First published in Stranger magazine
The last time I encountered Quantic’s Will Holland was in 2002, where he took to the stage in St Ives with an impressive seven-piece band. Two years later, and Will is about to play five dates in Australia for promoter Russ Dewbury, who booked Will for this rumble down under having been impressed with a live show at his Jazz Rooms night in Brighton earlier in the year. When asked how many members of the band are travelling with him though, Will is sheepish. “One. Basically I’m taking out Alice, so it’ll be more of a diptych than a Quantic,” he adds laughing.
“It wasn’t really feasible to get everyone out there, so the plan is to work with a band called Bamboozled, who have done a couple of 45’s on Bamboo Shack records, and are now on Keb Darge’s label.“ As it happens, the St Ives experience wasn’t an entirely happy one, as he explains. “I think Cornwall is one of the best places to play in England. It’s quite a young crowd, but it’s the lack of pretence which I really enjoy, in that people just come in, get drunk and get down. My only problem has been that I’ve had two cars blow up on the way home. The first was on my journey after the St Ives gig, and the second was after a date in Plymouth – both totalled on the same stretch of the A38.”
While his early works took their inspiration from sleepy 1990s chill and their samples from an enviable collection of funk 45s, in order to create a lively hybrid which bridged soul, hip hop, downbeat and house, his second and recently released third album, Mishaps Happening, built upon these early achievements with something more ambitious. Less reliant on samples, these recordings injected a ripple of live energy, where plentiful strings rubbed against the hoots and parps of afro beat – undoubtedly a favourable side effect of Holland’s experience with his big band side- project, the Quantic Soul Orchestra.
“I’ve never set out to be prolific, it’s just that the tracks come together quite quickly,” says Will. “I’ll generally get a track down in an evening, and work on it over the following week or so. To be honest, I’ve only just got to a point where I can conceptualise music. That’s not to say I haven’t thought about things, more that the song writing process hasn’t really been a conscious process. I’m mindful of where I came from and why people like my music, but with each album I try and change things around.”
“Essentially the differences between the Quantic and Soul Orchestra tracks, is that the former originates very much in dance music culture, whilst the latter utilises more traditional methods of recording and arrangement,” he explains. “The Orchestra came about as a recorded project. I’d been getting props as Quantic and wanted to do something rougher and heavier, bringing together older sounds and other elements I’d heard in records that I’d liked – whether that was the drum sound of Chester studios or whatever. What I quickly came to appreciate is just how hard it must have been to make those records. These people weren’t messing around – they’d put a drummer in a cathedral or bring in a 40-piece orchestra if it achieved the right sound.”
“The difference between then and now is that, if you take someone like Mongo Santum Rio as an example, he played because the musicians around him were hot, and his records are nothing if not a testament to how tight and well practiced those players were.” “I was a little surprised that the Orchestra received such a strong reaction as it had really come about as something of a bastard child of the original project. Ironically what I perceived to be more underground has turned out to be a little bit more successful than the Quantic material.”