Junkie XL

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Junkie XL
Birth name Tom Holkenborg
Also known as Junkie XL, JXL
Born (1967-12-08) December 8, 1967 (age 46)
Lichtenvoorde, Gelderland, Netherlands
Genres Electronica, big beat, house
Instruments Keyboards, turntables, guitar, drums
Years active 1988–present
Labels Artwerk, Ultra Records, Roadrunner Records
Associated acts A Forest Called Mulu
Mambo Jambo
Nerve
Weekend at Waikiki
Remote Control Productions
Website www.junkiexl.com

Tom Holkenborg (born December 8, 1967), better known as Junkie XL or occasionally JXL, is a Dutch multi-instrumentalist, producer, and engineer. He uses the name JXL in cases where the term “Junkie” might cause offense. Says Holkenborg of his name, “I called myself Junkie XL from the point of view that once you’re completely overworked, you never want to go there again. The ‘XL’ stands for expanding limits; broadening up your vision.”

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

XL was born in Lichtenvoorde, Gelderland, Netherlands. Classically trained by his mother – herself an accredited music teacher – Holkenborg started playing piano when he was four years old, drums when he was eight, and guitar at 12. Already influenced by the psychedelic-pop of Pink Floyd and King Crimson, he took up the bass by age 14. After taking a job at a local music store selling keyboards and other digital gear, he began to have an appreciation for the combination of electronic and organic sounds. It was shortly after he discovered synthesizers that he joined the Dutch New Wave ensemble Weekend at Waikiki as a multi-instrumentalist and producer, touring extensively with the band, including through parts of the former Soviet Union, from 1988 to 1991. He also contributed to their final album, Sputnik. In 1993, Holkenborg produced Almost a Dance by Dutch metal band The Gathering, and later that year went on to form the industrial rock band Nerve with Phil Mills. After signing with influential label Play It Again Sam in 1992 and releasing two LPs – Cancer of Choice (1993) and Blood & Gold (1994) – he continued as a producer-for-hire, working with hardcore and metal bands like Sepultura, Fear Factory, and Dog Eat Dog while simultaneously licensing some of his instrumental electronic tracks for racing video games like The Need For Speed and Test Drive 5. It was during this time that he also began scoring the Dutch feature film, Siberia, which would be released by Warner Brothers Netherlands.

1997–1999: Saturday Teenage Kick and Big Sounds of the Drags[edit]

In 1997, Holkenborg released Saturday Teenage Kick, his first album under the "Junkie XL" moniker. Featuring singles such as “Billy Club”, “Def Beat” and “Dealing with the Roster”, the album combined pounding breakbeat rhythms with elements of rock and psychedelia, providing an early blueprint for the big beat genre. Many of the album’s songs featured lyrics and vocals by Patrick “Rude Boy” Tilon, vocalist for the Dutch rap rock band Urban Dance Squad. After a brief tour with Prodigy and festival dates at Fuji Rock and Roskilde, Holkenborg made a name for itself in the burgeoning US rave scene. His second LP, Big Sounds of the Drags, was released in 1999, and also featured a number of collaborations with Tilon, including “Action Radius”, “Power of Big Slacks”, “Zerotonine”, “Love Like a Razorblade”, “Legion” and “Next Plateau”. “Future in Computer Hell (Part 2)”, the last track on the album, was featured prominently on Welsh DJ and producer Sasha’s mix album, Global Underground 013: Ibiza.

2002: "A Little Less Conversation"[edit]

While making inroads as a film composer – contributing to movies like Blade (1998) and The Beach (2000) – Holkenborg was asked to remix Elvis Presley’s 1968 single “A Little Less Conversation” (with three different music videos) for a 2002 Nike World Cup commercial. The occasion marked the first time Presley’s estate had granted permission for any of the artist’s material to be remixed. The song reached No. 1 in 24 countries, including Great Britain, Japan, Australia and Mexico, and was released as a single under the name "Elvis vs. JXL". The song was also featured as the title song to the NBC TV series, Las Vegas, and in feature films like Shark Tale, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and MegaMind.

