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Tuesday 25th, March 2008
Junkie XL
Updated: Thursday 28th, May 2009

Tom Holkenborg was born on December 8, 1967 in Lichtenvoorde, Netherlands. Since the end of the 90's he's active under the name Junkie XL and this musician, producer, remixer and one-man band has become synonymous with electronic dance music. Tom is famous for his many productions, his music for movies and various computer games. He worked together with producers such as Sasha for his "Airdrawndagger" album, with Tiësto on the track "Obsession" and with Sander Kleinenberg for his "4 Seasons EP". Plus of course his own albums and tracks such as "Saturday Teenage Kick", "Catch Up To My Step", "Beauty Never Fades", "Today" and his last release "More". Besides his own work, he remixed tracks of big names such as Britney Spears, Coldplay, Justin Timberlake, Scissor Sisters, Rammstein, Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavigne and of course his world famous remix for the Elvis track "A Little Less Conversation" for a 2002 Nike World Cup Commercial. At the end of March the 5th Junkie XL artist album "Booming Back At You" saw its release at Artwerk. On a cold Friday afternoon Trance.nu caught up with Tom Holkenborg in the centre of Amsterdam for a detailed interview with this multi talent.

Trance.nu: Tom: we’re sitting here in Amsterdam; a place where you have lived for many years. In 2003 you decided to move to the United States so you could focus on producing soundtracks for movies and computer games. How does it feel to be back in Amsterdam?
Junkie XL: Good! I absolutely love being back here! Even though Los Angeles is my new home, I have to say that it feels awesome to be back “home” in Amsterdam.


Trance.nu: What is the big difference for you when you compare living in The Netherlands with living in the United States?
Junkie XL: Well, you can not really say “living in the United States”, you should say “living in Los Angeles”, since Los Angeles is a sort of a separate Island in the States, same as New York and Miami for example. I live in Venice myself, which is a beach district in California near Los Angeles. The whole atmosphere in Venice is really mellow and laid back. The people over there always say “where art meets crime”. Lots of vagabonds and trailer parks, but also lots of ultra luxury designer houses, lots of cool galleries and other cultural activities. Lots of actors live in Venice and also cool musicians. There are lots of nice bars as well and most of the people do lots of outdoor activities like cycling or even just walking, so that’s pretty similar with Amsterdam.


Trance.nu: You are in Amsterdam now because of the release of your new album “Booming Back At You”. How are the reactions on the album so far?
Junkie XL: Really good! Though I have to say that the album is just out, so we’re still waiting on more reactions. The last year I’ve played many of the album tracks in my live shows and that was just fantastic. So that’s why the album is what it is. It’s a straight away album, 12 tracks on it, which are all floorfillers and that’s what it is, nothing less, nothing more!


Trance.nu: How long did it took you to finish the entire album?
Junkie XL: Not that long, I finished it in 2 or 3 months. I locked myself up in the studio and in that time I finished all productions. After that I started playing them out in my gigs and then I made the final selection of tracks that I wanted to have on the album.


Trance.nu: That is pretty quick to finish an entire album!
Junkie XL: True, but I like to work fast! In the past I released some albums which took me like 18 months or so to finish, but that’s not something that I want to do anymore. I just want to go into the studio and finish an album in a couple of months.


Trance.nu: The first release on your new album was the track “More” with vocals from Lauren Rocket. This was a big success right away. The track even became on the ‘Need For Speed Pro Street Game’. There is a catchy but strange text in the song: “Pacman is loving it”. How did you ever came up with a text like that?
Junkie XL: Haha, I came up with the chorus line first and since it’s a song that’s about extremities, so that’s why the verse is going “rock more, roll more”, which is slang for using drugs. And the “Fuck more, Pacman is loving it” just doesn’t make any sense, but that’s why it was so cool to use that text.


Trance.nu: The video clip of “More” is recorded in New York and it’s produced by Joost van Bellen and Gerald van der Kaap. They video is pretty controversial and some TV stations didn’t even wanted to broadcast it. What do you think when you hear something like that? Does it bother you or do you think that it’s nice for extra publicity?
Junkie XL: It really fits the song, you know? When “More” was finished I did send the track to Joost and he liked it so much that he told me he really wanted to do a video of it. And if you ask Joost and Gerald van der Kaap to make a video, you know you’ll get something special, haha!


