Will Holland aka Quantic is a producer and multi instrumentalist who has been putting out constant work for the past ten years. He started out as a DJ and producer traveling the world and through his travels discovered new music from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Through his record digging and constant travels Quantic’s sound continued to change, influencing the projects that he released. He has released various live albums under the aliases, the Quantic Soul Orchestra, The Flowering Inferno, The Limp Twins, to his most recent project Quantic and his Combo Babaro. Theses projects span the list of genres consequently eliminating any notion of genre based music, using influences from jazz, soul, hip-hop, reggae, and cumbia. His label Tru Thoughts just released a The Best of Quantic, in September, a compilation of all the music he has released in the past ten years. I caught up with Quantic while he was on tour in Miami and asked him about his journey as a musician and how his innovative sound has evolved through the years. 

Can you first tell us about yourself, where you’re from and how you got started with music?

I’m from Worcester in England, which is in the middle of England, near the Welsh border. My father was really into folk music,  and he was obsessed with American blue grass and he played the banjo. He was also a computer engineer. I grew up in a household that had a lot of folk instruments: banjos, ukuleles, dulcimers and pianos, but we also had computer equipment and my father was programming and stuff like that. So basically I got into sampling and eventually started making beats in my bedroom, and my mother bought me a sampler when I was 18. And then after that I had a friend who was on a record label, and he was like, “oh you should send some tracks to Breakin’ Bread records.” And that’s how I got started and then I got signed to Tru Thoughts.  I already had an album made and they were interested in putting that out and that was about 11 or 12 years ago.

And since then I’ve been moving around a lot, I first moved to Briton when I was first signed to Tru Thoughts, and then after that I started touring throughout Europe and got involved in recording in Costa Rica, then eventually Panama, and now Colombia so its grown naturally.

Can you tell us how your sound has evolved from your first album Apricot Morning, to your most recent release Quantic and his Combo Barbaro in Colombia and how your travels have influenced your sound?

I was always interested in other sounds but I would basically be traveling through my record collection. I would be seeing the world through the lens of records, I couldn’t really travel but I would spend a lot of time going to stores and kind of find records from South America and the Caribbean, and reggae music. We have a big reggae history from Jamaica and other music, especially where I grew up which is near Birmingham so you get UB40 and these different groups that have been special for us. You have a big kind of influence from that kind of sound and culture. So I guess I came from that background listening to a lot of drum and bass, garage, and a lot of electronic music. And then as I’ve grown older I’ve been more influenced by more live music. I started to really get into Afro-Caribbean and African music and the boundaries of electronic and acoustic are very very thin, and it’s kind of like the same thing pretty much.

I am a really big fan of Latin music, rumba, and cumbia, bossa nova, can you tell us the importance of folkloric music and music that makes you dance, here at Revivalist we cover a lot of modern jazz and a big issue now in jazz is that it doesn’t make people dance, a lot of your music is dance driven, why is this important to you?

I think that is the most upsetting thing about jazz is that jazz has become middle aged, all the youth, the people who were at the fore front of the time were making music that was for dancing, jazz was for getting down to. That’s what is what it was all about truly. Back in the day in New Orleans and stuff, that sound was about getting down. And now it has become this thing where you have to be an intellectual to get into it. I see personally, this might be probably controversial in jazz circles but I would say the flame has been carried, like the lantern of jazz or whatever, has definitely been carried on by Latin jazz. In South America and Cuban music people like Cachao from Cuba and all these other groups that have such a jazzy element.

And folklore is very much important, the nice thing about Latin music in particular that I really like is that it has a lot of elements that I really like about African music and has also a lot of Arabic elements that I really like. Its pretty much a compilation of all the things I like in music. Like Nigerian music for example there’s so much of that kind of sound in Latin Music. I think basically Latin music can sometimes be compartmentalized by a nation so it’s very hard to come across a kind of Pan-American appreciation of Latin music. Like people who come from Colombia they’ll only listen to cumbia and people who come from the Dominican Republic only listen to bachata and you don’t get sometimes that mix. The reason I really like countries like Panama for example in Panama you have funk, soul, cumbia, you have such a mix of different countries you get a mix of so many different sounds.

