Thursday, November 15, 2007

To get you in the mood for JD Twitch (Optimo) tomorrow night here's an interview and mix he did for Pitchfork. Enjoy!

Pitchfork: Well, thanks a lot, I think this is going to go really well.
JD Twitch: Oh yeah? You've managed to listen to it?
Pitchfork: Oh yes, I've really poured over it. It's sort of what I was imagining, a mix of old and new, some historical obscurities. Let's go through them one by one.
01. Test Dept.: "Cha Till Sinn Tuille"
Pitchfork: The first is Test Department, which is certainly obscure, at least for America. These guys were from the industrial Glasgow scene, is that right?
JD Twitch: Yeah, a couple of them were from Glasgow. In the 80s, they turned into more of this multimedia group, and put on these massive performances involving like dance, and acting, and pyrotechnics. And the music changed to reflect a more Celtic culture. I chose this one to open because, well, because we're Scottish and most people think the bagpipes sound horrible! If you ever come on holiday to Scotland you will hear the bagpipes and those will sound horrible but this is just such a beautiful piece of music. And it's a bit humorous, it's like, well, we're Scottish, so he're a bit of Scottish-ness to start off the mix.
Pitchfork: Most people associate bagpipes with police funerals and things like that over here.
JD Twitch: Exactly, yeah. It can be a really melancholic and beautiful. Celtic music that isn't cheesy.
02. Tim Maia: "Rational Culture"
Pitchfork: And then we go directly into Brazil. Tim Mi-ee-a? Is that how you say it?
JD Twitch: I think so, I don't actually know. We played in Sao Paolo and Rio in February and the promoter who brought us over really treated us like family. And he knew we really like vinyl and particularly all the Tropicália from the late 60s and early 70s and he pulled me this record when I was there and was like, "You have to have this record!" And I just really fell in love with it. The guy is a member of some really bizarre religious cult. It's kind of the equivalent of the Scientologists in Brazil, maybe a little more far in than that. And he made this record to try and promote his religion. But I think this song, there is something really great about it.
Pitchfork: Yeah, I guess he had a run-in with marijuana a couple of times.
JD Twitch: Oh really? Oh, I didn't know that.
Pitchfork: Yeah, he was supposed to be big in the US and then he was found with a lot of marijuana on him.
JD Twitch: Alright! Okay, I had never heard of him before.
Pitchfork: I think he got on with the Os Mutantes for a while. they kind of brought him under their wing after he was exported from the U.S.
JD Twitch: Oh, OK. I'll find out about that because I am working on a collaboration with them at the moment, which we are going to perform in July. I've been communicating with the main guy, Sergio Dias, so I'll ask him about that the next time I email him.
Pitchfork: You're collaborating with Tim Maia?
JD Twitch: No, with Os Mutantes.
Pitchfork: Oh, wow, Jesus Christ, what are you gonna do?
JD Twitch: What happens is, they did it last year. A load of British musicians go over to Brazil and collaborate with Brazilians and then they came around the UK and show their collaborations. This year I didn't have time to go to Brazil so we've been doing it over the Internet and I'm doing one with Os Mutantes. Basically, we'll do one track and I can send it to him, and he'll add guitars and vocals and percussion and we'll perform it live in Glasgow, Liverpool and London in the end of July and after that Os Mutantes will play a full live set.
Pitchfork: That brings to mind a question. Do you play an instrument?
JD Twitch: No, not at all, no. I have a program and am constructing a song using samples from their own records, and you'd never recognize where I've taken them from. So I guess I play the computer, is what I play. But I created a whole new song using their own records. When we say we'll perform it live I'll probably just hit start on the computer and add a few effects [ laughs].
Pitchfork: Right. So not even in punk rock days playing drums or anything?
JD Twitch: Oh, three chords on the guitar, you know. I'm really lousy on the guitar
03. Whitefield Brothers: "Yakuba"
Pitchfork: And then we get "Yakuba" which is when the theme of this sort of really heavy drum, sort of on the "1," comes into the mix.
JD Twitch: It's from a reissue. I think a few are actually new, it's something I picked up at my local store. I've always had this obsession with drums. I think quite often in clubs people think everything has to be electronic. But real drums can be just as powerful in the club. And there's something about the drumming on this track that is really really fierce and I play this record in the middle of a set and it will still work in the club.