Trance.nu: Lauren Rocket does 2 other tracks on your album as well. Can we expect a new single with her in the near future?
Junkie XL: Yes, the track ‘Cities In Dust’ will be the next single!


Trance.nu: When can we expect the release of that?
Junkie XL: I think it will see a release in 1,5 month or so, at the moment we are busy with ideas for the video and stuff like that, so we’re busy with everything right now.


Trance.nu: And who is going to take care of the remixes for the track?
Junkie XL: Well, I can tell you that there will be a lot of remixes of the track, though I can not mention any names yet. But I can tell you I did around 5 remixes of the track myself.


Trance.nu: So you did 5 different remixes of ‘Cities In Dust’ yourself?
Junkie XL: Yes, but each remix is in a totally different style of course.


Trance.nu: “Booming Back At You” is your 5th artists album as Junkie XL. What is the biggest improvement when you compare the entire sound and production of your first album “Saturday Teenage Kick” with the new one “Booming Back At You”?
Junkie XL: The “Saturday Teenage Kick” album was a very original album and I think the production was really well done as well. Especially because it really brought rock and dance music together. But I have to say I wasn’t really experienced back then with mixing everything they way it should be, so the whole fine tuning and mastering have been done a bit better. But when you take “Booming Back At You”, it’s almost impossible to make it sound more amazing as an album. It sounds really hard, lots of low in it and fine high and everything is really booming out of the speakers!


Trance.nu: On your previous albums you worked together with lots of well known artists and singers such as Chuck D, Anouk, Peter Tosh, Solomon Burke, Dave Gahan etc. On the new album the most names are pretty unknown singers. Is that by accident or is this something that you have planned to do so for this album?
Junkie XL: No, I decided that I wanted to have it like this on the album. I really wanted to find new talented people to work with instead of the well known names who are around for many years already. If you make an album like this, then it works a lot better when you have “fresh” new people who are just at the beginning of their career. And not with people who did this over and over again already.


Trance.nu: In the past you have done some collaborations with people such as Tiësto, Sasha and Sander Kleinenberg for example. Can we expect some more collaborations with other people in the near future?
Junkie XL: Well, of course I’ve been moved to Venice to focus more on music for movies and video games, so working together with other DJ’s or producers has became less more important for me. I mean, it’s not my priority at all, so for now I don’t expect any collaborations for the near future.


Trance.nu: Besides producing you also get a lot of requests from other artists and acts to remix their songs. You have a pretty impressive list wit names such as Britney Spears, Tiësto, Coldplay, Justin Timberlake, Fatboy Slim, Delerium, BT, Sarah McLachlan, Way Out West and of course the remix you did for the Elvis track “A Little Less Conversation”. Recently you were asked by Madonna to remix her new track “4 Minutes”. How does it feel when famous artists ask you to remix their tracks?
Junkie XL: That just feels awesome! And every time I’m being asked it’s an absolute honour for me to do. Especially now for Madonna’s new track, which was done by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. She wanted 2 people to remix the track and I am one of them, so that’s an awesome feeling!


Trance.nu: So are you busy with the remix already now?
Junkie XL: Actually it’s finished already, haha!


Trance.nu: When can we expect the remix in stores?
Junkie XL: At the end of April my remix will be released!


Trance.nu: Do you feel more pressure when you have to remix a famous name?
Junkie XL: Yeah, there is more pressure for sure, but at the end you have to do your own thing, because that’s what you’re good at and that’s also the reason that people ask you to remix their songs.


Trance.nu: After the huge success of your remix for the Elvis track “A Little Less Conversation” (which became a number 1 in the Billboard Charts), you got requested to remix “Strawberry Fields Forever” by “The Beatles”. But you turned this request down. What was the reason for that?
Junkie XL: Well, after I did that remix for Elvis, I really had to be careful which remixes I should do and which ones I should not do. I didn’t wanted to be the guy who’s famous for his remixes of dead, old and forgotten people, haha! I just wanted to be a cutting edge electronic artist and that was the choice I have made then. So that’s the reason I haven’t done any of those remixes the last couple of years. Maybe I can do 1 or 2 in the next couple of years again, but not for now.


