HOLLAN HOLMES
Milestones
(Spotted Peccary Music)

 

Following his 2017 double CD masterpiece Prayer To The Energy, electronic music innovator Hollan Holmes reemerged in early 2020 with Milestones. Hollan’s seventh album, and first for the Oregon-based Spotted Peccary label, the 65-minute Milestones offers ten tracks of atmospheric, electronic synth-based instrumentals that takes the listener into the depths of inner space. A gifted composer, musician and painter / photographer that also designs his own album covers, Hollan and his music has long been favorably compared to well known German electronic music legends Tangerine Dream and on Milestones the Texas-based artist doesn’t disappoint. Coming from T. Dream’s Berlin school style of electronica, Hollan’s music is best described as a mix of synthesizer soundscapes and otherworldly space music that combines an intricate network of kinetic rhythms, pulsing tones and spiraling musical spaces. The sheer depth and sense of his recording expertise has always separated Hollan from many other present day music practitioners. On Milestones, Hollan reaches yet another sonic plateau on what is certainly bound to become a choice classic of the 21st century synth music genre. For those keeping score of those things, the Milestones album also benefits from expert album mastering by two esteemed electronic music artists in their own right—Spotted Peccary founder Howard Givens and Hollan’s long time musical associate Chad Kettering. There’s all kinds of technical data listed on the album packaging, while Hollan’s artwork adorns the cover art, adding more to the album’s sense of wonderment. Highly regarded in the electronic music world for the past decade, synthesizer music maestro Hollan Holmes will please his long time fans, while bringing in a lot of new ones, with Milestones. www.facebook.com

 




mwe3.com presents the 2020 interview with
HOLLAN HOLMES


mwe3: How has being an artist on the Spotted Peccary label changed your musical outlook and compositional style and how did you work with Howard Givens on your new Milestones album? Is there a story behind joining the roster at Spotted Peccary?

Hollan Holmes: It's really too early to say, to be honest, because so much has yet to happen, with regard to my first release. However, I can say that Howard Givens had no small part in how this album was brought to fruition. I met briefly with Howard at a Steve Roach concert in Tucson Arizona in 2017. We got to talking and both of us were interested in my joining Spotted Peccary. In December of 2018, I turned in the music to Howard. What happened next is crucial to understanding why my new album sounds the way it does. Howard listened to the new material and I could tell he wanted to say more than he was initially telling me. I think he was afraid of hurting my feelings… musicians can be a thin-skinned lot sometimes, so I assured him that I was okay with an honest critique, no matter how harsh, I just wanted his unvarnished perspective. From there forward, Howard gave me a thorough critique and that conversation changed everything. For the first time, I had a professional in my corner, very gently guiding me in a better direction and making suggestions on how to improve the final music on this project.

He noted that the project lacked any cohesive direction; there was no theme; some songs were too repetitive; some sounded unfinished and some just simply didn't belong. This was, of course, a bit hard to hear, since no one had ever offered such a critical take on my musical efforts before. Howard really fulfilled the job of producer on this project and it was this advice that changed everything about how I moved forward on the music. I took what he said to heart and four months later delivered Milestones. There was now a common theme, tying all the music together. Some songs were heavily edited, some were tweaked just a bit, entirely new songs were written and some were removed altogether, because they simply did not fit. Had it not been for Howard's careful attention to the details, the music simply would not sound the way it does. Any success that this album enjoys is due, in no small part, to Howard Givens and his expertise for which I'm deeply thankful. The entire team at Spotted Peccary has been in my corner from 'Day One'. Howard stressed that he did not want to interrupt in any way my creative process, just that certain elements needed my attention. I don't know if he knows just how important his observations were to this album.

mwe3: Also is there a reason you call your first album of the 2020’s Milestones and is the cover art for Milestones one of your photographs? What does the 8 stones in the art signify? Also have you been painting a lot these days? The Milestones cover art looks more like a photo than a painting!

Hollan Holmes: This album had no title when I turned the music in to Spotted Peccary and it was clear that the project had no theme. While working on an album cover concept with some river rocks, the idea for Milestones hit me. After that, everything began to come together very quickly. I now had a cohesive theme and I began tying everything together. The song names changed, the music changed and the visual development concept was solidified. The eight stones don't necessarily mean anything, other than the connection to the Milestones theme. I was especially pleased with the pattern of the stones, though. I must have taken several hundred photos of various arrangements of river rocks for this project. Daniel Pipitone, Spotted Peccary's in-house graphic designer, took my photos, listened to the album and put together the final design and layout for the custom CD wallet, insert and CD. This is the first time I've not done my own album art from start to finish, but I must confess, Daniel did an amazing job of carrying through the Milestones theme and tying all the visual elements together in a very unique and beautiful way. I'm very happy with the final product. Because my art career is my primary income, I've been spending the vast majority of my time painting and traveling to locations in the Desert Southwest to paint and gather reference material for future paintings. Juggling these two careers makes for an insane amount of work, but I love what I do, so it's a rewarding job. I will probably incorporate some actual paintings into the next album's design.

mwe3: Tell us about your frames of mind while recording Milestones and is there a way to compare it musically to Prayer To The Energy and your earlier albums? Seems like there’s a lot of diversity on Milestones, considering there are ten tracks that clock in a seven minutes or less per track. Did you want to include a variety of different electronic music styles on Milestones to maximize the amount of potential listeners?

Hollan Holmes: That's a good question. I think it's tough to compare this album to Prayer To The Energy, because it really is a different album. I really wanted to explore a more electronic feel this time around, leaning into the EDM realm, with regard to the sound design and melodic structure of this new music. I don't know if I'll do much more music like this, but I really needed to explore it for myself, just to see what I could do. Also, I kept the tracks fairly short, because the shorter songs are a bit easier to digest, but in the future, I do want to explore longer form song structures. I know that deviating from my usual style is a risk and that I might lose some of my audience, but taking risks is how we grow.

