It’s been an incredibly introspective past few years for DJ and record producer, San Holo, who has maintained prominence in the EDM industry since his viral 2014 remix of Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode.”
The Dutch artist possesses a charming optimism unmatched by his genre’s contemporaries, one which compelled him to give songs on his new album, album1, titles like “self-love” and “brighter days.” Holo, formally known as Sander van Dijck, recently spoke with Bob Cut Mag after touring through San Jose to discuss his most experimental and intimate project to date.
Assuming the casual tone one would expect from a twenty-something year old DJ, San Holo’s remarks are generally easygoing and considerate, whether it be his advice for a successful relationship, which is “to be unconditionally yourself,” or the rationale behind making all of the new album’s song titles lowercased—“It’s just a thing that felt and looked good to me, especially with the hand-written font we have,” he later explained.
The blasé demeanor should not, nonetheless, be mistaken for one that lacks appreciation. “I get to make music on a daily basis full-time without having to work a side job,” said Holo. “That’s such an incredible thing to me and I’ll always be thankful.” Gratitude of this sort comes especially refreshing when egotism and the music industry appear, at times, almost inseparable.
Few are aware that album1, which debuted at number seven on Billboard’s Top Dance/Electronic albums chart, actually intended to capture Holo’s fleeting emotions during the six-month period it was created. “It is so humbling to see people singing along to the songs I wrote less than a year ago,” said Holo. “Especially when you realize that almost all of the songs had only been released for like two to three months when I started touring the album.”
Devising a particularly nostalgic emotional experience, Holo placed emphasis on the guitar, an instrument which has secured itself within his fond memories of childhood. “I started out playing guitar when I was thirteen and grew up listening to a lot of bands. Most of the bands I listened to, and still listen to, have this organic sound that I love. And it’s something I wanted to implement in my music,” he stressed. “In electronic music you can perfect and polish every minor detail until it sounds perfect.”
As has been made an apparent characteristic of album1, perfection is not the aim of San Holo’s music. “With the album, I recorded a lot of things through tape machines— tape just has these warbly, glitchy imperfections that make music feel so much more alive in my opinion,” said Holo. “I think what draws me to it are those imperfections.”
That ear for seemingly defective sounds indicates a larger habit that separates San Holo from other up-and-coming artists: a desire to recognize one’s own shortcomings. Instruments are merely a medium by which he comes to apprehend those realizations. “The options are endless with a guitar. You can bend notes, you can play beautiful soft chords, you can make it sound angry,” he insisted.
“The sound of album1 is definitely the direction I want to go in even more,” said Holo, who as of less than a week ago released the emotive single “Lead Me Back.” The cover art features a warm vignette of van Dijck looking promisingly towards a light, clutching none other than a guitar. “Just continuing the gap between my past as a guitar player and all of my influences back then with the electronic music producer I am today,” he said. “Just refining that sound even more.”
Christopher is a contributing writer located in the East Bay. He is likely to be found in any of San Francisco’s parks with his mutt, Leia, sunglasses on face and book in hand.