March 11 2015 04:06 PM

New York DJ embarks on a vinyl-only journey

Will Holland, aka Quantic

Will Holland, aka Quantic, was born in the small English town of Bewdley. Located near the Wyre Forest Nature Reserve in Worcestershire, Bewdley boasts a population of fewer than 10,000 and is a good 130 miles away from London.

But it does have a record shop. 

It was there, with that first vinyl purchase of a soundtrack to his favorite cartoon, Holland developed his passion for analog recordings. And with every day since, Holland’s passion has steadily blossomed into a full-blown obsession.

“I had a record player in my bedroom growing up,” he told CityBeat from his apartment in Brooklyn. “But it wasn’t until my father took me to a big shop in Birmingham that I really understood the scope. Just the categorization made a big impression. Until then, it was just a pile of records lying around the house. But categorization meant you had to define yourself and say, ‘I’m into this.’” 

Holland dropped his acclaimed debut, 2001’s The 5th Exotic, shortly after his 21st birthday. Skillfully weaving jazz, soul, funk and hip-hop through a thread of varied beats, the album set a precedent for his diverse career.

In 2003, he put the DJ thing on hold, picked up a guitar and founded The Quantic Soul Orchestra, a live band dedicated to the raw funk sound of the ’60s and ’70s.

Switching gears again, Holland moved to Colombia in 2007 and set up an analog studio that he dubbed “Sonido del Valle.” Releases from The Quantic Soul Orchestra, tropical-dub project Flowering Inferno and Latin jazz nine-piece Combo Bárbaro are all results of his years in South America.

Last summer, the producer and multi-instrumentalist— now based in New York—released his first record in eight years solely under the Quantic moniker. Magnetica, his 18th overall, once again encapsulates a multitude of styles and features 10 guest vocalists.

But instead of trying to tour such an ambitious project, Holland is doing the next best thing—he’s digging into his own personal collection and DJing with the records that have colored his career. And he’s doing it exclusively with 45s.

“I’ve constantly toured as a DJ in the U.S.,” he says. “And it’s always been a bit of a novelty to play 45s. But I want to make something out of it on this tour. I think it’s important to note that records are still alive and to make sure that music is being heard off of them. There’s a different culture to a vinyl DJ set. It’s just a completely separate pace and another level of appreciation.”

Holland is quick to point out that he would never disrespect those who go the laptop route.

“I do a lot of that myself,” he says with a laugh. But that’s not the point of this tour. He is adamant about going through the process that comes from DJing with vinyl and wants audiences to experience that process, as well.

“That’s the thing,” he says. “On this San Diego gig, for instance, I could quite happily copy some MP3s onto a USB key, get on the plane with some Bermuda shorts, DJ on the West Coast and quickly return back here to the tundra. Instead, I’m sorting and hauling all kinds of my records, throwing in edits and a bunch of beats, and I’m doing that because I want it to be something a bit more handcrafted. I think people appreciate that.”

The concept for this tour took shape a few years ago when Holland was packing for a show he did in Bogota. Realizing he had enough of his own records to do an entire DJ set, he forever changed his outlook on that portion of his repertoire.

“That’s the approach now,” he says. “My record box has become cataloged with music that’s half by other artists, and half that I either remixed or made myself. I can freely pick songs within my own back catalogue that fit the dance floor, and I can reach back into the whole world of vintage music. There are a lot of different places to go with it.”

Quantic plays March 24 at Soda Bar

Holland is touring through June, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down afterward. He just finished a new “Quantic presents” album in Los Angeles that should be out later this year, and his Flowering Inferno project’s third album is slated for a 2015 release, too.

A creature of geography, Holland’s latest stint in the U.S. has inspired the multifaceted musician with ideas for localized, city-specific albums in the future. 

“I want to do some more records in the States,” he says. “I’d love to do something on a musician tip, a studio recording, in New Orleans or anywhere in the South. Detroit would be great, as well.”

With an artist as unpredictable as Holland, it would be tough to guess which project is coming next. But the smart money says that whatever it is, you’ll be able to pick it up on vinyl.

“I don’t know about you,” Holland says, “but I can scroll through an iTunes playlist and know what I have, but it’s that much more pleasing to look at it on a shelf. People still want to own something and they want to collect. That’s just part of being a music fan.

“We all have stuff that goes right into the digital black hole,” he adds. “But there’s just so much out there. At least with a record, it goes on a rack or a wall and, hopefully, has some meaning deep down.”

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