Junkie XL ain’t so bad after all

I thought he was a bit of a loser: Junkie XL. When A Little Less Conversation came out in 2002 I could not understand what was so special about that song. It was just a sample of Elvis Presley with a stupid computer beat, nothing more right? And the name Junkie XL? How typical that a Dutch artist apparently is proud of his drug use. Junkie XL to me sounds like an AOL messenger name of a 13-year-old Eurodance fanatic. However! This year I realized I was wrong, I have changed my opinion about Tom Holkenborg (which is the real name of Junkie XL).

Holkenborg is doing very well for himself out in Hollywood lately. He did the music for Mad Max: Fury Road, while director George Miller did not even picture the film to have a soundtrack! He thought he could do without, but Holkenborg came with such creative ideas that Miller simply could not do without him. In the movie there is not a lot of dialogue, so the music is like glue helping the movie be one whole production. Plus, the bombastic sounds make the chaos feel even more crazy. The car in the movie with the fire-breathing guitar played by the Doof Warrior, together with the drummers on the back: it is simply brilliant. The music that comes out of this interesting instrument is both organic and intense.

The Mad Max: Fury Road gig was not a walk in the park for Junkie XL, he did not just get it by being lucky. The artist has grown so much in ten years, that I can hardly imagine what his days must look like. He works with iconic people like Hans Zimmer (composer of The Lion King and The Dark Knight), he works together with video game developers to create an amazing soundtrack (especially for the Need for Speed franchise) and he is definitely no longer that dj that made some weird remix of a Britney Spears song. Since 300: Rise of an Empire Junkie XL is seen as a music composer for movies and he did not just land Mad Max by that amazing title, also Black Mass and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice belong to his resume.

These are amazing accomplishments for Holkenborg, who must have worked so hard for so many years. It is really astonishing to be able to keep things serious in the druggy dance scene, so I can only imagine how it must be to fight your way from dance dj to composer! Chances like these you just don’t get easily in Hollywood. It means you gotta work hard, but you also gotta network hard, do a lot of research and keep up the good spirit. I really admire how Junkie XL has shaped his own career for the better.

The thing that I appreciate the most about Junkie XL though, is his ability to share. He already did that after A Little Less Conversation became a hit single. I remember reading an interview with him in which he told about his work with music students and how he loved teaching them. To be honest, back then I thought it was a way for him to sugercoat the fact that he just was not hot in Los Angeles yet (he had moved there around that time) and that he therefore became a teacher. Shame on me, because that is not the type of person Junkie XL is.

The fact that he does a lot of interviews and always tells funny and interesting things, means he loves his profession and he loves sharing it with other people. That is very special, as knowledge is power and many people (especially in offices) struggle to give their power and control away. Holkenborg seems not to be bothered with it. As the matter of fact, he wants to teach people his techniques so badly that he came up with a YouTube video series named Studio Time with Junkie XL. It is not often that you get such an interesting behind the scenes look into the mind of a music composer and Holkenborg is a natural when it comes to explaining things very clearly and honestly.

So, all I wanted to address was how Holkenborg made himself an amazing career (especially for a Dutch guy, it is not easy to make it in the States). I was wrong, and I am very proud of what he made happen. But that name, Tom, I keep on thinking about that 13-year-old euro dance nerd. Let’s not judge too soon though; that little guy might even be just as brilliant as Junkie XL after watching those YouTube tutorials…

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