Interviews

An Interview With: Optimo

Having retired from their marathon-running, eponymous Glasgow club night in 2010, Optimo manage to maintain a vibrant presence across the world as highly sought after DJs, whilst using their newfound time to grace us with much needed doses of Optimo-themed delights. From the release of their Fabric mix CD, right down to hand-crafted selections of new artists released on their record labels. Ahead of their appearance at Croatia’s Unknown festival in September, we caught up with them to talk about Glasgow, 3AM licenses and that special last track they always pick so well.

See Optimo at Unknown in Croatia this year, 8th -12th September. For more information please visit www.unknowncroatia.com

Optimo (Espacio) started – at Sub Club back in 1997 and ran every Sunday until 2010. It quickly became a ritual to a lot of clubbers in Glasgow at the time and now, 4 years on, your nights back there still attract the crowds. Having watched the crowds evolve, how do you think the Glasgow club scene has changed over the years?

Yes, for about 2 years after we stopped the weekly Sunday night party we were rarely playing together in Glasgow as Optimo – with the exception of Christmas and Hogmanay. On the road, wherever we would go around the world we’d meet people from Glasgow on their travels, or who had re-located, and they’d always ask how come they had to travel so far afield to hear us play together. Eventually we decided it was time to organise something regular again in Glasgow and have our own party in our home town. It could never have been on a Sunday again – that was for sure – our schedule is too crazy to allow that after travelling all weekend, plus the landscape has changed a bit too with regard to what nights work in town. Apart from anything it needed to feel a little different, so we began a bi-monthly Optimo at Sub Club on the first Friday of the month; every two months. It’s been really over whelming and to be honest somewhat of a relief that there is a new young crowd attending the bi-monthly party. It would have been a little depressing had there been a crowd solely made up of those who’d come to the Sunday parties years back. We are lucky in this city – this is indicative of how it goes here. New generations of really clued up younger people, who will find what they are looking for, find who’s playing the music they have discovered somehow, and in turn tell you if they don’t like what you are doing. Right now in Glasgow, there seems to be a very healthy scene. Indeed sometimes even too much for one small city on one particular night. For me it feels more alive than it did say in the mid-nineties, when we were motivated to try something different in terms of what a party can be and startOptimo. Yes there are good changes afoot in Glasgow and the scene seems to support even the most adventurous ideas surrounding putting on a party. This can only be good.

When you started Optimo (Espacio) it was a whole new concept. Was it not scary to start something completely new – an eclectic mix of different styles when electronic music nights at that stage were pretty much straight techno?

No. We wanted to have fun doing it, try some stuff. Do what the fuck we wanted I suppose. You don’t get scared when you’re in that frame of mind. We really had no big expectations for the club, it just became popular and we are really grateful for that of course. We worked so hard because we loved what we were doing, the music we were playing and booking for the party, the decor for the party, the design of the printed material – all that‚ just doing exactly what felt right.

Sometimes Optimo adds quite a strong political colouring to club gigs. Don’t you think that people try to escape real world when they go to a club and they do not really want to be exposed to serious topics? Or do you think that electronic music should be more than just entertainment?

We don’t apologise for taking a position on certain matters. Sure, going out to party is about escaping, but we feel a responsibility as artists and as individuals to work in our own small way towards change and a better, more loving society. What’s wrong with that? We would never dream of telling anyone what to think but we have a platform to a degree and have used it occasionally to say what our position is. I don’t have a problem with the term “entertainment” or being an “entertainer”. We are all about making people smile, that’s the amazing part of our job, but if you know us then you will know that it’s a little more than that.

At the most recent Optimo at Sub Club, I heard you ended on Iggy Pop’s‚ “The Passenger.” With 3 AM licences in Glasgow, it must be tricky picking your final track to round things off, yet you always manage to do this perfectly; any tricks to your trade you can share?

Often it’s a frantic rummage through our boxes for the right track just at that moment and that can work, you just feel it. Then other times it’s something that we know we are going to play at the end, that could be a track for someone special or perhaps music by someone who inspired us and has passed away recently, or to go back to the previous question, something which might in a small way throw light on something happening in the world which we think is important to be aware of.

Again, on the subject of 3AM license. Some DJs find it hard to spin in the countries where everything is over by the time when people just get out of their houses in Berlin, for example. Do you find it challenging to make a perfect set in Glasgow where you have less time than you would have had in the other place?

We actually really like the intensity of the Glasgow parties – where we have only from 11pm til 3am to get on with things. I suppose it’s about getting a sense of the room and the crowd and running with that and at 11pm on a Friday night in Glasgow people are ready, just like this weekend when we will play at Panorama Bar in Berlin starting at 8am – that’s a different room, a different time, a crowd which is evolving throughout the night and into the next day but again, you need to get a sense of it and that’s where a DJ succeeds or fails.

As Optimo grew, you moved onto please crowds outside of Glasgow, did this take you slightly out with your comfort zone? How did you find the gigs and crowds, compared with Glasgow?

No, we just applied ourselves. We could say that different cities are different for their crowds but within that you still find surprises. It would be wrong to say “a Spanish crowd is like this” or “the German audience is this way‚” – it’s about what’s going on right then and there. It’s important to say however that Glasgow is incredibly special and probably second to none.

Words: Kirstin Valente, Nazira Kassenova

 

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