Evolution, development and connecting. Andrew Nolan speaks to Hollow, a Dublin based music producer, about the thoughts behind growing your sound, getting your footing, and the importance of building relationships in the music scene.
Whether it be art, music, writing, or otherwise, many of us indulge in our passion projects as a means of diversion from the mundanities of everyday life. Pursuing our passions comes with its difficulties. Building a catalogue to show-off your talents is consuming, before even considering the general anxiety that comes with producing it. Aspects like stagnation, indecisiveness, and the question of how to get yourself recognised all provide their own unique hurdles to overcome in chasing this idea.
Hollow is a Dublin based producer and multi-instrumentalist. Making his name initially in the electronic scene, he has worked closely with other artists, both locally and globally, to build a reputation and hone his own unique sound. In a period where art is limited but more necessary than ever, I spoke with Hollow about the workings behind adapting to change, building a repertoire, and working to develop as an artist.
While Hollow began as a traditional electronic artist, his newer work incorporates more vocal work, both melodic and guttural. “Originally getting started I was very into electronic music, having gotten into it through gaming and YouTube and other things. As I got older, I got into other genres of music, like metalcore and punk, and all these types of things”. With these newfound interests came a focus on audio, rather than the sole look on synths and other modes most associated with the genre. Though, for a long time, his interest lay solely within the genre that started him off; “It was a long time of just doing electronic music because I thought ‘well that’s where I started, so that’s where I needed to stay’”.
It was only working on a side project did the idea of broadening these horizons come to the fore: “I began working on something like ‘electro-punk’, it wasn’t meant to be serious at all, but I sent it along to some producer friends and they thought it was awesome! Yeah, it made me think that maybe it was time for a change”. With this change came the introduction of guitars and more vocal work into his projects. The first instance of this shift in style came in the release of an EP alongside New Dawn Collective at the start of the year. The positive reception of the work struck a realisation in him, and he began to inject his work with more personality. He noted, importantly, that he “began working on what I wanted to hear, rather than writing what I thought I should be writing.”
Getting a sign to change things up is one thing, but knowing how to adapt is another. “Whenever I added vocals to my songs it was mostly just cleans and stuff, but it was once I heard, I think it was Ghostemane, yeah, screaming over hip-hop beats, and I thought ‘well if he can do that over hip hop beats then why can’t I scream over electronic?’ That was the incentive for my song Medula that came out last month, and that was the moment I thought ‘oh my god, I can do something really unique here.’ Because it isn’t really being done in electronic music at the moment. And with that came the heavier, very punk, shoe-gazey outlook on the production and the writing.”
Having worked with labels previously, Hollow is now working independently with a manager. While he says this may change, there is a level of enjoyment in working away from a label’s oversight. A previous difference in direction between himself and a label led to an overhaul in what he was working on. What resulted was a restructuring in his production cycle, opting for more singular releases rather than a collected EP production. It allowed him to work in his own time, producing a new body of work that came from the older unreleased log, and having the ability to release as it's ready without the burden of waiting on external factors. Coming from this, Hollow has now lined up almost a year’s worth of projects ahead of time, citing how it has helped him keep his name out there and to keep him continuously working.
In this sense, invention is key. Establishing an identity is a vital aspect of writing, but knowing when it’s time to incorporate new ideas or play with the foundations really works in favour of artists like Hollow. With this in mind, I asked Hollow about establishing a repertoire for himself; “One thing I started doing years ago was making a point of meeting producers I admired, and I actively tried to make friendships with them. Through that, I got their support, y’know, got connections through connections. It really was a networking game on my part”.
Through this Hollow was able to find a manager to work with, who has helped massively in the promotion of his material. Part of finding success in reaching out to others was the importance of the communal aspect of it, as he explains: “It was always meeting people who were like-minded who wanted to repost the music and put that out there. That was always my marketing and promotion strategy. Because I know people do targeted-ads on Facebook and Instagram, and just shop the tune out to just hundreds of people, but I always found it better to make connections with people. And not just producers, y’know, getting into subreddits and discord servers, and talking with people who were like-minded about what I’m making and wanting to put it out there, like just making genuine connections with people”. An important facet of this, in Hollow’s words, is 'repeat viewing'; “you can have a million people that listen to your song once and go ‘well, okay,’ and never listen to it again. But that repeat factor, those people coming back to you again because you’ve established that connection with them, is a lot more important in the long run”.
