William Holland, aka Quantic, one of the most respected producer/musician/DJs bred from these fair isles is about to unleash his new LP from his new home in Colombia. His meteoric rise from a clutch of 45's on Breakin Bread, a prolific output on Tru Thoughts to a new life pursuing his love of latin music in Colombia has been a non-stop ride of insanely good genre bashing. With 11 studio LPs under his belt and a fantastic array of singles and remixes that take in everything from funk, soul, drum and bass, beats, afrofunk, descarga, cumbia etc, it's entirely evident that his magic hands and musical vision know no bounds. 2009 will see his new band, Quantic And His Combo Barbaro come to light, an eagerly anticipated project with a melting pot of UK and Colombian musicians coming together. I caught up with him to find out what's happening in his world....
words Pete Isaac - April 2009
The exciting news of your new band is what we're all talking about, can you tell us more?
I put the new band together in Cali, it features some of the players I've been working with over the last two years in Cali and also Malcolm Catto on drums. The idea was to put together a band that plays a more tropical sound. That’s not to say it is a completely “latin music” band. The new record features a good selection of funk, soul, descarga and even some orchestral moments! Within these selections, I'm trying bring back some of the talent that made this music happen in the first place all those years ago.
'Mambo Los Quantic'
It must be personally very exciting to be working in Colombia with these musicians. And you must be discovering so much musically. How are you developing songs there?
Yes, its a privilege, I'm trying to make the most of my time here, learning a lot of things, speaking to people, investigating the wealth of culture that exists here. I now havemy studio in the house, so the house is a somewhat musical place to be. As a writer, I'm getting clearer about how I plan my music, the more and more I learn the art fromothers here, themore I can control my own thoughts and ideas. I usually lay down an initial idea with guitar or a voice, this could just be a simple guide or doodle, I do a lot of these, usually at night. Then, in the light of day, away from the presence of whiskey, I scan through, find the good bits and try to arrange them on to instruments I feel suitable for the sound I want. At the moment I'm trying to record everything live in the same room, I think the sound is richer for it and you can here the dialogue between the different musicians, this is what makes music interesting.
As a relative unknown in Colombia, was it easy to make contact with people like Alfredo Linares and get to work with them? And how do they find the experience of translating old school cumbia, descarga, plena etc into the modern fusions that you are creating?
Well, most of these guys are kind, open minded and welcome my pigeon Spanish enthusiasm. Alfredo has been especially marvellous, he's such a kind person. In general, sometimes there is afight to get people back to the old sound. There is a culture of “new is better” in Colombia, so getting people to replay older styles can be difficult. I'd say most players I'm working with and continue to work with, do get it and that’s the reason we're playing together. People are open to new ideas or new forms of interpreting older forms, but the tricky part is explaining what you want! It's also difficult, because what looks good on paper often doesn't sound good on tape and the best moments in my recordings were unplanned and a part of the moment.
When can we expect a UK appearance of the new band?
I'm planning a tour for late August with Alfredo, Kabir of Panama & Malcolm Catto amongst others.
Life must be so enriching and broadening in Colombia, yet the common perception here is that it's a dangerous place. How's it been immersing yourself in the culture there?
Like all less “comfortable” travel destinations there are always some places you shouldn't go. Cali was a dangerous place in 80s and in some parts still is, but normal life still continues. My experiences have been very positive, there have been problems, but I believe that if you are sensible and respectful, you're doing the best you can. I'd say the main day to day problem is language, I'm learning spanish as I go, so everyday is a learning process. It’s easy to order food and find addresses but the more expressive parts of language like describing music or art still evade me. Over the last year, I've been taking various excursions, often by car, to the north of country, there the culture is very different to Cali. In short, I'd say I'm very content to be living in the birthplace of Cumbia.
'Make Dub Not War'
Is DJing taking a back seat these days? Or is this part of your creative process that directly influences what you try to create live? And what can we expect to hear at your Bristol show?
Not so much, I still DJ a lot, maybe not so much as before. I'm still finding a lot of interesting records, so it’s always a pleasure to showcase what I have found. I am definitely playing more in the States as I'm geographically closer. I also play on a regular basis in Cali. Records, on the whole, are still my method to learn. You can learn things from records that you cannot learn in a university or college. There is music that has been long forgotten or thrown aside by the mainstream ear. Records very much influence my creative process, they inspire me, inform me and most of all demonstrate to me the various tones and colours you can create. In Bristol, the show will very much depend on what music I have found in that month. I'm probably going to be in Panama and Barranquilla for a bit before then. I'll also be playing a lot of tracks from the new record and the Flowering Inferno record.
It's obvious that you are not afraid of new paths. So where next after Colombia? Are there any other countries or cultures you are hoping to explore musically?
Well, a fellow Englishman living in Cali described trying to leave Cali very well to me. He said its like trying to leave a lukewarm bath, you know you have to but you just want a little more time. I think it’s been like that for many people who have spent a lifetime in Cali. I do love it here but I would like to eventually live in a location where it is a little easier to operate. It is very hard to obtain a lot of things here, like tape for the studio, good instruments... I can see myself having problems with that. But, lets see what the future holds.
What other plans have you got for 2009?
I'm working on the second flowering inferno album, hopefully should be done in the next few months and after that, tour! tour! tour!