As though growing up in bomb-happy Belfast, Northern Ireland, was not
perilous enough, DJ David Holmes went to New York's gutters and ghettos to
"get killed" and get inspiration for his latest album, Let's Get
Holmes has worked as a DJ for 13 years, getting his start in small
clubs in his hometown Belfast when he was 15 and working his way into the
top clubs in New York, Tokyo and London.
Among his major influences, the 28-year-old lists Brit-rockers Radiohead,
citing their willingness to take chances as an inspiration. "I think that
Radiohead album is pure fuckin' brilliant. It's mental. They're really
pushing the boundaries, constantly inventing themselves," he said. But
don't expect any collaboration or remixes any time soon; Holmes is at home
relaxing these days.
Holmes still calls Belfast home, and he recently spent some time there
after a jaunt to Switzerland and a stretch of touring in support of his
second (first in the U.S.) and most adventurous album. Let's Get
Killed combines the spoken-word recordings of people from the parks and
street corners of inner-city New York, speaking, rapping and shouting their
unique perspectives, along with Holmes' electronic, musical samplings and
selections to create a distinctive brand of urban electronica.
The titles to the tracks on Let's Get Killed read like phrases out of
a police blotter. Songs such as the title track, "Let's Get Killed," as
well as "Slasher's Revenge," "Don't Die Just Yet" and the final cut, "Dead
On," reflect, perhaps, some of the danger Holmes faced as he wandered the
streets of New York with a DAT recorder in his hand and hits of LSD in his
Holmes got the idea to travel to New York and gather spoken word in a
hodge-podge fashion from TV, he said. "We were watching this show called
Real Taxi Cab Confessions (sic) and it was pure fuckin' brilliant
with mad people all telling their stories, and I just thought, instead of
going down to the video store or something, I said, 'Fuck that. Let's go to
New York, let's bring a DAT and stick it in these people's faces.' "
Although these types of impromptu interviews might seem to require some
form of legal permission, Don Engle, an attorney who works in musical
copyright law, said that Holmes' mixes would only require legal permission
if they proved to be " ... a performance instead of an occurrence. It's
not usual to credit that kind of performance."
The first single from the album,
Shaker" (RealAudio excerpt) begins with the voice of a street
"astrologer" preaching to passersby about the alignment of their planets
and moons. "Sex is your bidness, you supposed to get paid," the man
says. "If these women want something for free, send them to welfare. You
ain't giving out no cheese, butter or food stamps at your house." The
music then bounces-in over the end of the would-be astrologer's schpiel,
featuring a synthesizer sound that conjures up images of cactus,
tumbleweed, cowboys and swinging bar-doors.
Holmes insists, however, that this track did not descend directly from a
late-night viewing of Gunsmoke. "It was just something I thought of
and we listened to it and we thought it sounded brilliant," he said.
Holmes has had a fistful of projects to contend with lately; besides his
latest album, he's had a hand in several remixes, including one for U2's
"Discotheque." "We met in a club I was DJing at and we knew of each
other," he said of his collaboration with the Irish rockers. "They are
a class band, so obviously I was happy to work with them, but it was a bit
of a rush. We only had three or four days to work on it, so I was somewhat
disappointed with the outcome." However, Holmes did say he would like
another chance to work with U2 in the future.
Holmes recently finished scoring the soundtrack to "The Resurrection
Man," a newly completed flick that documents a deadly chapter of Northern
Ireland's often bloody history. Holmes bristles when asked to identify his
allegiance in the ongoing conflict between Catholics and Protestants.
"What does it matter, really? Does it matter? It's a story that needed to
be told, the Shankhill Butchers, a group of Loyalists who went around
killing Catholics, killed about 30 of them back in the '70s.
The creator of Let's Get Killed paused for just a moment, then added, "They believed the best way to kill a man is by slashing his neck." [Mon., Dec. 8, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]