Project Pablo tells us why less is more on his new record

We talk stripped-back production, collaborative projects, and Canada's thriving dance music scene with Montreal-based producer Project Pablo ahead of his forthcoming EP There's Always More At The Store

Feature by Claire Francis | 03 Apr 2018
  • Project Pablo

For a self-described "music school drop out," Patrick Holland has carved out an impressive career as one of Canada's most exciting up-and-coming producers. Formerly from Vancouver and now residing in Montreal, the twenty-something year old Holland has already made his mark with a string of releases on prominent Canadian labels such as Hybridity, 1080p, and his own ASL Singles Club and Sounds Of Beaubien Ouest labels. He's also had a number of releases on international labels including Magicwire, Club Lonely and Spring Theory. His forthcoming five-track EP There's Always More At The Store, to be released via Ninja Tune’s Technicolour imprint, is another highly anticipated release that sees Holland further pushing the boundaries of his own unique production style.

The EP was recorded in the summer of 2017, in a rented mixing room that formed part of a larger studio space run by Montreal-based art rock band Braids. It was, as Holland explains, "my first experience of being in, I guess I want to say, like a ‘hi-fi’ atmosphere," and the space and the equipment available to him there proved to be a primary source of inspiration for his productions. "You know, being in this purpose-built room, I was trying to produce as ‘hi-fi’ as I could, and really focus on mixing instead of musical parts," he says.

"That’s why I guess this EP sounds more… I mean, there’s less going on than my past stuff. It’s not minimal by any means, but it’s minimal for me. A lot of the stuff I put out as Project Pablo is fairly simple, and that’s always been a main focus. I really toned it back, for myself, in this one."

There's Always More At The Store subsequently takes a sleeker, more refined approach to production, while still retaining the hallmarks of Project Pablo's personality-filled, carefully crafted house music: Holland's gripping bass lines, earworm synth melodies and leisurely tempos all happily resurface on this record. Opening track Napoletana is a prime example, employing a MFB 522 drum machine and Juno 106 to create a hypnotic house track that, as Holland explains, was a product of "just using what [equipment] I had there, at the time."

"It was a conscious decision, for sure. Like I tried to choose fewer layers; the first track, specifically, I mean there’s three parts in that song. There’s one drum machine, there’s one bass line, chords, and then a melody, and that’s it. Like, there’s nothing else going on. For me, I was pretty excited to do something that simple," he laughs. 

Last Day, meanwhile, is another standout track, and an unexpected mid-record highlight. A sparse, two and a half minute improvised piano piece, it's an atmospheric, slightly sombre composition that wouldn't be out of place soundtracking a scene from Twin Peaks. Holland describes it as "a palate-cleanser,” and reveals that the track came to him in a similarly spontaneous, uncontrived fashion.

“There’s a stand-up piano in the studio. I’d never used it on anything for like the year I was in there, so I wrote that just super-quickly as well. Like I wrote that in probably 15 minutes. Because the track itself is that first part, and then it becomes more... affected," he explains. "It was super minimal, it was like one take, and then I looped it, and all the effects are just on that same piano. I did that and I was like 'damn', that was really lucky that I can make something that I enjoy listening to, that quickly," he laughs. "It was super in-the-moment. I did it there, it was done, and then I didn’t touch it again afterwards.”

"I've learned everything I do by making music with other people" – Patrick Holland

This new 'minimal' method of production was clearly an enjoyable way of working for Holland, who took this approach as a kind of exercise in self-restraint, he admits. “Napoletana specifically came to me really fast – like, I wrote that in the span of two hours, maybe,” he continues. “So that was lucky, but that never happens! It is really hard to do that, for me: I find I could bang away for hours and keep adding stuff until I like it. But it never happens that quickly, so I got lucky, very lucky, with that one.”

The closing track I Heard You Breathing is the one Holland's happiest with, describing it as "really fun to make, because I did it as like an exercise for myself." Made up of eight parts, Holland recorded each of these parts as a four-bar loop, with each part playing at the same time, but at different volume levels. "It's just kind of fade in and fade out, for eight minutes, but it sounds like a thing that changes. I was happy with that," he laughs. 

Summing up the approach he took to recording the EP, Holland continues: "I've found before that I usually kind of go into these worm hole areas where I keep like writing different parts, because I'm not satisfied with the original idea. I was trying to push myself to enjoy the original idea and let that play through. A lot of the Wolfgang Voigt stuff, for example, is what I've always enjoyed. You know, like how he does one thing, and that's the track. It's kind of taking that ethos and trying to employ that."

With the EP release imminent, Holland is already hard at work on multiple new musical projects (when we call through to speak to him it takes a few attempts before we're able to connect; when we finally do he apologises profusely, explaining that he got caught up in the studio and lost track of time). A self-depricating, thoughtfully-spoken and easy going interviewee, Holland strikes you as the kind of artist who eschews the limelight in favour of devoting himself to his music – as we chat briefly about his recent Boiler Room set from Melbourne's Sugar Mountain Festival, he enthuses about the crowd but adds that "the whole cameras thing wasn't really my vibe."

Outside of his work as Project Pablo, collaborations feature heavily as part of Holland's output. He's one half of Rest Corp, alongside good friend and fellow Canadian Khotin – the duo released their first EP Infinity Scroll via Normals Welcome in March. With Brooklyn-based producer Max McFerren, he has put out some adventurous house releases under the alias 2 Responsible. Since 2016, Holland has also collaborated with well-known Montreal DJ Francis Oak as Jump Source; they have a new record coming out early this summer on Pacific Rhythm. When we ask what appeals to him about the collaboration process, his answer is straighforward.

"That's how I learn stuff. That's how I've learned everything I do, by making music with other people. So I think continuing to do that is super healthy in terms of me improving. I've been working all the time, especially travelling all the time – it gets pretty darn lonely out there," he says wryly. "So making music with some friends is always good."

Holland's heavy involvement in his country's thriving dance music scene is equally influenced by his time in both Vancouver and Montreal. Of the former, he says, "the most influental part of Vancouver, for me, was going to the parties there. There's a huge scene for illegal after-hours there." With labels from the so-called 'Canadian Riviera' such as Mood Hut and the aforementioned 1080p and Pacific Rhythm championing a distinctive, chilled-out style of house music, it's unsurprising that the Project Pablo sound channels Vancouver's musical history – deep house and dubstep – into his own personable house style. Likewise, after relocating to Montreal in 2014, his sound has been further influenced by the city's "huge history in dance music," he explains.

"There's this one club called Stereo, which is kind of a world-renowned club that tonnes of people play at, it's like a 24 hour club, which is one of the only ones in Canada. They don't serve alcohol or anything, but on a given day – like DVS1 plays there monthly, a lot of the Panorama Bar residents play there. There's a lot of history around there, a lot of labels from the 90s. The musician lifestyle is what attracted me, for sure." With There's Always More At The Store, Holland does what the name suggests, offering up another influential and impressive addition to Canada's rich history of dance music.

There's Always More At The Store is released on 6 Apr via Technicolour