XL, the man who remixed "A Little Less Conversation",
talks to EIN
XL was formed in 1995 in Holland and has become the first
band ever to be officially allowed, by BMG, to remix an Elvis
track for release. This Nike Ad remix of "A Little Less Conversation"
has put Elvis back onto the main playlists of contemporary
radio stations the world over. A new sound for a new Millennium.
It's hip to like Elvis once again!
XL is Tom Holkenberg. Tom commenced his highly interesting musical
journey at the age of 10 when his parents bought him a drum set.
Piano lessons followed and then Tom's big interest in electronics
and electronic instruments was fostered.
interest laid the foundation for the amazing work he is now doing
producing, writing and presenting contemporary dance music. Tom
has worked with some of the biggest names on the dance scene including
DJ Sasha, DJ Tiesto, Rude Boy and Saffron (singer for the band Republica).
a tour of the USA, Tom came up with the songs for the album 'Big
Sounds Of The Drags'. The album featured a varied range of different
songs and styles and involved Tom's ideas of using such techniques
as reversed guitars and vocals, guitar melodies, and innovative
drum and string arrangements.
appears to be no end to Tom's talents. He is an accomplished songwriter
and has done the music for several movies including Resident Evil
(2002), Soul Assassin (2001), Ginger Snaps (2001) and The Delivery
(2000). Tom also did the full score for the new Xbox game, Quantum
Redshift, and is appearing this month on Top of the Pops in Britain.
Holkenborg (Junkie XL) took time out of his busy schedule to talk
to EIN. Tom's candid discussion with EIN was a fascinating and really
interesting experience covering a diverse range of themes from his
work on A Little Less Conversation to the state of contemporary
- Before we talk specifically about 'Elvis vs JXL' we should clarify
exactly who & what Junkie XL is?
- Junkie XL came about around 5 or 6 years ago when I was looking
for a name to cover the range of my productions. Basically Junkie
XL is me, although I get help from time to time from a number of
my musical peers and friends.
- And the name, Junkie XL. How did that come about?
- My friends call me me 'Junkie' because of all the time I spend
in the studio. The 'XL' stands for 'expanding limits', opening up
your eyes and ears to new things, new sounds.
- Who were the major musical influences on Junkie XL?
- I was really influenced from the late 1980s on by electronic bands
like Kraftwerk, Yello and KLF. I was into the 'hip hop' sounds.
I started in college playing drums and went on to learn bass, piano
- Were dance groups like Culture Beat and 2 Unlimited an influence
- Not really. In Holland they were viewed very much as being too
commercial, always trying to get a top ten single.
- Tom, you have created a real storm of interest and anticipation
with your fantastic remix of A Little Less Conversation. How did
you manage to become the first official re-mixer of an Elvis track?
- (laughs) I really have no clue. The Estate (EPE) had knocked back
so many other proposals over the years, I'm not sure why they accepted
mine. When Nike approached me to do the music for its soccer commercial
(Hidden Secret) a group of us sat down and brainstormed what tracks
might work. It was a team based decision. We knew the vibe from
A Little Less Conversation would work in any culture. Nike thought
it was 'spot on' for what football is all about.
- The song "A Little Less Conversation" is a reasonably obscure
Elvis single. When did you first discover the original?
- I first came across it in the movie, Oceans Eleven. The movie
included a small snippet of the song and I liked its vibe.
- Have you ever seen the original movie "Live A Little, Love A Little"
that featured the song? If yes, what did you think of it?
- No I haven't seen it. Being made in 1968 it's before my time.
(unlike some of us, including the interviewer, Tom is only in his
- Some Elvis fans think that his music is sacrosanct and that it
should never be played with. Have you come across anyone with the
opinion that your remix is destroying hallowed ground?
- I haven't come across this view. It was very important to me in
remixing the track that I kept the original track intact as much
as possible. I wanted to preserve the original vocal as far as I
could - to add something to it without altering the original. It
was already a funky and uplifting track and had elements I really
liked but wanted to beef up. I totally respect Elvis's music and
wanted to maintain its integrity.
- Can you tell us how you went about the remix?
- I hadn't heard any alternate takes of the song I really liked.
There was one where his voice goes up and it didn't have the vibe.
So I took the original mono mix and added a drum group to make the
sound more "2002" in its drum rhythm. I also added percussion and
congos. The original track features a choir and in the remix I've
used a double choir. The bass line was also redone and acoustic
(Hammond) sounds added. Throughout the remix I always wanted to
keep it as close as I could to the original and I think it's pretty
close. It was important that the remix be seen as being "cool".
It was a lot of fun doing the remix.
- What was you first Elvis experience? Have you been an Elvis fan
all your life or was this a new discovery?
- I was exposed to Elvis at a really young age. My father was a
fan and later I was exposed to his music by an older nephew. When
I was growing up I was more into alternative rock, being a fan of
bands like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Who and The Byrds.
- When Elvis recorded, he often did many takes of a song. With A
Little Less Conversation he recorded 17 takes. Is the recording
process similar for you?