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It’s dope that you are able to travel to absorb these different cultures and sounds and I think its a sign of our times, how important to you is it to learn about the people and the culture that you are using the music from, because you live in Cali, Colombia now so obviously its important for you to physically be there while you make music.

Well yea that’s the danger of the internet you get this kind of false hope that somehow you are going to become all connected to everything. Like suddenly we have all these blogs and all these informants that help inform us about different sounds but at the same time to actually get involved physically and be there rarely happens. Sometimes I feel like, I know this sounds like a bit much, but I feel that with Britishness we don’t have the concept of folklore, that’s  one hundred years ago gone. We’ve done away with that in the UK since the 70’s our folklore is Led Zeppelin, our sort of pop music is our folklore. So it’s nice for me to get out of that and I enjoy getting into a more community-based kind of scene. In Cali, Colombia there is so much going on and so much to get involved with. I don’t feel like I am completely joined, I’m like an artist in residence, it’s not like I’ve joined the tribe.  I’m not making wholeheartedly cumbia or wholeheartedly salsa, I’m not a one hundred percent salsero. But I’m almost like doing my own thing with the music influences. It is just a residence. I think it is important to get the physical aspect, I really wanted to do it.  I also felt a little bit stale and a little uninspired about where I was living.

It is also interesting like with technology its almost incredible we have access to things that back in the day even thirty years ago it would be impossible to travel and record eight channels or sixteen channels of audio. But I kind of feel like its almost like people aren’t making use of it. There are very few people who are traveling and making use of this. I can just go to the Caribbean and get a bunch of mics and record, that’s really special.

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You’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of legendary musicians from all over the world. Can you talk about the process of getting all these musicians in the room together.

A lot of the Quantic stuff has been more of an electronic vibe. I’ve been working with a lot people but mainly people on different continents who would never meet each other but they are working together on the same record. Then the idea with the Flower Inferno and Como Babaro was kind to get everyone in the same room. I got a spare room in my apartment in Cali, Colombia and I converted that into a studio, and I bought an old piano and set up some microphones. I can get five people in that room. There’s something interesting almost like an audio photography sort of element about having people in a room and having to get it right. There’s a big resurgence of that kind of process. Certainly rock music has that kind of aspect just getting the band in the room and playing together. I think what is particularly interesting about Colombian and also just Latin American music in general is that the musicianship is very high, there’s a lot of classically trained people, so in the case of getting it right you don’t have to worry about that. You don’t have to worry about a musicians proficiency, that’s a given, you just have to get the feel right.

So the key guy I started working with in Cali is Afredo Linares. He is a Peruvian born piano player, born in Lima. He’s now in his late sixties, but for me like really one of the heavier guys, just an incredible piano player. And incredible because he does great blue grass, Latin jazz player, and boogie woogie hahaha everything. So he’s been really instrumental, I’ve been working with him a lot. He’s one of those guys, like if I’m setting up the rhythm section in the studio he’s really important. Another key person in Cali I’ve been working with is this singer named Nidia Gongora, she she’s a cantadora so she sings folkloric music from her region.  And her mother and  grandmother were all singers, so she is part of a long lineage of singers. She is from the Pacific Coast of Colombia, which is quite remote and is mostly Afro Colombian community. She is basically a very interesting person, and super creative. She’s a great writer, and that’s important as well because in Colombian music especially it can be quite male dominated, especially if you look at the Atlantic Coast. On the Pacific Coast its kind of cool because there is a strong female element in that music.

Lastly can you talk a little bit about your label Tru Thought. They are so  dope and totally support creativity in music. Can you talk about your relationship with your label Tru Thoughts and how they have given you the space to create new sounds.

 The good thing about Tru Thoughts is that they have been very supportive, committed and they’ve also been very trusting so they have never really told me what to do, they have just left me to it, which has been really good, because I’ve really just wanted to do my own thing. They were completely cool when I decided to move to Colombia and completely changed my sound, which most labels would freak out about. They’ve been very committed.

And I guess the record industry as a whole, over the past ten years it has changed significantly. The European music industry is a very different beast from the U.S. industry. The nice thing about Europe is that it’s very big since they are many different countries, sometimes there becomes this standardization across the U.S. But, so much has happened in the past ten years, like when I first started making music there was no concept of downloads and that has changed tremendously so it’s been really interesting to see all the changes.

 

 Interview by Tamara Davidson

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