You could never accuse Will Holland (Quantic) of getting stuck in a rut. As he gears up to take his 15th studio record Magnetica on the road, the prolific artist reveals that his country-hopping quest for musical knowledge can sometimes leave even his own label fighting to keep up!
R$N caught up with the man fast becoming a musical treasure in his own right;
How's life in Columbia?
Well I'm not actually in Columbia. I moved to Brooklyn, New York a few months ago.
Oh! Apologies! What made you move?
Just a change of scenery really. I've been in Columbia 7 years now. For work and touring - I'm in the US so much over the last few years - going back and forth. I didn't mean to stay so long in Columbia but I ended up staying. It feels logical to move on at some point.
Do you ever think of returning to the UK?
I dunno - my mum's there and my family and I spend a lot of time going back there. Possibly, I dunno. I'm warming to the idea!
So you're touring the Magnetica album soon? (released 5th May 2014)
Yes starting a tour in May in the UK and Europe then June is US. Playing stuff from that album and some older Quantic stuff.
What were your influences for the album and what inspired it?
I was putting it together for about 3 years now, some of the tracks are quite old, some new. One influence is all the places I've been in. It was put together in Bogota but there are recordings in Cali (Columbia), Rio, some in Los Angeles and some in London. So it bears the hallmarks of where I've been the last few years. I'm stepping away from the photographic approach to other records I've been doing where I've been recording a live band and trying to be more in a producer setting.
I look forward to seeing you at the Manchester gig!
I'm really happy about the Manchester venue (Band on the Wall) - it was the first venue I played at live in Manchester before it was refurbished. It's interesting with this set up it's a bit more of an electronic approach compared to the live stuff I've been doing before. It's a new format for me so it'll be nice doing it in such an intimate venue - you really get up close to the crowd.
Do you enjoy the touring side or are you happier in the studio?
They both have their blessings and curses. It's amazing to make something in your bedroom or living room then have the opportunity to go out and play it. I still marvel at it. It's still an amazing thing to get invited and perform. Touring only gets hard when you have a big band - trying to keep it all together. But there's this tour lifestyle that you get used to. I do miss the stability of working in one place though.
Do you get a reaction to certain tracks sometimes that you didn't expect?
Sometimes - regionally the music I make is popular in different regions for different reasons. If you go to Germany they'll be into one sort of sound, if you go to Mexico there'll be into another. There is some overlap but you almost have to programme the set to fit where you're playing. I recently played in Mexico City at a festival called Viva Latino and there the reception was amazing and people were singing along and knew the music really well.
I was really impressed to read that you prefer to track down original musicians and producers instead of sampling - where does that drive come from?
At the start it was because I felt I could play the sample myself or learn how to play it or find someone else to play it. Often you sample because there's a certain groove or atmosphere or feel to a song that you can't get yourself and I felt it was important to start learning how to do that myself. When I listened to records from the 60s and 70s it felt like I couldn't do that because it was from a different era, or they played differently there, or the music that was made was somehow from another universe! But you realise you can make it. We should aspire to make music like Stevie Wonder on Innervisions because it's all interlinked. I got into this concept of trying to see it as a skill base and if I didn't have the talent musically I would try to find out at least how things were recorded and the mythology behind it. I felt it was important to do that. Not only for my own records but there are some old studio methods that are quite unique for that time and with new technology we are losing a lot of that. Especially in Columbia finding these records and musicians - you can't get that in a plugin. And yeah it was socially rewarding but I'm not a super-outgoing person or anything. I'm quite insular and English! But I did find it rewarding to have some social activity with that.
Was it through successes as an artist that you had the confidence to go and speak to these people or something else?
I guess so. But I've been doing it even from the first record. I would get my sister and people from college to play on the record so I've always had this element of trying to get people involved and realised that sampling would only go so far. But people do miraculous things with samples, I'm talking about my own ability - I never felt able to hit the nail on the head with samples - I felt like I was missing something each time.
How do you think your own output might have been different if computers didn't exist?
The last few records (Ondatropica) I've been doing have been very tape machine-orientated. Our computer kept on crashing so we ended up using the tape machine all the time. By the end we had loads of tape and had to splice it all manually. And that was a luxury because of the space you need to do that. That was one record where there was going to be no cutting corners. With this Magnetica record it's gone back to the computer thing but I work quite well without computers, I don't miss them. I think they need to be fairly transparent. There's always this obsession that you have to have this program and there's this kind of fetishism with the whole technology thing.
You come across as quite a strong-minded artist. Do you feel a relationship with your fans or any sort of responsibility in terms of what your output should be?
Yeah I do feel a responsibility although you also just have to do what you want as well. The proof is in the pudding. It's a democracy - if people don't like what they hear then they're not gonna buy your record and these days it's even more instant. If they don't like the snippet they hear on Soundcloud they won't buy it or download or contribute. But I feel that where you lose fans you gain others in different territories. But I hope that people who are into the sound have a confidence that that it will be of good quality. Maybe they won't like it and they'll like the next record but hopefully they know it won't be crap! (laughs)
Pop music - can you appreciate it? Do you like it or do you have to turn it off?
I'm not mad into the big productions with the crazy autotuning but I don't hate it. Like, I'm not a big Beyonce fan but I'm not offended by it. I used to loathe commercial pop because I couldn't escape it - for instance working in factories in the Midlands where Radio 1 is on all the time in the background. Now that I can escape it I don't mind it so much!
Future of Quantic?
The next year will be related to touring this record. I've always been into moving onto new things quite quickly and I think the label and fans appreciate if you stick around for a bit and concentrate on one sound which I've been trying to do lately and not move on so quickly. I've got a couple of records I need to finish - one is a solo album for Nidia Gongora who is a singer who I've worked with on a number for records. After that I dunno. I'm always making music and feel like making music so it's just a matter of getting the time to do it. Maybe after the summer we'll get on with making some new Quantic stuff.
And the future of music in general?
I'd like to see - I don't think it will happen - music going back into the community a little bit. Not in a hippy way - I mean in the sense it would be nice if music became communally played again. Maybe it would take some magnetic storm and no electricity for it to happen! Commercially speaking, records-wise I'd like for this phase of - dunno what it is - post dubstep? This weird wishy-washy world that has like a bleating emotional vocal over some sub bass and shimmery stuff with 808 snare rolls. I'm not hearing much originality in electronic music at the moment. I dunno if it's just because we're in a lull. But I'd like that to change.
Did you always know you were going to do this as a career? Is this part of a plan?
Not really no! When I did my careers advice at the age of 15 they typed in my interests into a computer and it spat out this piece of paper out of the binary printer that read sound-engineer. So I enrolled into sound engineering music production course - and that was really positive. So I've always been involved in sound and since 9 or 10 I've been obsessed with sound and recording and marvelled at it. So I think I've always wanted to be involved in sound but I've just managed to find a way of making a living from it. I've always done it previously but I've had to do other things to support it.