Spotlight on OPTML

Special Feature 10/16/2021
OPTML
(Another Awesome Portrait made by the Lovely Instantreigen)

Meet OPTML: A house producer and DJ Based in America. Inspired by house music from the late 90’s from Daft Punk, DJ Sneak and Gene Farris, OPTML seeks to bring back classic vibes and make you groove. After forming the label Cockatiel records in 2018, it has been their goal to push boundaries and make people dance along with other artists such as Radd, Monte Hills and STEB. Source: About OPTML, Spotify.

Our Kind of Music, with OPTML

HOW IT FEELS? Believe Me, NOT THE SAME.

WHY? Because YES, you read that correctly, today’s about OUR Kind of Music, spiced up with a nice surprise for y’all, because today, for the very first time, I Have a Co-Writer!!

Let me introduce to you my very talented, very enthusiastic and very eloquent friend and Co-Writer of the day: Smittz! Another friend found in the Discoholic spheres and one that stole my heart because of his absolute magnificent, magical way with words. And oh yeah, his musical insight. How can I not be a sucker for that, tell me huh?! 

Smittz – Twitter

We were joking about the above a little while ago when I mentioned it would be great to have him write a piece to add to a Spotlight. Well Evil Wien – she’s been busy lately – dropped a little bomb only yesterday and asked him if he wanted to play a part. Really mean, because I basically counted on the fact he could not resist the offer muhaha. BUT seriously, I’m so grateful he wanted in on this because it makes this Spotlight all the better for it. I am positive he will out-write me and if so, it would only proof my point: He’s just as amazing as today’s Spotlight herself.

I asked him to choose a couple of tracks and to give his vision on them, or as he said so himself, I quote: ‘Creatively dissect’. I gave him total freedom, trusting in the fact he would be able to add something extra/special to this Spotlight, even, or especially so, if we would incidentally choose the same track…and whaddayaknow…You’ll find his amazing additions in Blue. He’s been writing until the early morning hours, I know this, because I literally saw him working on the google docs document – named ‘Colorfully Expressin” 🥰 – he allowed me to edit. I rest my case. Mind you, OPTML only found out about this when she got her first exclusive look (like, an hour ago)

We fly out to Tennessee to get some heat baby! How I wish, because temperatures there would certainly agree with me! If you remember – I know, it’s been a while, but c’mon – the Spotlight on Mr. Hoosteen, you may have noticed a shoutout to today’s guest. It’s a bit tricky for those of you who haven’t heard about her yet, because she is releasing music under different names. Yeah, I only found out about that recently. I will introduce all aliases here today, hoping to avoid any confusion on your behalf in the future. I promise the heat is on when you discover the manifold treasure that is called OPTML. I’m going to quick start with her, since this is her main profile and I got to meet her thus, blowing my mind with a track that seems to be written for me.

‘Man, it’s become a task in its own right just to keep track of all the great artists I’ve had the privilege of getting to know this past year – both musically and personally! Following Discoholic’s online presence immediately led to a treasure trove of independent artists coming to my attention, and among them were OPTML and the members of the label she runs, Cockatiel Records.

Even as someone who only recently hopped on this groovy express train, it feels like I haven’t missed a beat thanks to the picture OPTML paints through her music and interactions with other producers. It’s similarly stunning how rich of a career she’s been able to build up over the course of only a few years – with two LPs and a myriad of EPs and singles under her belt, there’s no sign of stopping for this musical maneuverer. And to think I haven’t even touched on her music itself yet!

It’s tough to choose just a few favorite tracks from their library, but I’d say the ones that resonate with me the most have got to be…’

So yes, we ‘met’ through Mr. Hoosteen – with Discoholic as our binding factor, can’t escape my No.1 artist – and together with the previous Spotlight on Instantreigen, it feels I’m completing a trilogy. Or am I? Since another musician friend is already lined up for a future Spotlight…It’s always so much fun to see how one Spotlight leads to another and I’ve seem to be fallen into another musical rabbit hole. Including the wicked Spotlight twist of ending up with a co-writer! It also means, I’ve been diving into more House music lately and I just want to be upfront with y’all, there’s still much to learn for me. Again, for me what counts is ‘How It Feels’, and in honor of Mr. Hoosteen – and because my co-writer is giving me a little bit of that today 😉 – here’s his version.