Trance.nu: Are there any bands or artists that you would love to remix? And why?
Junkie XL: Well, there are a lot of band that I really like, but most of the time they are the new bands with younger people. Like for example, I just finished a remix for an English band called “Shape” It’s a great band and I really like the track! And I love to remix a band like that. So right now I’m looking for new, fresh bands who are at the beginning of their careers instead of the well known names.


Trance.nu: Lots of people probably have no idea that you are responsible for music in commercials, movies, video games and of course your own productions as Junkie XL. Besides that you have to finish remixes, you have to perform, do interviews etc. etc. You probably have a lot of deadlines that you have to cope with. How do you manage to do all this?
Junkie XL: It’s all a matter of a good and tight schedule. It is like running a company, which is actually the case, since I do have my own company. I have 5 people who are constantly working for me and they make sure everything they have to do, gets done on time. But it’s very important that you make good agreements with everybody and make sure that everything gets done on time. Plus you have to make sure that you work really fast and keep checking if everything goes the way it should. When I was busy with working at the remix for Madonna, I was working at a movie at the same time, but also a new video game, I was busy with the preparations for my tour, my live sets, plus I was busy with remixing my own tracks as well and furthermore everything for the new “Cities In Dust” single. So that means you are busy with like thousand different things all at the same time! So that’s why there is a really tight schedule for everything.


Trance.nu: Does it affect your creative process?
Junkie XL: Yes, but in a good way! For me it’s really hard to focus on just 1 thing or just 1 project for a long time. I get the maximum result out of my work when I work on something for about 2 hours and then start on something else for 2 hours and then again something else for 2 hours. Then I get back to the first thing again and this way works really good for me!


Trance.nu: That’s a very special way of working if I may say!
Junkie XL: That’s true, but for me it works the best like this. I can work really intense at things, but for example I can work at something for an hour and do so many things in that hour. But then I want to start at something else and work on that for a while. The day after I might have new ideas and think about what I like of what I made so far and what not. I think that I make better decisions when I work like that. For example, when I start with a new remix on a Monday morning and when I keep working on that remix in one go till Wednesday evening, I’m normally not really satisfied with the final result.


Trance.nu: Does it happen pretty often that you have worked on something for let’s say 2 days and that when you come back the next day in the studio, that you are not happy with it and throw everything away and start all over again?
Junkie XL: Yes, pretty often to be honest. I’m very critical when it comes to my own work, so I rather start all over again to make sure I’m happy with the final result.


Trance.nu: And to make your busy schedule even busier, you started in September 2007 as a special teacher Composition & Musicdesign at the ArtEZ higher school of the arts here in The Netherlands. What do you want to teach your students?
Junkie XL: I want to educate them the same things as what I’m doing myself, so it will be about composing music for movies, games and really all kinds of electronic music, how to remix a track, song writing together with artists, sound design, how to work with music software, how to mix a track, how to record live instruments, so basically it’s everything included!


Trance.nu: You are here now in The Netherlands to promote your album. Where can people expect you in the next couple of weeks?
Junkie XL: First of all I will be here in Amsterdam at “De Melkweg” and after that I’m going straight back to the United States for the Winter Music Conference in Miami. Then I have a festival tour in Australia. After that I’m flying back to Los Angeles to work on a movie and I do 25 shows in North America as well. It will be the first week of June then and that means I fly back to Europe to perform at several summer festivals followed by a club tour. So that’s my year, haha!


Trance.nu: What can we expect from you in the next couple of months?
Junkie XL: That will be mostly gigs to be honest. At the moment there will be no new remixes, since I’ve finished them all. So only gigs in the next couple of months, but that will be busy enough for me.


Trance.nu: Thank you very much for your time and good luck in the future!
Junkie XL: Thanks a lot to you too! happyJunkie XL


Written by:
Twan van Loon

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