“Well, all my tunes start with the drums, every time.” | Interview with Holy Roman

Dance On Nothing Until The Dancing Is Done is an eclectic blend made of an early The Chemical Brothers flavored beat, psychedelic multilayered synths and unconventional vocal chops. Read our discussion with the Manchester based artist.

Describe your sound in three words

Pick ’n mix

Dance On Nothing Until The Dancing Is Done is a blend of different layers that really complement each other. Tell us a few things about it. What came first? The house beat, the lead synths, the vocal chops or …?

Thanks for saying that. Well, all my tunes start with the drums, every time. My focus at the beginning is on getting the right kick drum sound then building out from there, usually hats/rims then snare sounds and then adding in bits of weird percussion to give it some texture. Once I’m happy with the drum sounds I’ll find a bass sound that compliments the beat well, usually pretty driving, then look for synth sounds and melodies that all get folded in together to create the overall mood of the tune. I rarely sit down with an idea I’ve come up with beforehand, I let it flow out and go where it wants. If there’s a certain sound I do want I can usually make it from scratch. I’ve been using the programme Reason for a long time, I know it like the back of my hand for stuff I want to do. Then when I‘ve got the basics of beat, bass and a couple of synths I’ll look for vocals to add. I chop things up to the point its hard to work out what I was originally. I like taking acapellas and making them into new melody and phrasing lines, really cut them up collage style and put them back together. It creates something totally unique that way. When I’m nearing the end I’ll sequence everything then find other weird textures to sit under everything. I always want my tunes to be a bit cinematic. There’s always bits and pieces going on underneath, bits of far off sounding dialogue or street sounds. And I’ll usually be working on a
couple of tunes at once, then they sort of bleed into each other a bit, in terms of themes or textures rather similar melodies or whatever.

Holy Roman. What is the story behind your name?

I was given it by a friend. I’ve messed around with a few different names and something had to stick. It might be to do with the shape of my nose, someone once said it’s ‘wholly Roman’ which isn’t strictly true but it stuck so that’s that. Plus I’m a big fan of that producer Holy Other. And Holy Goof. And Holy Fuck!

Would it be safe to assume that the 90’s UK scene, the decade British dance music went wild, is your main influence?

It’d be hard to deny that it’s not a massive part of it, yeah. During the 90’s I went from being 8 to 18. That’s some pretty formative years and yeah they’ve definitely had an impact. My main raving years were in the 2000’s though so there’s that in there as well. But I’m influenced by a ton of other stuff too. My tunes aren’t really mixed for DJ’s because I’m not a DJ. I come from just as much of a rock ’n’ roll background, playing in weird bands and stuff when I was younger so my tunes have breakdowns as if it’s a live drummer playing a drum machine. I mute and bring back drums live in real time feeling the tune as I go. I don’t really like 7-8 minute dance tunes. I like under 4 minutes or I start to get bored. It’s dance music but not necessarily just for the dance floor. And I’ve made such a wide range of different music over the years, hip-hop, garage rock, 2-step. I got really into Chicago juke and footwork a couple of years ago and there’s an album’s worth of the those influences. But I love 90’s dance music, it’s where things evolved quickest. So much in a decade to go from rave to pretty much the genesis of grime and dubstep.

Which track (if any) of your recent album ‘Let Manchester Shake’ represents you the most? Do people still listen to full albums?

I’m not really an album person to be honest. I’ve always been a singles person because I haven’t got the attention span. There’s too much amazing shit out there to have time to focus on whole albums sometimes. But this collection of music was made all together at one time so it makes sense as an album. It’s supposed to sound like a night out with a beginning, a middle and an end. It comes down. I assume a lot of people still listen to albums but I guess it’s a bit rarer now. I definitely prefer a playlist of carefully chosen tunes.

In which place or state of mind do you imagine people might listen to your music?

If people want to listen to it under the influence, whether in a group or on their own, then that might work. Or on a bus at night heading home. It can be pretty jump-up aggro music at times but there’s textures there to peel back then you can pull apart in headphones for sure. It’s music to have a good think about either way. There are little Easter eggs in there if you want to find them.

Which film (if any) captures the underground UK cultures?

I tried watching Human Traffic again recently and it was a bit meh, it hasn’t really aged well. Maybe something like Modulations: Cinema for the Ear (1998) or the Scottish one, Beats, from 2018.

Which city do you think is the world capital of music?

Manchester [obviously!], London, Glasgow, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Berlin, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Nashville, Lisbon, Barcelona…there’s no particular one place I don’t think…, everywhere has something to offer.

When was the last time you danced?

Oh man, I dance every day… who doesn’t!?

Thank you!

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