Part 1

Name: Holly / Miguel Oliveira
Nationality: Portuguese
Occupation: Producer, Turntablist
Current Release: Avenal 2500 on Deadbeats
Recommendations: Enter The Void (the movie) and Burial – Archangel

If you enjoyed this interview with Holly, visit his facebook page for more information. He also has a Soundcloud profile with plenty of music.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started writing and producing music 6 years ago! My early influences were The Prodigy, my brother DJ Ride, Flying Lotus, Shlohmo, Clams Casino, A$AP Rocky, Hudson Mohawke … so many! Music was just a way that I found to express myself and to help me look for the meaning of life. I just felt a special energy calling me to do it. I don’t know ... it’s hard to explain.

For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

I feel like creativity is a state of mind. It’s also like an oxygen tank that you need to be very careful about using and be smart about. Sometimes it’s good to take a break and see all the ideas come together but if you use it too much you might waste it. I love to get inspired by other artists but am also always very careful to not to simply reproduce what they're doing. At the end of the day, I try not to think too much and have fun. That’s the best way to create your own voice.

What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

For me the biggest challenge was just being able to use my DAW the way I wanted to. I like to be fast and come up with ideas quickly and in the beginning, it was hard to understand how could I come up with my ideas without having to spend an entire day looking for a button on FL (Fruity Loops). But once you make music every day and you exercise your brain, all of these challenges become nothing.

What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?

My studio used to be just my laptop, a mini MPK, and my MPD, but I never used them that much. I don’t have a house at the moment and I’m always in a different spot every week so my on-the-go setup is just my laptop. But I'm doing my best to save some money so I can finally get my own spot and just buy a bunch of gear. I really like everything by MOOG, you can always get unique sounds from their stuff.

How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?

Technology is fundamental to my production. I do everything with my laptop so without technology I wouldn’t be able to make music the way I do. Humans excel at creativity, machines excel at effectiveness. 

Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?

I don’t know, I don’t think much about that. I just use whatever I can get my hands on and create with it. We are part of each other and I just try to be as organic as I can with it.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

I love to collaborate because it’s always a way to get out of your comfort zone and try something new, also a good way to fill the gaps in your production that you are insecure about. Lately I’ve been enjoying being in the studio with other people, but usually I’m down for anything. Everyone has their own way to work with other people so usually I just try to adapt to how others prefer to work and we go from there.

Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

My schedule is all over the place but usually I wake up, check my messages and emails to get an idea of what I need to do for the day, eat something and then get on my computer and just start producing. I don’t have a fixed schedule since there’s always something different going on every day. Music is part of my life so everything is just blending with what I do.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?

I usually just jam, try different sounds, and see what happens. Most of the times I start by doing a drop and then build the whole song around it. Ideas always just come from my mind and they are transformed by my feelings.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

Just don’t think too much and let things flow.

How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?

I see it as an experience to do shows based on the music that you write in your studio. When I started doing shows and touring, I was mind blown by how the music that I made in my little bedroom made me travel around the world and do shows. I always just try to grow up as much as I can as a person based on those experiences. Improvisation and composition are part of each other.

How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?

They are the same to me and I just follow what my feelings tell me to do.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?

I believe everything is connected and through a sound. You can always get an idea of how it looks, both texture and shape, but everything is subjective here.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

I just do whatever makes me happy and gives me the most pleasure. I treat art with a lot of respect because its a sensible part of my life.

It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?

Music is pure energy.