You all know I used to hate Spotify with a vengeance, but that has changed drastically. Now I am very much aware that it’s not a fav streaming service among artists and I fully comprehend why, but still, this was where I looked up OPTML first. I immediately fell in love with the album ‘Cœur De France’, where – you guessed it – ‘How It Feels’ is part of. The track was already added to my Some Groovy Medicine playlist at the end of June this year, but, as I tweeted earlier, since I recently got more followers – I flip out over every new one – I might as well add tracks anew, to reach a bigger audience this time. Tbh, even if someone would go through my SGM archive, the best tracks are destined to be heard multiple times, preferably on a loop. Just keep groovin’ y’all.

‘I can relate, having heard not great things about Spotify and its distribution process before picking it up at the beginning of this year. While I still understand and mostly hold the same sentiment, on a purely functional level the platform’s treated me pretty amazingly when it comes to keeping up listening habits and finding new artists – I guess you just have to feed its algorithms a specific kinda stuff to get worthwhile results. But I’m getting off-topic here!

How It Feels is a great opener to an even greater album, introducing a really sweet but mature mood that’s carried throughout the LP. The track’s intro section raises interest very well, laying some foundation with minimal percussion accompanied by only the sparkly chord stabs, and you can hear them present for the rest of the track’s runtime even after the main vocal sample and bassline take prominence. Not that I mind it in the least, the sample’s incredibly catchy and its usage here is top-notch!’

But enough about that track when there’s so, so much more! If you wish to check out OPTML’s whole discography, I recommend Bandcamp, where she is operating under different names. When we got to talk a little about her music, one of the first things she told me about were her different aliases, I quote: OPTML is my main stuff for music, then there’s Gravity Zero, which I originally started off with but changed my name as I changed the type of music I make, Gravity Zero is a bit more Techno. And finally there’s just Emily (or EMLY sometimes) and those are for very personal projects/remixes’. I realized I had some serious listening to do and find out about all three music profiles. The above mentioned track is actually from Gravity Zero’s album ‘ Mood Boosters’ and speaks for itself. Then, I just fell in love again with ‘Emily’s Edits (Vol. 1)’.

Emily’s bio on Bandcamp simply states, I quote: ‘Trans Disco DJ that likes to play with filters’. Even if I don’t get the meaning completely, I sure love the end result! Must be the very obvious Disco influences which my soul definitely gravitates to. The edits are catchy and of the happy kind, so what’s not to love. Next to a couple of albums filled with great edits/remixes, there are also a couple of albums with Emily Originals. The cover art all looks very colorful and inviting, one thing that surely tugs at my heart’s strings to go and have a serious listen. I always wonder – and sometimes see the struggle – about how artists come up with album/song titles. Y’all know it’s another one of my weaknesses, because I just can’t resist an intriguing title and they mostly prove me right…

There’s so much to discover and you only have to be ready to be pleasantly surprised, just as I am. OPTML is showing off her talents in different ways and refuses to be simply satisfied with choosing one path. This way I think it’s fairly safe to say, she offers something for everyone. You gotta take some time to sit down, listen and enjoy the variety of sounds that will be sure to tickle your ears. If you can’t find anything that pleases you, then really, What’s Wrong With You?! The Emily brand alone, released 7 albums so far and I’m sure there will be more to follow.

Sorry-not-sorry if I’m zig-zagging my way through – what’s new anyways – but let’s go back a little while to Gravity Zero. Here the bio’s only clue is ‘Techno’ and well.. It is. If you’re like me and started out with OPTML, you’ll definitely be in for something totally different now. I can’t escape the feeling of being thrown back to the 80’s (was it? I’m horrible with names and era’s, the last might be plain denial) and getting those synthwave vibes. Some tracks could’ve easily been used for those early suspense/sci-fi television series – if anyone reading is even old enough to remember 😂. So yeah, Techno is not my forte, but I’m always up for something ‘new’, stepping outside my comfort zone so to speak.  I told you this Spotlight is spiced up, and yes, that’s also what happened with my taste in music, listening to OPTML. We all need some spice of life to change things up now and then right?

