Kmag checks in with Optiv, BTK and Virus honcho Optical for a quick chat on one of the most anticipated albums of 2012.
It's hard to believe that the collaborative effort between Optiv and BTK is a little over a year old! Since that time, as a duo, you guys have completely taken the scene by storm with an insane amount of killer tunes. Take us back to that initial session - what led up to that moment and did you know even then that you had stumbled onto something special?
BTK: Our first tune was Crawler [Demand Records]. I remember Optiv came over to my studio to check some of the beats I was writing and we thought that one would be a cool idea to work on together. After that tune, we worked on Jacknife and Let It Hit Em which got signed on Subtitles. With massive support on these three tunes by a bunch of cool people in the scene we thought it was a good sign to keep our workflow going.
I know you're both based out of Switzerland but am not sure how close you are physically to each other - how has the studio situation worked out - are you guys sharing one studio or collaborating online?
BTK: We both live in Bern and in distance, it's about an hour door to door. When we start the tunes at Optiv's studio, I take the project home to work on and vice versa but we normally spend three or four sessions at each tune. It's important for us to keep a close contact and sit together, it makes us roll the tunes very quickly and keep the really good vibes in the studio.
This one's for Optical - what, in your eyes, is the key to the sound of Optiv and BTK - they've obviously hit on something special that is really expressing itself in a massive way in the studio - what do you see each producer bringing to the unique blend of their collaborative sound?
Optical: They might disagree but I think what has made this work for me is that BTK brings from his music the breakbeat production and rhythms that make you want to dance and Optiv is a master at sounds and bass, particularly his own take on the psychedelic filtered stab sounds once found in techno, they just talk to you and he has mastered the art. Together they form a really great combination of all the things that make a good track work.
There's definitely something very distinct and unique about the vibe they are bringing in collaborative mode and this LP for Virus seems to be the pinnacle of that sound. Talk a bit about how the LP came together.
Optical: We have known Optiv since the inception of Virus in 1997. As part of C4C, he had a release on Virus in 2000 alongside Matrix. BTK has been sending us tunes as a solo artist for many years now and they've always caught my eye because he uses real break samples to get a really good groove rather than the drum machine-type beats that are in modern d&b on the whole.
When the guys got together it just seemed to click straight away and they have come up with a good balance of psychedelic sounds and very tough rhythms that are great to listen to at home or in a club. As soon as we realised they were interested in doing something for the label we asked them to do a single for us. They are really on a roll and we knew that an LP from them right now would give them the opportunity to show all the sides of their current work, and for us to put out a really high quality showpiece for the sound we love.
Did you hear the tunes piece by piece as they were completed or was there a grand unveiling of all 13 tunes at once?
Optical: We had a few tracks to begin with but then all of a sudden there was an avalanche finish where we got eight new tracks in one day, it dawned on me then that this was a really good album, full of style and energy, incredibly well crafted, and above all enjoyable to listen to for fans of our genre of music and beyond. It is difficult to create drum and bass that works so well in clubs and on a home stereo too but they have totally managed it.
From the straight neuro-funk workout of Dirty Tricks to the head-nodding groove of Don't Need You - my absolute favourite tune off the LP has to be the hard-grinding Mind Control - while it's unfair to ask you which one is your favourite or which one captures the vibe of your sound the best - that's exactly what I'm going to do - is there any one tune that stands out as your favourite?
BTK: My favourite is also Mind Control – a straightforward dancefloor tune with a good vocal hook and funky drums for that pure grimey tech vibe.
Optiv: Mine is Infested, lots of energy and a breakdown that is just crazy!!
I know that when I heard No Way Out I wanted to grit my teeth and start stomping all over the living room... tell us the truth, is there any dancing going on when you're dropping these tunes in the studio or is it strictly head-nodding gangsta business?
BTK: Aha! Apart from some singing there's not really a dancing moment, but yeah, there's some strange hand movements and one of us pulls some strange head nodding moves as well, but no name no shame.
You're both known to deliver tunes with a heavy cinematic vibe, is there any sort of conceptual framework you're using for this project? How does the title Dirty Tricks fit into that, if at all?
The concept was to make an album with the best of our deep, funk-fuelled, future-tech sound. We wanted to bring back our roots in bass funk-filled, dirty music and breaks that talk to you on a primal level. Dirty Tricks was the name we gave the title track on the LP, and we liked the having 'dirty' in the title as that's how many people have described our music.
Even without this album in the pipeline you guys have been extremely prolific, churning out an ungodly amount of high-octane tunes in a relatively short amount of time. What's the secret to your success and what sort of advice can you give to any aspiring producers out there whether they're trying to come up solo or collaborating in the studio?
Optiv: We're up early, it's our job and we try to keep it serious and write beats on a daily basis. We are always focusing on good tunes that we will be proud to play in the club. Also it's important to try and do your own thing and avoid following any trends. We both have different influences and that brings a lot to the table when working together.
Optiv, what's this rumour I hear about you re-igniting the C4C moniker?
Optiv: Mark CZA from C4C comes out quite regularly and in fact he is out here right now and yes, we are working on some new material.
BTK, does your work with Optiv and Virus fit into what you've called the "favela vibe"?
BTK: I didn't grow up in the favela but I was born and grew up in the city of Rio de Janeiro before I moved to Sao Paulo which is the Brazilian D&B capital. Rio de Janeiro is famous for a music style called funk carioca. It's a sound created in the favelas on the 1980s and it has this big beat heavy influenced by Miami bass and freestyle, not really dark or hard, propa party vibes on it. It's a very catchy sound and I always loved it. It's the type of vibes mixed with my love for techno that I try to express into my music production. Even thought my music is far away from being any closer to that sunny Brazilian samba, some could say that its somehow a bit of a twisted touch to the drum & bass sound.
Optical, 2012 is turning out to be a huge year for the imprint if the rumours are true – fill us in as to what else should we be looking out for from the Virus crew.
Optical: This year is turning out to be huge for Virus, we were bowled over by Optiv and BTK at the beginning of the year and now hot on their heels, Audio has confirmed a new LP release for September 2012. Expect another super-hot release from the man who has set new standards in the scene and is a follow up to the highly acclaimed 'Genesis Device' LP. Following on from that I can confirm that the new Ed Rush & Optical LP will be ready for release at the end of 2012, production is well underway and I will have more news over the summer as to the proposed tracklisting.
Words: Chris Muniz
Optiv and BTK's Dirty Tricks LP hits the streets via Virus Recordings on 11th June in vinyl, CD, and digital download formats worldwide.
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