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Border Patrol with James Holden

Author: Aaron Roach
Monday, September 29, 2003
Sasha calls him "The Man". Just about everybody owns or knows one of his records. He's been called a pioneer, a fresh-faced stalwart of the electronic music scene and almost all of the big wigs who travel the world with a record bag, such as Digweed, Oakenfold and Nick Warren, are spinning his discs.

He's revolutionised electronic music as we know it, "unlearning" melodies to keep a fresh perspective on the way he produces raw sounds.

With a new label underway and a compilation which is receiving rave reviews in electronic music circles and is said to be one of the more important mix albums we've heard, it can only be one person. Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing James Holden.

With a background in classical music training, it's easy to understand how this would have helped Holden develop influential ideas. But how much of that influence carries on to this day-

"Lots, I think" Holden replies. "I only started after I began to learn the piano - it's a big help, though sometimes I have to work hard to unlearn bits so I can do something fresh. The best tunes I've done have been the ones full of wrong notes I think." Who can argue with that- It's this kind of mentality that gets to create new sounds, which is why it hasn't gone unnoticed.

As most of us are aware, the road to success can sometimes become long and complicated, and it doesn't help when the parents are in your ear trying to guide you to a steady income. Holden explains his process of dealing with the parental factor that came into play.

"At first they told me to stop wasting my time and concentrate on my studies." Holden continues. "But once they saw I could pay my rent with it they were happier. My dad even listens to my tracks, which I never thought would happen, as he hates dance music!"

Lucky for us, they agreed that Holden could go somewhere in life with his talent.

If he hadn't had the success he does now, could he lay down with a maths degree- Highly doubtful is the response. When asked what he would be doing if the music career hadn't taken off, Holden replies,

"Trying to make it take off."

Most of the producers and DJ's these days find early influences in the sounds that were being innovated way back when. Holden's the same, but has a twist. "Queen, Judas Priest, that kind of thing" Holden explains. "Then, a teacher at my school lent me his entire tape collection from early techno through to drum 'n' bass.

"I sold all my rock CDs."

Thus paving the way for "Horizons", Holden's inaugural tune that saw him jump from freeware music program obscurity. This, Holden says, was his lucky break.

"Definitely Nick Warren picking up on "Horizons" - he gave it a lot of support and pushed it to a lot of people. I owe him one for that." I'm sure Nick Warren's got the IOU in triplicate.

So, to the budding enthusiast, what is Holden's sound- More importantly, where does he want it go down the line-

"I'm useless with words," Holden says. "So I dunno how to describe it - lots of sad songs I guess. Where I'm at now is trying to make my music feel less like a cheesy sequencer Lego building and more like I'm playing the computer like it's a guitar - more human and raw.

"Since I got free of the label I was tied to before, I've been able to start stretching out a bit - it made me happy that techno DJ's picked up on Border Community's first release - but I wanted to keep trying more new things as I'm enjoying that."

Enjoyment seems to be the order of the day for Holden. October sees the release of Balance 005, the new compilation that is the latest in a series, which has seen the likes of Phil K, Sean Quinn and Bill Hamel attach their names to it. While the previous four have been great, Holden's takes a new approach of being a sound for the bedroom, or a Discman. He explains.

"I wanted to try and show people some of the music that I really love, that was the main thing, so it was quiet an easy process. Just