Eric Holm is a sound designer before all else, his affinity for sparse technological sounds intersects with inspirational roots in his vocational experiences in the cold landscapes of the Norwegian arctic. Holm strives to harness electric media and natural phenomena to record and produce sounds that are as atmospheric as they are haunting. We reached out to Holm to learn more about his production process and his mediation on these stripped down, industrial soundscapes.
Describe your work in 1-2 sentences
I make industrial ambient music out of processed field recordings. Getting deep into sounds to see what they possess.
How has the geography of Norway most influenced your artistry?
Norway was incidental in a way. I’ve always been attracted to the north, to snow, and to diving. So on one hand it could have been anywhere but on the other it keeps being Norway. Which is fine with me because I like Norway quite a lot!
Do you prefer to record underwater or on land?
Either is fine. They offer different challenges. There is way more control on land, it’s easier to go back and do it again. Underwater things tend to happen and you either got it or you didn’t. I’m taking gear down with me so I can’t monitor what I’m recording, I just go try things out and you don’t know what you’ve got till the end of the day. I like the chance aspect.
Can you describe your production process? What technologies and softwares are most critical to the formation of your work?
On land most is done with home made contact mics and a Roland R-09. Underwater it was either the contact set up clamped onto submerged objects or (mostly) using the audio from a GoPro which I was surprised to find captures pretty damn good audio underwater because the housing acts like a sort of contact mic. I just wish it captured 24bit 96k WAV’s! But it doesn’t so I had to work with what I got. Which suits me fine really.
Afterwards it all gets run through various processes and arranged in Reason on a 13” Macbook.
Its a pretty striped down mobile set up. It needs to be because I tend to make and capture so much on the fly, I never know when things will happen. All my attempts to record using higher quality, less mobile set ups have resulted in almost nothing.
When you were writing and producing your LP, Andøya, what was the strongest source of inspiration for the creation of sound?
Really it was the sounds themselves which came from some power lines I stumbled across. They were really powerful in themselves and that combined with the jagged landscape of the arctic…
Also I was stuck with the idea set I was working on at the time. So with the recordings I just started breaking stuff. Breaking processes and ways of working to just get out of where I was sonically.
What emotions do you believe your art evokes?
I don’t know really. I don’t write music from an emotional point of view. Fundamentally I’m a sound designer. I just tweak the musical aspects until I like them. Andøya wasn’t very emotional to me. Almost like techno in a way. Sparse. Barotrauma was more poignant and I meant it to be so as to reflect my somewhat troubled relationship to diving and the sea. It was a kind of mournful process for me. I managed to create or envision a version of the world down there that doesn’t really exist. Barotrauma was me coming to terms with that. It was almost a kind of requiem.
Has there ever been a moment of danger or terror while recording in such oppressive circumstances like the Norwegian Arctic or under freezing water?
Not really. On Andøya we got caught out hunkered down in a blizzard/white out at one point but could probably have made it back if things got too heavy.
Commercial diving can be very dangerous but the conditions for the course are pretty gentile. Good visibility, lots of support, etc. It would be a bit difficult getting into real trouble doing that. Still, its pretty psychologically stimulating to be down at 50m with a helmet strapped to your face, standing on the sea bed looking up from complete blackness towards the light and you’re literally holding your lifeline (diver’s umbilical) in your hands. It’s not statistically dangerous but if things do go wrong down there you’ve obviously got a big problem on your hands. Can’t tell you how much I love it?
Where would be your dream location to record source material?
Recording at NYD, the dive school, was pretty much it. I’m going to have a hard time even thinking of something I want to record that much. I’m very much into machinery these days. I’d like to go record a foundry or get access to some old steam engines.
Why do you make sound? In your mind, what can sound communicate?
I’m not as interested in art that gives you too much. I prefer books to films, I prefer stripped down writing to detailed descriptive narrative. I like filling in the blanks with my own mind.
Sound to me is the ultimate in this. There’s nothing even there yet its a tool with which your mind can sculpt universes that you can’t see or touch but are all the more powerful for it. I’ve never been so moved by anything I’ve ever seen artistically as I have been with sound. Even films for me are 75% sound.
Funny thing that I like to make very literal music. Barotrauma was very literal. Maybe the next one won't be.