Optiv & CZA (Cause4Concern) - Masters of Modular - Interview & Mix


Optiv & CZA (Cause4Concern) // Masters of Modular (words by Tarik Elkhiyari)

      In our beloved world of Drum and Bass music we have been blessed by some of the most innovative artists across the electronic spectrum and the name Optiv and CZA should definitely be no stranger to the masses of bass heads worldwide. To people in the know Optiv and CZA are none other than two thirds of Cause 4 Concern. The ultimate drum and bass powerhouses pushing the more aggressive, darker side to drum and bass that is becoming ever increasing popular in 2016. The thing is, these guys they have been pushing this sound way back when. They are up there with the greats, responsible for carving the twisted road for many producers and artists to what we would call modern day neurofunk.

     One of the first artists to appear on the ever growing MethLab Agency roster, C4C have been knocking out stellar productions, waving the flag for their beloved, gritty trade mark sound and Optiv’s and CZA’s contribution to the Methlab 002 release is no exception.

      Sub Surface is a stone cold, dancefloor hit with enough power to successfully level several apartment blocks. The track begins with a erthereal pad and a beautiful delayed vocal sample which rides into a rolling, punchy drum break. The track builds up beautifully with growling, resonant bass tones that filter in smoothly and roll into the drop with rumbling sub sonic frequencies. A track destined to cave chests the world over.

We caught up with Optiv and CZA to have a chat about the track and their view on the scene and their future journey.

Thanks for joining us! What are you up to at this moment in time?

CZA – Hi, thanks for inviting us! At the moment I’m at 32.000 feet heading out to Russia to play a gig in Moscow with Current Value.

OPTIV - I have just returned from Jungle Juice in Paris! It was sick!


Mark - you have been part of the Methlab family for quite a while now! Can you tell us how that has been for you? And what made you sign with the agency in the first place?

That’s right I’ve been with the ML Family for a good few years now & long may that continue.

My experience with Methlab has been one of great professionalism & work ethic with the focus on high levels of creativity & production from both the artists & everybody involved at the agency. It’s a pleasure to be associated with such a strong collective.

I’d been hearing a few people I know with in the industry mention their name & how their long term plan was something a little different from what other agency were offering at the time, I gave Jef a call & we talked in depth about his future plans for Methlab, from that phone call I knew something unique was on offer & I had to be a part of that.


For Drum and Bass icons like yourselves, how do you feel the scene is in its current state and where do you see yourselves going from here and how does Methlab tie into that?

CZA - I feel it’s in a great place at the moment, people are enjoying their success with the commercial aspect of things & you have a huge following with in the other parts of the scene, which is all very healthy, however I do feel people are chasing & not always succeeding in finding that vibe from yester year, such saturation within the digital domain is partly to blame with an influx of so many labels & releases out every week, least with the vinyl culture you had a quality control, the physical side needed to be the whole package, rather than the that will do attitude, that said there is still great output from many talented artists & labels with in the industry & were committed to being a part of that.

Methlab fits in perfectly with what we’re doing at present, forward thinking ideas on presenting something new & fresh with an ever evolving outlook on what’s current & uncharted.

OPTIV – I agree with Mark on the quality control side of things, but on the flipside I think it’s great that anyone can write music these days. Anyone in theory, could walk into a shop and buy a computer of the shelf and start writing banging tunes the same day. In the early days only people with access to an expensive studio had any chance of making drum & bass. There are new producers coming through like Malux, Inward, Hanzo & Randie, L 33, Disprove (there are many more), who are keeping us older producers on our toes! This is what pushes the scene forward and long may it continue!

So let’s talk about Sub Surface. Obviously you have made plenty of tracks together over the years, but how did this one come together? Was it something you started together or an initial idea in the studio that you both just started sending back and forth?

CZA – Yes that’s right we’ve been writing tracks together for over 20 years so I feel we have a unique understanding on what we both like. Sub Surface came together as an initial idea I was working on in my studio in the UK, it was a very stripped back version then, we continued to work at it together online & it eventually came together as a sound we were both very happy with, we felt it would suit the Methlab concept well & are very pleased to see it surface with so many other great tracks from the E.P.

OPTIV – Yes, we have worked so long together that making tunes is really fun and second nature to us. We constantly strive to try new ideas and techniques out and that just adds to the enjoyment. Sub Surface was an experiment in analogue distortion for us courtesy of the mighty Sherman Filterbank!


How is it working together in the studio? Obviously you both have encapsulated a winning formula that clicks, but is there anything in particular about working with each other that makes the end product as strong as it is?

CZA - Working in the studio has always been a harmonious experience & I think that stems back from knowing each other for such a long time, we have a great understanding of the structure & tone we want from our music, that alone reinforces any musical collaboration.

OPTIV – I wouldn’t say its formulaic as such. Like I said earlier, making music is made easier by our long standing relationship in the studio but the real fun starts when we power up the machines and start mucking about!


Was there anything different that you tried in the studio this time round, as opposed to the norm?

CZA - The norm would have always been working in the same studio in the same country but as that’s not an option these days (apart from when we meet up through the year) we’ve really embraced the whole working on line aspect, without going in to too much detail the introduction of VST performer from Cubase has really made working this way a very accessible formula for us, that’s how this track happened & that’s how most of our new material is conceived. We love it!

OPTIV – We also love using hardware, that’s not to say it’s better than software. We just love using tactile machines with blinking lights, cables and transistors that make disgusting noises. It puts us in a great creative state of mind.


If you had to pick a favourite piece of studio gear that you couldn’t live without, what would that be?

CZA - Very good question! I’d have to say my Sherman Filterbank, beautiful & destructive all at the same time, it’s a very unique sounding machine, more recently though any of my Eurorack modular, I’m obsessed with the stuff!

OPTIV – I’m a big fan of modular stuff too, but I love the sound of the Mooger Foogers! Also the Dangerous 2 Bus summing mixer is a win!


What is next for you both?

OPTIV & CZA - Next up for us both is to continue writing our album ‘What Lies Ahead’ as well as finishing up our collaboration projects, running & managing the label with all of its forthcoming material as well as maintaining a busy Dj schedule.


Who are your top 3 artists and influences at the moment?

CZA - I think D&B wise for me at the moment it has to be Inward, Hanzo & Randie, there new E.P. forthcoming on our label really encapsulates what I’ve always loved about this music, raw spaced out funk, the tracks all work very well in any club environment & we can’t wait to see what else they have to offer up this year. I’m also really feeling Current Value’s latest output of tracks, such a variation of sound & styles!

Non D&B anything by Acre, Radial, Bintus, stripped back broken grooves with a futuristic twist, wouldn’t really know what genre to put them in but they sound fresh & current & have a very inspiring touch about them.

OPTIV – Drum & Bass wise, and apart from what Mark said, I love the music of L 33, Agressor Bunx and the mighty Audio!!


And any final words?

Expect the unexpected, the machines are coming & they will control everything you see & hear!

TO BOOK CAUSE4CONCERN - Jef@Methlab-agency.com