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
an electronic music pioneer and, had he lived and not passed away
in 2006, he would be quite proud of Hollans 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,
Hollans 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."
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 theres even a thunderstorm
to remind you that youre still on planet earth. The one constant
thing here is Hollans 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
What was your musical frame of mind like during the writing and recording
of Incandescent and how do you feel its a move forward
from your 2014 CD The Spirits Of Starlight and your earlier
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 whats
you go-to album for Richards music?
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
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.
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?
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.
Whats 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 youre
off to a great start.
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. Its 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
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.
Track 2 on Incandescent is called The Years First
Rain. It almost sounds steady like the rain and its not
dark at all. There are some surging bass lines throughout the track.
As if to emphasize that, theres some great thunderstorm effects
on that track. Do you like mixing nature effects with electronic music?
They dont call them electrical storms for nothing right?
(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.
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 its 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.
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.
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. Theres 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.
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 its 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.
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. Its 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.
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
mwe3: Track eight on Incandescent is Ancient Atmosphere
is another mysterious sounding track. Seems like its 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?
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? Theres also the element of anger associated with
that word which I did find amusing because your music is anything
but angry sounding!
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
mwe3: Incandescent is your fifth album and youre
building quite a catalog of recorded music. I hope youre in
it for the long haul as the music is quite great and youre clearly
building up quite a repertoire. Are you on the way to becoming Americas
greatest electronic music composer and recording artist? Tell us about
other new adventures and collaborations you have going and/or would
like work with?
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.
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.}
to Hollan Holmes @ www.HollanHolmesMusic.com