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LISTEN: Optimo 20 Mix By JD Twitch
The Quietus , July 27th, 2017 14:08

JD Twitch marks 30 years since his very first DJ set with a mix harking back to his early sets in 1987 ahead of Optimo's 20th anniversary festival in Glasgow next month, as well as an appearance at Houghton Festival

Next month sees Optimo celebrate 20 years of their Glasgow club night with a festival in the city featuring themselves playing alongside the likes of Nurse With Wound, The Black Madonna, Ben UFO, Avalon Emerson, Miss Red + The Bug and a host more.

Taking place at Glasgow's The Galvanizers Yard on August 6, the party will mark the key milestone for the duo amidst an ever-prolific year of parties, DJ sets and releases across the various Optimo-affiliated record labels.

Highlights from those labels this year have come in the form of an Iona Fortune album called Tao Of I, the debut release on a new sub-label called So Low by Happy Meals, a compilation of fourth world and ambient curiosities compiled by Fergus Clark and one-half of Optimo, JD Twitch, called Miracle Steps: Music From The Fourth World 1983-2017 and the launch of another sub-label called Selva Discos with a reissue of Brazilian singer Maria Rita Stumpf's 1988 album Brasileira.

Most importantly though, 2017 also marks JD Twitch's 30th year as a DJ having started out in 1987 playing a basement club in Edinburgh called The Backroom, and tomorrow (July 28) marks 30 years to the day since he played his first set. To mark that milestone, and ahead of Optimo 20 as well as Optimo's appearance at Houghton Festival next month, above is a mix from JD Twitch, featuring records he played when he first started out in 1987. Below you can find some words written by the man himself about those sets three decades ago.

"As well as 2017 being the 20th anniversary of Optimo it is also 30 years since I started DJing, in Edinburgh in the summer of 1987.

"It had never crossed my mind to be a DJ and I fell into it quite by accident. Myself and several friends were devoted attendees at a sub basement club in Edinburgh’s Cowgate called The Backroom that started in 1986. It was the first club where we truly felt at home musically and that was frequented by people we felt comfortable being around. The resident DJs, Bill & Bobby, had been playing around Edinburgh for years and had phenomenal taste and abilities to play exactly the right records in the right order at the right time. The night’s tagline was that it played 'independent dance music' which I must stress was far removed from what later became codified as the dreaded term 'indie dance'.

"After a year or so of religiously attending, my good friend Macky noticed a poster announcing they were looking to audition people to play the first two hours of the night. As nobody ever really danced for the first two hours the club was open I guess they were a bit fed up playing that part of the night. Macky suggested we audition and initially I point blank refused, partly because the idea terrified me and partly because it held little appeal to me at that time. He persisted and eventually I agreed being fairly confident that our total lack of experience would be so apparent that we would never get the gig. Over the next few weeks they auditioned various people by letting them play the start of the night and somehow we were picked to be the new warm up DJs. Yikes!

"So began an uninterrupted trend of being part of a DJ duo, and every Saturday night I would get the bus through from Glasgow where I had now moved to study and Macky and I would take turns to play a few records each to a generally completely disinterested audience. Very occasionally a few people would get up to dance and then leave the floor after that particular record had finished. Sometimes we would get requests but would invariably never have the records people were asking for. Nobody who came to the club seemed the slightest bit impressed that these two young weirdo Backroom regulars were now DJing there. We couldn't care less. We were having the time of our lives playing records we loved at loud volumes. Our fee for playing was £25 and I would get £15 as I had to travel through from Glasgow and Macky took a tenner. Once I realised how much I was enjoying doing it I would have happily played for free.

"In 1987 I had never heard a DJ mix records. I loved early hip hop and was familiar with DJs cutting and scratching records but even though countless DJs around the world had been mixing records together for a very long time it was simply an alien concept to me. There were lots of local DJs I thought were great but this was totally based on their music taste and ability to sequence records well. In fact to this day some of my favourite DJs still play this way and I'd generally much rather listen and dance to their sets than countless other DJs with great mixing abilities but boring musical selections. I was so naive about DJing that the first time I saw a set of Technics turntables I thought the pitch control was a volume control.

"So, what was I playing back then? Well, I kept quite a detailed diary in those days and would write down the records I played each week. From those diary entries I have put together a mix of what I might have played in my first ever set had I had the technical knowledge or ability to actually be a mixing DJ at that time. Musically and tempo wise it was quite all over the place which is just how most clubs were then and that has obviously had a continuing influence on how I play. Indeed, Bill & Bobby from The Backroom, two DJ heroes of the past who remain completely unknown except to those who were blown away by hearing them, are probably the two DJs who had the biggest influence on my DJing.

"Though the music played was very diverse, we were all particularly into records with advanced production that sounded state of the art at the time and we used the term Electrobeat to describe the core sound that we were really into. The term didn't catch on and neither did the music. The club was very popular but the people who came generally did not like weird records they did not know, were quite averse to drum machines and I'd often hear people grumbling about us playing 'that drum machine crap', a scenario which is of course in complete reversal 30 years on.

"Over the following year and beyond, New Beat, house, acid house, techno and other new electronic hybrids would become my musical focus. Bill & Bobby started Edinburgh's first house music club at seminal gay club Fire Island where I would receive a further musical education. The Backroom ended. I would finally get a set of decks and teach myself to mix and through happy accidents and sheer tenacity would end up trying to scrape a living from DJing and then find myself being in the right place at the right time when a scene around all this new music was ready to explode in Scotland.

"So, here are 30 tracks mixed together that were the sound of my late teenage years that I tried to turn people on to 30 years ago. Most of the records in this mix would lie dormant on my shelves for the next 20 years but in the last 10 years or so a surprising number have found their way back into my sets and finally found an appreciative audience and sound as good, if not better today than they did 30 years ago. Indeed one record in this mix that was catastrophically unpopular at the time has become a bit of an anthem for me in recent years and I have just reissued it. I cannot express how much satisfaction that gives me.

"There is no tracklisting but I don't think there is anything wildly obscure or rare in the mix. I could have pretended I was playing lots of lesser known records back then, but this is a 100% genuine round up of what I was actually playing in 1987. The two tracks without a drum machine are the only ones which were anything like bonafide dancefloor hits for me at The Backroom at the time. I have also included one loop from a track that my then co-DJ Macky used to play lots and also a Bill & Bobby classic."

Optimo 20 takes place at Glasgow's Galvanizers Yard on August 6. For tickets, click here. Optimo will also play Houghton Festival which takes place from August 10-13. For tickets and more information, head here