Pitchfork: You say local shop, which shop is that?
JD Twitch: Rub-A-Dub records, yeah.
04. Nino Nardini: "Afro Beat"
Pitchfork: Well, let's try to get to everything. Nino Nardini, some kind of obscure French character so far as I could tell.
JD Twitch: Yeah, he was a librarian. You know, those library records? This is a reissue on a 7" but it was on some library record that he would sell to TV channels or film companies whoever needed to use music. But again, it's got that really heavy rhythm that I really love. I think he's French or Italian. There's limited information about him. Nardini seems like an Italian name, so maybe he's Italian?
Pitchfork: So this is his take on Afrobeat?
05. Black Sabbath: "The Wizard"
Pitchfork: And then you go into Black Sabbath, which is really great. I got a big kick out of that.
JD Twitch: Yeah, again, the drumming on that song is just awesome. It's phenomenal. It's so incredibly funky. It's another thing that if you hear it live in a club, it's so powerful, even if you've never heard Black Sabbath, the groove sort of carries it along.
I remember when I was a kid listening to Black Sabbath and I always liked it, and then like four or five years ago I was at this gig and this hip-hop kid was warming up and he was pretty boring. And then, he dropped that, and it just totally brought that song back to me, he was into the breaks of it. It was weird and hypnotic being that it was in a different context.
Pitchfork: So you started out listening to metal, then? Or psychedelic rock?
JD Twitch: Where I lived, in this little town in the middle of nowhere outside Edinburgh, Scotland it was a really tribal place. You were either a mod or you were a rocker. So all my friends were rockers. We listened to a lot of Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Pink Floyd, that kind of music.
06. Johnny Wakelin: "In Zaire"
Pitchfork: "In Zaire" is apparently about Muhammad Ali.
JD Twitch: Yeah! "The Rumble in the Jungle!" Yeah. He was like a hero. It was pop hit in the early 70s. I think it was even #1. It's really cheesy and everyone that hears it over a certain age when they hear it probably laughs, but again, the rhythm on there. It's a record I knew from when I was a kid, but the rhythm on it! I mean, it's obviously trying to be a tribal, jungle rhythm because of the nature of the song but again, it's got this hypnotic drumming.
Pitchfork: Yeah, and it comes out of Black Sabbath really nicely. He's obviously white, taking on African culture. The second time we've seen this kind of phenomenon. He's being respectful-- he loves Mohammed Ali, we know that much.
JD Twitch: Yeah [laughs]. I wonder what your genuine Afrobeat musician would make of something like that. They probably think that rhythm is wack [laughs]. But I kinda like it.
Pitchfork: His album was called Reggae, Soul and Rock & Roll.
JD Twitch: Okay. [laughs] I think he was total one-hit wonder, he had this song and I think everyone was like "Ok, we've had enough." I'm just old enough to remember hearing it on the radio. It's one of my first hazy memories. I remember my mother playing it. Kind of scary when 40 years later playing records your mother liked [ laughs].
Pitchfork: Oh yeah, "Black Superman" was the other hit.
JD Twitch: Oh, okay. I'm going to check that out when we are done here.
07. Lindstrøm and Solale: "Let's Practice"
Pitchfork: Okay, Lindstrøm. Did you loop that drum beat going into Lindstrøm, because it seems to kind of go on for a bit.
JD Twitch: Yeah, I just kept it going and put a little bit of echo in. I used record and a computer for this mix so I used a little bit of editing on this mix.
Pitchfork: It's really nice...I've never heard of Solale. I don't think I'm familiar with her at all.
JD Twitch: Me neither! I kinda like the way she sings. It's this really monotone voice, it's almost like a machine. She's got a certain something to her voice. And there's a lot of reverb on it, again, so it's not something you might hear in a nightclub. It's really rocky, obviously a lot of Giorgio Moroder, it's kinda slow. And I like that slow tempo. A lot of clubs are pretty relentless. But sometimes when you're playing the tempo really low, you can get a sort of sleazy quality to the night.
Pitchfork: The vocal kinda reminded me of Brianticket...this kind of stoned-out chic, just in a corner.
