HOLLAN HOLMES
Incandescent
(Hollan Holmes Music)

 

In 2015, Texas-based electronic music maestro Hollan Holmes released his fifth solo album called Incandescent. Composed and recorded by Hollan and mastered by Chad Kettering, the nine cut Incandescent CD is dedicated to the memory of electronic music pioneer Richard Burmer and the CD even features a photo of Richard that was supplied by Burmer's family. Burmer was considered an electronic music pioneer and, had he lived and not passed away in 2006, he would be quite proud of Hollan’s latest sonic masterpiece. Burmer is gone and, even more recently, Edgar Froese passed away in 2015 but thankfully, Hollan is keeping the spirit of electronic music alive and well in the 21st century. In the spirit of Tangerine Dream, Hollan’s Incandescent CD is filled with soaring, spiraling electronic soundscapes that literally mesmerizes the listener with all forms of sonic twists and turns. Commenting on Incandescent in the following 2015 mwe3.com interview, Hollan explains, "I wanted to continue with the energy of Spirits by exploring more of the Berlin-School, sequence-based compositions and that's what I concentrated on, but along the way, these slower, calmer, more orchestral oriented ideas kept surfacing. It's definitely not like most of my past work and I would hope that listeners perceive it as a step forward and not a step back or away." Like the stunning looking Incandescent cover art, Hollan's new music has a primordial, unearthly vibe to it. All types of elecronic music glides over the sonic terrain, and there’s even a thunderstorm to remind you that you’re still on planet earth. The one constant thing here is Hollan’s keyboard mastery, which, coming after his critically acclaimed 2014 album The Spirits Of Starlight, just sounds better each fresh spin. Fans of T. Dream, Richard Burmer and state of the art electronic sounds overall, will savor Incandescent by e-music maestro Hollan Holmes. www.HollanHolmesMusic.com

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
HOLLAN HOLMES



mwe3
: What was your musical frame of mind like during the writing and recording of Incandescent and how do you feel it’s a move forward from your 2014 CD The Spirits Of Starlight and your earlier CD releases?

HOLLAN HOLMES: I rolled off of production on The Spirits Of Starlight and went immediately back into continuing with the collaboration with Resonant Drift, because I couldn't rest. I was on fire with ideas and, in that state, I know not to slow down or ideas vaporize and are lost forever. In October 2014, things began to slow down a bit for the Resonant guys, due to priorities in their main careers, so I continued to formulate ideas for more music with them, but also started working on ideas I had for my next solo release.

I wanted to continue with the energy of Spirits by exploring more of the Berlin-School, sequence-based compositions and that's what I concentrated on, but along the way, these slower, calmer, more orchestral oriented ideas kept surfacing. A couple of pieces, “Valley Of The Rocks” and “Interstellar Lullaby” have a very cinematic feel that I've not explored so deeply until now and it felt great to work in that space. It's definitely not like most of my past work and I would hope that listeners perceive it as a step forward and not a step back or away.


mwe3: The Incandescent CD is dedicated to the memory of Richard Burmer who was one of the early pioneers of American electronic music. Tell us about your friendship with Richard and tell us about his importance in the world of electronic music. Also what’s you go-to album for Richard’s music?

HOLLAN HOLMES: I never knew Richard personally and I regret that, as his music touched me in a way few others had at the time. I think he is among the most under-appreciated and unsung composers of electronic music. Burmer's '88 release, On The Third Extreme, is my favorite of his, but there's something on every one of his releases that I love. Burmer was a master of composing music that could elicit an emotional response, which is a very powerful thing. That's what I strive to do with my own music, to make people feel what I feel or to contemplate a thought more deeply. Burmer's work is masterful in that respect, not to mention his talent as a sound designer.

mwe3: Speaking of electronic music legends, Edgar Froese passed away in early 2015. How important was Edgar in the world of electronica and what influence did he and T. Dream have on your music? Favorite Tangerine Dream album or era?

HOLLAN HOLMES: Tangerine Dream may have had an even greater influence on me than Burmer! TD and Jarre each made the first electronic music to which I was exposed and it made a lasting impression on me. I became totally obsessed with synthesizers and synth based music and it just never stopped. Underwater Sunlight was the TD album that sent me over the edge and I just could not get enough after that. Edgar Froese was a living legend and his contributions to the world of electronic music are obviously very significant. He will be deeply missed, no doubt, but wow, what an incredible legacy.


mwe3: What were the main keyboards and instruments that you played on the Incandescent CD and have there been any new developments in the music world for you gear wise?

