8201 Interview - J.G Wilkes of Optimo

This Thursday J.G Wilkes of Optimo (Espacio) will make his way down to Beauty Bar for a very special set along with our good friends at Learning Secrets. We figured those not familiar with Wilkes should know a little bit more about him and we were able to get a few questions in before tomorrow nights show. Of course after that if you haven't yet go ahead and make sure you RSVP. Cover will only be $3 ($5 w/o) after that. Also Papst Tall Boys will be 2 bucks all night and Sailor Jerry will be serving complimentary rum while supplies last. So get there early. Onto the interview....

Tell us a little about the Club Optimo. What were your early aspirations for the club?

Optimo, the club, is our weekly Sunday night party at Sub Club, Jamaica Street, Glasgow. It’s a basement venue right downtown, holds about 500 people, low ceiling, simple lighting and a great Martin Audio soundsystem. It’s dark and hot. We took the name “Optimo” from a song by Liquid Liquid. Most people use simply “Optimo” although the full name of the party is “Optimo (Espacio)”. The party started in November 1997 and still runs weekly.

In ’97 both Keith (my partner JD Twitch) and I had been DJ-ing for about 10 years, playing techno parties in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Just at that time we really felt dance music was gong nowhere. It was monotonous, the clubs were populated mainly by males and there was an aggressive atmosphere in a lot of places. The whole experience of going out and playing in dance parties was getting grim.

Our early aspirations were nothing more than that we wanted to have a party was FUN to be at and somewhere we could play whatever we wanted – really literally, whatever we wanted. DJ-ing became really fun again and to our surprise people really connected with it. It had to be somewhere we could present live music too - mainly local bands at the start, then more widely known stuff. In the first year we booked a few dj’s (Ashley Beadle, Marshall Jefferson, IF, Harvey) but since ’98 we’ve only booked live artists.

The concept of Optimo is originally conceived as a club night which still remains to this day. When out on the road what are some of the elements you hope to see that differ from what you are used to back in Scotland?

Yes, our early aspirations for “Optimo” ie. those of throwing a party which is really fun to play at and where anything goes are still the way we think about dj-ing today and still why we continue looking for new music to play or show live. Touring as dj’s is full of surprises, especially if it’s a party or a city you haven’t played before. Not knowing what way it’s going to go until you show up at the club is part of the thrill but then you only have what you have in your box… so it’s a challenge too.

You have hosted bands like Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem and The Presets over the years. What new bands are you excited about?

We’ve had some great new bands at the club in 2009. My favourite Glasgow band are called “Divorce” and have to be seen to be believed! “Health” from LA was awesome when they played a few months back. “Cold Cave” from Philly played (in a cave!!!) at our Halloween party and were really great. Joakim’s live project “Joakim and the Disco” gets better every time I see it and for that kind of “live dance music” thing it’s really cool.

When playing without (Optimo partner) JD Twitch what elements of your set tend to change? How do your styles differ?

When Keith and I play together (which is most of the time), we play 30 minutes about then toward the end we play together, record about. It’s really fun and gives the set a real energy – it really keep you on your toes! Playing alone is different in that any drastic changes in direction are up to you and not something you maybe only have a few seconds to respond to. I suppose there’s chance to think further down the line which is a different approach – not necessarily better but just different, I enjoy both. Keith uses Ableton Live about 50/50 with vinyl whereas I use only vinyl to mix.

As the year comes to an end what was your most memorable moment of 2009? Whether it be during a gig or other wise?

It’s a bummer, but truthfully, my most memorable moment of 2009 is a moment a few months back when my car collided at full speed with another car. I just can’t get it out of my head. I had my two kids with me, it was terrifying…. The kids were fine, thank God but the feeling just before the moment of impact – all the stuff that flashed through my mind and the feeling of the smash itself is something I’ll never forget as long as I live. It was the other driver’s fault btw!
That aside, it’s been an amazing year for gigs and for music. Looking forward to “Learning Secrets!