JD Twitch: Yeah, it sounds like she's making up the words as she goes along.
08. John Cooper Clarke: "Evidently Chickentown (Betty Botox version)"
Pitchfork: Now, Chickentown, I feel like I heard this in another mix...maybe it was one of yours?
JD Twitch: Oh, really?
Pitchfork: But I heard it just recently. That's probably another song you remember from back in the day? From when it was bigger.
JD Twitch: Yeah, when I was a teenager it was a song that everyone knew. John Cooper Clarke was a bit of a legend, and everyone loved his words, and I went back and listened to the album, and the production on that song is pretty incredible. I think it's going to be used on "The Sopranos", we are a season behind, but apparently on it was used in an episode of that.
Pitchfork: That's what it is! Yeah, yeah. It was used at the end of an episode. Well, you'll love the new season. The final episode is great.
JD Twitch: Yeah, I might have to buy the DVD, I don't know if I can wait that long.
Pitchfork: Clarke sort of looked like Bob Dylan, in a way.
JD Twitch: Yeah, he had crazy hair. He was like Bob Dylan in bad need of a haircut. And he always wore his glasses as well.
09. Paul Haig: "Reason"
Pitchfork: So, then, Paul Haig. This is apparently a new track?
JD Twitch: It's brand new. Paul Haig was the singer in Josef K and then he went off and through the 80s, he collaborated with all sorts of people Bernie Worrell and...who else did he collaborate with?
Pitchfork: Mantronix. Bernard Sumner.
JD Twitch: Yes, oh yes. He made all these sort of electronic records. At the time, they were a little out of context, but he just came out with this single like two or three weeks ago. And I love his voice, and, again, he's like this great Scottish legend.
Pitchfork: Which was where I wanted to ask you about the Scottish pop tradition, the Delgados, Teenage Fanclub, Orange Juice, and all this. What is it about Scotland that makes all these sort of great melodies and pop?
JD Twitch: Yeah! So many times people ask me that. I think one of the things is that people in Scotland tend to look to America. Especially on the west coast of Scotland I think America and American music has always had a greater influence on what is happening than the rest of Europe. You can go back to the 40s and 50s and since Glasgow was a big port city a lot of American sailors were coming over and American music had a bigger impact. I think Liverpool as well, you'll find a real pop sensibility and you'll find it comes from the records that are brought in through the ports. And people in Glasgow in particular are always trying to come up with their own thing.
Pitchfork: So, during wartime, maybe.
JD Twitch: Yeah, and in the 50s and 60s with the records of rock'n'roll and soul records. And it's still that way, Country and Western has always been really popular here. It's just one of those things. And I think that can be translated into bands like Orange Juice, which was a kind of badly playing soul band. But they really liked soul music. That's my thoery anyway.
Pitchfork: I didn't realize Mark Knopfler was Scottish...
JD Twitch: Was he? Oh, I apologize for that! [laughs] I didn't know he was Scottish.
Pitchfork: Apology accepted...
JD Twitch: [laughs]
10. Betty Botox: "Cosmic Orgasm"
Pitchfork: Cosmic Orgasm, from Solid Sleep, the trance duo? From the Cosmic Orgasm track?
JD Twitch: It's an edit from a few tracks. It's a track from New York called "Slave to the Rave" by Evasion which was this early nineties kind of electronic, I guess you could call it tech-trance. And it's combined with another track called "Subliminal Aura".
Pitchfork: Oh, wow, I totally missed the mark on that. There is a track out there called "Cosmic Orgasm" from someone called Solid Sleep.
JD Twitch: Oh, right, okay. Betty Botox does edits and these are two New York tracks which have been edited together.
Pitchfork: Do you play trance? Did you ever DJ with trance music?
JD Twitch: Yeah, trance is a really dirty word now. What people think of as trance is a really horrendous musical form. But in the early 90s, in clubs here, there wasn't such a big divide-- it wasn't like you had techno clubs or house clubs. You had clubs that played electronic music. We would play all the new techno releases, but we'd also play a lot of Strictly Rhythm, nu-groove, and house. and we'd play a lot of trance, but it wasn't this kind of euphoric, Tiesto or whatever. It was deeper and druggier sound. But that sound changed eventually into this dramatic, European trance hell.
