New & Cool: DJ Holmes Taking It To The Streets

Veteran DJ samples sounds of inner-city life and mixes it with electronic noises to make music.

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]