- Not really. Back then the whole process was normally done with
the whole band, but not today. It is different with electronic music
where you program music using software programs. In the sense that
you include different edited forms it can be like a take. Certainly
with vocals and real instruments, its take based.
- People often think that the music of today is far removed from
the Rock n' Roll music of the fifties but don't you think that the
explosive sound of something like 'Hound Dog' can move you in the
same way as a Junkie XL track being played on the dance floor?
- I believe the consumption of music now is very different to 25
years ago. It's much more two dimensional now. If you take something
like classical music, it evolved over a period of 100 or 150 years.
Today, music trends take only months. There are no classic album
artists today and the scene lacks 'cool, three dimensional music'.
Today, there is a parallel with Motown. It was the total hit factory,
with studio musicians turning out hit after hit. They were the Stock,
Aitken and Waterman of their time.
- Your point about there being no classic album artists today. Does
that mean we've come full circle as you could argue in the 1950s
singles dominated and albums were just a hotchpotch of songs thrown
- No I think it's different today. While singles dominated how music
was made in the 50s there was still a lot of classic material being
written and recorded. You had classic songwriters and musicians
and an interesting class of songs.
- I note that you have played at a multitude of music festivals
in Europe including Ibiza and even the Glastonbury Festival in England.
Have you tried your Elvis remix on these crowds and what was their
- The first time will actually be this Saturday. I'm appearing at
Homelands, a major dance festival in Britain. 50,000 people are
expected to be there.
- It sounds like this will be a great experience. We'd love to be
there and hear the reaction to Elvis vs JXL! EIN - Tell us about
your upcoming appearance on Britain's Top of the Pops. What will
your involvement be?
- At this stage I'm not sure. We're still working it out. There
are a lot of issues to do with lip synching and getting rights to
pictures from the Elvis Estate. Sometimes the whole thing can be
a pain in the ass.
- Were you surprised at the very high level of interest shown by
radio stations in Elvis vs JXL? BMG is predicting it will hit #1
in the UK and BMG Australia believes it could do the same here,
as youth radio network JJJ has added it to its High Rotation playlist
- you will be interested to know that Elvis vs JXL is the most requested
song on JJJ this year!
- That's great to hear. I never expected it. To be totally honest
I never expected the track to be a hit. My involvement was an amazing
- In England both Elvis and The Beatles are standing with the equal
record of 17 number 1 songs each. Do you realize that, in this year
of the 25th Anniversary commemoration, it might be your work that
makes Elvis once again the one and only King?
- I wasn't aware of that. I don't want to overstate my involvement
in the track. It was already a funky song.
- I think it's fair to say though that your remix has lifted the
track to a new level and is obviously the element that makes it
"cool" to the contemporary youth audience.
- Thank you. EIN - "Elvis vs JXL" could well be the start of a new
direction in how Elvis' music is produced. Do you have any plans
to remix other Elvis tracks?
- No I haven't. The experience was amazing but that's it. It was
a great opportunity but I'm moving on to other projects.
- What about the music of other major artists? Have you considered
remixing some of the swing or dance tracks recorded by say Frank
Sinatra or Dean Martin?
- No. I think their music has been picked up by others, like Robbie
Williams. So it's less interesting for this reason.
- You have some intriquing projects in the pipeline. When can we
expect to hear your new album, 'Red Heat'?
- It comes out September 1. It includes three tracks with vocalist,
Saffron, lead singer of Republica.
- What other projects is Junkie XL presently working on?
- I'm wrapping up a number of projects at the moment. Apart from
my album, 'Red Heat', I've just finished collaborating with Gary
Numan who had the hit song, 'Cars'. I've also done the music for
the new Xbox game, Quantum Redshift. Later this year we'll be touring
again, making up for last year's cancelled dates, including coming
to Australia. Coming to Australia was part of the tour dates we
- EIN can tell you we know there will be many dance and Elvis fans
eagerly looking forward to your tour down under!
-is it difficult splitting your time between performing and producing?
- Yes, performing and producing can sometimes be difficult. In the
dance scene it can be OK, as it's a little easier to balance your
time. It's certainly more difficult in rock music where your time
has to be divided between recording in the studio or being on tour.
- Do you have a preference between performing, producing and songwriting?
- No, I don't have a preference. I believe a fine balance keeps
a musician's life interesting.
- Tom, finally, leaving aside Elvis vs JXL, what do regard as your
most satisfying work to date?
- I'd have to say my work with D J Sasha has been the most satisfying.
Making an album is a real collaboration and after four weeks you
usually want to kill each other. I worked with D J Sasha for seven
months and it was an amazing collaboration.
- Tom, on behalf of all Elvis fans, I'd like to thank you for your
time. It's been a great pleasure talking to you and I know many
fans are looking forward to rockin' to some of your beats when you
visit Australia later this year. We wish you all the best for the
future and look forward to your great remix of A Little Less Conversation
becoming a #1 hit.
more information about Junkie XL visit the official web site at:
XL was interviewed by Nigel Patterson, President, EIN by telephone
on 30 May 2002.
interview questions were researched and prepared by Piers Beagley
and Nigel Patterson.
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