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British DJ Quantic mashes his influences in new album, 'Magnetica'

British DJ and producer Will Holland, also known as Quantic.
British DJ and producer Will Holland, also known as Quantic.
Courtesy of the artist
British DJ and producer Will Holland, also known as Quantic.
Cover of Quantic's 2014 album Magnetica.

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British DJ and producer Will Holland, otherwise known as Quantic got his start in the electronic music scene of the early 2000s. He made a name for himself early on with tunes like the 2001 track "Time Is The Enemy."


But today, his work occupies the place where electronic, Latin and world music collide. After six years of living and working in Colombia, Holland is back with a brand new album called "Magnetica."

We're lucky enough to have him in studio ahead of his show at the Roxy Theater in Hollywood tonight.  

Interview Highlights:

This is your first album under the Quantic name in eight years, but you've been recording and releasing this whole time, right?

"Yeah, I've been in Colombia, working in Cali first and then Bogotá and recording in Medellín also and Barranquilla. I had a project there called the Combo Barbaro, also Flowering Inferno, so yeah a lot of things going on in between, but not really a quantic record, which is kind of my principal project."

So what makes this a Quantic record?

"When I started working as Quantic and releasing music as Quantic in my early '20s, it was about releasing electronic music at the time, or kind of instrumental hip hop. Then I progressed on to funk and soul. I guess as a digger and as a record collector, it sort of opened my ears to a lot of different things. I got into the music of the Caribbean and African music, West African particularly. Then, moving to Colombia opened my ears to the sounds that were coming from Colombia and Peru and Brazil...I think this record definitely involves those influences a lot, but also this principal of a more electronic, Quantic sound."

You've become kind of a scholar of Cumbia music. For people that aren't familiar with it, what makes it so distinctive?

"It's tremendous music, especially Colombian Cumbia, it's a big sound and it's very rich and varied. There's a lot of perception of Latin music, especially in England, that it's romantic music. In the '80s just like a lot of music it took a turn for the romantic, I guess, and for the sloppy and a little bit more schmalzy kind of productions. This kind of raw, dance energy somehow got lost a little bit in that, so it's kind of about getting back to that more rootsy sound, too."


You picked up and moved to Cali, Colombia. What did you get by moving there that you wouldn't have if you stayed?

"For me I think it was more on a personal tip, my father had passed away in 2006, and I was just looking for a change, and I think I really needed to get out of where I was. I felt like an urgency to get on with my own life experiences. Not that my father had deprived himself, he'd had a great life, but definitely with loss you have a great wake up call a lot of the time. For me that was a jolt and I thought I just need to change things up...But also, I'm from England, it's rainy and there's some nice things about England, but it's just to go somewhere where there's avocado trees and mangoes and that's, for me, just a complete fantasy land, it's amazing."

The first single from this album, Muevelo Negro with Nidia Gongora. Tell me a little about who she is and how you ended up working with her: 

"Nidia Gongola is a singer from a town called Timbiqui, on the west coast of Colombia. She is from a folkloric background, so her mother was a folkloric singer and her grandmother and a lot of the songs that she sings today are from her grandmother. I have a good friend who recommended I speak to her having heard that she was really hot. We met in Cali and recorded a record called Flowering Inferno. From there we just started working together. 


"What really grabbed me is that she's a tremendous composer, a really good lyricist. I'm not into this kind of techno version of things, I really try and make electronic music mold with that. She's very considerate, too. Pacifico music is very special and she's always been very open with how to mold that and make it concise, rather than smashing a rhythm over the top of something." 

This album sounds like a collection of a lot of the influences you've picked up from your travels — South America, the Caribbean, even Ethiopia. How do you sort out all of the sounds in your music?

 "I like to listen to the context of music and style, so with this song [ARADA] I guess it's an Ethio-rock influence there, so I really wanted to get some fuzz guitars in there. I always have a basis of the sound of an influence. On this song I'm listening to artists list Tilahun Gessesse...and kind of getting a sound and ear for that music. I feel that it always has to have this kind of integrity to it, so I'm always trying to make sure I get the right sounds." 

You collaborate with people from all over the world, do you write the music knowing that everyone's going to get together to record? 

"It's a little bit like a jigsaw. Creativity is like a glorious mess, it's just such a messy, for me anyway. I guess it's like a painter when you're painting you go in the workshop and it might be the most beautiful painting in the end, but in the meantime there's paint all over the walls and your hands, you've got stuff in your fingernails. But it's the nature of the music and I think it's a blessing that you can collaborate like this and work with musicians over the Internet long distance. I worked with Miguel Atwood Ferguson on this record, he arranged two-string arrangements for the record here in Los Angeles and recorded them remotely and sent them to me. That's like a complete luxury."

Check out a playlist of Quantic's new album and his music throughout the years: