This week on Freeform Friday, we are thrilled to welcome the touring DJ for Paul McCartney, Chris Holmes.
Holmes has been Paul McCartney’s show-opening DJ for the last several years, spinning remixes of songs — throughout the legendary songwriter’s career — for his millions of fans around the world. He’s also toured as a DJ for Daft Punk and Radiohead, and played keyboard for the Smashing Pumpkins in the late 1990s. We are thrilled to welcome Chris Holmes with a guest set for KCRW’s Freeform Fridays. The exclusive mix is anchored by many Black artists who influenced the Beatles, including Little Richard, Chubby Checker, and Chuck Berry. Read on to learn how Holmes tells a story through his mix, and how music can build bridges between cultural divides when we need it most.
Holmes on being inspired by Black culture:
I wanted to tell a story through my set about how music can unite us and build bridges between cultures. This is a set of remixes and edits I’ve made while out on tour with Paul McCartney over the last ten years, of the Black American artists covering the songs of McCartney and The Beatles. These songs were directly inspired by some of the same Black American artists who shaped the sound, swagger, and style of The Beatles. These are covers by Little Richard, Fats Domino, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Ray Charles. All of these artists have taken these songs and made them their own, continuing that amazing dialogue between cultures.
The Magic of Remixing The Beatles:
The second song in the set is my remix of twelve different covers of “Come Together.” I took twelve separate cover versions and tuned and timed every note together so they could all be playing in harmony with each other. I then switch the lead vocal to a different artist for every phrase. I had so much fun making this mix, and it’s great to hear all of these different styles of music all playing the same song, “Come Together,” as one. It’s something magical that you can only do with remixing. Another song in the mix, “Blackbird,” is a combination of two separate covers of Blackbird by “Let It Be” keyboardist and Apple Records recording artist Billy Preston, and a version by the Blood Sisters. Putting the two covers together created a unique combination with some beautiful moments.
Remembering opening for Sir Paul at Coachella 2009:
One of my favorite remixes on here is the first one I made for McCartney, for my opening set for his 2009 Coachella performance. It’s a cover of “Get Back” by The Deidre Wilson Tabac. It was the first time I took a cover of a Beatles song and added drums, percussion, and bass to it. It turned the song into something new. I love the breakdowns in it.
The power of song:
I made this set to remind people of the power of song to bring us together. When we listen together, when we sing together, and when we dance together — we are reminded of how much we share. We are reminded that the music has a unique ability to open our hearts, and give voice to our struggles. The country is facing an unprecedented combination of challenges from COVID to police brutality and systemic racism. Music can help unite us, and give us a voice to express our support of each other. When we are united in voice, we can see that power of collaboration and cooperation.