INTERVIEW: John Reidar Holmes [Sound Matter]

today06/08/2022 19

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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.

And your last job? Where is born? And where do you want to lead? What message would you like to convey to the public?

Don’t settle for what’s popular. Welcome a challenge and embrace long tracks.

How was your last project born?

The tracks in ‘When Footprints Meet Beacons’ are all recorded using a particular module called the Instruo Harmoniag. harmonàig – Harmonic Patching – Instruō Modular – Glasgow, Scotland ( . It allows you to play chords on a modular synthesizer which is quite unusual since most modulars are mono instruments. It allows my modular synth to play chords that I can play melodies over or play other generative synthesizers patches together with.

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 existence and let go of the present.

As for your studio, what is it currently composed 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 instrument you would never get rid of, no matter what?

My guitar. It is the beginning and the end of my music.

What was the last record store you visited? And what did you salvage from there?

I visited a local one in Malmö called Skivesset and I bought a ton of Beethoven Lps with my Dad.

Do you have hope for the future of music? How would you like the future of the music industry to be?

The music industry is in a bad place in my opinion. Streaming, Spotify and digitalisation of music / moving away from physical formats is bad for the artists and bad for the audience. It’s hard to ”care” about music that’s just on your phone that is always available and limitless. There is dedication and love for music that you buy and keep and play many times and you can show it to your kids. Spotify is the McDonald’s of music and their streams pay badly. I would like to see a world where musicians get payed for their work properly and can make a living out of it. The main hindrance to creating good music is having a job. There needs to be space and the opportunity to allow that to happen on a big scale. The best music that is coming out today is self produced and on small indie labels. The big labels don’t put out anything that’s worth a damn. Only dance floor bangers and commercial radio stuff that’s not worth listening to. Where are the new Pink Floyds and Led Zeppelins and Tangerine Dreams? Where are the new Leonard Cohens and Bob Dylans? They’re working day jobs and putting out home made records with tiney audiences.

Can you reveal some future projects to us?

I have a string of singles that I’m going to release after the summer of 2022 and the spring of 2023 and I’m going to pitch them around to lots of labels to try and increase my audience.

What makes you happy?

Music and the chance to play what comes up in my head.

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.

Written by: Alejandro Serrano

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