You're reached a point in your career where selling out shows isn't a shocking development. How do you feel about your success thus far?
It's very hard for me to understand that on the other side of the world, people are listening to my music. So, it's always kind of scary to go into a new territory I’m not familiar with. But to see the reaction from the crowd, them going crazy and understanding the drop, is really special. The excitement and the enthusiasm is huge.
Sometimes, I feel that America is a little spoiled because there are so many artists constantly playing there. I live in Los Angeles, and there's a show every night. But Singapore, is special in its own way. I come here once a year and it's interesting to witness how the crowd reacts to my music.
Congrats on your 2021 album BB U OK?. It's known that it came from a place of heartbreak. Did making it help you deal with what you were going through?
I wrote my first album album1 when I was in love; it was about the beauty of love and being in love. The next album was about what happens after love. I wasn't with anyone at the time. It wasn't a sad album per se, but a reflective one. It's about moving on. Everyone's always writing about love – but what happens after? Life after love is not specifically bad, it's one of acceptance.
You learn to accept that life goes on, that nothing is really black and white. It all comes from a very real place in my heart. It sounds like a cliche, but I can't do it differently: I can't make music any other way. That's partly why it's so great to see people dancing to what I make. It feels like they understand me.
I don't know how to make music that is 'readymade'. Every word, every sound I make comes from my heart.
I'm asking you this with "It Hurts" in mind: How do you so perfectly pair sounds with specific emotions?
That's a good question. Every sound has a different emotion; even the same note played by a different instrument invokes a different emotion. That's the beauty of music. I don't exactly know the reasoning behind it. I thought about this concept a long time ago: The reason I'm so drawn to music is because it captures feelings in ways that words cannot describe fully. Not everything can be explained by logic, which words are an extension of.
If I tried to logically tell you how I do it, it would take away the beauty of how you feel when you listen to it. The beauty is in the fact that it just is.
Some things just are. When you fall in love with someone, you can list out things you like about them. But there's always a deeper reason and meaning that you can't always express.
That's fantastic. Something also needs to be said about how the album can be enjoyed in the intimacy of one's headphones and out in the wild, in clubs and festivals.
That was exactly the goal, so it's a big compliment to hear that you feel that way. It's also become my sound over the years. I like the fact that my music can function that way. It's about that energy that keeps you going: It's like someone saying, 'It's going to be ok!"
I can get pretty sad sometimes, but if the whole album is sad, I won't be able to lift myself up. As much as people engage with what I make, a lot of it is also for me. I'm trying to lift myself up. My music is also a note to self saying, 'Hey. Keep going – it's going to get better’.
The last song on the album is an incredibly cathartic moment, an eruption of relief. How do you heal from disappointment, in general?
Sometimes, the world feels like such a daunting place. With all that’s going on, you tend to forget about the important things. I sometimes get lost in it, you know? It's really easy to get lost in career, success and money – things that at the end of the day, won’t matter. If you had one more day to live, having all the money in the world won't matter. I wanted to end the album on a message of reflection.
Healing is a something I haven't quite figured out. People say time heals all wounds, but I'm not sure. It's a hard question to answer. I think, you're healed by healing, by acceptance. It gets easier with time, but the moment you're truly healed is when you accept.
I also think it's a muscle you can build: The acceptance muscle, the surrender muscle. It took me 20 tracks! I don't think I'll do a 20-track album again, which wasn't the plan to begin with. It just happened, which is why it's so personal.
That's the thing about art: You can tell if it's made from within, or if it comes from a different place.
As a true bender of styles, do you care about the idea of genre at all?
Thank you. And to answer your question, I don't. I value authenticity more than genre. That's what I always want with the San Holo project. It doesn't matter if I make trap, EDM or drum and bass. As long as there's the San Holo feeling behind it, I'll claim it as mine. Genres are created because people need to pigeonhole things. What you see in the course of history is that no artist likes the genre they're placed in. Art is not caring about the genre.
I was asked about my genre, the other day, and I said I make EDM, but it stands for Existential Dance Music.