Ed Rush & Optical (FABRICLIVE 82)
Ed Rush: I was born in Roehampton in south-west London and spent most of my childhood growing up in Barnes, which is a beautiful area.
Optical: I was born in Hammersmith in the ‘70s – I’m not going to say exactly when! I grew up around Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush, and I live in Acton now, so although I’ve travelled all over the world, I’ve always lived around the same area.
Optical: My dad’s in the magazine business – he was a publisher of Vogue Magazine – and my mum owned a PR company that looked after dancers, musicians and painters and the like, so I grew up in a very arty household. My brother is Matrix, as you probably know and we were making music from our early teens.
Ed Rush: My dad owned a hair salon on the King’s Road in Chelsea. He was a music boffin! He had a classic Rock-ola jukebox with shiny lights, valve amps and a smell of acetate. He had a vast record collection so I grew up listening to classic ‘70s stuff – Dylan, Velvet Underground, Tom Waits, all that kind of stuff.
Ed Rush: Growing up in the '80s, not a lot of the stuff that I heard in the charts or on the radio spiked my interest. A neighbour I was mates with was really into reggae – Burning Spear, Jacob Miller – while some of my schoolmates were into dancehall, like Cutty Ranks and Mad Cobra. One of my mates lent me a Saxon Sound vs Killamanjaro tape, that was my first exposure to dubplate culture and I loved it because it was so bass-driven, I was like 'Jesus Christ! How is there so much sub in these tunes?' But the kind of stuff I was buying was American hip hop – things like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Public Enemy – because I was so interested in the beats, I’d never heard anything like it before. My first exposure to DJing was through the likes of DJ Premier. I got a job on the fish counter in Sainsburys and saved up for a pair of Technics 1210s. Although I was never that good at scratching, it was still a great feeling to mix two records together. After the acid house boom out of Chicago, when UK producers started putting their own influence into it, all of a sudden I started hearing the breakbeats that I’d been so besotted with combined with uplifting pianos and hoover basslines – things like 2 Bad Mice, SL2 and Liquid ‘Sweet Harmony’. It was exciting hearing that coming out of the UK. Before long I was hooked!
Optical: I left home quite young and lived in squats in London. I met up with the likes of Spiral Tribe, Techno Travellers, DIY and I started DJing the warm-up set at their free parties, like at Castlemorton when I was 19, 20, 21.
Ed Rush: I was going out partying in a tiny little club called The Brain in Leicester Square. I made a mixtape and gave it to the owner who gave me my first ever gig on a Wednesday night, and even though it was probably only in front of 25 people I knew that this is what I wanted to do. That was probably in about '92/'93. At around the same time, I got a show on a pirate radio station called Flex FM – there was so much going on that was fuelling the flames back then.
Optical: My first record came out when I was 19! I think it sold about 50 copies but I was really happy to see it on vinyl. The music I was making was the kind of techno they played at the free parties. Then in '92/'93 more breakbeats came in – ‘We Are IE’ would be a well-known example, and as the 4/4 kicks were taken away it morphed into jungle and became a really unique thing, it wasn’t just part of the rave scene anymore. The first time I heard a proper jungle record it sounded completely new, like something nobody had ever heard of before – although they were badly produced they were revolutionary. I was working as a sound engineer by that time, producing for the likes of Adamski, a lot of the happy hardcore people like Billy Bunter, Force & Styles, R&B productions – whatever came in the studio. Working on Leviticus ‘Burial’ with Jumping Jack Frost got me in with all the drum & bass people.
"We recorded the mix in Ed Rush’s studio in the top of his house. It’s a selection of what we play at the moment and the way we play it – fast, furious and highly energetic! It’s a good representation of all of the amazing music and talent that is in our scene at the moment." - Optical
LABELS & PRODUCTION:
Ed Rush: A guy who lived over the road from me was working part time in music studios, he used to walk around with Rolling Stones badges on his denim jacket, but I’d take early hardcore records over to his house and he’d never heard anything like it before! In about '93/'94, we got a ropey old Atari and a really early edition of Cubase and started messing around with beats and sounds. That guy was Nico, and when we started making things that sounded half-decent, that was the birth of our label No U-Turn. I managed to get one of my records, ‘Bludclot Artattack’ to Randall, and he played it at AWOL. Metalheadz at the Blue Note was massive - once I’d heard Grooverider play one of my records there I was like, 'wow, this is incredible!' It just fuelled my enthusiasm to get in the studio. The early stuff we put out ourselves on No U-Turn, but I had a release on Metalheadz and Grooverider snapped up ‘Killamanjaro’ for Prototype.
