JD Twitch Talks
Andy Ingle, resident DJ and purveyor of fine music at The Beat! speaks to JD Twitch aka Keith McIvor – One half of Optimo, legendary founders and residents of club Optimo (Espacio) at Sub Club, Glasgow. Renowned for his eclecticism and exceptional mixing skills, as both prepare to play out to eager crowds at this year's much anticipated FARR Festival.
So, you're going to be playing at FARR Festival – planning anything special?
I try to make every set special and while I'll spend a lot of time thinking about what music I'll take with me, I never pre-plan a set so it will be very much based on what the feel is on the day when I'm playing.
Being an M25 locations, FARR obviously harks back to the '89 rave scene. What did this scene mean to you and, being Scotland based, did you ever go to any M25 raves?
I didn't attend any M25 raves as I was too poor to travel very far back then and also because there was also so much going on up here – M8 raves! It was a revelation for me on many levels. Firstly I had been trying to evangelise electronic music in my dj sets for a couple of years already by this point, but people were very closed to it, often even getting angry with me for playing it ("why are you playing this drum machine shit?" was a frequent response). Then it all exploded very rapidly and before I knew it I was DJing for a living which was revelation no. 1. The music was morphing and mutating almost by the week and one thing that is hard to convey all this time later is just how exciting and fast paced this was as new strains of dance music mutated like a virus. At that time Glasgow had one dance import record shop and on the days the records came in it would be packed beyond belief. As new records were played, a sea of hands would go up wanting copies. They were shifting vast quantities of 12" singles – I heard that Beltram's "Energy Flash" sold 5000+ copies out of that one shop. It was also a revelation in that suddenly people who would have never encountered each other in normal life were partying together and forming friendships in this new (temporary) utopian environment that was the rave. It did a lot to engender social change in Scotland and the then endemic football violence almost disappeared. It also did a lot to help sweep away homophobic attitudes and made caring about class or race seem like things of the past.
Late 87 to 92 was wide open in terms of the music and people of different backgrounds partying together to a unified soundtrack, but after that it closed down a lot. The hardcore and happy hardcore scenes developed and the music endlessly fractionalised as did the clubs which although inevitable seemed a great shame at the time. I'd still get booked to play a lot of the big raves up here but it was becoming increasingly obvious that the music I was playing was way too out there and way too slow to appeal to that audience anymore. That was the end of the rave era for me.
Which 5 records from this era made the biggest impression on you and why?
Hard to narrow it down to 5 but here's 5 that while perhaps not the biggest records of the era were the ones that melted my heart the most and that I'm still maybe likely to play on occasion.
Ego Trip – Dreamworld. From 1990 and for me, by far and away the best record Roger Sanchez ever made. Despite being from New York this fitted perfectly with the early Warp records coming out of North Yorkshire at that time. Hypnotic, evocative, atmospheric and way deeper than most supposedly deep house, this still sends shivers down my spine.
2 Bad Mice – Waremouse
Back then, the music one would hear on a night out was extremely varied Detroit Techno, Chicago House, Sheffield Bass, Belgian Rave and early UK hardcore would sit comfortably side by side. Along with Shut Up And Dance, Rob Playford and his Moving Shadow label were the masters of that latter sound. In some ways this track preempts Dubstep by a good decade. Breakbeats have been much maligned in recent times and are way off the "cool" register but i still love the odd one here and there. This track is extremely minimal but is full to the brim with dread and I still play it from time to time, though pitched way down.
Speedy J – Pullover / Something For Your Mind
Two tracks from the Rotterdam genius that is Speedy J that again were constant features in my sets. To this day, if i ever play a gig in Edinburgh I can almost guarantee that there will be some old raver there who will ask if I'm going to play "Pullover" (I haven't played it in years). When I played these at the club Pure I did in Edinburgh back then, people would literally be bouncing off the roof. For me, this was about as hard as I wanted techno to be but it went on to be way, way harder.
Phantasia – Inner Light.
It was very rare for people to ask for requests back then but quite often someone would ask for some "E -music" to be played. Of course, Ecstasy played a massive part in all that was happening then and this track seemed to perfectly reflect and enhance the E experience. In hindsight it is a little cheesy and naive but also perfectly evokes that time in my mind's eye – I can immediately visualise out-stretched arms held aloft, mass group hugs and complete euphoric abandon on the dance floor as this song played out.
The Suburban Knight – The Art Of Stalking / The Worlds
Dark brooding Detroit Techno that inspired 1000 European producers to start making Techno.
Optimo has restarted in Glasgow – albeit less frequently. Was that a case of you missing Glasgow or Glasgow missing you?
It was a mixture of both. There is nowhere like Glasgow atmosphere wise and we missed that and at the same time, a lot of people were complaining that it was easier to see us play in London than in our home town.
What will the new night be like? Will it be a return to the Optimo of old?
It's is a return to the Optimo of old in terms of atmosphere and amount of effort we put in but we definitely didn't want it to be musically retreading the same ground and playing the greatest hits of Optimo past. Nights that aim for the nostalgic jugular leave me feeling queasy and are not something I can ever imagine entertaining.
Do you find it difficult when you become associated with certain records and there's an expectation from the crowd for you to play them?
It can be difficult as I don't like to disappoint someone who really wants to hear a certain record but at the same time, I don't want to get stuck always playing certain records that I may love but have heard too many times. There are some records intrinsically associated with Optimo of old that I am fairly certain I will never play again and there are a few that after they have been given a very long rest I'll probably end up playing again from time to time.
You're very personal with your fans – this must take up a HUGE amount of time?
It doesn't take up that much time. I have always tried not to have any barrier between to anyone who wants to ask me a question and the internet has allowed any barrier that may have existed to be broken down. In the early days of the club we had a very active forum and I got used to (and enjoyed) answering any questions people I might have. I like sharing information and being easily accessible so will try to make myself easily reachable and always respond to anyone who contacts me.
Optimo Music continues to go from strength to strength – this year had already seen releases from Organs of Love, Psyche and Peter Zummo. What's next?
I'm always working on the label on two levels – trying to get the rights to reissue old records I think should be heard again and trying to champion new music I think deserves an outlet. On the reissue front I am always reluctant to say what I am working on in case someone bootlegs a release before I can get it out. On the new music front there is a single sided 12" with an etching on the B-side from a Factory Floor side project that also features the legendary Peter Gordon from New York, A 12" from The Deadstock 33s and Dan Avery and an EP from Soft Metals in the pipeline.
What's the policy for choosing which records to release?
If I love it, I'll release it.
Finally, if you had to drop one record at 6am which would guarantee everyone went to bed with a smile on their face what would it be?
Well, if I told you I'd have to kill you but it is definitely something I give a lot of consideration to. I love ending the night with a song that will put a smile on everyone's face (except for the miserable c**s) and get stuck in everyone's heads. It's great when a night has ended like that and one will hear people queuing for the cloakroom or even the bar staff clearing up still humming that tune.
By Andrew Ingle
Hurry to get your hands on the last remaining £35 tickets for FARR Festival. Full information here.