In fact, the last song on the album, “Ayyappan”, is about growth. My mood was always upbeat, except at the end of production when I wrote “The Truth Laid Bare”. That song was written the day after we had to have our sixteen year old Boston Terrier, Delilah, put down. I was so utterly distraught emotionally when I wrote that piece. Losing her destroyed me for weeks and I'm still dealing with it. To this day, I cannot listen to this song without being moved to tears. It's the most emotionally charged music I've ever written. I loved her so much. The song deals with the ultimate truth that life is finite. We're here for a very short period of time, so it's important that we do something valuable and meaningful and share as much love as possible with the time we are given. That was the last song written for Milestones and it just poured out of me like a river when I wrote it. This album does have a lot of diversity to it. It wasn't intended, I just create whatever ideas come to me and if I can tie them into the album effectively, I do.

mwe3: When was the music for Milestone written and recorded? You said there was a three years wait between Milestones and Prayer To The Energy so did the music come in bursts of creativity or did it take time to formulate and conceptualize it?

Hollan Holmes: The initial concepts were written between March 2017 and December 2018. The album was completely reworked from there to April 2019. Due to Spotted Peccary's release schedule, it would be ten more months before release. I was laid off from my job in the film/animation industry in October 2016, at which time 2017 became a rebuilding year, where I switched gears into that of full-time artist, so that was my priority. The music got moved to the back burner, so production took longer than normal. I worked on music as often as I could, but it was secondary to other responsibilities. That and Spotted Peccary's production schedule resulted in the longer gap between releases. That gap will be dramatically shorter moving forward. My next release will likely happen around a year from now, perhaps a bit longer, but not too much. I signed a three-record deal with Spotted Peccary.

mwe3: What else did Howard Givens and Chad Kettering bring to the sound of Milestones and can you cite anyone else who helped get the sound right on the album?

Hollan Holmes: Kettering always brings his A-Game. He has mastered my last five albums and co-mastered Milestones and always makes my work sound so much better than when I give it to him. However, this time around, Howard Givens found room to make some subtle, but important improvements, due to possessing some unique hardware that Kettering simply did not have. Between the two of them, they did an amazing job in making my music sound as good as it possibly could. With regard to my end of production, I have a small core of trusted individuals whose opinions and observations I trust and I relied on them to give feedback on my works-in-progress. They, too, contributed to how I wrote the final arrangements on this album.

mwe3: Tell us about the variety of synthesizers featured on Milestones and also about the computer programs and software featured on the album. You also list the ADK music computer and the speaker monitors used as well, so tell us how it all serves to enhance your music and were there any new additions to your rig this time around?

Hollan Holmes: In 2018, due to our taking in my mother-in-law, so that we could care for her, I had to move my studio to a much smaller space, so that dramatically limited the number of synths that I could set up. Also, I ran into some midi issues that will require some hardware upgrades that I'm not currently financially prepared to make, so once again, in the interest of expediency, I went with an all-software approach this time. My original ADK computer was getting quite long in the tooth and was experiencing some issues, so I upgraded to a 1200 watt ADK Pro Audio system, running an Intel Core i9-9900K 8-Core 3.6 GHz processor, 5TB worth of SSD Hard drives, 64 gigs of RAM and a GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6 graphics card. I can stack a hundred soft synths and this machine doesn't so much as blink! It's amazing. ADK builds a great machine, optimizes it for music production and provides the best tech support I've ever experienced from a computer company. I'm running Propellerhead's Reason 11 as my primary DAW, but I also use Presonus Studio One IV. Both are killer DAWs, but there are aspects regarding synth automation programming within Reason that make it my go-to environment for creating music. I've been using Reason since Version 2 and it's just mind-boggling how far they've come.

With regard to synths, wow, where do I start? There are so many. Oddly enough, one of the synths I use most often, is the among the simplest of all. Reason's Subtractor hasn't changed much since V2, but it's still one of my favorites. Stupid simple, but very powerful if you're willing to dig deep and experiment. I think I probably have over 300 patches by now for that synth. Europa got a workout on this album, as well. Can't say enough good things about that synth. Another favorite is Rob Papen's PredatorRE. Omnisphere plays a prominent role on Milestones, as well. Many others, including a lot of Kontakt based sounds, found their way into my work, including a number of Heavyocity plugins, which are very useful for dramatic risers and epic, hull-rattling hits.

At some point, my studio will be back in a space where I can have my full set-up and the next album will see heavy use of my analog synths, which include a Moog Prodigy, Oberheim Matrix 12, Synthesizers.com Portable 88 modular system, Sequential Prophet 600, Dave Smith Instruments Pro-2, Prophet 12 and OB-6, two Korg MS2000s and a Korg Wavestation. I monitor my mixes using a pair of Focal Solo-6 monitors and a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones. Both have a nice flat response and are plenty accurate for my needs.

mwe3: Will you release another album on Spotted Peccary next year and what other hopes and wishes are on your timeline and wish list for 2020 and beyond?

Hollan Holmes: I will. My next release through Spotted Peccary should take place in mid-2021. I signed a three-record deal with them and I'm already done with about 2/3rds of the next album. I'll be sharing some of that with Howard in about a month, but I want to get some hardware up and running for that project, before I complete it. I also have a couple of side projects that I want to pursue, which are collaborations with other artists, but I'm keeping that on the down-low, for now, because I don't like announcing things until they're solidified. I'm definitely excited about the future.





 

 
   
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