The story of how Optimo began in 1997 and didn't have very many attendees in its first few weeks (although in true Beatles-at-Dingwall-town-hall style an oddly large number of people now claim to have been there) is well-kent by now, to say the least. With the Optimo 20 festival just around the corner, we wanted to partially repay the thousands of hours of entertainment JD Twitch and JG Wilkes have given us by not making them tell it again. Instead, we asked Twitch – famously exacting when it comes to booking guests – to talk us through each of the 18 artists they have booked for their ambitious 20th-birthday event, and recommend some music by each to listen to in preparation for the big day.


The National:

One of the artists from early-period Optimo when we got lumped in reluctantly with the electroclash scene. I don't think we ever were "electroclash" even though we played a few records at that time that became part of that scene. But ADULT. were one of the acts that we felt an affinity with but that were also lumped in with that scene against their will, so there's a nice synergy with them for that reason and also because this is also their 20th year, and the date of Optimo 20 is very close to the date 20 years ago when they played their first gig, so there's a nice synchronicity there. I always liked them a lot and thought there was something deeper about them than that scene had – there was something very vacuous about a lot electroclash – but they used it in a similar way to us, and I'd seen them play live before and thought they were great.

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Recommended track: Hand To Phone

Apeiron Crew (Denmark)

The National:

My dream festival is Unsound in Krakow – I love the way it's put together and the lineup is so interesting. I've played there the last two years and last year I stayed for the weekend and saw Apeiron Crew play, and I just thought they were fantastic. I knew that (Glasgow exile in Copenhagen and recent National feature subject) Emma Blake was a part of the group but I didn't know how it worked or how they played as a group, but it made a lot of sense when I saw them. They're a good example of the genesis of a lot of the Optimo 20 lineup in that they're people I saw in Europe or elsewhere in the last couple of years and just thought 'wow, we need to get them to Glasgow'.

Recommended mix: Truancy Podcast

Aurora Halal (USA)

The National:

I always loved her music anyway but she also runs the Sustain Release festival in upstate New York which we played at last year. She did a live set at it and it was incredible, I thought it was one of the best live electronic sets I'd seen in a long, long time. She's also a great DJ, and that's what she'll be doing at Optimo 20.

Recommended mix: Ilian Tape podcast

Avalon Emerson (USA)

The National:

She is the only artist we booked without having seen beforehand, but two records of hers – "The Frontier" and the whole of the Shtum 009 EP – had really impressed me and I had heard a lot of great things about her DJ sets, so I felt totally fine about taking the slight risk of booking her without seeing her. We played alongside her at a festival in Ireland a few weeks ago though and as expected I thought she was great.

Recommended mix: Live at Printworks London

Ribecca Mrshall (Scotland)

The National:

She's a close friend of mine but I can't remember last time I met someone who was so passionate about all different types of music, we do a night together (So Low) so I've spent lots of time hanging out with her, talking about and listening to music. I thought she would be perfect person to play at the start on the live stage and also to play in between the live acts because she's so adaptable with music that she'll be able to do short little bits of music that will fit well between each of the live acts. Often in these situations you have just silence or fairly incidental music played between live acts, but we thought it would be much better to have someone playing who knows all the acts and could play something that would fit properly between them.

Recommended mix: FTR Radio

The Black Madonna (USA)

The National:

She has become a great friend, and we knew her before she was well-known when she booked us to play at Smart Bar in Chicago, and we heard her play her music then and instantly became fans. Then she blew up and we've subsequently played quite a lot of gigs together, I think she's a great DJ and an amazing personality who has brought a lot of energy and good conversation to the current DJ scene.

Recommended mix: Dekmantel podcast

Ben UFO (England)

The National:

Ben for me is one of the best DJs to come out of the UK in the last 10 years. He's always original, always unique, he does his own thing. I don't think he's very similar to us apart from in the fact that you never quite know what you're going to get with him. I love his label (Hessle Audio) and I think he's a great person too – he's kind of like the opposite of the modern idea of the DJ star: humble and unassuming but very intelligent and with a lot of interesting things to say.

Recommended mix: Live At Unit for the Club Museum 13th Anniversary, Tokyo

Carla dal Forno (Australia)

The National:

I'm a big fan of the label Blackest Ever Black and I loved the album (You Know What It's Like) she released last year. I went to see the sold-out gig she played at the Hug & Pint in Glasgow and thought it was great and that it would fit really well for early in the day at this.

Recommended track: Fast Moving Cars

Equiknoxx (Jamaica)

The National:

I was a big fan of their record that came out last year and they were another act I saw at Unsound last year. I've always been a huge fan of Jamaican music and part of the thing about Optimo is that it's very difficult to really explain properly what it's about. If you hear us play it might not be obvious but the influence of things like Jamaican music is always there in some way. Equiknoxx are really modern and futuristic-sounding but also just great fun.

