Written by Alexander Dias for Insomniac.com
As a youth, San Holo, aka Sander van Dijk, showed an obsessive spirit, his studies being first on the list. And while every parent’s dream would be to have a son who is well read, his mother felt it was as important that he have a hobby. She then got him to try music, and his next obsession was born. Since then van Dijk has focused that unwavering dedication to music, first as a member of several rock bands. He eventually grew tired of his bands consistently breaking up, so he decided to strike out on his own, first as a ghost producer then as the artist we know today as San Holo.
The producer exploded into the scene in 2014 via his first productions. His remix of Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode“ garnered almost 100 million plays on YouTube and inspired him to break some rules and rework a string of hip-hop classics in his sparkly future-meets-raw-trap style, cementing him as one of bass music’s most sought-after artists. His music crosses genre boundaries, and his ability to harness the visual aspect of art with his videos is further proof that San Holo is unique and dynamic, with a long future in the music industry.
San Holo touches down at Exchange LA this Friday 09/23 as part of the US leg of his Gouldian Finch World Tour, named after a rare bird and a possible nod to his bitbird label.
Ahead of his show, the producer has dropped an exclusive playlist for your ears. We also chatted with him about family life, the importance of visual art in his work and his growing bitbird empire.
The video of your grandfather reacting to one of your tunes is a priceless moment. What has it been like for your family to witness your success?
[Laughs] That moment was priceless indeed! My family has always been supporting me. I started playing guitar about 13 years ago, but even though the electronic music I started making some years ago felt a little weird for them at first, they’ve nevertheless always been excited about my creations. That’s how I got the idea of that grandpa video; I just filmed him listening to a brand-new track of mine, and his reaction was just so funny and cute at the same time. He was hearing all these weird sounds he had never heard before, but he remained open-minded throughout the whole song. He was even head-bopping at some point! Long story short, my family is very excited about where music is taking me, however, they have to get used to me being on the road on the other side of the world all the time. That’s not always easy.
Speaking of video, how important is it for you to have a visual outlet to express your creativity?
Visual content can make music way more powerful, while music can also make visual content strong as well. I would love to get into this a lot more than I’ve already been doing, and I’m planning on doing something special with visuals soon, which will also be used in my shows.
bitbird has an interesting sonic imprint. What was your initial goal for the label and what are you looking for when you sign an artist?
bitbird is all about supporting artists that bring something new to the game. We don’t think in genres, we think in music. For bitbird, we’re looking for artists who have their own sound, whether it’s an electronic music producer, a pianist or a guitar player. Whatever [it is], it doesn’t matter as long as they have their own musical universe. I love it when I listen to a track and I know after a couple of seconds which artist I’m listening to. All bitbird artists have that unique sound, in my opinion!
You’ve mentioned your name came about while you and a friend were rapping over hip-hop beats you made. Any chance we’re going to hear some San Holo flows in the future?
I was not rapping; I was making the beats! However, sometimes I sing, and I will probably do some vocal work on upcoming tracks.
You got your start in live music. Have you ever considered how your music would translate in a live setting? If money were no object, what would that look like?
Oh yes, for sure, I actually played in many bands years ago! The live music thing is something I wanna do 100 percent. Next year is all about working on an album and creating a unique live setting for the shows. I have some ideas, but I still have a lot of thinking to do about what exactly it would look and sound like.