Carhartt WIP Radio welcomes Glasgow's finest address for musical dreams off the beaten track: Optimo Music.vKnown at first as a vinyl 12 inch label, Scotland based Optimo Music was founded in 2009 and is run by Keith McIvor aka JD Twitch. Originally Optimo was the name of a regular Sunday nighter at Sub Club in Glasgow, where the duo JD Twitch and JG Wilkes earnt the reputation for mixing all kinds of genres together, often not even matching beats or tempos. Since the night was suspended in 2010, both have been constantly gigging around the world while JD Twitch dedicated himself more deep in overseeing his label, its 2013 launched club friendly subdivision Optimo Trax as well as to many diverse projects such as the label Autonomous Africa where all earnings are put straight back into a number of African charities. Till today Optimo Music's ramified artist line up includes old and new artists like Golden Teacher, Chris Carter, Psyche, Peter Zummo, The Twins, Shift Work and Sex Judas among others. Also recently the label submerged more into archival stuff and published a stunning compilation on the DIY culture from the post-punk era between 1978 and 1982, that stands out in terms of selection and featured background information. For Carhartt WIP Radio JD Twitch has compiled an all Optimo Music mix in which he tried to reflect what it is about each release that connects them to the superordinate ideal of Optimo Music. As usual we wanted to know more and asked the enthusiast from Scotland about his label and more.
Hi Keith, can you introduce yourself for us a bit? Where are you coming from, what is your occupation, what did you do in the past as a vinyl enthusiast, remixer and label runner?
JD Twitch: My artist name is JD Twitch and I live in Glasgow, Scotland. I started djing in 1987 and since I left university in 1991 it is how I have made my living. Since 1997 I have been half of the Optimo DJ duo. I started running labels in 1991 and have run Optimo Music since 2009. I also run the Optimo Trax and Autonomous Africa labels. I also produce, remix (though am trying to have a long rest from that after recently completing my 100th remix). I also do the occasional bit of sound design for film, TV and theatre, the odd bit of writing and spend almost every weekend on the road gigging (around 120 gigs in 2015).
Any role models, inspirations, or benchmarks for Optimo Music when it was launched in January 2009?
JD Twitch: No role models or benchmarks really. There are legions of labels that have inspired me but I don't think I emulate what any of them do / did.
How is it to be the manager of Optimo Music right now?
JD Twitch: A lot of work but very satisfying.
And how did the process of running a label change over the past years?
JD Twitch: In the early years the label was more of a hobby and I would sometimes only release two or three records a year. A couple of years ago I decided to see what would happen if I put maximum effort into it, cutting back on things like doing remixes which took up an enormous amount of time and devoting a lot more of my time and energy to the label. I discovered I really enjoyed being a lot more productive with the label although even though it takes up a lot of my week it still just about feels like a hobby and not a job.
How would you describe the sound of Optimo Music to someone that hasn’t heard of it?
JD Twitch: All over the place! But, I think if they were to listen to this mix perhaps they would discover that there is a thread that connects all the releases in some abstract way.
Can you still identify up to today with all Optimo Music releases?
JD Twitch: Definitely. There are a few releases that were fairly poor sellers that in hindsight I might not have released had I had more experience back in the early days of the label, but all of them helped me learn, and there is not one I regret releasing based on its musical content or that feels as if it has aged badly.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do: releasing new music or excavate old music?
JD Twitch: Excavating old music is quite challenging as often it is a long and fraught process trying to track the artist or get permission or I get beaten to the punch by someone else, but I enjoy it and have met and got to know some very interesting characters by doing it. Releasing new music is challenging too simply because I get sent so many demos and it is almost impossible to keep up with them. The vast majority of them bore me to tears but, I'll still try to check as many as I can as even though maybe only one in ten releases is the result of a demo, I have received some amazing unsolicited music that I ended up releasing.
How important are the non-musical components of your releases, i.e. packaging and album art?
JD Twitch: Very important. Optimo Trax has its in house design for every release while I like the majority of Optimo Music releases to come in a picture sleeve, even though it is expensive to do. A few people have told me they love the visual aesthetic of Optimo Music, which I find quite funny, as there isn't one really. I try to get each artist to have as much input as possible into how their record looks and that is more important to me than the label having a defined visual look.
JD Twitch: I have the fifth Optimo Disco Plate in the works which is the 3rd single by Noo and EPs by MR TC, Junto Club (their second) forthcoming as well as a couple of other new artists in the works. I am working on the 2nd and 3rd in the DIY compilation series but it's too early to say how they will pan out, there should be a new Peter Zummo album in 2016 and a couple of reissue projects I can't mention yet.
Optimo Music has a clubby oriented sub-label called Optimo Trax. Why did you launch this relative in 2013 and what is coming next?
JD Twitch: Optimo Music has and will probably continue to release records that will be played in clubs but it's not the focus of the label which is more artist rather than producer led. I was turning down lots of club music that was producer led that I didn't think felt right on Optimo Music but a lot of it was so great that I decided I had to put it out so that is why Optimo Trax was started. The A&R criteria is simply that every release has to be something I would play in a DJ set. Optimo Trax 17 just came out and I have 18 - 22 in production; including releases by Muslimgauze, Underspreche, Fabrizio Rat, Sparky and Luke Solomon. I'm also hoping one of the upcoming releases will feature an artist who is one of my most iconic favourites.
How much is JG Wilkes involved in the label? Or are you only djing together?
JD Twitch: JG Wilkes has no involvement in the label as he decided several years ago he didn't have the time due to family commitments. I run it on my own though I have a bit of help from Jill and Andrew without whom I would be totally overwhelmed trying to keep all my other commitments going too.
You also release edits and remixes every now and then. Anything new coming up soon?
JD Twitch: I'm not really a fan of releasing remixes on the label unless I think it is conceptually interesting or an artist is particularly keen to have one. The edits have always been old tracks that I am re-presenting that I feel could maybe be tweaked just a little to make them more DJ playable though they are mostly very faithful to the original. None in the works just now.
What is your opinion on the digitalization of music and new listening behaviours like streaming?
JD Twitch: I don't really have an opinion. I don't really listen to music this way but whatever works for people is ok with me. There's no point getting upset by its impact on music sales as it's just a fact of 21st century life and thankfully a small number of people still like to buy music. It could be and could have been far worse.
How did you select the tracks for your Carhartt WIP Optimo Music Radio show?
JD Twitch: I was trying to think if there is an Optimo Music sound and I don't think there is but there is definitely an Optimo Music spirit and all the tracks share something in common even if it isn't musically apparent on first listen. I tried not to worry too much if I could mix them all together and indeed the first few tracks aren’t mixed but I feel over the course of the 70 minutes it gives a good indication as to where my head is at with regard to how I choose what to release.
What are your first musical memories?
JD Twitch: Bad music. My parents weren't particularly into music and would listen to fairly middle of the road music if they listened to music at all, so apart from the odd encounter with music elsewhere, until the age of ten I thought I didn't particularly like music. Then I was given a radio and everything changed…
How do you keep your work fresh and continue to evolve?
JD Twitch: I try not to pay any attention to what anyone else is doing or what is regarded to be the current "happening thing" (it usually isn't!). I'm lucky that so much great music comes my way and I am always looking for new music or old music that is new to me. I used to worry that as I got older my passion would diminish but that hasn't happened and as long as I’m passionate I think my taste and interests in music will keep evolving.
Any musical guilty pleasures?
JD Twitch: I don't believe in guilty pleasures. Why feel guilty?
What’s your life motto?
JD Twitch: Think for yourself, question authority, don't be a dick.