Discovering the evolution of Anjunadeep with label visionary, Jody Wisternoff [Q&A]James Grant Jody Wisternoff @ Bohemia 1

Discovering the evolution of Anjunadeep with label visionary, Jody Wisternoff [Q&A]

The sun beams on Dubai’s magnificent skyline, painting a cloudless, cotton-candy backdrop to a room situation on the 13th floor of the FIVE Palm Jumeirah Hotel. That would be ROAR, a secluded daytime locale filled with tiny tearoom pastries and the scent of espresso by day that becomes a swanky handcrafted cocktail bar by night. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer a breathtaking view of an idyllic beachfront, glimpses of vacationers lounging on the private 150-meter beachfront property, and yachts sailing out to the Arabian sea. 

With an air of relaxation, Jody Wisternoff strolls into the room, decked out in a white tank top and blue swimming shorts adorned with pink flamingos. To many, he’s known alongside fellow label mate James Grant as one of the head curators at Anjunadeep, a beloved independent imprint that shines an unremitting light on the rising forces in progressive, deep, and melodic-house. He’s also a longtime partner and one-half of electronic music duo Way Out West, whose other member includes English record producer Nick Warren. But above all else, Wisternoff had stood as a solo producer for the entirety of his career, molding his sound through his interaction with a myriad of influences; altogether, they’ve driven him into the realms of trance, electro, breakbeat, and most prominently, progressive house. 

While he’s a man of many impressive titles, he’s currently just a man on vacation. Surrounded by his family, a Corona in his hand, Wisternoff is back in Dubai for the official Anjunadeep 13 party. The next day, he’ll be joined by Grant and fellow Anjunadeep artists for an enchanting daytime beach soirée, an event that feels strikingly routine, despite the reality that, in the past two years or so, this type of affair was anything but. That considered, it’s clear that this year’s Anjunadeep party marked more than just a celebration of the compilation album’s launch—it also represented the label’s unwavering success through precarious times, and, most importantly, the blissful return of live music, a quintessential part of the listening experience. 

Ahead of the Anjunadeep/Bohemia crossover beach party, Dancing Astronaut spoke with Jody Wisternoff to catch up on the past two years of his life and gain insight on his role at Anjunadeep, as well as the recently released Anjunadeep 13 compilation LP. 

Stream Anjunadeep 13 and read the full Q&A below.

You last played at FIVE Dubai two years ago for the Anjunadeep 10 label party. What has changed for you since then? 

Jody Wisternoff: “Everything, like my entire psychology. The last few years, I think for pretty much every human being on planet Earth, the growth and evolution of how we are as humans has been monumental because of what we’ve been put through. So yeah, it’s really epic in terrible ways, but in beautiful ways at the same time.”

And I guess that comes with a lot of self reflection or change? 

Jody Wisternoff: “We’ve all delved inwards, but that’s forced us to face things and grow in ways that we probably wouldn’t have if we were just treading water. So I mean, [I personally liked it], it’s made me really, really appreciate my job traveling and going to different countries and flying. All these things became kind of tedious for a while, and I was starting to really not look forward to the weekend, which is sad. I wasn’t ready to face it. My body was like, ‘Oh my god, you got a flight at 8’, you know what I mean? You play a party, you get paid thousands of dollars. ‘Oh, my God. What the fuck?’

So, I think we were all losing it a little bit. So this makes me reevaluate situations and positive ways to look at it. In other ways, it’s been terrible, a lot of people have died. But, you know, I’m an optimist. I’m seeing pros come out of it.”

I’m glad that you’ve been able to reevaluate. I think a lot of people have and when you start to dread the weekend…

Jody Wisternoff: “Yeah! When you start thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’m gonna live the rest of my life locked down.’ It’s horrific; it meddles with our psyches. We did know that it was only a temporary thing. But in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, ‘this might go on for a bloody long time.’ I think that uncertainty was the certainty…it was really sketchy. It ruffled up all our feathers.”

When you look back musically in general, and at your role within Anjuna, has that also been marked by change, or has it largely stayed the same? 

Jody Wisternoff: “That’s the same [laughs]. More of it, there’s more artists to groom. There’s not been a radical shift of technique and whatever, it’s become more because people have had a lot of time at home to work on music. So we’ve got more time to A&R music.”

You have the responsibility of being a tastemaking curator on Anjunadeep, as well as creating music for your own solo career. When joining forces with James Grant on these disc compilations, what core values do you both share? 

Jody Wisternoff: “It needs to give you goose pimples. There need to be goosey moments. If there are no goosey moments, it’s all in vain. If you’re not getting goose pimples, then it’s not happening. That’s the kind of benchmark for quality. I mean, James is more conceptual, I’m more technical and visual. So that’s why we work together. Because, you know, he’s listening to things and I’m looking at them. And I listen as well, obviously, but he doesn’t have to look into the DNA of the project this way.

Since I’m looking at the project, I don’t want him to do that, because then he’ll be tainted by what what he sees. We both have our areas of expertise. He hears things that I don’t pick up on, because I’m emotionally attached to what the music looks like.”

And what do you mean exactly, about what the music looks like? 

Jody Wisternoff: “When you’re working on a track, you become familiar with the elements of the track, as in the song, the volume, the waveform, the shape of the music. So if you’re going into the DNA of it, you’re going to become emotionally attached to it. But if you’re listening to it without looking at it, you’re taking it at face value. You can’t do that if you’re completely in it.”

That’s interesting. When you think about how music is consumed, how do you think social media will impact the way fans experience live music and shows? 

Jody Wisternoff: “You know, people like Lane 8 are doing shows at the moment where they insist on no phone at all. So that might pick up and become more of a norm. Look at Germany, a lot of clubs, especially the really raunchy kind of sexy clubs like Bergain. There’s no phones at all. That might become normalized. If that becomes normalized, this would be awesome, because it’ll be like back in the ’90s when there was no social media and mobile phones; everyone was just relaxing. If that becomes normal again, awesome. It’s hard to tell, so we’ll see. It can go both ways, like it’s getting worse in the influencers/TikTok kind of thing. So it’s kind of getting more sketchy, but at the same time, people are better at pushing against it.”

So does that mean you don’t have your own TikTok account?

Jody Wisternoff: “I tried. I tried three times. My kids. Yeah, so one of them [*looks at his son*] he’s cool, he allows it. But my daughter deletes it every time I’m try. She’ll delete it off my phone. She’ll be all like ‘DAD, YOU’RE SO EMBARRASSING.’ So yeah, it’s not a thing for grownups I don’t think.”

What has been one of your most personal successes with Anjunadeep? 

Jody Wisternoff: “Signing Lane 8. I gave birth to Lane 8. He hates when I say that, but I gave birth to him. He came out upside down, I had to have a cesarean.”

And lastly, what do you have to say about the Anjunadeep 13 compilation? 

Jody Wisternoff: “I think it’s really lived up to our expectations. When you do these compilations, even when you make music, everything you do as a creative person is your favorite thing. Whatever happened last week is good, but you’re into what’s now. It’s hard to be subjectively right, because we can just be buzzing with what’s happening and what’s fresh. But I do think Anjunadeep 13 is the best of what we’ve done. 

Featured image: FIVE Palm Jumeirah

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