Photos by Shawn Brackbill
Words by Andrew Parks
The visionary avant-pop vibes of Arthur Russell. The synthesized psych transmissions of Silver Apples. Pockets of post-punk, cold-pressed industrial and extraterrestrial dub techno. Nurse…With…Wound.
They all have a place in the mix with Optimo, Glasgow’s reigning underground selectors thanks to sprawling live sets and carefully curated compilations (Psyche Out, Sleepwalk, Walkabout) that are stripped of irony or name-that-tune nods. Like Soulwax’s genre-jumping 2 Many DJs guise, only subtle; as if your favorite friendly neighborhood record snob decided to share their secret stash, white labels and all.
Optimo’s skills don’t begin and end in the DJ booth, either. Now that they’re nearly two years removed from the final installment of their beloved Sub Club party back home—a party that saw nothing wrong with booking TV on the Radio one week and Whitehouse the next—Keith McIvor (aka JD Twitch) and Jonnie Wilkes are busy balancing a tireless tour schedule with side projects, production gigs, remixes and their very own Optimo Music imprint. Here’s a short list of what we can expect from those fronts in the coming months: Wilkes’ first proper Naum Gabo LP (“an album of instrumental synth tracks, some as long as 15 minutes”), a dancehall single and secret collaborative album from McIvor, a Peter Zummo reissue, an EP from a Factory Floor side project, and “an irregular Friday night residency later in the year so we can reconnect with the city that made us who we are.”
In the meantime, self-titled thought we’d ask the only DJs we’d trust with a wedding a warehouse rave to share the records that have shaped their lives…
THE RECORD THAT WAS REALLY, REALLY HARD TO WORK INTO ONE OF OUR SETS (BUT WE DID IT ANYWAY)
Love, “Everybody’s Gotta Live” (RSO, 1974)
JD Twitch: I was obsessed with this record, so I played it at Optimo one night and it completely cleared the floor. So I played it again the next week, and every week after that. We had such a regular, dedicated audience that after about three or four weeks, people would ask me if I was going to play ‘that song.’ Before long, people were going crazy for it, singing along from start to finish despite the fact that almost nobody knew what it was or how to find it. It became a genuine Optimo anthem, and a Glasgow anthem in general as other DJs in the city picked up on it. Then when we put it on our How To Kill the DJ mix CD, people in other places would ask for it when we played. One of my favorite memories is playing in Tokyo and having most of the crowd singing along rapturously to it even though they probably didn’t even understand the words.
THE RECORD EVERYONE SHOULD OWN
Funkadelic, Maggot Brain (Westbound, 1971)
Jonnie Wilkes: Just last week in San Francisco, we took a short taxi ride and the driver was playing Funkadelic—later stuff than this, maybe a compilation of hits—and I complimented him on his good taste. I was enthusiastic and asked if he’d heard. He said he hadn’t. I then went on to give a drunken, crude description of one of my favorite records ever, telling him how George Clinton was out of his mind on LSD and told Eddie Hazel to play the first half of the song like his mother had just died, and the second half as if he had found out she was alive.
THE PSYCH RECORD THAT’S BETTER THAN ANY DRUG COULD EVER HOPE TO BE
Hawkwind, Space Ritual (United Artists, 1973)
Twitch: Drugs and music go hand in hand, right? Or do they? I was heavily into dub reggae before I ever got stoned, yet getting stoned didn’t seem to make any difference to how I heard it. And I never really liked Ecstasy, as it made dance music I didn’t like sound a thousand times worse.
Hawkwind aren’t generally regarded as a psych band, but their early records genuinely alter my state of mind whenever I listen to them. I will boldly state thatis the greatest live album ever recorded. It’s a monolithic beast of a record that I’ve probably listened to over a thousand times. When the first cheap Walkman clones came out I made a pause button edit of the track “Orgone Accumulator” that lasted the full length of a C90 cassette. As a teenager with next to no money, I’d have to find cheap thrills, so I’d explore the city or the countryside listening to that track until the batteries ran out. It took me to a place no drug ever has.