WORDS

A Tribute To Optiv

Drum & bass has lost another truly unique, humble and gifted pioneer.

Edd Holmes – the man best known and loved as Optiv – passed away unexpectedly in Japan on January 5. His sudden passing has come as a huge shock and cast a solemn shadow. Tributes and messages of love for his family have been posted from artists he’s inspired, influenced and made friendships with right across the entire spectrum of the genre during his 20+ years of dedicated creative graft and consistent diligence.

 

A hugely talented artist, serial collaborator and creative workhorse; Edd was committed to the cause with his sleeves rolled up (and usually a few awful jokes lined up) his entire adult life, right back to his earliest days in the mid 90s as a young DJ working in a Guildford record store Dance 2.

It’s here, in the thick of that initial UK rave revolution, where he cut his teeth, found his sound and pushed drum & bass to every unsuspected customer he could before eventually stepping up as a producer with a flurry of collaborations all firing off around the same time. The two most prominent projects were Pressure Rise with fellow Dance 2 worker Jon Skinner, who had a deeper, jazzier sound that resulted in the 2001 album Focus and, of course, Cause 4 Concern with CZA. Arguably the most dominant, consistent and long-lasting forces in the heavier, uncompromising, tech-edged quarters of the genre, it’s not an understatement in the slightest to say his work with Cause 4 Concern inspired an entire generation of acts who now operate on the cutting-edge of dark underground drum & bass. Including Noisia.

Edd’s output continued at this rate and level of creative consistency and uncompromised design ever since with releases on every respected label in the genre from Renegade Hardware to Ram Records. His brazen dark funk creations with Brazilian kindred spirit BTK were prolific enough to spawn over two albums while his work with fellow C4C founder CZA remained forever relevant and ahead of the curve. Not just as artists, but also as label owners.

C4C Recordings has had just as much influence on the genre as their productions. The label celebrated 20 years in 2019 with a vast album that reflected the true scope and potential of the style of drum & bass Cause 4 Concern have always been at the heart of, representing Edd and Mark CZA’s love for the genre and love from the genre.

Everyone from Skynet to Current Value contributed to the album while the list of new-generation talents on it – ChaseR, Mizo, Mean Teeth, Synth Ethics, IHR – was a reflection of how in touch C4C have always been with the contemporary sound and spirit of drum & bass and what the new protagonists have to say. The very same can be said for Edd’s own Red Light Records, a label that’s made championing brand new international talent its signature since its earliest incarnations with breakthrough releases from the likes of Concord Dawn and The Upbeats back in the early 2000s.

Yet during all these years, Edd never seemed jaded or cynical. He always maintained an energy and enthusiasm for the music, its direction and the next generation of artists coming through. This can’t be said for all artists who came through and helped to hone such a game-changing sound; Edd never rested on his laurels or rode off the glory of past successes, his vision remained fixed on the future and he always had time for peers whether they were with him at the forefront of techstep and neurofunk back in 98 or sending him their first demo in 2018.

He had time for people and seemed genuinely inspired by the music and evolution. “It’s always evolving and developing, much more than any other genre I know of, and long may that continue,” he told us in our last interview with him. “I get really inspired by new artists – they keep older artists like us on our toes.”

As a DJ he maintained this energy and outward positivity, too. Even after 25 years of touring and long-haul travel, the impression he left was that it was never a chore, that he loved the craft and was ready to tear any dancefloor apart. This is how he’ll always be remembered. This is how any of us who are lucky to have made careers in the music industry should approach life. Edd was always humble and understood just how special having a role in this scene was and how lucky any of us are to be part of it. This attitude will live with anyone he’s influenced, just like the spirit and uncompromised soul and energy of his music.

Gone far too soon but never ever forgotten. Sending maximum love to his wife, children, friends and longstanding creative sparring partners such as Mark CZA Clements and Vinicius BTK Honorio.

Rest in peace Optiv.

Edd’s friends have set up a legacy account for his sons. Get involved if you can.