Mark Hollis (musician)

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Mark Hollis
Mark Hollis in 1991
Background information
Birth name Mark David Hollis
Born (1955-01-04) 4 January 1955 (age 62)
Origin Tottenham, London, England
Genres New Romantic, new wave, synthpop, art rock, post-rock, folk, jazz, ambient
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano, organ, melodica, bass guitar
Years active 1977–1998
Associated acts Talk Talk, Unkle, Anja Garbarek
Notable instruments
Gretsch Country Gentleman
Ibanez AS200

Mark David Hollis (born 4 January 1955) is an English former musician and singer-songwriter. He achieved commercial success in the 1980s as a singer with the synthpop/post-rock band Talk Talk, but retired from the music industry shortly after releasing his 1998 solo debut album.


Early career[edit]

Hollis was born in Tottenham, London. The younger brother of Ed Hollis, a disc jockey and producer who went on to manage bands such as Eddie and the Hot Rods, Mark Hollis moved to Muswell High at the age of 18, and originally planned to become a child psychologist. However, in 1975 he left university to relocate to London. On his studies in the psychology field, he says, "It was really boring. I thought when I decided to do it, that it would be a fascinating subject to learn, but most of the stuff didn't really measure up to what I hoped for. To be quite honest they might have used a lot of long words, but it all adds up to plain common sense. So I decided to leave and get a job! Because although I'd gone in for a bit of an academic life, I really wanted to be in a group." After that he went to work as a laboratory technician, which he found was equally boring. "I could never wait to get home and start writing songs and lyrics," he says. "All day long I'd be joining ideas down on bits of paper and just waiting for the moment when I could put it all down on tape!" He had a good introduction to the music industry through his older brother. "He'd managed pop groups and I watched it all at work, and it was all very exciting. Especially when I got to go to the theatres where the groups were playing, and I managed to meet them and talk to them about the pop business. I was determined that it was all I wanted to really do!" It all started to come to fruition when he formed a band called The Reaction. In 1977, The Reaction recorded a demo for Island Records; among the tracks was a Hollis original titled "Talk Talk Talk" which later surfaced on the Beggars Banquet punk compilation Streets. After just one single, 1978's "I Can't Resist," The Reaction disbanded, and through his brother, Hollis was first introduced to musicians Paul Webb, Lee Harris and Simon Brenner, with whom he formed Talk Talk in 1981, soon signing to the EMI label.

Talk Talk[edit]

Hollis is most famous as the lead singer and primary songwriter of the band Talk Talk, and was praised for his "always remarkable voice."[1] He, along with Talk Talk's producer Tim Friese-Greene, took the lead in evolving the band's style from New Romantic into what would later become known as post-rock.

Solo work[edit]

In 1998, he released an eponymous solo debut album, Mark Hollis,[2] and participated in occasional musical projects, including playing melodica and bass guitar on Anja Garbarek's 2001 album Smiling & Waving, as well as producing it.[3] He has now retired from the music industry.[4] He has stated about his decision to retire from performing, "I choose for my family. Maybe others are capable of doing it, but I can't go on tour and be a good dad at the same time."[5] Despite Hollis's absence from the public eye, he continues to be mentioned in the music press as an example of an artist who refused to sacrifice his artistic ambition for commercial success and as a yardstick for current artists.[6][7][8]

In 2004, Hollis resurfaced briefly to receive a Broadcast Music Inc. Award for having written "It's My Life".[9] His withdrawal from the public continues to fascinate music critics.[4][10] By the time his solo album was released Hollis had moved back from the countryside to London, to provide his two sons with a more cosmopolitan environment.[11]

In 2012, a piece of specially commissioned music, entitled "ARB Section 1", was used in the television series Boss.[12]

Solo discography[edit]


  • Hollis played the solo track 'Piano' from the 1998 minimalist album AV 1, by Phill Brown and Dave Allinson, under the pseudonym John Cope, which was later included on the 2001 Talk Talk compilation album Missing Pieces.
  • Hollis played piano on and co-wrote the track "Chaos" on the 1998 trip hop album Psyence Fiction by Unkle (he later asked for his name to be removed from the album credits).[citation needed]
  • Hollis produced, arranged one track ("The Gown") and produced and arranged another ("Big Mouth") on Anja Garbarek's 2001 album Smiling & Waving.


  1. ^ Gilbert, Ruth (23 January 1989). "Hotline: Music (Spirit of Eden)". New York Magazine. Retrieved 27 June 2009. 
  2. ^ "A record that floors me each time." Parkes, Jason A. (12 May 2007). "Rev. of Mark Hollis, Mark Hollis". Julian Cope Presents Head Heritage. Retrieved 27 June 2009. 
  3. ^ Mark Hollis. "Mark Hollis | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  4. ^ a b McGee, Alan (9 April 2008). "Wherefore art thou Mark Hollis?". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2009. 
  5. ^ "Interview :: paul's talk talk pages – Fansite dedicated to Talk Talk". 9 October 2009. Archived from the original on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Aizlewood, John (18 November 2002). "Why Ashcroft is missing Verve". Evening Standard. 
  7. ^ Schmickl, Gerald (14 December 2001). "Rev. of Talk Talk, Missing Pieces". Wiener Zeitung. Retrieved 27 June 2009. 
  8. ^ Lees, Alasdair (19 September 2008). "Shearwater, Bush Hall, London". The Independent. Retrieved 27 June 2009. 
  9. ^ "'It's My Life' Writer Receives London Award | News". 19 October 2004. Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  10. ^ Masi, Bruno (18 March 2006). "Retour sur la planète Merz". Libération. Retrieved 27 June 2009. 
  11. ^ In't Veld, Holger; Stefan Weber (trans.). "Mark Hollis Interview: The path over the burnt bridge". Subadio. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Talk Talk's Mark Hollis Resurfaces With New Music for the Kelsey Grammer TV Show "Boss" Retrieved 1 September 2012.