“You Belgians really have a better taste in music” - a talk with San Holo at Tomorrowland
After playing a set for the sweaty but hyped up people of Tomorrowland on this boiling hot Friday evening, San Holo took the time to have a chat with Chase before he had to take a plane towards his next gig. We talked about playing in bands, today's music scene, Belgian artists and what sparked his interest in making music.
San, this isn’t your first time at Tomorrowland, what do you think of the concept?
This has to be my 4th time here! I think it’s very cool, every year I walk around the site to see what the new themes of that year are. To me it’s kind of the EDC or Coachella of Europe.
But Coachella is something different though. It has a great variety in artists and genres. There’s something for everyone. That’s what I like these days: It’s becoming hard to draw a clear line between genres and you can come across rock, electronic and hip hop all melted into one piece of music. I really like the idea of a blurred line between genres, that was also the main idea of the new album I’ve been working on.
Speaking about playing instruments: You’ve been playing in bands for a long time. Do you ever miss the chemistry between band members?
Absolutely. I think you can never replace the feeling of playing together with other musicians. It really is something magical. What I also like about playing real instruments is that each time you record, every take is unique. I recorded several instruments on the album, like guitars, vocals and even toy keyboards.
Skrillex got his band From First To Last back together. Do you ever feel the itch to play in a band again?
Oh man, I really love that band! I’m really into those rock and post-hardcore genres as well.
But yeah, I certainly feel that. Sometimes I even feel a kind of disconnection in the scene I’m currently in. There’s a lot of guys that wanted to become a DJ from the start. I was never like that. I’ve always wanted to make music. I’m doing my thing as a DJ and producer now, but I still want to keep using my musical background in my tracks.
Ever thought about bringing a live band with you on tour?
Yes absolutely! I’d love to perform alongside a live band and maybe someday that’s going to happen, but the thing is: it’s incredibly expensive to tour with a full band. And above that, if for example the drummer breaks his leg, you have to cancel your shows.
Being an electronic music producer is very convenient and you can do everything on your own terms. All the bands I’ve played in in the past broke up at some point and I thought “You know what, I’ll just do everything on my own!”. And that’s when 'San Holo' was born!
What artist or song made you fall in love with producing music?
Have you ever heard of the bands 'Exposions in the Sky’ and 'Sigur Rós’? Those bands combined their music with produced sounds and when I first heard it, I thought “Wow, how do they do that?”. So I started experimenting with recordings and eventually I stumbled across the hip hop and trap music scene. After a while my tracks really started to take off and now I’m here!
But for my upcoming album I decided to go back to my roots. I’ve recorded a lot of guitars on the drops and there’s also a lot more ambient parts. This time I really took my time to develop my own unique sound and I really hope people will appreciate that. I can imagine that some people might have to get used to it though.
You were such a stay-at-home kinda guy before things started to take off. In what way do you think your career has affected you, personally, and your personal life?
True. When I was younger, I sometimes even skipped going on vacation with my parents because I was afraid to fly in an airplane. So yeah, that has definitely changed over the years. I used to really enjoy staying in my room and making music.
One day I got asked to play a set for a radio show, but I never DJ’d before. So I decided to quickly rent a DJ setup and learn how to use it. All those buttons and knobs looked a bit scary honestly. I’m much more comfortable with a guitar than behind the decks. I just don’t have to think when I play the guitar, it’s really become a part of me.
Do you have any affiliation with the Belgian hip hop scene and what do you think of the scene? What is the biggest difference between the Belgian and Dutch hip hop scenes in your opinion?
Do you guys know 'Tandenbijten’ by Pepe? I think that’s such a hard track! But who’s also Belgian? (thinks) I think it’s a shame that Belgian hip hop doesn’t really take off in the Netherlands.
But you guys have an amazing scene when it comes to rock and indie bands! dEUS, Soulwax... We don’t really have any similar bands in the Netherlands. I’m convinced you Belgians have a better taste in music. You guys are much more open minded. The dutch are more into ‘mainstream hits’.
We had such a great chat with San that we went way over our time slot without noticing. So we decided to wrap it up so he could still be on time to catch his plane to the next stop of his tour. Willem (tour manager), we're very sorry! ;)
San Holo’s upcoming ‘album1’ will be out soon.