I caught up with Portuguese DJ Holly at Audiotistic on July 14. Holly is one of Europe’s most talented bass producers and he’d recently performed at EDC Las Vegas and Coachella. Holly has been co-signed by artists such as Steve Aoki and Martin Garrix and in 2017, he won A-Trak’s inaugural Goldie Award. On May 17, Holly released his latest 4-track EP titled, Avenal 2500 and on July 10, released a single with A$AP TyY called, “Till I Die”. Here is the exclusive interview with Holly during Day 2 at Audiotistic in Mountain View, California.
Kenny Ngo: What are your thoughts on the Audiotistic Festival so far in Mountain View, California? Especially since we just witnessed your performance earlier today.
Holly: It’s great, man! The venue is a great spot and it’s very beautiful. The show was really good and the energy was on point. Everyone has good vibes and it’s been great! I’ve been having so much fun here and I also have good friends here and I’ve been surrounded by good energy.
You were at the Dead Rocks Festival over a week ago. How was it like performing at the festival?
I don’t know man, I don’t know how to explain. Like sometimes there are shows you like to do and you just think like, “Yo! This is like a dream!”. Red Rocks is one of them for sure. Um, it was fun playing there, walking towards the rocks, and especially during daytime when I can see everything and I thought, “Whoa! This place is beautiful, man!”.
I was so excited to play there. It was great to be a part of the Zeds Dead festival, you know, and the show was really cool. It was a great day, it was super nice to perform there, and it gave me a nice memory for me to keep forever.
While you were at Dead Rocks, you opened for Zeds Dead, who were also headlining acts at Audiotistic yesterday. How was it like working with them at Red Rocks?
It was great, man. Like I said, it was a big pleasure to be part of their vision and their project and I’m really glad they chose me to support them. I grew up listening to a lot of their music and later getting to work on the music together. It feels great to be working with someone that I like and look up to a lot. I think, I don’t know man, but it feels great to work with them for sure.
A couple months ago, you released your latest EP, Avenal 2500. What do you like the most about incorporating various music styles and genres such as hip-hop and club music onto the tracks of Avenal 2500?
I think it was more like doing a resume of the music styles that I really like and would listen to forever. Although I love the experimental bass music but at the same time, I like noise music, then I love hip-hop, trap, and all that stuff. For me, doing that EP was like a statement to myself like, “Yeah, this is the music that I like! This is the music that I love listening to and produce”.
It was really important for me to have a track with Slow-J, who’s a really good friend of mine from Portugal. He’s a Portuguese rapper and it was really cool to see a North American label release a Portuguese hip-hop record. Yeah, it was fun to do a project with a bunch of songs I like listening to, you know. My music style is specific and it’s kinda hard to put in a box. That EP resumes what I am doing at the moment.
You also recently performed at EDC Las Vegas and Coachella. In your opinion, what are the similarities and differences between performing at European festivals and at American festivals?
Bro, to be honest with you, I haven’t performed at many European festivals so I really don’t know what to say. I’ve played a couple times in Europe but I don’t think I’ve really played at a festival. I mean, I’ve played at this festival where it’s like a house party in Belgium one time, um, that was more like a warehouse party. Then, I’ve played some festivals in Portugal but they weren’t that big and that was more like being part of something else, I was playing beats for rappers and stuff like that.
So it’s kinda complicated since I really don’t have the experience of playing in a European festival. I just feel like in America, it’s kinda funny how the people dress and how the people prepare themselves to the party compared to how different it is in Europe in general. In Europe, you’re going to a festival and you just dress very simple and minimal but in America, people just dress like crazy, you know. Crazy colors, almost like full-naked so it’s cool to see how different cultures approach the festival culture.
You recently released your newest single on July 10th with A$AP TyY titled, “Till I Die”. How was it like producing the single with him? Especially since the both of you have already performed the song at EDC and you just performed the song here too at Audiotistic.
It was really cool, I grew up listening to a lot of old-school hip-hop when I was younger. When I was 16 or 17, I just listened to a lot of old-school hip-hop like Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep and more classic names like that. Then I found ASAP Mob and the other stuff that A$AP Rocky was doing, my mind was boggled on how fresh they were and how they brought a new sound to the rap scene. I was like, “Whoa! These are crazy!” and I want to know more about them and I start listening to a lot of their stuff. For me, ASAP Mob has always been a huge reference to my music journey.
