The year was 1993 and trance project Energy 52 had just released ‘Cafe del Mar’. Named after a bar in Ibiza, one of the most prolific tracks in clubbing history would be remixed for years to come by talented producers such as Marco V and Nalin & Kane. But despite nearly twenty years of reinventions and countless remixes if you ask most fans of EDM who their favourite remix was by, one name will stand out – Michael Woods.
Nearly two years on from the track, that exploded Woods into the dance music scene, the Ministry of Sound DJ tells me about the journey from London Symphony Orchestra to Best Remixer in 2011 to record label owner.
“I don’t think surprised is the right word,” the Hackney-born producer says in a strong London accent as we talk about the success of his ‘Cafe Del Mar’ remix. “I was more ’satisfied’ that DJs all over the world were supporting my mix, which still happens to be one of my all-time favourite tunes.”
With his father a piano teacher, Woods had music coursing through his blood from a young age, playing the guitar, trumpet and percussion before ever touching a set of decks.
“It was a gradual thing actually and something I didn’t even realise happening at the time,” Woods says. “I started learning music, according to my father, around the age of 4, and in my spare time after music class I’d sneak in to the computer music room. They had an Atari computer linked to a Korg M1 keyboard and I would start making dance tracks, trying to copy the dance music I heard on the radio.”
‘Why?’ I ask, trying to understand the mind of a young Michael Woods.
“For no reason whatsoever other than just to see if I could do it.”
It was this sense of inquisitiveness from a young age that has pushed Woods into multiple genres throughout his career, touching on everything from big room anthems to progressive and tech-house beats while still continuing to search for a better quality of music.
And his thrive for the unknown is evident in his music over the course of the career. If you listen to his debut ‘Warrior’ that topped the UK clubbing chart in 2000 and compare it with his upcoming release ‘We’ve only just begun’ you’ll notice an introduction of cascading synths and that hands-in-the-air feel Woods is now renowned for.
“I guess it just evolved naturally,” Woods says. “In trying to lead the way forward in dance music and give the music-lovers things they’ve never heard before; it’s kind of naturally gone from where I started to where I am now.”
But like the love of a first girlfriend, the Ministry resident still has a special place for the tracks that kick started his career.
“I play that record [Warrior] in every set, whether it be in a nightclub or at a festival and when the vocal kicks in the reaction is always huge – which gives me a lovely warm feeling in the bottom of my stomach.”
Born to Argentinean and Guyanese parents, Woods has been lucky enough to work with a whole host of DJs and producers including Funkagenda, Mark Knight, Deadmau5 and most recently hosting the Box room with Calvin Harris at Ministry of Sound’s legendary London club for its 21st Birthday. Yet as we chat about the long list of collaborations, it comes as no surprise to me that Chris Lake, who teamed up with Woods for ‘Domino’s’, is one of his favourites.
“When collaborating with someone in the studio you have to have a connection,” he says. “It’s almost like going on a date – if there’s no connection then it’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. Chris and myself were on the same wavelength, tight from the off, not only musically but mentally. We share a lot of the same ideas as to the way we think they should be, so working with him was a lot of fun and very productive”
“All I can say is I know it when I hear it,” he tells me as he describes how he chooses the tracks for his label. “I’m always on the lookout for music that woks well in the clubs and festivals but also has something unique about it – just so that it stands out from the rest because let’s face it, with today’s modern powerful computers more and more people are making music and it’s becoming ever so much more important to have your own unique style to stay in the game.”Another imperative ingredient in the Michael Woods recipe is his label, Diffused Music, which hosts tracks from him and those he feels has what it takes.
As the award winning remixer prepares for his next gig, headlining Cream at Amnesia in Ibiza, there is just time for some much sort-after advice.
“Be dedicated, and I mean really dedicated,” Woods says. “When I started out I literally locked myself in the studio for a solid 4 months – if you put in the hard work you will reap the rewards. Having such an extensive knowledge of practical music helped me immensely when moving over to dance music. Composing music is quite an important factor in producing tracks and it’s now second nature to me, I can figure out pretty quickly if something is working or not.”