Ever since they first linked up in the studio only three short years ago, the hard-hitting duo known as Optivand BTKhave been running and gunning with hit after hit.
On the eve of unleashing their second LP for Virus Recordings in as many years, Kmag touches down with Optiv for an intimate behind-the-scenes look at all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into achieving their current level of productivity and success.
First off, it’s hard to believe ‘Dirty Tricks’ dropped two years ago and yet here you are with yet another album! What’s the secret to your productivity in the lab?
We really just enjoy the whole process of making music, from sketching out the first ideas through to playing and testing tracks out in the clubs. We both realize that you must work hard at what you do in order for you to gain any recognition and success.
We have both always had jobs involved in music in one way or another; I worked in a record shop buying and selling D&B and Vini [BTK] worked as a sound technician in a club in Brazil.
All that hard work seems to be paying off as this album is banging from top to bottom. Talk a bit about when the idea for a follow-up LP occurred and the process from then on.
Last year saw Virus Recordings turn 15 years old and to celebrate this Optical arranged a tour and asked us to come along and join him alongside Ed Rush, Audio and Rymetyme.
A few gigs into what was turning out to be an amazing tour we all got to talking about music and current projects we were working on. Optical then suggested we do another album and we were more than happy to get started.
You’ve both got busy schedules, give us a sense of your overall workflow and how long it takes you guys to bring an idea up to the stage where it’s ready to play out and test?
Over the years we have formed a great system for working and we spend on average about two days a week in the studio together which in turn leaves us plenty of time to pursue other projects and DJ at parties.
We usually start the process off with an idea or two and within a couple of days the track is at a stage where we can play it. It usually needs another session to finish and mix it. We did all the final mixes for the LP once we had all the tracks together.
You guys make it look easy but remind our readers again as to how much work has gone into achieving this level of expertise.
When I started writing music my studio was all hardware with the whole thing running off an Atari ST. I never really got frustrated learning new equipment; in fact I enjoyed sitting behind a hardware synth and learning it back to front. I still use a similar workflow these days and still love throwing most sounds back into a sampler, (a software sampler these days though).
Vini is more of an audio manipulator and working together we complement each other’s workflow, this makes writing tunes together quite quick and a lot of fun. Over the years we have definitely spent a long time in front of the computer but we wouldn’t change that for the world, we embrace our inner nerd!
On a large-scale project like an album, are you working on multiple ideas at a time or just sticking with one until it’s done?
We usually have a few ideas running at the same time. If we aren’t really getting anywhere with an idea we will shelve it, perhaps we might combine it with another idea later. Some of our tunes started off life as several ideas that we merged together.
We never try and force an idea to work, if it doesn’t come naturally then we move on to something new.
For all the tech-heads out there – what sort of basic rig were you running during the creation of the LP? Any special hardware or software that was essential in this project? I imagine the learning curve never ends; any new techniques you developed for this project?
At the heart of the studio is a powerful PC running Cubase 7.5 with our favourite plugins being everything from Native Instruments and iZotope. We use a fair bit of hardware including the new NOVATION Bass Station 2 and our monitoring is handled by a pair of Adam A77x’s and checked through some Audeze LCD 3 studio headphones.
You’re right, the learning curve never ends; I think the key is learning a whole bunch of different techniques and learning when to apply them. At the end of the day it’s about writing great music and knowing what you want.
The album also features some great guests – everyone from Rymetyme to Nuklear MC on through to Mindscape and BSE – talk a bit about the process of bringing even more personalities and vibes into the studio and how that works out.
I know you are both based in Switzerland now, are you working with these other heads strictly on the net, sending tunes back and forth or is it more of linking up when you’re in the same place at the same time?
All the collaborations on the album have been done online. We are all good friends and have history with everyone involved with the exception of Nuklear MC who we worked with for the first time with the track ‘Ground Shaker’.
Working with different artists adds a new character to the sound which we feel has helped give the album some variety. In an ideal world we would meet up with everyone we work with but the reality is that it’s hard to do, however that aside, we are really pleased with all the collaborations on the album.
So much of the album is built on a groove with a darkside element to it but always keeps it tech-driven and funky – it’s obvious why Virus has become home to your sound.
Now with two albums under your belt, you’re becoming label stalwarts and so we imagine you’ve got a bit of an inside scoop at the imprint. Anything special we should be keeping our eyes out for from the rest of the Virus family?
You nailed the question yourself there. Apart from our LP there is Ed Rush & Optical’s album due later this year. From the tracks I’ve already heard it is going to be a monster of an album and I am sure it will go down extremely well.
Any plans for you guys to tour as a duo to promote the LP?
We have a lot of shows coming up all over the place at the moment; personally I am looking forward to the festivals this summer, especially Glastonbury and Outlook. We are planning a tour later in the year in Australia and New Zealand and hopefully if all goes to plan we will both be over in the USA next year.
Anything else we should be looking out for in the future?
Not the kind of people to rest on our laurels we have plenty lined up already. Currently we are working on a couple of EP’s, one for Blackout and another for Playaz. We are in the middle of a few big remixes too as well as tracks for our own labels: C4C Recordings, Red Light Records and Dutty Audio.