While having his own projects to keep an eye on, Hollow stresses the importance of collaborative endeavours, as he mentions his efforts in both mixing and producing for other artists; “The number one thing is that it helps me, for lack of a better term, keep the lights on. It’s a good way to make a bit of money. Seeing as I did producing in college it helps in building a portfolio. It allows me to work with other artists and, like I said, make those connections, and to be inspired by them - specifically, in the metal scene, because that’s where I have always wanted to work, which I haven’t been able to do up until now”.
“I find that the role of producer can be a very creative one. It sounds very mundane when explaining it, where I show up to set up, get the audio in, and work to make it sound pretty. But there’s a lot more creative control when it’s all in front of you and you can help someone put something together they haven’t been able to do otherwise, almost like a band. Plus, it helps keep me on my toes when it comes to production. Stuff I have worked on sticks in my head, it’s there, like muscle memory. Whereas when you’re recording with other bands it’s a lot of problem-solving. So it allows me to continue working because if I stuck exclusively to what I know it would get repetitive and I’d end up in a rut”.
Further explaining this point adds context to some of his later releases. Surrounding himself with artists outside of his own sound, in this case metal artists, left him with the inspiration to bring that into his own body of work. Putting together a sound outside of your immediate knowledge and reception becomes a breeding ground for experimentation, as it all blends together into its own image, unique to itself.
I was curious where Hollow was able to find footing in the electronic scene. Hollow explains how remix competitions helped to bring attention to his music, and further develop connections within the scene; “Different sites like Splice host these competitions with a popular track. They give you all the tools to the songs separately and let you pick and choose how you’d like to mix them. Everyone submits theirs, and it goes to a vote. Normally the prize is like a label release or merchandising or a cash prize, something like that. I got into those because I didn’t have as much creative ideas, but I had a lot of inspiration. That gave me something to mould and change, rather than attempt to start something fresh. It also let me talk to lots of the other contestants to exchange notes and everything. Starting out it was a great way to get involved in the community, so when it comes to making an EP or something to upload online, you’re not left disappointed with nobody to hear it”.
Better Tomorrow was a virtual festival held on Twitch in June just past. Running from 8 am until 2 am, it gave allotted slots for artists to play a set, in lieu of restrictions. Showcasing around 20 artists, funds that were raised went towards those unable to afford therapy or counselling services, as well as Reclaim the Block in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Having played a set at the show, Hollow recollected fondly: “It was awesome, it was so cool. A friend of mine, Xander Leonis approached me and asked me to record a live set, just because streaming everything live online would take an insane setup. So all the artists recorded their audio and video, and Xander streamed it all from his home setup. It was a very DIY thing but was so cool to be a part of. It was strange seeing the amount of support that came out of it. Because there were bigger acts playing sets than I. But from the people listening to that, there was a lot of collateral listening, so people who were waiting for the next act got to hear me, and people waiting to hear me got to hear the last guy, and so on so forth. It was one of the biggest bouts of exposure I’ve had in one go. I’m still feeling the effects of it now. Those sets are still available online and get reshared a lot. I’ve become friends with some of the artists that were playing. It was a very strange event, but given the times and the BLM movement that was happening literally that week, where a lot of the money went to, it was very needed also. It brought people together”.
Having seen personal growth in the music he produces, Hollow is a very interesting artist in today’s scene. Taking influences from a breadth of genres, his sound is adapting to fit around a unique identity. The work ethic behind building a base for himself in the scene comes to light in what he puts out, and the networks and connections built along the way allow for a stream of reflection and continued growth. As the outlook on modern music and what it can pertain shifts, Hollow is certainly someone to keep an eye on.
Also, his ideal chicken fillet roll has barbeque sauce, cheese, jalapenos, and no butter. A true man of culture.
Hollow will be featuring on ‘Alter Ego’, releasing on October 30th. Follow his socials, @hollownotempty and @hollowbutnotempty.