Tom Holkenborg, Junkie XL, Film composer

The secret superstar songwriter behind Deadpool and Fury Road

Words: Andreas Tzortzis
Photo: Dirk Kikstra

Following global chart success with an Elvis remix, Tom Holkenborg took a risk, shifted gears and set off in a new direction.

Chances are you’ve at one point danced, driven or watched a video to the Elvis Presley remix “A Little Less Conversation.” The big-beat club hit was the last piece of dance music Holkenborg—alias Junkie XL—produced (way back in 2002) before reinventing himself as a film composer. Guided by a penchant for being self-destructive and a willingness to become a student all over again, Holkenborg climbed that mountain. Today his composing credits include Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool and Black Mass

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THE RED BULLETIN: After your 2002 hit capped off a successful music production career, you moved to L.A. in 2003. Was it hard to start from the beginning again? 

JUNKIE XL: No, that was fine. I have this tendency to be self-destructive, but usually good things come out of it. Even in my artist days, I’d make 10 songs and people would say, ‘You’re almost there!’ and I’d say, ‘No, this is shit!’ and throw everything away and start over and just start climbing up that mountain. It’s a good feeling, you know. From here, it can only get better. 

© YouTube/ElvisPresleyVEVO

But so many live in fear of hitting rock bottom.

It’s fine! You never die— unless you do. I have this desire to search for that constantly new. Not because I’m not satisfied with what I have, but I start losing the incentives from the outside to keep the creativity going. So the radical shift from being an artist to a film composer—I can’t stress how different those things are.  

What about the instincts you had to rely on in then new gig. Were they different? 

Well, there were none. I mean, yes, I could make music, and I had an identity and knew what I was all about as an artist, but I had to develop it to a different medium, a different culture. Then I hit rock bottom again in 2008—it wasn’t happening for me in L.A., which was really rough. I had bought a house and it was in escrow and it fell through and the whole studio was in storage, and I just went back to Holland. I was willing to stay there and thought let’s give this up, this adventure. Eventually I came back to L.A. and everything started turning around. It was a 180 from the six years before, and I’m happy I found the energy to pursue it again. 

© YouTube/Junkiexlofficial

What do you attribute the turnaround to?

 think it has something to do with who I am as a person.
If I pursue something I really want, for some reason I can never pull it off. But if I have a little bit of distance from the wanting, for whatever reason, stuff comes to me.

For the full interview with Junkie XL, listen to The Red Bulletin podcast:

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