2003: Radio JXL: A Broadcast from the Computer Hell Cabin[edit]

The worldwide popularity of “A Little Less Conversation” set the stage for his 2003 double-disc album, Radio JXL: A Broadcast from the Computer Hell Cabin. (The name “Computer Hell” referred to Holkenborg’s Amsterdam studio and headquarters.) Loosely based around the concept of a dreamlike pirate radio station, the LP’s 3PM side features collaborations with The Cure’s Robert Smith, Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, Peter Tosh, Chuck D from Public Enemy, Gary Numan, Solomon Burke, and Saffron, along with the famed Elvis Presley remix. The 3AM side consists mostly of progressive house instrumentals, including “Breezer”, a collaboration with Sasha. The album was to be launched simultaneously with a fully functioning internet radio station at RadioJXL.com, which was to feature exclusive shows and mixes with top EDM producers and DJs, but the undertaking proved to be too expensive and time-consuming to continue. Subsequently, two downloadable albums were released from the site: 7AM Ambient and 7AM Dance.

2004–2008: Today and Booming Back at You[edit]

Holkenborg decided to relocate to Los Angeles in 2003, and in April 2006, released his fourth full-length, Today, and album that reflected the personal and professional changes that were occurring in his life. Today features only one guest vocalist, Nathan Mader, and reverts to the more guitar-based sound of his first two albums. His fifth album, Booming Back at You, saw Holkenborg cultivate a stronger club sound punctuated by tracks like “1967 Poem”, featuring Dim Mak label boss Steve Aoki. Many of the lyrics on the album were written in collaboration with Electrocute’s Nicole Morier, who appears in “Mad Pursuit”, “Not Enough” and “New Toy.” The album was released on Artwerk Music, a joint venture between Nettwerk Music and video game company Electronic Arts, and peaked at 11 on Billboard’s Top Electronic Album chart. It was the first Junkie XL full-length to chart in the US, and featured the hit single, “More”, with Lauren Rocket. Rocket also contributed vocals to the Siouxsie and the Banshees’ cover, "Cities in Dust".

2012: Synthesized[edit]

On November 27, 2012, Junkie XL released his sixth full-length album, entitled Synthesized. The album was preceded by a single EP for “Molly’s E”, which was released on September 6 and features remixes by Azari & III and Canblaster. A second single, “Gloria” (with Fredrik Saroea of Datarock), was released on October 23. Stylistically, Synthesized strikes a balance between the introspective sound of Today and the club-heavy sound of Booming Back at You, and features collaborations with Isis Salam (“Off The Dancefloor”), Tears for FearsCurt Smith (“When Enough is Not Enough”), and Tommie Sunshine (“Love Machine”). The album also features a spoken word excerpt from Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience, read by Leary, on the song “Leave Behind Your Ego”. A video for “Off the Dancefloor” was created by Japanese electro-pop band Trippple Nippples. The videos for “Gloria” and “Leave Behind Your Ego” were directed by John Christopher Pina (Kanye West, John Legend, Seal, Common) for Clean Sweep.

Composing for film[edit]

In collaboration with Harry Gregson-Williams, he contributed additional music to the Tony Scott film, Domino (2005), and served as the composer on the Dutch film, Blind, which was nominated for Best Original Music Score at the Netherlands Film Festival in 2007 and received the Grand Prix award for Best Original Music Score at the 2008 Aubagne International Film Festival. Today, Holkenborg continues to expand his influence in the world of film and television composition, recently collaborating with Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer on one of the highest-grossing films of all time, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. The film marks the fourth scoring collaboration between Holkenborg and Zimmer, including Megamind (2010), Inception (2010) and Madagascar 3 (2012). Since moving into Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions studio, the two have worked together on many other musical projects, including Man of Steel, the reboot of the Superman franchise, and a remix of this year’s Academy Awards theme song. Holkenborg has also provided music for the films Kingdom of Heaven, Domino, DOA: Dead or Alive, Shark Tale, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury, The Animatrix and Resident Evil, and has had his original music featured in a number of major motion pictures, including Blade (“Dealing with the Roster”) and The Beach (“Synaesthesia”). In 2013, he composed the music for the Relativity Media film, Paranoia. Shortly after, he was brought in by Zack Snyder the producer of 300: Rise of an Empire to create the score for the film. Rise of an Empire is the follow up to the blockbuster and cult classic 300 which was directed by Zack Snyder and released in 2007. He is credited as the composer for the 2014 film Divergent, with Hans Zimmer credited as "Executive Producer" for the soundtrack.

