Junkie XL, born Tom Holkenborg, has remixed tracks for some of the biggest-selling stars in history, including Coldplay and Britney Spears. He's scored top-selling video games like Forza Motorsport and produced soundtracks for such films as Catwoman and Domino. He appears to be at the top of his game. But when we spoke with the multi-instrumentalist -- who is most noted for creating a dance version of Elvis's "A Little Less Conversation" that skyrocketed to number one in 24 countries -- he told us that he'd recently felt the need to get back to that most sacred of rock and roll instruments: the guitar. More important, he'd wanted to create a more personal album.
Westword: Your new release, Today, merges house, trance and rock. But the sound palette is so well-focused. Is that a conscious decision or an innate artistic approach?
Junkie XL: It came naturally. My previous albums were so all over the place. They were big conceptual records; they always had a big story around them, like Pirate Radio. I really just wanted to go back to basics. Forget about all the big collaborations -- just me in the studio making music on my own. Even though collaborating with well-known artists would have been easier than ever, I didn't want to do that. I decided to make a personal album, to take three to four months making the music and just put it out. Me, here and now.
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Why did you put the time constraint on yourself? Was it also a challenge for you?
That's what it is. All the projects that I work on take forever to finish. This time I wanted to get in the studio and do something spur of the moment, make ten tracks and say, "Those are going to be on the album." And I was really surprised by the music: When I was working on the first songs, I realized this is going to be quite a mellow album -- but okay, that's what it is. It's very liberating. I felt better than ever making this album.
Will you be busting out a guitar for your live performances?
I did that in the past. What I can do on stage is more "live" than actually playing with a whole band. For me, playing live in a dance environment is that you throw stuff around and change things on the spot. You can't do that with a band; the band would be like, "What? What's going on? That's not what we rehearsed."
You're notorious for being totally energetic on stage.
For me, I don't want to be a guy who is so busy looking at screens and turning knobs that I can't find time to enjoy myself. I'd rather pre-program a couple things that I know at least I have thirty seconds to look around and play with the audience. I just love playing live; people give me so much energy. And it's so great to play the States; the crowd is amazing, very loyal.
With all the advertising and movie projects you have lined up, you're obviously not slowing down. Do you still have the workaholic nature that your name stands for?
I am getting older; my body can't keep up anymore. I mean, I can't stay up for two or three days of the week anymore, and I didn't do that on drugs. My parents thought I had ADHD, but I'm fine.
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