If you haven't heard the story, then you'll hear it now: A wide-eyed Irishman drops acid, careens around Manhattan at all hours of the night, and records the people he encounters. Their voices, laden with thick Brooklyn or Queens or Long Island accents, serve as the canvas. But they're more than just a cool vocal sample wedged in between smart beats. They chronicle life in a city where anything can, and usually does, happen.
Belfast DJ and producer David Holmes is the man, and his sonic sculpture of the Big Apple is aptly titled Let's Get Killed. It's true, as Holmes says, that in Manhattan, there are "all walks of life in such a very small space." It's also true that taking acid in New York City and running around with an expensive DAT machine is not a good idea. But that's what Holmes and a friend did. "It's fucking crazy," he admits from a London studio, where he's remixing a track off the new Robert Plant and Jimmy Page record.
DV8, Sunday, March 8
Holmes' music reflects these reckless tendencies. Let's Get Killed doesn't fit neatly into the bins at your local record store; you can't simply file it under "drum and bass" or "downtempo" or "techno." Compared to such cut-and-dried labels, Holmes' music is a schizophrenic, beautiful mess. On the title track, for example, he uses the thundering bass lines of a jungle track. But instead of the expected manic beat, he creates an edgy, noir atmosphere.
"It's just music by any means necessary," Holmes says. "We get this person and that person... and try new things, and sample other people's records. Just put 'em in a big blender and see what happens."
Holmes first received attention for his record This Film's Crap Let's Slash the Seats, particularly the track "No Man's Land." That led him to regular soundtrack work including the movie Resurrection Man. Though he says his records and his soundtracks are two different worlds, there's a cinematic quality to Let's Get Killed. Listening to it, you can imagine walking through the East Village, past the burnt umber brick apartment buildings, with the cold wind whipping your face. And you can see the guy who says, "New York is the shit, man. New York is the bomb, man" to introduce the track "My Mate Paul." In fact, Holmes frequently refers to his music in terms of pictures. "I just try and give people more of a visual feel to the music, rather than just a mood," he explains. "[I'm] constantly splashing on color and trying to paint the picture."
It works. Perhaps that's why Let's Get Killed has gotten so much acclaim, even landing on Entertainment Weekly's year-end Top 10 list. Though Holmes says he likes the attention, he also claims that he doesn't pay it much mind. "I'm sort of caught up in what I do. I shut myself off," he says with a sigh. "I try and experiment and fuck it up, you know, and have a laugh."
When the final notes of "For You" linger, that's what you imagine David Holmes doing. Standing on some anonymous New York street corner, having a good laugh. "We wanted the story to carry on a lot longer," he says of his well-documented acid trip. "To put it down as one of those experiences in life—that you'll do it once and never do it again."
David Holmes page with bio and video clips