Roy “Holmes” Shakked
Tell about how a kid from Israel, growing up in Boston gets the name “Holmes”?
RS: The name Holmes is nothing more than a goofy word-play on Homeboy, as in Homes, as in something you used to hear almost every day if you lived in southern California in the 90’s which is when I arrived here. It started out as a band name but since the members kept on changing from album to album and show to show it just stuck as a nickname. I’ll answer to either Holmes or Roy. By the way, there’s another album release under my given name, Roy Shakked, called Music To Moving Pictures but that one’s an all instrumental recording.
You’ve done studio producing and creating under many guises. What led you to classic rock and pop (as opposed to jazz or R&B) as a place you wanted to make solo LP?
RS: I studied jazz in school and spent my 20’s listening to a lot of it. By the time I got into my 30’s I felt like I was missing something. Mostly lyrics that take you on a different kind of journey than a busy melody, intricate improv or thick harmonies can take you on. And most importantly to be able to do that with a more raw template than jazz has. For me, at this stage in my life, that has a much stronger emotional impact. I still love listening to jazz from time to time but frankly I’m not good enough to be a jazz musician nor do I want to invest the time to try to become good enough. Classic rock & pop from the late 60’s era onto the late 80’s is what I mostly listened to growing up, so I guess it was already in my DNA – I just had to do a little system refresh to bring it back out.
You toured Europe after the first album, who toured with you and did you learn a lot on tour? Any memorable experiences?
RS: The Europe tour was a lot of fun. Since I couldn’t afford to take a full band with me I just brought along my buddy Mike Sawitzke, a wonderful guitar player who currently plays with the Eels. I just had my old classic Wurlitzer 200 electric piano. No drums, no bass, no worries. I learned that with some clever arrangements you can still rock out without a back-beat. We played mostly very small venues and bars, met a lot of great people, and drank a lot of whiskey. The two Slovenia shows were probably the most memorable for the hospitality and warmth of almost everyone we encountered there. There was also an insanely beautiful underground venue at an old vineyard a couple of hours north of Venice, Italy which I’d love to play again some day.
Tell me how your sound has evolved with “Complication Simplified”
RS: With this last album the production and arrangements were less acoustic than my ’09 solo release (Holmes) and a bit more similar to my covers album from last year. Definitely more 80’s influences, especially on songs like “Pressing My Luck” and “Stereo” and in general a bit more fun and rocking. Of course I still have to bring it down and dim the lights with some melancholy tracks like “Revolving Door” and “Let Me Win”. I can’t help myself, I’m just a sucker for a good ballad.
RS: “Mosquitoes” is definitely the most over the top, lyrically speaking, of the bunch. I wrote it after a couple of weeks of constant one-sided conversations with friends, family, neighbors, and strangers on the street where I was the designated lone audience member to a monolog they just had to get out of their system. After a while the lyrics started forming in my head as they were talking. The rest of the songs aren’t necessarily connected to a particular story but are more of a hodgepodge of experiences with life and relationships. “Backwards World” is the one cover song on the album. It was written by a childhood friend named Josh Clayton-Felt, who passed away from cancer in 2000. He was the lead singer of School of Fish and an amazing solo artist. Look him up and discover some excellent music. I particularly like the lyrics on this that one.
Tell me three musical heroes and what they mean to you.
RS: Only three is pretty tough, but if we pretend I have a gun to my head I’d go with The Beatles, if we can consider them as 1 “hero”, Stevie Wonder, and David Bowie. The Beatles and Stevie changed everything in their respective genres. Nothing was ever the same in pop-rock and R&B after they came along. There was music before the Beatles and after and similarly with Stevie Wonder, making the transition from Little Stevie Wonder with that old familiar Motown sound to a more mature one in the 70’s with Talking Book and Innervsions, and then onto my favorite, Songs In The Key of Life. The biggest thing I admire about the Beatles and Stevie Wonder is that they never stopped growing and changing – you can just put on all of their albums and listen to the progression. I’m constantly amazed by it, which leads me to David Bowie who I admire for the same reason. He kept evolving, kept making it interesting, always clever and thoughtful lyrically and somehow always managed to make music you could connect with. That’s a tough thing to accomplish and something I’ll keep striving for even if I fall short.
What’s next for Holmes? Another LP or tour?
RS: I’ll be releasing another EP next spring/summer. Got some ideas I’m sitting on, which I’ll flesh out over the next couple of months. Looks like I’ll be touring this summer as well. New Zealand is looking like a strong possibility right now, but I’ll know more as we get closer to it!
Thanks for the interview!