HOLLAN HOLMES: This release marks the last project that will have been completely composed within Propellerhead's Reason software. Incandescent is all software based, as all of my previous releases, so all of the synths used are soft synths proprietary to Reason, including some of their new third-party-developed Rack Extensions. I'll continue to use Reason, of course, but now I'm incorporating my hardware synths and non-Reason based VST synths moving forward. This is for two reasons; One, I love my old vintage hardware synths and two, I'm prepping for live performances down the road and hardware is much more exciting in a live setting than a computer and controller or two.

I just bought a Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12, which is a beast, so I'm really looking forward to using it in my future work. My very first synth, a Moog Prodigy, is getting her oscillators calibrated and I just spent some time cleaning off thirty years of dust, dirt and grunge. It feels really great to be bringing all these old analog machines back to life! Also, I ordered a new Korg sequencer, which will drive some of the analog synths, and I'm really looking forward to the possibilities there. Next year, I'll probably start building a Dotcom (synthesizers.com) analog modular system, which is very exciting. A lot of artists are doing some amazing work with analog modular systems and I'm inspired to work these tools into my own workflow. Steve Roach just released Skeleton Keys, which is pure analog modular and, in my opinion, among the best music of his career. I like the Dotcom products, because they're reputation of being rock-solid, aesthetically beautiful and the fact that they're made in Texas, just a couple of hours from me. It's an exciting time to be a synth musician.

mwe3: What’s new in the world of animation editing and film industry? Are you planning new videos and/or other video soundtrack features too? You mentioned you were going to be very busy this year and you’re off to a great start.

HOLLAN HOLMES: I'm definitely busy. The problem is that there simply isn't enough time in the day to do everything I want to do. I need five lifetimes, just to touch on all the things I want to do. I'm always learning new software and new techniques for making interesting and compelling visual material, but I have to balance it with my job as a surfacing artist in the film animation industry and making music. New videos are definitely on the way.

My next video, for the song “First Light”, from Incandescent, is actually all live footage, shot in the Monument Valley region of Arizona and Utah. After that one, it's on to more computer generated, abstract visuals in the same vein of my previous videos for which I'm known. Further down the road, another live action video featuring footage shot at Canyon De Chelly, in Arizona. My skills in shooting live film are terrible and quite amateur, so I have a lot to learn, but it's an enjoyable if challenging journey. I'm trying to envision all visual work from here on out as being used in the future as elements of a live show, so it has to work as a stand-alone music video, as well as an element in my live performances. With regard to the animation/film industry, I continue my roll as Senior Surfacing Artist at ReelFX Creative Studios in Dallas, Texas and I love every busy minute of it. It's a dream job... I mean, next to painting, creating music and playing with synths all day, which is my ultimate dream job.


mwe3: The lead off track “First Light” is filled with sequencers and rhythms. It’s certainly a great way to lead off the Incandescent CD. Were you going for more of a timeless Teutonic style / Berlin school influenced electronic experience on this track?

HOLLAN HOLMES: I do have a soft spot for the Berlin School style of music and I often find that my music is a reflection of my love for the genre. However, with “First Light”, it just organically progressed into its final state, without my forcing the direction. I love sequencer driven lines, but I love infusing mood-driven melodies into them, so they end up occupying an odd space between Berlin School and a more structured melodic style. “First Light” ended up having a lot of energy and I always try to start my albums off with one of the strongest tracks in order to make a good first impression and to foster interest in the rest of the tracks.

mwe3: Track 2 on Incandescent is called “The Year’s First Rain”. It almost sounds steady like the rain and it’s not dark at all. There are some surging bass lines throughout the track. As if to emphasize that, there’s some great thunderstorm effects on that track. Do you like mixing nature effects with electronic music? They don’t call them electrical storms for nothing right?

HOLLAN HOLMES: (Laughs) Exactly. No, actually, this is the first time I've used an actual live recording of nature in any of my work. With thunder especially, one runs the risk of their music sounding cliché, since thunder has been used in a lot of songs throughout the years, so I had to be very careful and judicious in it's use. The recording was made using a Zoom H4N digital recorder on the evening of January 3rd, 2015 on my property and was, indeed, the first rainfall of the year. I added a touch of reverb and some stereo separation to give it a sense of spacial volume. The song was actually recorded first, with no thought of rain, but after making the thunder recording and listening to the song with a new perspective, it totally reminded me of rain. The bass line is meant to mimic approaching, peaking and receding thunder. I'm quite happy with the way this one turned out.

mwe3: Track 3 on Incandescent is called “Letting Go”. Seems like a more low key track. How does the concept of letting go fit into the feel of this track? There are some intense, mountainous shifting dynamics that seem steady compared to the sequencer sounds that serve as the foundation to the track.

