Pushing Beyond Tech House: How Westend Continues to Evolve
Apr 5, 2023
6 min read
It's been nearly two years since I last spoke to New York DJ and producer Westend, né Tyler Morris. And while the setting of our hour-long conversation is the same, he speaks to me from his light-filled New York apartment, the circumstances of his constantly evolving career have shifted. He's just returned from playing EDC Mexico's mainstage and dropping his first collab with longtime friend Noizu, "Push To Start." Currently ranked the seventh best-selling tech house artist on Beatport and number 23 in all genres, it's safe to say that he has evolved beyond emerging.
Morris ascended to the top of the game, pushing the then-rising sound of new tech house. Once an underground staple, the playful subgenre is now the sound of the mainstage, yet when we last spoke, he intended to find new ways to push beyond its impish bounce and inject more emotion into his music. Over the last two years, it's gone well. Tracks like "Moderation (At Night)" and "Running" express a newly discovered sonic range and a deft handle on the importance of balancing heart-swelling vocals with soaring melodics that stretch the limits of the massive sound systems he's now finding himself playing on.
"I pretty much only made music that evoked a certain emotion, which was party time—weird, wonky house music for the club. I realized that my interests as an artist, a listener, and fan of electronic music expanded outside that," he tells me. "I've always loved more vocal housey stuff and more melodic stuff."
He goes on to explain that not only was this a matter of desire to create a deeper, more visceral connection to his music, he also started to understand there was a ceiling on the power of party tech.
"It's very limiting to play a certain genre of music in all the rooms and places that you play. Once I started to like play in bigger rooms and bigger stages, I found that I needed my own productions to match some of the energy changes that I want. That's why I think you see people like Dom Dolla, John [Summit] playing techno in sets where they maybe weren't playing it before. I think it's also a product of house music artists getting to these bigger stages. We need different tools. We can't just do what would work in a 300 cap club all the time."
His creative expansion has led to collaborative work with various artists, from French-born Latin house stalwart HUGEL to Grammy Award winner (and fellow New Yorker) CID and, most recently, Noizu on "Push To Start."
The latter came after the pair spent a few years passing projects back and forth to no avail. Finally, in late 2022, they hacked their release schedule to force them to make it happen. "It was funny, for 'Push To Start,' we almost started the process backwards, where we committed to finishing a song by a certain day and having it put out. The release was already there."
Having a release date set for a song that didn't yet exist put a fire under them. And when their manager (they are both on the same management team) shared the spicy vocal from No/Me, they knew they could write a ravey anthem perfect for peak hour on any dancefloor.
Noizu has also become a mentor for Morris, advising him on touring, business, and mental health. "It's really good to have someone that's already a few steps ahead of you to [ask] what should I do in this circumstance? He's an awesome person, and we're really good friends."
Morris appreciates the benefit of having a mentor and seeks to pay it forward. After giving some production lessons during the pandemic, he realized that he enjoyed teaching and wanted to find another way to connect with the producer community. He started Kick and Bass, a Discord community where, alongside a small group of coaches, he shares his vast production knowledge with several hundred budding producers. Expanding beyond the stage has been gratifying, "it's such a big part of what I do now, music education and community building," he says.
He recently took this one step further by partnering with Scraps, a new music tech company. If you've ever wanted to take a peek under the hood and see what goes into making one of Westend's hit tracks, you can purchase the entire project file for "Get This Party Started" and "Running" directly from their website.
Morris tells me he doesn't feel production should be a coveted medium. Instead, his production "secrets" are a shared resource. Kick and Bass and Scraps are his way of repaying a debt to a group of trailblazing creators who helped him learn his craft.
Some producers feel that sharing the secret sauce devalues their brand and dilutes the art. Morris disagrees, saying, "It's not a zero-sum game. If I were to share some information that doesn't take away from the space. It took me a bit to realize this. I learned on the internet ten years ago from the people that were the few doing YouTube tutorials at the time. So I owe everything to the people that decided to put resources on how to make music on the internet. I feel indebted to the space to return that favor."
Another institution he feels indebted to? New York's legendary venue, Output. Open from 2013 to 2018. It helped turn a once sleepy stretch of Williamsburg into an international nightlife destination. It's where Morris says he got his house music education. Now under new management and renamed Superior Ingredients, Westend will make his New York headline debut on The Roof this May 5. It's a full-circle moment for him.
"Just the amount of times I went there, the amount of artists I would go to see. That's where I got super into house music in New York. And to do my first proper headline show back there is awesome. I'm sure when I walk into the building I'll feel a little bit emotional because I've just been in that building so much, but it's gonna be really fun. I'm very excited for it. It's probably going to be the most important show I've done so far."
In the two years since we last spoke, Westend made an art out of staying in his lane. He created an entirely new one, setting himself apart from many of his contemporaries and finding new ways to evolve. We can't wait to see what the next two years hold.