Recommended track: Last Of the Mohicans

errorsmith (Germany)

The National:

His records have been a huge part of Optimo almost since the start. I think there's a lot of boring laptop artists in the world of live techno but he's at the opposite end of the spectrum – I don't know what on earth he's doing, it's like sounds from outer space. I've seen him play a lot of times and always been left with a huge smile on my face, his sets are really deranged and crazy but also really engaging.

Recommended track: Stiff Neck

Happy Meals (Scotland)

The National:

When I first heard the Happy Meals album that came out a couple of years ago (Apéro) I thought it was very nice but what really did it for me was when they did a live stream thing from the Green Door Studio where they had all these acts from Glasgow play live. At that point I'd never actually heard Happy Meals play live but I watched that live stream and thought the performance they put in was fantastic. Throughout the period when I was putting the lineup together for Optimo 20 I was thinking of different points in the day and I thought at that they would work perfectly for mid-afternoon on the live stage. At the same time as booking them we released an album by them (Full Ashram Devotional Ceremony (Volumes IV - VI)) on our So Low label, so we suddenly had all these points of connection with them where before we'd never really crossed paths. We also really wanted to have a strong live element from Glasgow as that's always been a very big part of what we've done and they fit that bill perfectly.

Recommended track: Le Voyage

King Ayisoba (Ghana)

The National:

Music from Africa has always been a huge influence on us and when we were coming up with the lineup we heard he was available and just thought it would be amazing to have him. Most of the live stuff we have is electronic but we really wanted to have a couple of acts that were full bands. He plays with an eight-piece band of various musicians so he certainly adds that.

Recommended track: Wicked Leaders

K-X-P (Finland)

The National:

We have a long, long relationship with them – one of the first acts we ever had to play that wasn't local was this Finnish band called Op:l Bastards whose record had become a huge deal at Optimo. We got in touch with them and they happened to be over in the UK and we could just about afford to do it. We became great friends with them and then the main guy, Timo, started K-X-P. There are only two of them but their energy is insane. Again they're people who're historically a big part of Optimo who are still doing stuff that we think is great and vital.

Recommended track: Scorpius

Midland (England)

The National:

He's a great DJ and has become a good friend. I do another project called Autonomous Africa which he is a big part of – he contributes music to it but he has also raised money for an organisation that his parents fund in Tanzania which provides education for girls there who wouldn't otherwise receive it. He's one of the best DJs and producers from the UK scene that has risen in the last few years.

Recommended track: Safi
Recommended mix: Resident Advisor, Macarena In Residence mix

The Bug ft. Miss Red (England)

The National:

The Bug is someone we had to play twice in the early days of Optimo and I've always been a big fan of the industrial dancehall he makes. I saw Miss Red play with him last year for the first time and I honestly thought my ribs were going to crack because the bass was so powerful. She was extraordinarily intense.

Recommended track: Sneak A Thief

Nurse With Wound (Outer space)

The National:

They almost go back to my childhood, and they're the most unlikely festival act. I've no idea what they're going to do because they're so diverse but whatever it is will probably be quite surreal and strange. It tickled my mischievous side to have them play at this, but if you can't be a bit self-indulgent in this situation when can you? It's very easy to have a festival bill that's very safe but I can honestly say with this that we didn't program it with selling tickets in mind. Both Jonnie and I love their music and have had great fun having literally hundreds of people come up to us over the years and ask what the hell that is that we're playing. But hopefully some people will see them, hear something they've never heard before and think they're amazing, and I suppose that's always been a part of our philosophy as well.

Recommended track: Rock'n'Roll Station

Sal P (USA)

The National:

Sal's old band Liquid Liquid did the song Optimo is named after. When they got back together Jonnie and I went over to New York and basically stalked them until they agreed to play at the club. We've developed a really deep and lasting friendship with Sal as a result of that. Every time we go to New York we hang out with him – if you're feeling a little low he's the kind of person who you can hang out with for a while and come away feeling like everything's better. Liquid Liquid don't exist any more so the closest we could get was Sal DJing, and we're delighted to have him.

Recommended track: Liquid Liquid - Optimo
Recommended mix: Rebirth Radio Show mix

Sofay (Scotland)

The National:

She's a local DJ who I'd heard play a few times who has a great and original take on things. About 18 months ago we asked her to do a mix for our NTS show which really blew me away. She's someone within the local community here who is doing something different and interesting.

Recommended mix: Cooking With Palms Trax

Photographs: ADULT. – Nicola Kuperus / Apeiron Crew – Sean Bell / Ben UFO – Synthblog / King Ayisoba – Jacob Crawfurd

Optimo 20 is at The Galvanizer's Yard, Eastvale Place, Glasgow, on Sunday, August 6