really boring. And so I really strive to search out new music. I speak to producers a lot and ask them to make specific things for me now. And also I have taken over as head of A&R at Hope Recordings and I have just signed maybe 15 tracks over the past few months and next year there is going to be a release every month and there is some really exciting stuff.
HRFQ : Excellent. Halfway through this mix you put in ‘Hardfloor’, 12 years ago I saw this track, kind of a big juxtaposition to the rest of the music in there ?
Nick : Well it was just proving a point to a certain extent. Like there is stuff which sounds great after 12 years. So much dance music now is almost irrelevant a month later. There are no big stars anymore. No Orbital, no KLF, no Prodigy, no Underworld. There are no acts that are making records that we all want to buy. That has stopped in dance music, which is a dangerous situation to get into because people are making music and no-one is actually noticing it. But that is all down to what I started with, that people are not given the time to sit down and make something that might take three months to make, but it is really fucking good. Now people are making tracks when they get back from the office or back from working in the factory and are working at night and after a week it is done. So there is not much substance there. So that is why I put ‘Hardfloor’ on ‘cos after 12 years it still sounds bloody good. It has to be said I did the mix with Alan Bremner, who has always worked with Brothers in Rhythm. He produces stuff for Kylie and he does the engineering for me on this album, and he is amazing. And so the mix from the ‘Hardfloor’ track to the Kosmos track is like 5 minutes, it just goes on and on and I can’t take all the praise for that ‘cos a lot of it was Alan as well.
HRFQ : Down to Alan then, thank you Alan. Talking about the digital formats, Nick, can we ask you how much, compared to before, vinyl you still buy ?
Nick : I still buy stacks of it. I am stupid. I still buy loads of records that I never play, but I like them. There will be a drum and bass record I like or a down tempo record I like, or a deep house one. So I still spend about a 1000 pounds per month on vinyl. The floors of my house are starting to bend now, so I have got to stop. I am going to make a massive bonfire when I retire and have this fire of vinyl, ha ha!!
HRFQ : This is a question Nick, we know you have been asked before but for the benefit of the readers in Japan, beyond retirement what are your plans ?
Nick : Absolutely no idea at all, that’s why I’m still going. I still love what I do. It would be easier to say, ‘I’m going to move into film scores and stuff’, but really I have no idea what I am going to do. But I am still loving my DJing so it will be until I grow tired of it or I feel I am not on top of my game. Then that’s when I will get out of it. People like John Digweed for instance, he is very organized and he plans his life and he knows what he is doing for the next 30 years, I have no idea what I am doing next week! I have always been like that since I was a kid, so I don’t think I will change.
HRFQ : Would you say that the latest progressive sounds not so much being influenced by the electro side but by more of the hard house stuff ? The Wild Pitch stuff going back to the mid-nineties, DJ Duke, Armand Van Helden, what is your take on that ?
Nick : It is ok. I never get too excited about too much retro stuff. Really, I think it’s like the whole breaks scene. Each week I get sent a breaks track which is a remake of an old classic. What he should be doing is making a new track instead of looking back all the time. I think it is important to keep pushing yourself as a producer, and I don’t think a lot of the producers are pushing themselves at the moment. They are just living from week to week, making enough money to live and that’s it. So it goes back to the same thing, to make something substantial and that is going to sound great in 15 years time, takes time. It can’t be done in a week.
HRFQ : Anything about Way Out West, what is on the horizon ?
Nick : I have been touring all this year with the Global album. But we are going into the studio again, we have started already a new project. We are still Way Out West, but it is called ‘Tales of The Rabbit Monk’.
HRFQ : That is one hell of a title !
Nick : It is basically psychedelic house. It is going to be like a ‘Tangerine Dream,’ you know really tripped out but still with really big chunky basslines. You know, 15-minute long tracks, completely up our own arses, but then it is something which has got me excited about going back in to the studio again. We just started a track and sampled loads of beats from old Cure records, it is weird but it is still funky.
HRFQ : Will you be playing with Joe [Allen] and Damon [Reese] on that track as well ?
Nick : Well Damon is married to Liz Fraser from Cocteau Twins and they are doing a new Liz Fraser album at the moment. Damon’s daughter, Joe’s daughter and my daughter all go to the same school, and so we meet up every morning in the playground and make plans. So I am sure they will be involved next year.
HRFQ : Well Nick, it is has been great talking to you, it has been a 3 year hiatus from Japan, is there anything you would like to say to your fans here?
Nick : Well I think it is possibly the best I have seen in the world, especially the clubs that I play. It is the best lighting I have ever seen at any club I have been to, so your are doing nothing wrong here !!!
End of the interview
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