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Back in the day: Holy Other

Once upon a time we were all into witch house, and Holy Other is the great forgotten maestro of the gloomy electro scene. 

An email conversation between MICHAEL C LEWIN and HOLY OTHER, producer of majestic, bleak beauty.

Holy Other is my favourite new artist of the last year. He – an anonymity-enjoying producer from Manchester who has just returned from “circumstantially” living in Berlin and Gothenburg – has three original tracks and a few remixes and sets around online, and every single second of audio is immediately distinguishable by his hand. I do not want to cheapen it with descriptions, but to give you a sense: at once, the combination of the cold gaze of justice looking down from the bench passing sentence on the guilty but repentant defendant whose conscience howls. In space. Or something. Dragged-ambient with heart and horror, maybe. He’s to release an EP on Tri Angle later this year, at any rate – that should help understand the aesthetics.

Unable to find a press contact for Holy Other, I emailed him directly and found him thoroughly enjoyable and sweet. He’s the kind of guy who, like me, often responds to an email after midnight. At one point, we were mailing about the identity of a track on a mix he did and he emailed at some Godforsaken hour on a Friday night to correct his mistake about who the artist was. I love that he did that. This is what we talked about.

I’ve heard the “goth” tag bandied about in relation to your music. (Part of me just wants to ask what that word even means any more.) Do you find it appropriate?

# I sort of baited the press with the aesthetics, which I regret a little. Goth is definitely a term that has been diluted to shit anyway, and I don’t think it’s too drastically misapplied. But honestly, the “Ambient-Goth” compound I spotted a few times made my skin crawl.

The first I heard of your music was the absolutely majestic 12 you put out with Transparent. At the moment, though, there are more remixes out there than there are original works – yet every rmx you do is recognisably in your voice, at a pace and with a range of sound that’s very distinct. What do you look to do first when remixing a track? 

# My intention with remixing is to play with new ideas that I have – and although I’m not always satisfied with the results, I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time. I don’t try to add or subtract, and never have the original in mind. Instead I try to warp the samples into something I’m happy with.

I love how the vocals in your Asobi Seksu remix work alongside that distinctive sound of yours. How could the human voice fit in to your musical world more? Could it survive unscathed, or would it go through a similar transformations to everything else?

# The a capella from that Asobi Seksu single was hauntingly beautiful as it stands. I hadn’t even considered using cleaner vocals before I approached that track, but they’re definitely going to feature in 2K11 – but I doubt I’d ever consider removing cutup vocals from the equation.

Do you make music that is recognisably emotional, or do you look to warp that human quality into something (as your name suggests) ‘Other’?

# A little of both. I love tracks that make me feel something, but that definitely doesn’t have to be a prescribed human emotion. It could be lust, or it could be the inexplicable euphoria of exploring Google Street View.

How about the name? ‘Holy Other’ suggests two different kinds of the unknowable to me: the sublime/religious and the, well, ‘Other’ (there’s no other word for it). Am I going off on one, or does this relate to what you’re doing?

# It’s a concept by some German philosophy dude called Rudolf Otto that I appropriated. I’m definitely more esoteric than anti-religious, but there’s something so perfect about music for worship that’s totally lost in secular culture. On saying that, my name isn’t really some statement of artistic intent – sometimes you just like how words sound together.

And finally: is there, and will there continue to be, an inherent ‘dark’ side to the Holy Other project? Or is that just where you’re at right now? And – do you think you’re more dark or sensual?

# I definitely don’t think there’s anything to limit/tie me to the ‘dark’ side of things. And I’ve no idea! I’ve always considered the boundaries between darkness and sensuality difficult to distinguish.

FIELD NOTES

  1. Holy Other suggests that his music might best be enjoyed in “Empty Clubs”, “Church Conversions” and “Single-bedded bedrooms”.
  2. Some of his “favourite shit” in 2010 was produced by The-Dream and 40 (Drake’s long-time collaborator)
  3. He thinks Manchester definitely “outbleakens” Berlin and Gothenburg. Whatever way you look at it that’s a lot of bleak.
  4. Seriously: go and download ‘Yr Love’, ‘We Over’ and his mix for DummyMag.com right the hell now.


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