David Holmes is the among the best in a growing cadre of invisible-soundtrack producers inspired by the audio verité of classic film composers -- Lalo Schifrin, John Barry, Ennio Morricone -- as well as the usual stable of dancefloor innovators and a large cast of jazz/soul pioneers to boot. Similar to the work of Howie B, Barry Adamson, and Portishead's Geoff Barrow, Holmes' productions are appropriately spacious and theatrical, though usually focused on future club consumption as well. His first album, hotly tipped in England, rose the stakes significantly for his second. Let's Get Killed hardly disappointed, gaining critical and artistic success given the constraints of instrumental dance music. The increased exposure even helped him hire in on Hollywood's bankroll to provide the score for the 1998 feature film Out of Sight.
Born in Belfast as the youngest of ten children, Holmes listened to punk rock as a child and began DJing at the age of 15 -- his sets at pubs and clubs around the city during the next few years embraced a range of grooves including soul-jazz, mod rock, Northern soul, and disco. Holmes worked as an underground concert promoter and wrote a fanzine as well, though he was still just a teenager when the house and techno boom hit Britain in the late '80s. Soon he was integrating the new dance music into his mixing, and his club night Sugar Sweet became the first venue for serious dance music in Northern Ireland. Back-and-forth contact between England and Northern Ireland brought Holmes into contact with leading DJs Andrew Weatherall, Darren Emerson, and Ashley Beedle. After familiarizing himself with the studio, he began recording with Beedle (later of Black Science Orchestra) to produce the single "DeNiro" (as Disco Evangelists), a sizable dancefloor hit in 1992. The following year, his Scubadevils project (a collaboration with Dub Federation) appeared on the first volume of the seminal compilation series Trance Europe Express.
That first taste of success brought David Holmes much remixing work during 1993-1994, for Weatherall's Sabres of Paradise, St. Etienne, Therapy?, Fortran 5, Sandals, and Justin Warfield, among others. He later signed to Go! Discs and in 1995 released his debut album, This Film's Crap, Let's Slash the Seats. Besides the cinema-terrorist persona evoked in the title, the album featured other ties to the cinema: the single "No Mans Land" had been written in response to the controversial Guildford Four film In the Name of the Father. Television director Lynda La Plante ended up using many of the tracks from the album for her series Supply & Demand, and one track was used in the Sean Penn/Michael Douglas film The Game. Holmes' first proper soundtrack, the Marc Evans film Resurrection Game, appeared in 1997. The experience inspired Holmes to travel to New York and gather a wealth of urban-jungle environment recordings, compiled and mixed into his second proper album, Let's Get Killed.
He followed with the remix collection Stop Arresting Artists, and in 1998 scored Steven Soderbergh's A-list Hollywood feature Out of Sight with a prescient set of groove-funk. (The attention also earned him a place in Entertainment Weekly's list of the Top 100 Creative People in Entertainment.) His single "My Mate Paul" even featured as the theme music to the Sony Playstation game Psybadek. Essential Mix 98/01 followed later that year, and in 1999 This Film's Crap, Let's Slash the Seats was reissued with a bonus disc of rarities and unreleased tracks. Holmes issued his third studio effort, Bow Down to the Exit Sign, in September 2000. One year later, Soderbergh tapped him to produce another feature film soundtrack, for Ocean's Eleven, and it pushed a single -- Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation," as remixed by Junkie XL -- into the charts (as well as the top spot in many countries).
Holmes' next project was a studio band, the Free Association, introduced on the 2002 mix album Come Get It, I Got It. On the record, Holmes mixed and matched older tracks with new productions from him and his lab-mate, Stephen Hilton. Late that same year, a full album of new tracks (David Holmes Presents the Free Association, which was reissued with a new track order in 2006) followed it onto the racks, and in 2004 Cherrystones: Hidden Charms came out. Holmes' original score for the film Ocean's 13 was released in 2007. This was followed by Holy Pictures in 2008. This was a next step in terms of the production aesthetic used during his Free Association period -- he used a live band alongside a wealth of electronics, but he also wrote much more song-oriented material and did his own singing on the record, which made it controversial among fans. His first proper retrospective, The Dogs Are Parading: The Very Best of David Holmes, was released by UME in 2010. ~ John Bush