The Right Trail

21 August 2012 | 7:30 am | Cyclone Wehner

“You kinda spend a little bit of time underground and then you pop out again and just smash it – but the key is to keep the ball rolling.”

Jody Wisternoff entered the music biz in the mid-'80s, finding fame with Way Out West (WOW) over the next decade, but now he's finally presented an 'artist' album, Trails We Blaze, under his own name.

The Brit DJ/producer, returning to Australia, laboured on his debut for two years. “You kinda spend a little bit of time underground and then you pop out again and just smash it – but the key is to keep the ball rolling.” Indeed, so worried are dance types about maintaining their visibility in the social media age that many are abandoning the time-consuming album enterprise entirely, preferring to air successive singles or EPs. Otherwise DJ bookings drop off. “People have very short attention spans,” Wisternoff rues. Still, he's unconvinced that a single is sufficient to create buzz. “You don't really do a tour a single, do you? Unless it's a massive one!”

Much has altered since the Bristolian fell into the rave scene. At 13 the budding turntablist was competing in the DMC World DJ Championships. Wisternoff teamed with future Reprazent stalwart DJ Die to cut hip house (Tru Funk), then jungle (Sub Love), before embracing house and forming WOW with Massive Attack tour DJ Nick Warren. The duo, who crossed over in the UK with their anthem, The Gift, pre-empted the hybridisation so prevalent today, traversing house, progressive, techno, ambient and breakbeat.

Wisternoff is a cheerful character, laughing often, yet a few years ago he had a rough patch. He developed severe tinnitus. The family man took time out from music and experienced depression. However, his enthusiasm for dance music hasn't wavered. “The passion's always been strong – nothing's really changed. It's just like a constant kinda thing, really.”

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Trails..., revisiting old hits like Cold Drink, Hot Girl and Starstrings and including recent (vocal) singles, How You Make Me Smile and Just One More, is grounded in club music – it's not 'chill-out'. “The intention was to make an album that's kind of a DJ set – almost like it feels like a mix comp.” Intriguingly, Trails... has been released by Anjunadeep, an offshoot of Above & Beyond's Anjunabeats. A&B are generally equated with Euro trance, and Wisternoff with its cooler relative progressive house (he calls it just “good quality house music”) – and, of A&B's output, the DJ admits, “it's not personally my style,” while he can “fully appreciate what's going on there.” Nevertheless, Anjunadeep, also sometime home to Aussie DJ Jaytech, is about house.

And the Anjunabeats A&R crew were “really, really hands on” with Trails... – surprising considering Wisternoff's expertise. “It's a good thing to have A&R because otherwise you just end up going up your own arse.” He freely acknowledges they suggested changes. It was Anjunabeats who advised him to bring the album closer to his DJ sets (and podcasts), “because the initial version was a bit more peaktime: “I actually rewrote six of the tracks and cut a few of them out and did some new ones, 'cause it was sounding a little bit too dated, a little bit old school proggy... So we thought, 'Right, let's go back, let's get it sounding a bit more housey, a bit sexier.'” Crucially, he valued the input, veteran or not.

Wisternoff isn't forsaking WOW. Already the pair, who've played Glastonbury, have commenced their fifth album, with around four tracks in the can. The challenge as usual is for them to schedule studio time as Warren, too, has a busy solo career. “But,” assures Wisternoff, “there's no reason to stop the WOW thing. It's bubbling on.” He hopes an LP will be done by early next year. Wisternoff will play some of WOW's fresh material here, in addition to solo fare, both new and unreleased (he's remixed A&B's Alchemy). But there will also be familiar music. “I think you can be too cool and too upfront and leave people cold sometimes. It's nice to have a bit of familiarity and a few classics as well occasionally.”