Gravity Zero’s first album release was in 2018, I’d say about the same time OPTML started to release music as well. Again I’m counting 7 releases on Bandcamp, including a couple of singles, EP’s and albums. I can only be amazed when artists show this kind of creativity. In a way I’ll always compare it to the creativity I need to write – I know it’s not quite the same – and I did need a little break from that and focus on other stuff, life as it is. Seeing how much OPTML has produced in just a couple of years time is simply astounding. You should know, she’s also still studying and had to face a couple of exams while answering the questions below. All the while still busy creating new music. Just. How? She deserves for our headphones to be stuck to our ears, getting drenched in her music.

Now you may think we’ve covered all the brands that together represent OPTML, but we’re not quite there yet. I quote: ‘There’s a couple other names too like OPIUM_424 and DJ Cockatiel (a new project in the works right now) and those are also for very specific types of music, hip hop and Chicago House respectively’. When I expressed my surprise by saying: ‘O WOW, you’re one busy bee!’ the answer I got was not really what I expected. I quote: ‘No I’m just indecisive on the name I like’. Well Alrighty Then. Referring to OPIUM_424, the EP ‘Always Tired’ was released in 2020 and can also be found under the main character of this show, OPTML. Her bio mentions the same as well, I quote: ‘I’m a just bedroom producer who makes music for the fun of it. Local DJ as well’. I dunno, does OPTML ever take a break At All?

OPTML stands for 24 releases on Bandcamp alone. Pffieew. Quite a bunch of them released just this year and as mentioned before, I was swept away by the album ‘Cœur De France’. If you were an early listener, you probably caught several tracks from that album on my SGM playlist, including the bonus track, which is not included on Bandcamp. At least not as far as I can tell lol. The album to me is a brilliant mix of Disco and House, or should I say, French touch. It’s funky, with creative loops all the way through, making sure the listener never gets bored. It’s sweet with a bit of an edgy undertone here and there, which gives it all a nice little crunch. Aah well, you know how I love to compare music to food right? The album is just a very inventive dish, to tickle your taste buds. The extra track is a bonus indeed, dessert is served right here.

‘Armand’ alone was enough to catch my eye when first going through Cœur De France, guessing it was titled after a certain French Touch mastermind – and I’d say that link holds up well!

This track serves as a great way to progressively pick the album’s energy back up after the previous track Käfer was a sea of immersive synthwave, and the middle ground it strikes makes it just right to listen to even in the very early hours of the morning. (Something I am personally very, very guilty of when it comes to dance music, even at this very moment as I write this section. Who would’ve thought?)

The sampling work in Armand is once again excellent, with the thin spread of guitar helping to guide the beat along at a solid pace, and the little vocal accents that appear throughout add a really nice amount of warmth to the mix. It’s the kind of track I could just get lost in!’

When I mentioned how much I loved the album, I was recommended by OPTML’s friends to listen to ‘Back To Wax Vol. 3’ next. So I simply followed instructions and found they weren’t wrong! ‘Low And Dirty’ immediately blew me away – yeah it had me screaming okay? See I like a fair share of House, since it’s mostly giving positive vibes and that’s what we all need in life. Well, I DO. And Man, I need to get back to the DJ Cockatiel reference, because, well, I haven’t even touched this yet, but OPTML started the Cockatiel Records label not so long ago. Yep, no rest for superheroes. On top of this all, she’s also involved in the OMEAC label and yes, this is indeed run by…Mr. Hoosteen. If you like going full circle, I can assure you, OPTML has got it all covered. I’ll let her do the honors of informing you about it all. My time is up, though we’re not totally done yet… seems that Smittz has something more to add…but let’s get Low And Dirty first.

‘OPTML’s Back To Wax series of EPs is one I’ve only caught up with very recently, and I gotta say I’m kicking myself for not getting to them earlier! Each edition explores a ton of fun themes, with Vol. 1 focusing on some elegant yet danceable filter house-esque tracks, while Vol. 2 is full of ethereal acid tunes.

