We’re all about the Bass, Beats and Breaks of Shambala festival here at Skirmish for the next few weeks. Happening the 23rd to 27th of August in the wilderness of Northampshire, it promises to be a serious concoction of fun. The first in our line of interviews begins with Optical, who will be banging out the tunes with Ed Rush, both long term collaborators who set up Virus Recordings in 1998. A veteran of the scene, he’s worked with Goldie on Saturnz Return, engineered Grooverider’s Mysteries Of Funk and released on labels such as Metalheadz and Prototype. We caught up with him ahead of his set with Ed Rush to talk tunes and see what’s in store for the highly anticipated weekend.
What was it that initially got you into electronic music? Was there a specific moment or was it a growing process?
We were both big fans of early hip hop, electro and techno and we took those influences along side the music our parents listened to as we were growing up to start making music that was new. It was around the time when electronics for music were becoming more affordable around the late 80’s early 90’s and also a time when the rave and festival scene in the UK was first a big thing.
How do you think drum and bass has evolved over the years and where do you see it progressing?
It has evolved in so many directions now that we have lost count but that makes it a vibrant and interesting music genre that can appeal to many different types of people. The sound that we play has always been based on funk and heavy basslines and that has never changed but within that are so many ways to make a track and this year has proved to be a vintage year for Virus with BTK & Optiv, Audio and Ed Rush & Optical LP’s all in a row and a whole raft of amazing producers doing their best work this year generally in the scene.
What are your key tips for production?
Perfection is impossible but never settle for 2nd best when making music, always be an honest critic on your own work and you will bring out the best in your tracks, study others but always work in your own way and try to find new techniques through experimentation, mistakes often lead to new ways of doing things and rules are made to be broken. Most of all, try to get a really good understanding of what an audio signal truly is and how each piece of equipment or plugin will affect the shape of the audio waveform you end up with.
What items in your studio couldn’t you live without?
Monitors: Dynaudio BM15’s, Synths: Oscar, Pro One, Focusrite ISA430 for vocal recordings
How did you and Ed Rush get together?
We grew up in west London quite close to each other but by the time we met, we had both started making and releasing music and DJ’ing also. We first met in Music House in Holloway rd where all the DJ’s made their dubplates in around 1996. We got along straight away and we had both been working towards the same kind of style developments so we just thought working together would be fun.
You and Ed Rush have been working on a new album this year. How’s it coming along?
It was a tough decision on which way to go this time so we spent 6 months on trying out many of the style ideas we had as short demos, then we settled on a plan and now we are in the closing stages of making the LP. Each day that goes by is making me feel we are doing our best work so fingers crossed that everyone else feels the same. The next release is Audio – Soulmagnet LP in late September and then our LP will follow in December/January.
What’s the ethos behind Virus Recordings? How difficult is it running a label in the current climate?
Our aim has always been to try and represent really good drum and bass in its purest form, we don’t follow the latest trends in dance music but we concentrate on making sure we have the best underground music and our artists are all masters of their craft, the best of the producers out there in our genre. As for running a record label these days, we all know it pays far less than it did and this isnt the place to explain that but ultimately Virus will survive and so will all the really good labels if they adjust to the current situation, and stick to releasing really well made records that make us all enjoy life.
Finally, what can people expect from your set at Shambala?
It will be an intense journey through all the best of old and new drum and bass, our sound is funky, bass-heavy and psychadelic. We always try to have fun with it and make it a party atmosphere but its not for the faint hearted, be ready to dance and throw your hands up!Big up to Optical for the interview!! Shambala tickets are still on sale here priced at the very reasonable £119.