I used to hang out with a crew from the same area, like Trace and Fierce. Dom & Roland were up the road in Shepherd’s Bush – I went to Dom’s studio to make ‘Subway’ (the flip side to ‘Killamanjaro’). I met Matt [Optical] through Dom, we both had similar tastes and outlook – we both loved weird bass sounds and were both weed heads – we had a lot of things in common! But a lot of it was down to geography, being from the same part of London!
Matt and I were in the studio 24/7 and we had such an abundance of material and it was sounding different to what other labels were releasing, so we felt we should make our own home for it. Piranha Pool is a more recent project, which gives me a platform for some solo projects that doesn’t fit on Virus and also to nurture newer artists who I think deserve to be heard.
Optical: At the end of 1995 I said to myself, 'I’ve made a lot of big tunes that don’t have my name on!' So I made my first record as Optical in the beginning of '96. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but I thought I’d better have a go! I put out releases on labels like Prototype, Metalheadz and 31 Records.
Ben [Ed Rush] and I used to get our dubplates cut at Music House, so we used to bump into each other down there and would sit there chatting. We got to realise that we like the same kind of music and thought we should make some music together. We sparked off each other immediately and it’s been that way ever since, always when we’re in the room together we end up with something that wouldn’t have happened any other way. You can’t put your finger on it, we just work really well together! We spent most of '97 getting a vibe together and in '98 we decided to set up our own label – it just seemed that we should put our stuff out ourselves rather than give it to other labels.
There have been many highlights over nearly 20 years of working together, we did a lot of crazy things when we were younger, getting to travel and see the world…
Optical: We actually played on the opening weekend at fabric! It was quite a big deal because leading up to it there was quite a lot of talk about the club and we felt really privileged to be there right at the very start. From then on we were there every couple of weeks for 5 years. As our careers progressed we were travelling a lot more, but we still play at the club several times a year and we still always look forward to it – it’s never a disappointment! I’m very pleased that we have somewhere so good in our hometown. Not many cities have a club that continues to stand out over such a long period of time.
Ed Rush: The End was the Mecca back in the day, but London needed something different. When fabric first came along, the incredible soundsystem blew me away and it was really exciting and flattering to be part of that from the early days. And even now there is nothing else to contest it, it’s incredible to look at the track record and how long it’s been going for – you just can’t fuck with that, it’s unreal!
Optical: We recorded the mix in Ed Rush’s studio in the top of his house. It’s a selection of what we play at the moment and the way we play it – fast, furious and highly energetic! It’s a good representation of all of the amazing music and talent that is in our scene at the moment.
Ed Rush: We put a little bit of history on there, with some of the older Virus tunes that helped us become established and that some of the younger kids might not have heard. Then there’s some stuff by some of the up and coming guys and a few VIPs and exclusives, like my ‘Scarab’ VIP that I made especially for the mix, so there’s some things that people haven’t heard before.
Ed Rush: Next up is the long-awaited album that Matt and I have been writing for ever! It’s taken a long time but there is so much good stuff out now, we knew this had to stand up to the quality of music that’s around at the moment, so we’d rather wait until we had something we knew could be proud of. On Piranha Pool I have some stuff by Signs and some of my own solo tracks – ‘Forever’ and ‘Chicago’ - plus a few bits I’m working on that I can’t say anything about just yet because I don’t want to jinx them!
Optical: We’ve spent the last 4 years working on our album so we’re very happy that it’ll be out in the autumn! It’s our seventh album together! On Virus we have tons of good music coming from the likes of The Upbeats, Mefjus, InsideInfo, Gridlok, Optiv, BTK, Maztek and of course ourselves all coming before the end of the year!
FABRICLIVE 82: Ed Rush & Optical is out on 24th July.
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Photography: Jimmy Mould