HOLLAN HOLMES: The idea of letting go was in reference to winter letting go of its hold on nature and giving way to spring. I was inspired one day when I was photographing ice icicles melting, and it was like watching winter relinquish its grip and giving way to the inevitable change of seasons. Even though it was still in the middle of winter, the story was one I thought worth telling. The end of the song evokes, for me anyway, this feeling of early spring.

mwe3: Track four on Incandescent is called “Valley Of The Rocks” and it’s one of the more cinematic tracks. Very soaring. This is truly one of the most soundtrack type tracks on Incandescent. Is there a more cinematic type experience with “Valley Of The Rocks”? Definitely a stand out track on the Incandescent CD.

HOLLAN HOLMES: The Navajo have a name for the Monument Valley area called “Tse'Bii'Ndzisgaii”, which means “Valley Of The Rocks”. This region is literally cinematic in its grandeur and many a film were made in this region. Monument Valley, as well as all places I've been to where large monolithic stone formations exist, have a magical atmosphere about them. One can sense great energy in these places. My song, “Valley Of The Rocks”, was the last song written for this release and it was actually written two weeks prior to my trip to Monument Valley, but with that land firmly in mind when I wrote it. When I got to the valley and listened to the music I wrote, it was an astonishingly good fit to me. The idea for the song started with the slow, rhythmic brushed cymbal beat and everything else was built around that light percussion track. That cymbal sound is actually a synth and I used a noise-driven LFO to drive the oscillators' VCA's in order to break up the velocity of each beat and give it a much more human, random feel.

mwe3: Track 5 on Incandescent is called “Earth Song”. Is that a song for mother earth? Would you consider “Earth Song” to be one of the more introspective tracks on Incandescent? Do you consider yourself to be an environmentalist. There’s been such an emphasis on the destruction of the planet in the past few decades and I would think your music is perfect for a dramatic close up of the unnatural events happening to us and the earth.

HOLLAN HOLMES: “Earth Song” is kind of a prayer for, or a meditation on, our Earth. I wouldn't call myself an environmentalist, but I deeply care about our planet. She's all we've got. If we screw this up, we're toast and maybe literally. We all see what is happening in California with the severe droughts. While it is debatable whether or not these changes are man-made or part of some grand natural cycle, we still must react in a logical, careful manner.

Part of man's plight as a species, is that we tend to take not what we need, but what we want. We consume far beyond what is necessary. Corporate entities acquire resources in the interest of profits, not what is morally or ethically prudent. This is how empires rise and fall, but the manner in which everything is now so interconnected, if we kick over one domino, it could have unprecedented catastrophic effects. The Pacific Ocean is dying at an alarming rate and no one can pinpoint why, but if we lose our oceans, our own days are probably numbered as a species. We think we rule mother nature, but that is a foolish and arrogant assumption and we always seem to learn this truth the hard way; that the opposite is actually the truth: mother nature is boss. Period. “Earth Song” was written with all of these thoughts being contemplated while I composed it.

mwe3: Track six on Incandescent is called “Interstellar Lullaby” and it’s different from many of the Incandescent tracks in that it is kind of a lullaby, for the universe. Is this track the lighter friendlier side of your music? Another track that kind of reminds me of the Eno influence in your music. Very stately with very little shadow.

HOLLAN HOLMES: The foundational basis for this piece was written in less than a half hour. It came to me quickly while designing a particular synth sound and I just went with it and built on that foundation over a period of about a week. It has a very cinematic feel. In fact, it almost didn't make it onto this release, because I initially felt that it didn't fit, but I didn't want to wait for a later release, so I nestled it into the song list, in between the beginning sequence-based pieces and the latter soundworld compositions and I think it fits nicely there. It is my personal favorite of Incandescent. It definitely has a lighter, happier feel to it than most of my other work. It's written in a major key, so by it's very nature, it evokes a more positive mood. So much of ambient music that I hear seems to avoid explorations into major keys and concentrates on the minor keys. This was a fun piece for me. I think it would be cool to score a film with music like this.

mwe3: Track seven on Incandescent is “The Inevitability Of Change”. It’s another track that is very atmospheric and not at all dark. Tell us about your thinking behind this track and how you arrived at the title.

