Following a string of top notch techno, we sit down with the Portuguese techno steward, Holldën.
Dark, industrial techno may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the Portuguese electronic music sound. But don’t be fooled by the countries sun kissed beaches and endless summer nights as beneath the surface exists a sound culture hammering out banging techno on par with the sounds of Berlin and Detroit.
One such artist throwing down these sounds is Holldën. A member of the Portuguese Disturb • collective, founder of Kuiper Sound with releases on a range of labels including Affekt, DEAD CERT. and Sample + Hold, it’s fair to say that Holldën is smashing it.
Despite the clubs and festivals being closed, this techno producer has been as busy as ever. A stream of high quality records have been getting dropped including his appearance on Disturb •’s 'Half Decade' compilation, the hair raising 'Moonscope' EP on Dead Cert and his most recent release, 'Reach of Contact' on his own Kuiper Sound. Each one as good as the last, showing real consistency and knack for a sound designed to hammer out in warehouses till the next afternoon.
We’ve had a chat with Holldën following his recent spout of tracks in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic to find out more about one of Portugal’s hottest techno exports and his thoughts…
Hey, how are you?
Cleared for lift off.
What was your first thought this morning?
Nectarines. I bought these heavenly nectarines at the local market and I‘ve been waiting for them to get the right consistency and ripeness.
What’s got you motivated right now?
Every little daily measurement of improvement of my artistic skills.
How was your experience of Covid-19 lockdown?
I’ve been mesmerized with the political aspect of it and how it impacts each country’s response. It’s a good time to be European, given the circumstances. But I’ve tried not to be consumed with big predictions about the future. There’s still much we don’t know and the situation remains somewhat unpredictable in the next few months. I think one universal rule will persevere, though: the better the music, the better your standing.
How did you fill the time, learn any new tricks, did it make you more productive or not?
I’m focusing on music and on keeping a healthy work discipline, which I balance with an almost daily exercise regime. I’m constantly learning new things. That’s one of the most palpable joys I know. It’s on par with the great revelations of light, contemplation, going to sleep, waking up — simple pleasures with big truths which supersede the typically undemocratic teenage mindset. It’s not that it makes me more productive — I’ve always been a tireless worker on my music — but it makes me more aware of my strengths and weaknesses, a more lucid creator, an astute hunter for the hidden flower in each sound element.
What couldn’t you have survived lockdown without?
Food, water and knowing my parents were safe.
Do you think the pandemic will change the way we operate nightlife?
There’s a number of shifting factors that make it difficult to predict an outcome. One of them is how many clubs will survive this. Clubs are the lifeline for underground, local, DJs. And how many techno musicians will be able to remain in the business, as opposed to finding other income sources? We know the fat cats will always be hovering around the bowl, ready to retake their God given spots in festival line ups... I think this is troubling in terms of the ability the scene has to regenerate itself and stay relevant. Also, is the audience as loyal as we thought it was? Sure, there’s many people thirsty for partying again... But can we be sure people’s musical habits and priorities didn’t shift because of the prolonged lockdown? Dance music and domestic curfews don’t go well together... So, I guess we’ll know sooner or later.
But, at this point, I believe the fundamentals will remain in place: the performer, the medium and the audience. We’re not going to move parties into gravity-free chambers and let Roy Batty take over the DJ booth — not for now, at least... As I’ve written in a recent opinion piece for A Cabine, the pandemic revealed in no uncertain terms that dance music relies on a live audience like no other genre. Most people don’t go home and play Hadone on their speakers. Techno is like this secret lover you have, with its hint of transgression and discovery. And you don’t want your secret lover barging into your house, your daily habits, blurring the magic... So, there’s a craving, but it’s to reconquer the lost past, not to do away with it. Resumption, not revolution. All the policies have been aimed at preserving our former way of life in a bubble as much as possible, waiting for the “all clear”...
Aside from the ongoing pandemic, you’re still getting tunes out which we’re glad to hear! Your most recent release was with DEAD CERT. Records and the 'Moonscope' EP. Talk us through the release?
Well, it was a thorough and lengthy process of trial and error, until the label and I settled on those 4 tracks as ideal for a coherent yet multidimensional EP. It helped me focus more on specific textures and structures, so it was also a learning process that way. I think it’s possibly my most consistent effort to date.
What inspired the release and its track’s names?
Oh, I had a bunch of ragtag track titles going on, and was ready to concoct some outsized album name. After discussing with from Jack! Who? from the label, he advised me to keep it simple, and I thought the moon theme, substantiated by these four quixotic phases, was a suiting image to the record’s aesthetics.
That was your debut release with the esteemed DEAD CERT. imprint, what drew you to the label?
I’ve been following the label for a while now. I know it's the right place for quality techno, but also a privileged platform for artists like me to reach the highest echelons of the scene. I wasn’t wrong.
You’re a member of the Disturb • collective and featured on their latest VA 'Half Decade'. How long have you been with these guys?
They’re responsible for loads of banging parties on the Iberian Peninsula as well as a solid discography of tunes - how did you begin working with them?
I caught their attention with some of my earlier releases, and also, I guess, because of the care I put into everything I do. There’s so much in being a techno producer that goes beyond the music part... And the way you treat each e-mail you write, prepare each post on social media, assemble every video, interact with others, promote your record, respond to interviews — all that. I guess, gives a good idea of your work ethics, rather than just throwing tracks in the air and hoping for the best. Since I won’t have this hurting my music production process, it means I put in way more hours than your average working schedule. Also, I never was part of any booking cartel, so my work is my bond, my calling card, and I’m damn proud of it, walking with my head held high and all that...
How would you describe Disturb • in 5 words?
A sound storm sweat apotheosis.
Have you much else planned for this year, new releases, etc?
Oh, yes... I work non-stop. I have a couple of EP’s coming up on Out-ER and Rhod. Plus a few more tracks on different VA’s, one of them for Figure.
Was there a party that changed your life?
No subsequent party could beat the first time I went to a club. It was as if all my unnamed prayers were being answered between those walls, in the form of light, freedom with a purpose and a pounding groove the size of my youth. It was the first time I really felt the unlimited power of being myself. For that I will be forever grateful to my friend Aurélio, who worked there and sneaked me inside. And to all my buddies who accompanied me to so many parties after that: Toi, Barradas, Matan, French, Paulinho, Grande, and others... My eyes get watery just speaking their names.
If you could play anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Japan. Because Japan.
Holldën’s 'Moonscope' EP is out now on DEAD CERT. Records - Buy
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