San Holo Takes Us Inside His Infectious Single ‘Light’ and Shares His Thoughts on EDM’s Global Surge
There’s a lot to be said about the largest growing music genre in the world. EDM is both looked up to and frowned upon, reviled and beloved. Even within the scene there are DJ’s who are in it for the wrong reasons, but Dutch producer San Holo is in it for its sheer creative freedom. As a 26-year-old Hollander who studied music at Rotterdam’s Codarts University for the Arts, Sander van Dijck, as he’s known off-stage, loves the idea of artistic integrity. He’s even created a record label, Bitbird, based on that one fundamental idea.
Van Dijck’s music has made quite an impression on the genre in recent months, most notably with “Light” and “We Rise,” both soaring singles featuring the uplifting vocals of fellow Dutch artist Tessa Douwstra and combining for nearly 100 million plays on Spotify. His recently released remix pack, “Light (Remixes),” is just one example of how popular this track has become. Even more recently though, “The Future,” featuring the sultry vocals of James Vincent McMorrow, has been van Dijck’s claim to fame. Ahead of his set at Lollapalooza, the optimistic producer sat down with EV to discuss all things San Holo including news of his yet-to-be-announced new single.
Your latest single, “The Future,” features Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow. What was the process like working with him?
Honestly, I was a fan of his work for a long time. I was listening to him back when I was playing in bands. Someone put me in touch with him and he was like ‘Yo dude, I have this song and I can’t finish it. Do you wanna try?’ I completely changed everything about it, changed the chords, changed the melody, cut up the vocals and he loved it. I wanted to try and add guitar to my production for a long time and this was the perfect way to do it.
The track “Light” was what really catapulted you into the ether of electronic music. Were you expecting such a welcoming reception when you released that song?
I made “Light” on an airplane to a show and I did not expect how big that song would get. After I released it I started listening to it and started to understand why people love it. But I just made it because I just wanted to see the light back then. I was touring a lot and getting into the music industry is always a little bit of a weird thing, you know? There’s a big difference between music and the music industry. I just wanted to see the light, to know what’s going on, to (figure) out what I want to do with my music. It changed a lot for me in terms of shows as well. People really know that song everywhere I go. Whether I’m in Europe, America, everyone sings along to it. It’s my biggest song! Now I’m trying to write something new like that. It’s a blessing and a curse to write something like that. You can’t always make a hit, you know?
As someone who’s recently exploded onto the EDM scene, how do you envision the future of this continually growing genre?
I think it’s out of control. I think two years ago, most started as melodic trap music with chords and synths. It’s now reached the point of being pop music on the radio. I think it’s definitely going to change and I hope to be able to be a part of the change. That’s what I love most about music is innovating something and changing something.
You run your own indie record label in the Netherlands called Bitbird which specializes in allowing artists to fully express themselves creatively. What was it that drove you to create such a label?
We created Bitbird right when I started San Holo because I wanted to promote people that I really believe in as artists and as musicians and as people, those three things. I think we really shaped kind of a sound for ourselves. Just listen to it and you’ll find out. The Bitbird sound! We try to make everything as fair as possible, including contracts. I think the most interesting thing about the label is that we release classical piano music and we release heavy trap shit. As long as we believe that it’s something special and new. That’s what we strive to do.
Can you give us any insight on upcoming music? Do you have any new singles slotted for release?
I’m working on a lot of songs and I think I’m dropping a new song in one or one-and-a-half months on my label Bitbird. It’s going to be completely different. I think people are going to hate it, which is always a good thing because it means it does something to them. I’m going to be singing and playing guitar. It’s not going to be trap, it’s going to be a different kind of beat.
You’re about to head off on the first leg of your North American tour. As an electronic artist you have the luxury of performing in all types of venues. What’s your favorite venue, be it an intimate theater, packed club or massive festival like Lollapalooza?
Well I think it’s pretty obvious that the smaller the room, the more direct you are in the face of the people, which is what I kind of prefer because I feel like in the smaller venues, you can really play whatever you want. People always say just play whatever you want everywhere, but at the festivals you kind of have to play bigger. If you’re going to play slow, quiet, softer songs people are going to fall asleep. When I play smaller rooms, I really play quiet songs. I’m going to grab my guitar and sing a song. It’s kind of hard to do that at a festival, but maybe one day it will be just the same for me. I’m not sure.