A Guide To David Holmes ‘Late Night Tales’


If ever there was an artist born to make a 'LateNightTales', it's David Holmes. His NTS show God's Waiting Room is as far from his Warp/Soma techno roots as it's now possible to imagine, instead ploughing an introspective furrow that highlights his ceaseless searching as a music collector. From musique concrète to soundtracks, shoe-gaze to ambient and electronica, its a treasure trove of atmosphere and mood.

This feel for encapsulating a place and time is what made Holmes the perfect fit for scoring Hollywood films and TV series, most notably working with Steven Soderbergh. It's also what lies behind his entry into a series whose past luminaries include MGMT and The Cinematic Orchestra. Rooted in his home of Belfast, 19 tracks, which stretch from Buddy Holly to Eat Lights Become Lights, are woven together into a meditation on love and loss, healing and death, the passing of his parents and brother rippling through it alongside field recordings from his long walks in the countryside listening to The KLF's 'Chill Out' album.

If there is such thing as a soul, then Holmes has poured his own into this. Filled with exclusive collaborations, alongside the likes of Sex Pistol's guitarist Steve Jones and Irish singer, DJ and journalist BP Fallon, as ell as tracks from lesser known acts that he's produced, Holmes' own talent as a musician and producer permeates his selection. Ahead of its release this Friday, he told us the revealing stories behind these tracks…

David Holmes & Steve Jones – 'The Reiki Healer From County Down' 

“Steve Jones is a friend of mine, he's just an amazing guitar player. He lives in London but his mother still lives here so he's always home seeing her. Occasionally he pops in and we make a tune if the timing is right. t's just a track that really fitted in to the overall journey and narrative. Steve's mother is a Reiki healer. My friend Leo Abrahams, when he used to come over to collaborate with me on various things, would go to see her. She's a powerful energy of a woman and I felt it would be good to honour her.”

David Holmes & Jon Hopkins feat Stephen Rea – 'Elsewhere Anchises'

“The track with Jon Hopkins is something he and I started. I was very, very lucky to work with him on a session before he went off and became huge as a solo artist. It's almost like a little exert of a track but it always gave me this really great feeling, it's kind of spiritual. I always felt we should definitely finish it, so I took it and developed it loads.

“LateNightTales always have a spoken word element to all their compilations. An actor friend of mine called Lalor Roddy, he showed me an extract from a book [Aeneid Book VI] that Seamus Heaney had translated just before he died. He showed me the extract because it was really similar to a short film that I directed called 'I Am Here'. It's about a son that meets his parents in the afterlife. Because of the story I was trying to say, it really resonated with me. So I contacted the Heaney family and asked them would they give me permission to use it. They liked the idea and it was really humbling because they so no to a lot of things. They're very cautious about how they let his work be used. He's looked at in the same breathe as Shakespeare and W. B. Yeats. He's one of the greatest poets of the last 100 years. 

“Then I contacted another friend of mine, Steven Rae, who is one of the great Irish actors, and I knew that he was a huge Heaney fan, so I asked if he would come and recite it. I didn't know if it was going to work. It was something deeply personal and really poetic. I also felt a huge responsibility because it was Seamus Heaney. Steven came to my studio and he's a great actor, so in a couple of takes we'd got it.”

BP Fallon & David Holmes – 'Henry McCullough'

“Same thing with BP Fallon. I was really deep into the comp at this stage. BP called me up and said he was going to the funeral of his friend who had died, Henry McCullough. Henry McCullough is a really famous Northern Irish guitar player. The track lists the people that he's played with. BP lives in Dublin, so I picked him up from the track station, and he said 'If I return early enough can we do something in the studio?' I'd already previously worked with BP. He wrote one of the songs on the Unloved album called 'This is the Time'. 

“I was thinking about it, so I started working on the music. I was just messing around on a piano with those chords, then I took it into my studio and re-recorded it using different synths and organs and stuff. And it dawned on me it had a real sermon like quality. So I texted BP to say, if we're going to do something in the studio let's do something about Henry. He turned up, I played him the music, he put the headphones on and that all just came out. He didn't write anything, it was just all off the top of the head, one take. We couldn't have done that a week later, we couldn't have done it the next day. It happened the way it happened because of the moment, and because of how he was feeling, and how relaxed he was. People who don't even know who Henry McCullough is are moved by it because you can feel the intention. It's really natural, he's not reading off a piece of paper. It was just really beautiful.”

Song Sung – 'I'm Not in Love'

“Song Sung are these two Irish girls, they come from County Monaghan but they live in the States now. They just contact me and said 'We're singers, we're coming home for Christmas, we'd love to meet up and have a chat.' So they just called at my house, you know, a bottle of wine, then they proceeded to tell me how they'd never had any experience recording. I was like, 'OK…' 'But we do this thing where we sing over other people's songs, but we sing into our computer because we don't have a microphone,.' Then they played me something and I was just blown away. I thought, if this is how good you sound via an Apple Mac mic, what are you going to sound like through a Neumann 47 in a nice room with a nice compressor, a nice mic crane EQ and plate reverb. I could see it. I ended up co-writing a record with them and my friend Keefus Ciancia , which I produced. We did 12 songs. we actually just finished it, I just need to tweak some of the mixes. There's a track on the compilation that Keefus did with Jeff Bridge, 'The Dude'. 

“LateNight Tales each need a cover version. I'd been playing 10cc 'I'm Not in Love' in my sets so I thought I'd do it with the girls. It turned out it's one of their favourite tracks of all time, so they knew it inside out, knew all the harmonies. Keefus and I worked on the music in my studio, then sent them the track. Because it was a last minute thing, it was the only track where I wasn't there to record the vocals, but they knew the track so well they were able to hire a room and go in and do a really good recording of the song.” 

Documenta – 'Love As A Ghost'

“Documenta are a local Belfast band that I really like. They're quite psychedelic, but in an understated way. There are seven of them in the band and most of them play guitar. There's a keyboard player, a bass player, a drummer, so I think it might be four or five guitar players. They're friends who asked me to produce a track for them a while back. That was it. I was really happy with it. I love the sound it makes and the feeling it gives me. And I love what he's saying, I know what that song means to him. It really resonated with me as well.” 

DIE HEXEN – 'Gloomy Sunday'

“It's quite a Northern Irish album. DIE HEXEN is a girl from Belfast, Documenta are from Belfast, the girls are from County Monaghan, Steven Rae is from the North, Seamus Heaney is from the North… It was a difficult comp to do in a way because it was so personal and I kind of had rules. I grew up here so it was an amalgamation of all that. I'm still trying to make sense of it really…”   

'Late Night Tales: David Holmes’ is out this Friday 21st October.


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