John Reidar Holmes creates music that works in all settings and transcends genres. His openness to a wide range of sound is what has both made him a widely loved favourite, but also someone who operates in his own parallel musical world. We had a chance to talk to him, so enjoy your reading and check out his latest releases.
What was the first thing that attracted you to the world of electronic music?
The creation of sounds that don't occur in the natural world.
Do you remember any record or concert that changed everything?
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of The Moon. Listening to it with my Dad as a teenager, seeing it live in concert at the Roskilde Festival 2006 played by Roger Waters. Music for Airports -Brian Eno. A new way of making music was suddenly possible.
Since you got into this professionally, what have you missed the most nationally, internationally and on the contrary, what has helped you to grow the most, even to believe in yourself?
Sticking to making the music that I enjoy has been my guiding light in all music making and it makes me believe in myself. I don't make dace floor bangers, I don't make hits, I don't make Eurovision song contest stuff. It is a serious listening experince that I'm trying to create or nothing at all. Be true to your gut feeling, the rest is trying to please listeners who will forget you instantly.
How is the music scene in your city experiencing this murky pandemic situation?
It's quite vibrant now post pandemic.Interesting music is popping up here and there and people have begun to enjoy themselves again.
What are your favorite places to hang out in the city?
Inkonst, bars around Möllevången, some museums.
Have you had time to focus on making music, spending time with your family, or planning future projects?
Lots of time. The pandemic suddenly gave me lots of time to begin to create more music and to be with my family.
How was your last project born?
I submitted my music to Sound+Matter and came in with a demo and gave it to the owner. He listened to my Soundcloud music instead and loved it and the rest was history. I'm now part of the Sound+Matter family and release my music there and help to grow the label. My last project was an album called 'The Forgotten Art of Living' and was released on cassette at S+M.
What do you want to convey in this work? What is the concept behind?
I want to create a space for the listener to explore themselves in. Think of my music as a mirror. If you're in the right mood you'll want to have a look and reflect on your life.
As for your studio, what is your setup currently made of?
I record everything on a Zoom R24 and mix it all on my PC in Reaper using two Yamaha studio monitors. I also reference it on a pair of Shure studio headphones. My instruments are a custom built Eurorack modular synthesizer, a PRS Hollowbody 2 Piezo electric guitar, a Fender Stratocaster USA built electric guitar as well as a collection of other guitars. A Korg ARP Odyssey reissue synthesizer.
What is the one team you will never get rid of, no matter what?
The love and guidance I receive from my family and my life partner Shireen. Surround yourself with wise people and good things will happen.
What would you say is the definition of your sound?
Waking dream state enabler.
What was the last record store you visited and what did you get out of it?
I visited a local one in Malmö called Skivesset and I bought a ton of Beethoven Lps with my Dad.
I would like to add that I am in a collaboration with Dan/Spite Cathedral called Our Mothers Meds. We play new material for every release, but it generally focuses on modular and ambient synthesis, techno and dark ambient. We think of it as a kind of playground where we can try new things and release things to labels together and share the production costs. Please add this information to the interview. So far we have released a single and an album and we have a few more in the pipeline for 2022.
Initially a blues and jazz guitarist rooted in the sounds of the British blues and psychedelic explosion of the 60s and 70s, John has been a member of several bands in the same genre. While being part of a band and playing, creating and performing in a group was a formative experience, the music of those projects was never as meditative or as deep as it could have been due to the multiple musical influences of the band members. The Forgotten Art of Living was his first full length solo album with a record label, Sores (Sound+Matter). There have been other solo projects but those have been released privately on Bandcamp. The current album, 'Where Footprints Meet Beacons' also marks a shift in genre and instrumentation with earlier releases.
While earlier projects have been blues, rock and jazz orientated and performed on guitar and loop based synthesizers or a full rock band, 'Where Footprints Meet Beacons' is performed on a custom built modular synthesizer in the Eurorack format as well as electric guitar. Similar in style to his previous album 'The Forgotten Art of Living' but with a gentler sound. No digital software instruments were used and no overdubs were made in the recording process. When patched creatively and purposefully by the musician such a system can become self-playing and capable of unforeseen happy musical accidents. The system is both analog and digital, incorporating elements of both East and West Coast synthesis as well as modern digital modules focused on random sequenceing and modulation, physical modelling synthesis and granular FX processing. Technical jargon aside, the unit is capable of creating self playing and evolving musical soundscapes, drones and lush ambient music to listen and jam and dream away to.
"When Footprints Meet Beacons" is the most recent addition to the slowly growing Sound+Matter selection of John Reidar Holmes music. In recent years the Malmö-based artist has become a regular in our label, and that's for a reason. His glacial paced ambient drones, created with a very straightforward but highly-mastered guitar and modular synth centered setup offer our listeners a much-needed sonic escape from a world that gets more messed up by the day. While certainly feeling experimental and otherworldly at its core, Holmes' work somehow manages to remain accessible, personal, and humane. "When Footprints Meet Beacons" is an album that feels simultaneously distant and unknown but also welcoming and touching. John Reidar Holmes is not interested in busy arrangements, futuristic sound design, or the total deconstruction of timbre found in a lot of the current experimental music. Instead, he's focused on the gradual unfolding and structuring of textures, harmonics, and tones. His synth and guitar take turns in going in and out of focus thus fully guiding or carefully adding nuance to the narrative of the record. Holmes' transcending drones definitely shine at their brightest when experienced in an interrupted deep listening session so don't be afraid to give yourself to the music and let go of... well, everything else.