The third entry, however, is probably my favorite of the bunch, taking a bit more after future funk with an experimental production style – and while it was a close match between it and Koala, Shut It Down’s gotta be the best example of this.

From the moment the track starts the main riff it builds upon jumps right in your face, with a uniquely choppy combination of effects that give it just the right balance of tension and sleekness. And then the compressed horns are introduced, backed up by vocal accents that are just barely unintelligible – I’m a sucker for electronic tracks that add humanization in tiny amounts like this; it’s a great way to suspend part of the listener’s disbelief and keep things thematically interesting, even after countless plays! Speaking of which, I cannot get enough of the sample chops that first appear about a minute in, they’re so damn groovy’.

‘I was first introduced to STEB’s work through the recent release of this single, and both the original and OPTML’s spin on the track are amazingly well-done! While the original mix went for a chill, fluid housey feel, OPTML’s remix completely flips it on its head – it’s now an aggressive, venomous big beat track with some genius bits of sound design to really drive in that abstract tone. I was told by her soon after giving it a listen that this release was especially influenced by The Chemical Brothers and their work, and it immediately clicked – OPTML is someone who truly understands all the nuances behind the style of such a pioneering group! You didn’t hear this from me, but I wouldn’t doubt there’s more output like this lined up for the near future, shhh…’

Well, that’s it for now, though there’s a very cool bonus later, which I’m sure you don’t want to miss! For now, I just want to say; BIG Thank You OPTML! It’s been a ride, going through all your music and it has definitely broadened my music vision. You’re such a humble and driven person and it was great meeting you! We will for sure keep in touch, there’s no escaping me now 🙂. Now let’s hear what you have in store for us all!


The Interview

Let’s start with the obvious: Can you introduce yourself and tell us, who is OPTML? Does the name has a special meaning? When and how did you start making music? Do you play any instruments yourself or sing?

‘Hello there, I’m OPTML, and I am a DJ and producer from the state of Tennessee near the Nashville area. Because of where I live, music has always surrounded my life. Some of my earliest memories include listening to The Beatles and Queen in that car when I was a child. At an early age, I had always wanted to learn how to play an instrument. Around when I was 8 or so, my parents enrolled me in taking lessons to learn the violin, I didn’t really like it. When I was 10, I had decided I wanted to learn guitar instead, I didn’t quite like that either. I had always wanted to learn to play drums, but my parents wouldn’t allow it. However, that would all change once I entered middle school.

I had decided now was my chance, I signed up for marching/concert band with a couple of friends and the 3 of us had chosen percussion to be our instruments of choice. I believe this was the turning point into what really thrusted me into enjoying music more than anything else. Around my Junior and Senior year of high school, I started listening to a lot of House and Techno. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before. I knew that I wanted to make something like that, but I was unsure how to. I started a project called Gravity Zero and began to produce music on my laptop. I was having lots of fun doing it. By the Summer of 2018, I had finished 14 tracks and decided to release them for the public to hear. 

After releasing that album I had decided that the name Gravity Zero felt a bit too generic and I wanted something that would help me stand out a bit more. I came up with the artist name OPTML purely because I thought it looked cool and that it would grab people’s attention. So far, I think it is working’.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Who have been / are, your biggest influences? How would you describe your music? You are interested in several genres/styles of music, could you tell us what it is that appeals to you in those genres? Do you feel challenged by it and how?

‘I take a lot of inspiration from different artists that I’m listening to. I’m always finding a new sound that I want to pursue. Most recently, I have been listening to the UK band Underworld. I really love their blending of Techno with Pop elements. I also get inspired by my peers a lot, like Mr. Hoosteen, RADD, STEB, Monte Hills, and InstantReigen. They are all so awesome, and I’m so happy that I’m fortunate enough to call them friends. However, my heart will always lie with Chicago House and DJs like Gene Farris and Paul Johnson. 

I think the reason I always am working in different genres of music is that I’ll find a new track I like and then I’ll think to myself ‘Yeah I really like that, I wonder if I could make something that sounds like that’.

