Tom Holkenborg, also known as Junkie XL, started his career as a producer and DJ, working with artists like Tiesto, Steve Aoki and Robert Smith of The Cure. Then he switched to composing and found himself scoring the 2015 films, crime drama Black Mass and fantasy/science fiction Mad Max: Fury Road.
“I started as a traditional musician when I was young. I played piano, drums, then guitar and bass. In the early ‘80s I worked at a music store and saw the first synthesizers,” Tom Holkenborg says. “I started producing bands in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, and things became more and more electronic. It wasn’t called dance music at the time. I mixed it with aggressive guitars and soundscapes, and I got approached by different bands. I’ve always been a guy who does pretty much everything.”
Tom Holkenborg found himself on the path to film scoring by happenstance. “It started in the ‘90s when I saw a film that used a license of one of my albums. I was really intrigued and wanted to know more about it,” he says. “I was introduced to the Matrix movies, and the music really sparked my enthusiasm for it.” By late 2002, Holkenborg decided to move to L.A. Once there, he made a wise move: instead of announcing his arrival as a film composer, he took assistant jobs and learned the politics and dynamics of the industry.
The switch to film scoring was a difficult one, but welcomed. As a DJ and producer, Holkenborg found dance records to be “limiting and at certain points, suffocating.” That has changed with film scoring. His Mad Max score incorporates a range of textures using almost 200 instruments. Most recently Holkenborg scored Deadpool and has worked with Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer on the score for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
“The best way to see if you have it in you is to find an assistant job with a composer you admire or who has an opening and run that route a few years to see if you’re up for it,” Holkenborg says. “That seems to be a more successful way than to do it on your own.”
Most recent: Deadpool