Pitchfork: [laughs]
JD Twitch: A lot of those early trance records, though were actually great pieces of music.
Pitchfork: I agree with you. There needs to be a sort of redefinition of trance music. What's good trance? What do you appreciate about it?
JD Twitch: It's something that is a little bit deeper, it's more like something you can trip out to rather than of this huge, euphoric, kind of thing that trance has become. You can tell that this is what that became. This new trance is a bastardized form of what you used to hear in dance clubs.
11. Mark Shreeve: "Assassin"
Pitchfork: "Assassin", Mark Shreeve, some kind of 80s, atmospheric, Tangerine Dream jam.
JD Twitch: How I got this is I used to collaborate with this guy called Mike, and he was about 15 years older than me. We had a few records out on Matador and disappeared without a trace. He was always trying to get me into these 70s and 80s prog records and they were always kind of a bit too, I don't know, hippy-dippy for me. But this was one track, I think because it basically is Assault on Precinct 13, which I just love, love, love. He's got 808 drums in there. There's something about it.
Pitchfork: Now, wait a minute, you were on Matador?
JD Twitch: Yeah! We did an album and three EPs for Matador, roundabout 2000, 2001?
Pitchfork: What was the name of this project?
JD Twitch: Yeah, no one knows it and it kind of disappeared. It was called Mount Florida?
Pitchfork: Oh, you were Mount Florida? I didn't know that...
JD Twitch: I was half of Mount Florida, with a friend of mine, yeah.
Pitchfork: And he was 15 years old?
JD Twitch: No, he was 15 years older than me. So, he had kind of grown up in the 70s and so he had gone through this whole punk phase and when your older you back and explore. So he was getting back to his synth roots, most of which were not quite my thing, but this was one that kind of resonated with me.
Pitchfork: Well, I've got to listen to Mount Florida again...I know it's around here somewhere.
JD Twitch: [laughs]
12. Ralph Lundsten: "Horrorscope"
Pitchfork: And this is another one that's in a kind of similar vein.
JD Twitch: He was an electro-acoustic composer and this was his most successful thing, I guess. It's actually just been reissued by a guy from Glasgow who's putting it out. It was cult record for a long time and was really hard to get so he's just made it available. But again, it just kind of fits in to the music that is happening now, and it sounds contemporary again. Music has these cycles where it just dips in and around. To me, this just kind of fits into what I'm into.
13. Sonic Youth: "Shaking Hell"
Pitchfork: And then, Sonic Youth, dude, like, what the hell, what is going on?
JD Twitch: When we first started, Sonic Youth came along and I absolutely loved them. So I went back and explored some of the first-wave New York records from that time, and "Shaking Hell", I just loved Kim Gordon's voice so so much. And this song is something that I've always loved, and it's got this really steady 4-4 rhythm so when I came across it I said "You know, I wonder if I can actually mix this" and discovered that I could. Her voice is so powerful and the guitar is so powerful. Sonic Youth are an all-time favorite of mine, especially early Sonic Youth.
Pitchfork: Yeah, Sister is at the top of my list. That wasn't Steve Shelley on drums, in "Shaking Hell" that was another one.
JD Twitch: Is it Bob Bert? I think it's Jim Sclavunos. I saw them on the EVOL tour, and I think that's when Steve Shelley had just joined.
Pitchfork: The drummer Chris Corsano is in that camp, and he just moved to Scotland, I guess?
JD Twitch: He lives in Edinburgh, yeah. We had him play on Sunday there at the club, which is incredible. We always try to, every once in a while, put on things that are a little bit more challenging. There are people who are there early, and we just wanted to see how he was going to go down. And he went down phenomenally. It was mainly club kids, but they were going crazy for him. He's one of the most intense performers I've ever seen in my life.
Pitchfork: Yes, his talents are off the chart. I was surprised he moved. There is a big free rock/freak folk whatever thing up here in Massachusetts and Sonic Youth is still here, so I wonder why he moved. It must be for a woman.
JD Twitch: Yeah, it must be. Especially Edinburgh. It's a beautifully city, it's a great city. But musically? There's not a lot going on. Unless there is some totally underground free improv scene that I don't know about, there's not a lot going on in Edinburgh so I think it must be for a woman as well.