Most of the stuff I have made in my last 3 years of producing is house music, but I’ve been wanting to break from my mold a little and experiment with different things. I’ve dabbled in some Ambient and Hip Hop here and there but I’ve recently started to combine the two with my Big Beat projects. That stuff is inspired heavily by artists like The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and Underworld.

There’s something nice about a sampled drum break layered with strange synth noises that I find really appealing. I think it’s because I get a chance to really experiment and try out new things while still making a track that can make people groove and dance. Can this be challenging sometimes? For sure, it’s almost like I’m learning how to make music again but that’s what I really enjoy about it. I like to push myself creatively and see where that takes me’.

Can you tell us a bit about how your creative process works? What do you consider fun parts of producing and what are the parts you are likely to struggle with? What keeps you going?

‘A lot of my creative process consists of me digging around for new samples, that’s probably the most difficult thing to do right now because of COVID. Fortunately, restrictions are starting to lighten up a little and now that I’m vaccinated I can go looking more often.

Because of where I live most record shops’ used section consists of old country music, which does not really appeal to me. I have been lucky though and found some really good old disco records that are ripe for sampling. Once I’ve found something I like I just mess around with it until I get something that I like.

There isn’t really a strict process that I have going, I just try my best to have fun with it. As long as I am having fun and enjoying what I make it comes pretty easily to me, I’m at a point where I’m making about 2-3 tracks a week right now and while some of them will probably not be released I do it to keep my mind flowing and moving through creative possibilities’.

Looking back, what piece of advice would you’ve loved knowing about earlier and would be the first thing to give to any new artist? Can you share at least one major change you went through while producing music, like a turning point maybe?

‘One important piece of advice that I’d give new artists is that they shouldn’t try and get too caught up with the details of their music when starting out. There’s probably a lot of things that you will wanna do but won’t know how to, and that’s okay. A lot of learning comes from experimenting with a lot of things and trying new things out. You’re probably going to fail, a lot, I know I surely did in the beginning.

I think the most significant turning point for me was when I joined OMEAC. I met so many cool people that also made music. Steen, RADD, and I became quick friends, and we’ve been inseparable since then. We’re always showing off the new stuff we’re working on to each other, and I think because of that, we’ve also taught each other some tricks for when producing too. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them’.

You’re involved in Cockatiel records as well as OMEAC records, can you tell us a bit about how you are/got involved and what your role is in both?

‘Cockatiel Records is the label that I started back in 2018 with my friend GrimmNemesis as a way for us to put both of our music onto one place and to eventually bring on other people whose music we liked. So far I feel as though we have a solid lineup, including me, GrimmNemesis, RADD, STEB, and monte Hills, as well as a couple of newer artists too. I wanted to make Cockatiel Records as a way to bring people together through music, both the people producing it and the people listening to it. There are no strict limits on how I run the label. It’s all about making the music you feel like making and doing what you want to do creatively. 

Around 2016 is when I started really getting into house music, and it’s also when I discovered OMEAC. I really liked the music all the artists made, I found it really inspiring. OMEAC was actually my main inspiration for starting my own label, I wanted to form my own community of artists and listeners. I believe I joined the OMEAC discord server in 2018 not long after starting my own label and that’s where I’ve made most of my friends. In 2020 I released my first EP on OMEAC, ‘Back To Wax Vol. 1’ and not earlier this year I released my single ‘How It Feels’ and album ‘Cœur De France.’ There isn’t really much that I do in OMEAC that’s more of Hoosteen’s project, and while we do often work together and share releases I think we both are still trying to go for our own sound and style’.

Looking back, what goals you’ve set for yourself you consider achieved? Can you name at least one highlight and why this meant so much to you? What would be the ultimate goal, or, what is a big dream in music production you hope to see come true one day?

‘I think I am at a point right now to where I am happy with where my music is. The fact that people actually listen to my music at all, and even like it, is amazing to me. I like the music I make, and I like the friends I’ve made along the way. The community I’ve made may be small, but I really appreciate it. I think the biggest highlight so far is releasing my album ‘Cœur De France’ on Cockatiel and OMEAC Records. I put a lot of love into that album and had been working on it since 2019, it’s probably one of the best-produced projects I’ve released recently.