Composing for video games[edit]

To go along with his numerous artist albums and EPs, Holkenborg has been creating original music for video games since the mid-90s. In addition to composing the soundtrack for Xbox racing games Forza Motorsport and Quantum Redshift, Holkenborg is responsible for the groundbreaking SSX Blur soundtrack. He’s also licensed a number of his album tracks for video game use. “Future in Computer Hell (Part 2)”, “Synasthesia”, and “Dance USA” – all taken from his album Big Sounds of the Drags – were licensed to the racing video game, TD Overdrive: The Brotherhood of Speed (2002). The title track for Today is featured on the soundtrack for the video games, Burnout Legends and Burnout Revenge, while “More” – taken from his fifth album, Booming Back at You – is featured on the soundtrack to EA Games’ Need for Speed: ProStreet, which also includes a full score from Holkenborg. His cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Cities in Dust” is featured on Electronic Arts’ Burnout: Paradise. He’s written additional music for and licensed music to The Matrix: Path of Neo, Destroy All Humans!, The Sims 2: Nightlife, The Sims 3, Need for Speed: Underground, Need for Speed: Carbon, FIFA 08, and FIFA Street 3, among others. Most recently, he composed the soundtrack for EA’s Darkspore.

Remixes[edit]

Holkenborg’s remixes – for both A-list pop superstars and lesser known artists – have always kept him at the forefront of dance music culture. Highlights include work for Scissor Sisters (“Mary,” “Land of a Thousand Words”), Depeche Mode (“Enjoy the Silence”), U.N.K.L.E. (“Burn My Shadow”), Justin Timberlake (“What Goes Around”), Fatboy Slim (“Weapon of Choice”), Coldplay (“Talk”), Bloc Party (“Sundays”), Michael Bublé (“Sway”), and Avril Lavigne (“Girlfriend”). His remix for Britney Spears’ “Outrageous” was used in the 2004 film, Catwoman, and his remix of “And Then We Kiss” was featured on Spears’ 2005 remix album, B in the Mix: The Remixes. In 2008, he was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for his remix of Madonna’s “4 Minutes”. His remix of Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation” has gone to No. 1 in 24 different countries.

Commercial work[edit]

Holkenborg’s music has also been featured in a number of international ad campaigns for major brands like Nike, Adidas, Heineken, and Cadillac. His remix of Eagles of Death Metal’s “Don't Speak” was used in the 2008 Nike "Take it to the Next Level” commercial, which was directed by Guy Ritchie. “Today” was featured on ESPN commercials for Major League Soccer, while “A Little Less Conversation” provided the soundtrack to Nike’s 2002 World Cup campaign.

Personal life[edit]

Holkenborg now seeks to pass the torch to a new generation of producers, remixers, composers and artists by teaching at The ArtEZ Conservatorium, one of the major art institutes in the Netherlands. As an associate professor, he is able to infuse his students with his passion for classical music and years of experience. He currently resides in Venice, Los Angeles, California.

Discography[edit]

Main article: Junkie XL discography

Albums[edit]

Featured films[edit]

Featured games[edit]

Featured commercial campaigns[edit]

  • Nike Olympics (2000) – Worldwide
  • Nike World Cup (2002) – Worldwide
  • Cadillac Super Bowl (2004) – USA
  • Heineken (2004) – Worldwide
  • Opel Minerva Disco King (2004) – Europe
  • Nordstrom Silverscreen (2005) – USA
  • Adidas (2006) – Worldwide
  • VISA Downtown (2007) – USA
  • Nike European Cup (2008) – Worldwide
  • Maandag Vernieuwen (2009) – Netherlands
  • Pink Ribbon: Together We Are Stronger (2010) – Netherlands
  • Postcode Loterij (2010) – Netherlands

Featured remixes[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]