Pitchfork: Well, I'm sure you have pretty women in Edinburgh.
JD Twitch: We certainly do. We certainly do.
14. Paul Johnson: "Rubber Band"
Pitchfork: And no one, I don't think, has put Sonic Youth and Paul Johnson together. Ever.
JD Twitch: [laughs] Yeah. [laughs]. The Paul Johnson is and old, dancemania, Chicago track, jacking. And it's a great title.
Pitchfork: There's a song by the Spinners called "Rubberband Man", and T.I., too.
JD Twitch: Paul Johnson is another guy I saw DJ and I had no idea he was going to be in a wheelchair and he was a phenomenal DJ. Absolutely mind-blowing. He was a very very nice gentlemen. Gentlemen is the word to desribe him, in fact.
15. Jodeci: "Freakin' (MK mix)"
Pitchfork: So who is MK? I am having a hard time finding out anything about him.
JD Twitch: MK is Mark Kinchen, who was a Detroit techno producer in the early 90s, but his style was more of a New York souns. The first record he made was a seminal New York sound. This is an unofficial mix he did back in the day.
Pitchfork: I can't find anything about him.
JD Twitch: That's weird, let's just check on Discogs.
Pitchfork: [laughs] We are both on Discogs right now. Discogs is amazing.
JD Twitch: It is. I have such a bad memory so often for records I have. I use Discogs to remember what all my own records are!
Pitchfork: Yep, he's in there. Boy he did a ton of remixes in the 90s, you are right about that.
JD Twitch: Yeah, there was a year when Mark Kinchen was on every remix going. And then he kind of disappeared, I don't know what happened to him.
16. Faze Action: "In the Trees (Carl Craig mix)"
Pitchfork: It's amazing the love people have for Carl Craig.
JD Twitch: He's a genius. For so long he's made quality electronic music. I have to confess, though, there was a period in the 90s when Carl was making his jazz thing and was doing remixes for labels like Acid Jazz, I just didn't follow it for a while. But then he's come back and has made some of the most outstanding singles of the last few years. I kinda wish he would lay off the remixes for a bit and go back to his own music. He sounds classic, and when you go back to it, it still sounds contemporary. He's a master of using synthesizers. He's one of the gods of electronic music.
17. Panico: "Guadalupe (An Optimo (Espacio) mix)"
Pitchfork: And this is the Panico thing you were talking about earlier. They've played Optimo, yes?
JD Twitch: Yeah, and they were great. They're on Tigersushi, who is a great ally of ours. They put out the Kill the DJ thing and Joakim is a good friend of ours, so it's kind of all in the family, I guess with Panico, Tigersushi and Optimo.
Pitchfork: We just had Joakim play here in Boston.
JD Twitch: Was he good?
Pitchfork: He was great, yeah. He went from like a disco into Italo and ending in a hard, jacking mode. It was really intense.
JD Twitch: That's cool. I've never heard him play hard techno. He's such a lovely man, as well.
Pitchfork: And tall!
JD Twitch: We almost never ever let DJs play at Optimo. Maybe twice a year we are both away and we'll invite someone we really trust like him to come and play. Our club has a really low ceiling and the DJ box is quite high. I'm 6' 1" and my head is almost hitting the roof, so when he plays he kind of stoops the whole time. He's incredibly tall, he must be 6' 10"?
Pitchfork: Who else has played Optimo?
JD Twitch: We've only been away, I think, four times in 10 years. We had Ivan Smagghe play one time while we were away. Other times we've just had friends play. Ivan Smagghe and Joakim are the only people we've had play there.
18. Solomun & Stimming: "Feuervogel"
Pitchfork: And then we have a brand-new techno jam. Is this something you picked up at the store or a promo you got?
JD Twitch: I bought this online from, Picadilly Records? No, Phonica records. It's something I read about and finally heard. It's so bombastic. So much minimal techno has kind of taken over the world and some of it is amazing, but some of it lacks personality. There's something about this one that stands out. It's something you might get sick of hearing after like a half-dozen times. It's something I was in love with at that moment.
Pitchfork: I wish we had more stores like that. Phonica, Picadilly, Boomkat, and things. I get all the emails and I'm very envious.