My big dream in music production is to form some kind of band with like-minded individuals and produce an album. Like some kind of weird combination between ‘Au Reve’ by Cassius, ‘Audio Video Disco’ by Justice, and ‘Beaucoup Fish’ by Underworld. I’m currently picturing it as this strange fusion of Rock, Disco, Techno, Big Beat, and House. I have no idea at all how I will pull this off but it’s been a dream of mine for a while now’.

You only recently released ‘deep grooves for not so deep people’, maybe you can give us a bit of background info on how this album came together? And you describe yourself as: ‘I’m a just bedroom producer who makes music for the fun of it’. What can we expect for the – near – future? Will you keep exploring other genres, or do you feel you’ve found your way?

‘When I made ‘deep grooves for not so deep people.’ I wanted to explore a slightly different style of house than what I usually make. My typical style of house is very inspired by Funk and Disco, this EP takes a slightly darker route with ethereal chords and deep basslines. It’s a little bit more chill and low-key to what I’m used to but I think people will like it. 

As for what’s in the future you can definitely expect more experimentation, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of doing that. I’ve got a lot of big beat tracks that I’ve finished so there will probably be an album for that in 2022 if all things go according to plan. I want to explore some more genres of music soon so we will see what that brings in the future. I feel like it’s going to be very exciting’.

Is there anything else you would like to add / share, with your fans / the readers? Anything I didn’t ask about maybe?

‘I’d just like to give a shout-out to all my supports and friends. Especially the peeps in the Cockatiel and OMEAC Crew, you guys all rock. And a special shoutout to all the people who have helped me along the way with both improving myself and my music, I wouldn’t be here without you all’.

Wow, Thank You again OPTML! Putting this Spotlight together has been something else for real. The Artist, the Music, another very cool portrait done by Instantreigen and the fact Smittz has been co-writing, it all adds up to a fantastic end result in my opinion! Not to mention the way we’ve all met, which we have to – again – thank Discoholic for.

Since OPTML did a really terrific job remixing ‘Discadance’, by Discoholic, I think it’s only fair we end today with sharing a little bit of that Spotlight by sharing that remix. I told Smittz we would both comment on it, but honestly, I’m already biased enough as it is 😂 So Smittz, you have the stage and also: You made me very proud to have you here today, let’s do it again shall we?

I forget just when it started, sometime around mid-August maybe? First sparked by I believe the Elite 6, a bunch of producers in the Discoholics Anonymous Discord server had decided to remix Discoholic’s 2020 single for the hell of it, which led to more artists wanting to take a creative crack at at the track and joining in over time – and man, nothing but good has come out of it ever since!

From Mr. Hoosteen to Monte Hills and Mere Notilde, it was only a matter of time before OPTML came down with disco fever too. Her take on Discadance is unlike any of the others, opening with a trippy, dissonant version of the chord pattern that was at the core of the original. It’s a bold move that works wonders at setting an anxious yet polished tone that lasts for about the first two minutes of the mix. Right around that point, though, any sense of musical worry’s taken off your shoulders by a smooth, crystalline beat that sprinkles in Discadance’s characteristic vox samples at a really interesting rhythmic point.

These two sections mingle towards the end of the track after both have been made more intricate, followed by a DJ drumloop buffer as is customary for a ton of house mixes. Even as someone with no actual connection to the DJing scene, there’s always something fun about seeing them pop up in tracks, haha. Overall, OPTML’s Brick Haus Mix is a rock-solid creative take on what I’d easily consider one of Discoholic’s best tracks to date!’

‘Alrighty, I think that should just about wrap things up. Passing the mic back to you, Wien, it was such a pleasant surprise getting to be able to contribute to this week’s Spotlight! I’m still really flattered that you hold my writing in such high regard, pfff… Only learned from the best! Thanks a bunch again for giving me a platform to present some of my thoughts on a great artist and great friend, it’s really the least I can do to try and give back, y’know? Keep on keeping on, I say’.

Follow OPTML on: Spotify Bandcamp SoundCloud Twitter Instagram Website

Follow Smittz on Twitter!!!

Wishing Y’all a very nice weekend, I mean, I know How It Feels, you just wanna relax

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