BIO : OPTIMO (Espacio) was started in November 1997 at The Sub Club// Glasgow. Prior to this, Twitch had been playing at The Sub on Sunday's for a couple of years at the Aquaplanet night. This night was started by a guy called Mark Ryall who decided to move to Barcelona and so the night fell into Twitch's hands. "At that point, I'd been playing house and techno for 10 years or so and the last thing I felt Glasgow needed was yet another club ploughing that trough. At Aquaplanet, I'd tried to push it forward but the crowd weren't too responsive, so I felt that this was a chance to go for it and play what I wanted to hear. Sunday nights seemed like the ideal night to try something different and really I didn't care whether it would work or not, or whether anyone would go, it was just something I had to do. I love dj'ing with all my heart but at this point I was so bored with seamless(?) mixing - it was all just too obvious, too predictable and too easy - that I had to do something to preserve my (in) sanity."
So Optimo was born. Twitch asked Belfast playboy Jonnie Wilkes to do the night with him as he felt he was the only other dj in Glasgow who was open minded and 'punk rock' enough to come along for the ride. The name came from a song by Liquid Liquid which summed up how the core of the night should sound - raw, percussive, out there sleaze funk and a return to the ideals of early 80's New York where lots of different scenes (hip hop, punk, no wave, disco, gay, straight, art, photography, anything goes) briefly collided into one of the most inspiringly creative moments in the history of art, music and clubbing. The Espacio part of the name was tagged on following prolonged exposure to The Fast Show's Channel 9 sketch and although thought to be meaningless, it turns out it means 'Optimum Space' - well I never!
And so it started and it was great. It was liberating. It was the most fun behind the decks either of them had ever had. Most weeks it lost money but the 80 or so people who came were so passionate about it that it didn't matter. The blueprint was developed more by accident than design. There was no money to hire in lights so slides were used and they looked better anyway, so they stayed. Most of the people who 'got it' came from bands rather than being dj's so it made more sense (and was more refreshing) to put on live acts. Twitch had bought a portable sampler so rather than leave it in the studio, it would be brought down to the club to tear apart and re interpret classic songs. The sampler took on a life of it's own outwith anyone's control and became a bigger part of the proceedings. Then the sampler got an ego and she demanded to be put on the flyers - so Roland came into being. The first night she was billed, she did a 30 minute solo set as Wilkes and Twitch propped up the bar - the response was phenomenal and ever since then, there has been something of a love - hate (clash of the egos) relationship between her and them! But they love her really.
And the music! Each week it would get wilder and wilder as they delved into their collections. Sleazy funk, post punk, electro, 50's swing, torch songs, disco classics, percussion workouts, sublime house, raging techno, 80's pop. All played with no seeming regard to continuity but somehow working together into this deranged hybrid. There was a great deal of humour injected too as songs like Herb Alpert's 'Zorba the Greek' became end of the night anthems. Serious dj's would come and watch in horror while several times, seasoned trainspotters would come up to Twitch and tell him 'You've lost the plot' or 'You can't play this in the Sub Club - it's sacrielige!' or 'But... you started Pure, how can you do this?'. People would get really angry about it which of course only fuelled the flames! The standard response to this would be 'get a life' and indeed not being one to shy away from a good verbal arguement, many idiots were sent away with a flea in their ear from Twitch. In their heart of hearts though, both Wilkes and Twitch realised that the more you love music and the deeper into it you get, the more you appreciate the humour in it. And as a great philosopher once said 'It ain't easy being cheesey!'
So it continued for a year in this vein until one night in July 1999, the numbers went from the usual 80 to 100 to 250. This was put down to a fluke but the next week it was the same, and the week after, and then it went up again. "To this day, I am totally bewildered as to what happened" says Twitch. "After more than 18 months, it was as if people finally got it. But the fact that it was from literally one week to the next is bizzare. I guess it's better to not analyse these things but it still freaks me out from time to time"
From then on in........!!!!!!!!!!!! Onwards and upwards. Laptop computers and effects units started appearing and while many people deemed Optimo a retro club, it was (and remains) perhaps the most technologically advanced night in the country. And then... November 99, the Sub Club was forced to close after the building went on fire. At first, it was thought it would just be a few weeks but when it was apparent that it could be months, action had to be taken. At first Optimo moved to the 13th Note but this proved too chaotic so Planet Peach in Queen Street became it's new temporary home. That Hogmanay, there was the first of the Art School parties (the only millenium party to sell out!) and the first Optimo mix cd.
I guess most of you know the rest - a year of unparallelled mayhem on a Sunday night! A sell out Lee Perry gig at Barrowlands, Mad Professor and The Optimo Booty Bar at the Art School, lots of great live acts, another mix cd and another wild New Year party. Says Twitch 'I am not one to dwell in the past and indeed, I hate it when that age old line 'it's not as good as it used to be' raises its ugly head. But, having lived and played through the crazed days of the early 90's rave era, I truly thought I had seen the wildest nights and best atmosphere I would ever witness. I was wrong - some of those nights in 2000 were......beyond anything I have ever known . Jonnie and I would be powerless to do anything but look at the dancefloor in awe and just burst out laughing at this monster we had created that truly had a life of its own. Wherever this club is going is no longer down to us - the people who come have its destiny in their hands which I think is a truly great thing."
So into 2001. Who knows where next? It is often suggested that Optimo should spread the word to other cities but we feel that this is all about Glasgow, rather than success, celebrity and money. We live in a world of hype, of corporate clubbing. A world where every high street in every city has the same shops. A world where we all see the same tv shows and hear and dance to the same records. There's not a lot that can be done to outwit the forces of global capitalism and greed but we want to try! Smallminded perhaps but we feel it is really important to have 'a local culture for local people'. All the best movements in music and art were spawned from a particular city at a particular point in time before they went global. Today, the media picks up and spews out anything that they think is new and the next week, they are screaming 'next!' as they look for the latest micro trend. Nothing has time to develop or breathe, to grow organically from its roots. Harping back to the past - there was that New York of the early 80's, there was London in the mid 70's when punk was born, there was the 'Madchester' of the early 90's etc. etc. We make no bold claims of grandeur for what we are doing or where we would like it to go but it is a chance to have something different, something unique to this great city we live in. A year from now, who knows if anyone will give a damn about Optimo the club? Perhaps you will be bored with it and everyone will have moved on to the next 'cool' thing. Whatever. We will still be here trying to do it as we never knew what 'cool' was to begin with. Hopefully we will evolve - there will be a label, we will bring great acts to this city, we will champion local talent and continue with the anti - marketing aesthetic of the club. Meanwhile there is a whole world of amazing but neglected music out there and it would be too easy for us to stick to a formula that works and is popular. We won't deny our past - we love pop music too! but we need to be more than a 'greatest hits of Optimo night'. Come with us into the future. We actively seek your involvement whether that's as someone making music for the label, art or writing for the website, designing slides for the club, performing in some way or simply being part of the Optimo community. We stress community rather than clique - Optimo loves your ears, but Optimo hates cliques. Voice your opinion! Create something! Get involved! You can do it! Tell us when we are being shite because we know we have off nights too, or just enjoy Sunday nights for what they are - a fantastic mix of people of all backgrounds and sexualities, opinions and beliefs. Celebrate diversity, celebrate the fact that we have something special and unique going on here. Let's make the most of it while it is here and try to build on the 'local' nature of this bringing in disparate elements of creativity from this city (as well as outwith of course). We're all in this together! Let's go for it!