A year ago, I was at this party during the NBA All-Star weekend and Wiz Khalifa and A$AP Rocky were performing or something like that. I saw A$AP TyY there and I went to talk to him and I said, “Hey man, I love your stuff. I would love to send you some beats”. He was like, “Sure, here’s my email” and we kept in touch and a couple months after, I went to New York. This was like May or June of last year and we linked up and I was playing a bunch of beats to him.
He had a friend with him who was like, “Yo man, we should do something more like EDM or trap-banger stuff and you make more of that stuff so that way TyY can write something”. I was like, “Oh okay, sounds good!” and then I went to my folder that’s filled with EDM and trap stuff I had and one of the first songs I played was a song I made with NXSTY. We played it, ran with it and I was like, “Cool!’, and then TyY sent us to the vocal booth and recorded everything like he mean it. It was kinda like a freestyle and I was like, “Ah sick! Thank you!”.
Then, I got the vocals and NXSTY and I worked on the rest of the song and yeah, it becomes what it was. I later sent some tracks to Insomniac and one of them was with A$AP TyY. It was really cool to see the whole journey of me listening to ASAP Mob when I was 16-17 to meeting A$AP TyY in a party that was super random to meeting him in New York, as well as releasing the single. It’s so cool to see that full cycle, you know.
What were your reactions when you won A-Trak’s inaugural Goldie Award in 2017?
I was just really happy and also very happy to be there. I was very happy to play my music in front of Just Blaze, A-Trak, Diplo, Mija, and Mannie Fresh. Those are people who are like ASAP Mob, who I grew up listening to them, and I got the opportunity to get on the stage to play my music in front of them. Playing my music in front of them was really special for me and yeah, I was so happy! Winning the competition was like an extra to that situation, you know, and I was just so happy to play my music in front of those people.
How is the EDM scene like in Portugal compared to the rest of Europe and here in the United States?
I think the EDM scene in Portugal is very different from Europe and Europe is very different from America. They are three different, well, I don’t want to use the word “markets” but at the same time they can be markets, you know. But um, Portugal’s still growing and we have a lot of good producers like Kura, who’s on the top of DJMag. Then we have Moullinex, who makes a lot of disco, funk, house but he has a very unique sound. But yeah, I’m talking about this because EDM for me has always been just electronic music, you know, and it doesn’t need to be just like festival music.
It’s more like everything has been made into electronic music. And then there’s like a big scene in Portugal for a mix of African music with electronic music so that has a big following in Portugal too. There’s a lot of producers like DJ Riot, Stereossauro, Razad, and Bass Brothers who make super sick bass music stuff. I think the Portuguese EDM scene is still growing since the music is still kinda new in Portugal but I think we are going in a good direction.
The title of the Avenal 2500 EP is named after the city you grew up in, which is north of Lisbon. For American EDM fans who may travel or are planning to travel to Lisbon, what do you recommend them to check out if they do visit Avenal?
Avenal is like a small neighborhood in the city where I come from. The city’s called Caldas da Rainha, and then the neighborhood is called Avenal. So if you go to Avenal, it might not be a lot of stuff that you can see but, actually, there is a lot of stuff you can see. There’s a factory there, I’m not sure if it’s still opened, but they make a lot of stuff like handmade glasses and just like specific sculptures and things like that.
So you got that factory there and you have this huge park where that’s like a beautiful park in the city that people should check out for sure. There are a lot of museums, um, yeah, just drive around and it’s very peaceful. It’s a very nice neighborhood and it’s a great place.
I have one last question and this question is related to Portuguese football (or soccer as it is called here in the U.S). Do you support Sporting Clube de Portugal or Sport Lisboa e Benfica?
Benfica has always been my soccer team since I was younger. Nowadays, Benfica is still the soccer team that I like and I hope it always wins but I don’t pay attention to soccer that much any more. It just gets so boring because of too many politics. I have a lot of friends who are like fanboys of soccer and sometimes I get mad because their teams did not win and I’m like, “Bro, you should just chill and think about life, you know?”.