The 220th episode of our 12 Questions segment features producer Matt Holliday.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and Djing?
I’m 31 years old, born on 25th Feb 1984. I live in Birmingham, the second largest city in England. I dabbled with producing when I was in my early 20’s on and off for a few years, until about 4 years ago when really started to find my feet in the studio.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do.”
I would say my musical roots lie in trance, as this is what got me interested in music in the first place. When I was younger I was a fanatical cyclist, and pretty much devoted my life to it. I heard trance for the first time thanks to my brother, who played me Rank 1 ‘Airwave’. From then on I was totally hooked, next up was Ferry Corsten’s remix of Barbers Adagio For Strings. I never knew dance music, with so much emotional and feeling even existed before this, and I had nothing but admiration for the people who made it. I knew it was what I wanted to do, but at the time I didn’t know if I would be any good at. I’m a firm believer of following your dreams, however crazy they may seem, if you want it and you’re willing to work hard you can get there. You get out of it, what you put into it.
3. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
Learning to produce was difficult, and I must add i’m still learning. I don’t think there’s a day when you can know everything about production, but there certainly comes a times when thinks just start to click. I haven’t taken any courses, and I can’t read music. I’m totally self taught, and I judge every part of the production process purely on the way it sounds. I didn’t really have any contacts to help when I first started up. However, lifelong friend and fellow DJ/producer Adam Thomas aka Facade had been into producing for a little longer than me back then, and when I first got a copy of logic we sat together and he helped me with some of the basics.
4. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
It really depends on my mood when I start a track, normally the start is the hardest bit for me, because if you get this wrong, then everything that follows will normally not sound good either. Sometimes I can sit down and the ideas are pouring out quicker than I can lay them down. Other times, I can sit there for hours and not be happy with anything. In this case I would close logic, and listen to a recent mix by one of my favorite artists to see if that can get my juices flowing.
5. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
At the moment I am lucky enough to be able to concentrate fully on my career. A normal producing day would be to wake up around 8am, have a coffee and breakfast whilst checking emails, then I’ll do a little online promotion for any gigs or releases coming up, listen to promo’s and then I’ll be looking around on the net for inspiration. Normally I’ll have an idea of the type of track I want to make, which for me is important as it makes the whole process go alot smoother. Once I’ve opened logic and I’m in full on producing mode, I can be sat there from anything between 8 to 20+ hours. I prefer to lay as much down as I can in one sitting, because I find that if I come back to projects days or weeks later the mood I was in when I started it is totally gone. When I’m not working on music, I devote most of my time to my wife, and stepdaughter. I love the outdoors, and whenever we get the chance we’ll go on a daytrip somewhere or a long walk.
6. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? and do these genres or artists have a direct effect on your own productions?
I’m a big lover of all music in general. When I first started out trance was all I was interested in, but as you grow and get older your taste changes and there’s a time and place for everything. Outside of electronic music I love a bit of 80’s music. My wife Neli is Bulgarian, and she introduced me to some amazing traditional Bulgarian folk music, which more often than can help to trigger an idea for a track or part of a track.
7. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
The first CD I ever bought was Sash ‘Color The World’. I was about 16 years old and I was crazy for it. The last physical piece of music I bought was a second hand vinyl: BT Featuring Tori Amos ‘Blue Skies’ about 2 years ago.
8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
Before music I raced bikes, XC mountain bikes, cyclo x, time trials, criterium’s and road races anything from 10 to 100 miles. In my last year of racing I won 12 races and was ranked 5th best in the UK and my dream back then was to go on to ride in the Tour De France.
9. Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
I’m learning of lots of new artists all of the time. Sometime’s I’ll hear a track, and look for the artist online to follow them thinking they are some big name, and be shocked to see that they only have a few hundred followers on facebook or soundcloud etc. One in particular is Naden, I first heard of him around 2 years ago when Markus Schulz played one of his tracks Crumbler. Since then I’ve followed his work and for me he is unique. He has crafted his own sound, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s people like him, Gai Barone, Audio Noir, Facade, AudioStorm, Walkboy who stand out, aren’t afraid to be different, spend years carving their own sound and deserve to be playing the big sets around the world and making a decent living from it.
10. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
Gai Barone, Martin Roth, Airwave, Naden, Walkboy, AudioStorm, Manu Riga, Facade – even though there’s a few different styles there I find inspiration from all of them, weather it be the structure of a track, the melody, emotion, atmosphere or groove. Other inspiration can come from anything and everything. If I’m in a particular good mood, or even if something bad has happened, I try to get the emotion into the track weather it be dark, sad, sexy or a feel good vibe.
11. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
Carving your own sound is probably one of the hardest things to do, and to do this you need to trust your opinion and not be scared to be a bit out of the box. Listen to different genres, and draw inspiration from as much as you can, then when you are producing don’t just do what you know works, try to make what you want to hear on the dancefloor. Also, don’t settle for the very first thing you make weather it be some beats, or a melody or whatever else. Ask yourself is this really as good as it can be or can I make it better? Does it fit what you wanted for the rest of the track? You have to experiment, there’s alot of trial and error involved just don’t be scared and remember every part of the production process is equally important as the other: the build, the break, the climax, the mixdown, the mastering. Put 110% into every aspect of the track and you will get there. You need to get the best from everything you decide to use. Add fx units on to tracks, even if you don’t know what they do, just play around and automate some of the parameters. Soon enough you’ll know what’s what. You may not know the technical term but it doesn’t matter aslong as you can hear that’s happening and like it. I’m not going to say avoid using samples, because that would be unrealistic but what you can do, is piece together several different samples together with fx and automation to create something. This way your are making them yours and unique.
12. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
If it was the last track I’d ever play out, it would have to be one of mine and I’d choose a new I’ve recently finished that not many people have heard yet. It’s called ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ and it’s very special to me. It’s a mixture of progressive, trance and tech but has a killer melody and a huge breakdown. It’s sad yet happy, the name says it all. It’s the sad truth but we just have to get on with it. Watch out for previews on my website (http://www.djmattholliday.com)in the near future.
‘Natureal Selection’ is out now on Stellar Fountain, you can purchase the release: here