HOLLAN HOLMES: “The Inevitability Of Change”, surprisingly, came to be from a very dark place, but was composed to end on a very positive note; it is a song of hope. It was written during a time when a dear friend of mine was going through a very rough breakup with his girlfriend. It was so bad at one point that he had contemplated suicide but he was strong enough to have found a way out of the darkness with no physical scars and only the emotional scars that we all receive at some point in our lives. I tried to compose the song so that it possesses a happy ending, again transitioning from a minor to major key. Changes take place in our lives often when we least expect them. Sometimes the changes are good, sometimes they are terrible. The one thing they are, for sure, is inevitable. My friend is doing quite well today. He says that this song helped him heal and I'm honored that I could have had any part in helping him get through those dark days. Music can be powerful medicine. It has helped me through many hard times throughout my life and defined many great moments. Often it is the catalyst that triggers powerful memories and thoughts of days gone by.

mwe3: Track eight on Incandescent is “Ancient Atmosphere” is another mysterious sounding track. Seems like it’s a sonic haven for the listeners after the more turbulent tracks earlier on the album. Did you try to provide the more soft-landing kind of tracks near the end of the album?

HOLLAN HOLMES: Sometimes, songs manifest out of simple experiments that take place when I'm creating new sound patches and this is exactly how this song came to be. I wasn't thinking of anything in particular, nor was I in any particularly intense emotional state, it just sort of came to be through listening to my initial track that I laid down and just began developing additional tracks that played off of it. After a while, it did begin to evoke various emotional responses for me and I tweaked the composition accordingly. The name did not come until much later, after seeing a number of photographs I had taken in Monument Valley, particularly the cover photo, in which the atmosphere was heavily laden with a fine dust from the strong winds that day. “Ancient Atmosphere” seemed a perfectly fitting name. The energy in this composition placed it in the deep end of the track list and sets up for the deep, emotional finale hopefully demonstrated by the final song, Incandescent.

mwe3: The Incandescent CD closes out with the title track. So just why did you call the CD Incandescent? I know that the concept of incandescent is related to the emission of electromagnetic radiation. How do you correlate the concept of incandescence to the album concept? There’s also the element of anger associated with that word which I did find amusing because your music is anything but angry sounding!

HOLLAN HOLMES: The word Incandescent has two primary definitions: 1. Emitting light as a result of being heated, and 2. passionate or brilliant. Again, in reference to the cover photo, there were rock walls in Monument Valley that seemed to emit their own light and this is especially present in the photo that appears on the back of the CD. With regard to the second definition of the word, I may not be very brilliant, but I think I am definitely passionate and that is what I try to infuse into my compositions. The CD, Incandescent, is about our passionate nature. Everyone's, not just mine. Mankind's greatest achievements were made by those who were passionate about their endeavors. My desire is for everyone to follow their passion; to follow their muse and to do what makes them happy. Life is way too short to spend it being miserable. Find a way to do what you love and the rest will fall into place.

mwe3: Incandescent is your fifth album and you’re building quite a catalog of recorded music. I hope you’re in it for the long haul as the music is quite great and you’re clearly building up quite a repertoire. Are you on the way to becoming America’s greatest electronic music composer and recording artist? Tell us about other new adventures and collaborations you have going and/or would like work with?

HOLLAN HOLMES: While I'm deeply honored by your suggestion, my goal has never been to be America's greatest electronic music composer and, besides, I can think of many composers in line ahead of me currently more deserving of that title. That being said, yes, I'm definitely in it for the long haul and, of course, it would be wonderful to be considered one of the great composers of electronic music. My goal, however, is only to create music that I love. The music I make is made first for me. Should others enjoy listening to it, then it is the highest honor and I gladly make it available. Would I love to make my living at it? Of course and that is only possible if I'm successful enough to drive strong sales. Unfortunately in the music business, sales don't always reflect the caliber of the composer. Many of the world's greatest ambient electronic musicians are anything but rich. For me, and probably many musicians/composers, it isn't about the money and we'd do it for free if we had to, because it boils down to that one thing that drives us to do what we love doing; passion. For me, it is not a means to an end; it is all about the journey, but the CD and download sales allow me to continue buying gear and improving my sound.

I'm in the final stages of a collaboration with California ambient duo, Resonant Drift. Our collaborative group is called Common Ground. No title for our first release has yet been decided, but we're definitely excited about it. It will be a Summer 2015 release, if all goes well.

My next solo release is planned for Winter 2016 and will feature a lot of tracks made with all my old vintage and new hardware synths.

Beginning sometime in 2016 I hope to begin doing live shows. That should prove to be very exciting, hopefully for audiences, but definitely for me. I'm really looking forward to the live performances.

 

{Hollan's photo caption notes: The image of Richard Burmer was given to me as part of a small collection of photos that Burmer's family graciously shared with me. I like it, because he looks so happy. The images of Monument Valley are part of a collection of over 300 photos I took during a visit there in February. They were shot with a Canon 70D and Canon lenses. You may notice three of the photos that were used for the design layout of my CD, Incandescent.}

Thanks to Hollan Holmes @ www.HollanHolmesMusic.com




 

 
   
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