Q&A: Quantic (AKA Will Holland) talks Brooklyn, beats, DJing and Dubai
Producer, composer, guitarist, crate-digger, DJ ... whatever he does, Will Holland is a man on the most intimate terms with groove. As the studio talent behind Quantic, and the bandleader behind The Quantic Soul Orchestra, he’s been creating and curating beats, basslines and hooks of the innately danceable kind for more than 15 years.
Born in the UK and releasing on trendsetting Tru Thoughts since 2001, Holland began using samples and breaks on a series of expansive LPs, before founding the Soul Orchestra, a live, retro, funk-flavoured touring outfit with Holland on six-string.
In 2007 he moved to Cali, Colombia, and spent much of the next seven years channelling the rhythms of South America, recording old masters and digging forgotten classics to compile mixes and compilations like the party favourite, Quantic Presents Tropical Funk Experience.
With 15 albums to his name by the age of 35, and a DJ gig at Dubai’s The Music Room for the Deep Crates Cartel, we dialled Holland’s new home in New York to talk all things of a groove-based nature.
So you swapped Cali for Brooklyn, a place the rest of the world is led to believe is centre of the universe right now ...
It wants to be. The interesting thing is, there’s a really nice sense of entrepreneurial spirit, a lot of start-ups, new business models being tried. It’s an inspiring place to live, a space for people in their twenties and thirties in the city. But it is changing a lot — Brooklyn ten years ago was one thing, very warehouse, but now there are a lot of condos, and a big change in the kind of people that are coming.
What did you get out of your seven years in Columbia?
At that point in my life I was really looking for a change of scene. I get bored quite easily, creatively, and it was complete immersion in something that I had immense curiosity for, that I didn’t really know much about. I was obsessed with the kind of records Columbia put out, and it was a big thing to just go out every weekend and look for music, research recordings, meet musicians.
Sometimes we don’t have an awareness of what’s going on in other countries unless we’re there — it’s the same with Dubai or the Middle East — you can sit in London or New York and go “there’s nothing going on over there”, but as soon as you get off the plane, you realise there is.
And what are you saying about Dubai from your New York apartment? First time?
I have been there once. I had a few days about ten years ago — it’s cool, I really enjoyed it. I like the immersive experience of going somewhere totally different. If there were some frustrations ... I really like walking on the street and just having a bumble around, and that’s something you can’t really do in Dubai. And like a lot of places that have a big expat population, there can be a sense of cultural starvation. It’s often hard to garner a scene — there’s events and things happen, but an actual group of producers or dancers or poets who regularly work together, in an environment that really inspires them — that tends to be hard.
How much of your DJ set is prepared in advance?
I’d say half-half. I feel people are coming out for Quantic and this might be the one time in the next two years they can and will, so I definitely want to play a lot more of my own songs than I once did. It’s a weird one, you can be a good producer but not a good DJ, or some people I go to see because I like their music and they just play other people’s records and I’m like ... It’s a weird format sometimes: Are you coming to hear somebody’s inspirations? Someone’s performance? What are you doing? I feel it’s a little bit of a mix in my set — you don’t want to just come and play a bunch of old songs that people know, because they can listen to old Quantic songs in their bedrooms if they want ...
What do you get out of DJing? Is it something you do to support the other stuff, or do you get something distinct from it?
I’m coming across two types of shows — one is the dark room, great sound system, DJ somewhere in the room but not the focus, the music is the focus. And then the other is the type of show which is a large stage, bright lights, not so good sound system, DJ on the stage and the focus. Those ones I have more difficulty with, I don’t come to a club to give a visual performance. I’m not a whizz DJ, I’m not cutting, I’m not a master scratch DJ — I’m a music curator. I think I have good taste and selections. It’s generally not a good thing when you’re in the limelight as an icon, I have a problem with that.
• Quantic will perform a DJ set on Thursday, September 24, doors 9pm, at The Music Room, Majestic Hotel Towers, Dubai. Tickets Dh100 from Platinumlist here.
Updated: September 23, 2015 04:00 AM