JD Twitch: Yes, and once you add in the exchange rate and the shipping, it gets very expensive doesn't it? My friend always complains that there isn't a store in New York that sells all of these records. He has to buy all his music on mailorder from the UK and it's really expensive! I was in Boston, like 10 years ago, and there were a couple of really good stores back then. Fred Giannelli was a friend of mine and he took me around to a couple of stores.
19. Truffle Club: "Gone Blue"
Pitchfork: I don't know anything about this one. I couldn't figure it out. I don't know what this one is at all.
JD Twitch: Truffle Club is actually a really really good friend of mine named Dave Clark, not the Dave Clarke, although he's probably been making music just as long. We put out an EP with him a couple of years ago. I work with him on remixes so I can get better production, and later this year we're going to try and do some musical collaboration. He's just super lazy and we're always trying to get him to record more music. He's also in a project called Big Ned, which is a David Lynch-ian kind of soundtrack project. He knocked this track out in about half-an-hour, and it reminds me a bit of Chris and Cosey. It works really well in the club.
20. Lee Douglas: "Breakwind"
Pitchfork: Is this the re-edit that My Cousin Roy did or is this the original?
JD Twitch: Roy is going to put it out on his label. He's a New York disco guy, so I don't really know that much about him. It's a re-edit of something... I know what it is, I just can't quite remember. He sent me the .wav file. It's coming out on vinyl in the next few weeks. I don't know that much about him. I think he used to be a drum'n' bass DJ.
Pitchfork: That makes sense. Some of the best DJs and producers have started in drum'n'bass. I think it's easier to mix.
JD Twitch: Does drum'n'bass still have a following over there?
Pitchfork: Yeah, there's still some people into breaks and drum'n'bass. I think it's the whole B-boy aspect of it. How about you?
JD Twitch: In Edinburgh there is a little bit of a scene. It's pretty much dissapeared. It's absolutely huge in Eastern Europe. Like massively.
Pitchfork: I suppose every genre is experiencing a revival in some part of the world at anytime.
JD Twitch: I suppose so, yeah.
21. Grinderman: "No Pussy Blues"
Pitchfork: Now, Grinderman. This is a good look for Pitchfork because we love this track.
JD Twitch: It's my favorite record of this year. Period. Don't even have to think about it. The first hour of Optimo we just play records. Our favorite records, from any genre, create a nice atmosphere for people to talk. This is when we would play this track. But one night, Johnnie played it right in the middle, at the peak of the night. And people went insane. And since then, it's always worked on the dancefloor it's become a total anthem. And of course, you would not think this was a dance record at all. It got the most insane record of a record from all year.
Pitchfork: How many things have passed from Espacio, the listening party, into Optimo, the dance party?
JD Twitch: There's definitely been a few where like I've played it at the start of the night and Johnnie's played it later or vice-versa. Another one was the cover version of Brian Eno's "Baby's on Fire" by the Creepers.
Pitchfork: So you were going to get "No Pussy Blues" in there one way or another is what you're saying.
JD Twitch: [laughs] Yeah. I was determined somehow that was going to get in there. [laughs]

Tracklist:01. Test Dept.: "Cha Till Sinn Tuille (Extract)"
02. Tim Maia: "Rational Culture"
03. Whitefield Brothers: "Yakuba"
04. Nino Nardini: "Afro Beat"
05. Black Sabbath: "The Wizard"
06. Johnny Wakelin: "In Zaire"
07. Lindstrøm and Solale: "Let's Practice"
08. John Cooper Clarke: "Evidently Chickentown (Betty Botox version)"
09. Paul Haig: "Reason"
10. Betty Botox: "Cosmic Orgasm"
11. Mark Shreeve: "Assassin"
12. Ralph Lundsten: "Horrorscope"
13. Sonic Youth: "Shaking Hell"
14. Paul Johnson: "Rubber Band"
15. Jodeci: "Freakin' (MK mix)"
16. Faze Action: "In the Trees (Carl Craig mix)"
17. Panico: "Guadalupe (An Optimo (Espacio) mix)"
18. Solomun & Stimming: "Feuervogel"
19. Truffle Club: "Gone Blue"
20. Lee Douglas: "Breakwind"
21. Grinderman: "No Pussy Blues"

What can I say - tomorrow is gonna be BIG!

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