Vic Holman is one of the wonderful Macjams community members always in outreach mode, supporting the latest online festival, flagging new talent, and supporting the best aspects of the site. He’s part of The Goodwilly’s, a MacJams based online band consisting of Micheal Wark, Dadai, and Mikey_D (the core of the group). They’ve brought in quite a few other MacJams members as well on songs. As a solo artist, Vic has 76 songs on his submission list, all solid tunes, mainstream rock/folk-rock with a dash of psychedelic, and lyrics that often employ a unique perspective from the point of view of a marginalized or tragic/comic fictional character.
Vic is an Art/Creative Director in an Advertising Agency and has been for 30 years. He comes up with the “Big” ideas and executes them. From print in all forms to radio scripts and production. Plus, TV commercials, concept to final production. You can see and hear some samples at Quinngroup.com. You’ll notice that he has a weird sense of humor.
Vic is 52 years old (but, according to Vic, “I look like 42 and act like 32). He’s single (again) and lives in Spokane, Washington. Amid the stress of the ad agency life, Vic says, “I find creating music is a great mental vacation for me.”
What got you started playing music?
“I really started getting into and play the guitar seriously at 14 years old. The first guitar I had, had a simple song book with three chord songs. I learned the chords but hated the songs. So I started playing the guitar by ear to the radio and my albums.
“Earlier then that, in elementary school they had mandatory school band tryouts. The teacher thought that I would suck at any instrument and suggested the clarinet. I thought how weird since I had asthma as a kid and wouldn’t be able to blow into that thing. Maybe that was his intention all along.
Did you ever play clarinet?
“No, I refused to play the clarinet or the violin. The school was trying to make it a mandatory thing. I got my dad to sign a waiver. At this same time there were some teenage girl neighbors, one of them owned a Gibson acoustic. I was just a kid but I would find any excuse to go over and hope they would at least let me touch it. Looking back now, That’s where my fascination about guitars started. I started bugging my parents for years before I finally got a cheap acoustic. A 3/4 size plastic thing that actually played.”
There must have been more positive experiences that inspired you…?
“As a kid there was The Monkees TV series and The Beatles Saturday morning cartoon shows. That was what first started to draw my attention to music. This was also at the height of psychedelic music. When I first heard Crimson And Clover by Tommy James and The Shondells, my brain chemistry had radically changed by the time the song was over. This only lead to the harder stuff, like The Beatles‘ Sgt Pepper album and Jimi Hendrix.
“Plus, there was that fuzzed out guitar line to the theme song of Green Acres TV series. Which I eventually learned. The usual response to playing that for my parents and friends were rolled eyes.
“By the time I got my first electric, I was practicing 4 to 6 hours every day. I was a bit obsessed and wore out a lot of albums. There were no tabs or rock teachers back then so I learned everything by ear and picking up new chords along the way.”
How old were you when you got your first electric guitar?
“After learning to play the acoustic. It took me another few years to break my parents down again. So, I was about 14 when I got my first electric guitar. I think they realized I was serious when I showed that I could actually play The Beatles song Something. That was a Sears Silvertone.”
“By the time I got my first electric, I was practicing 4 to 6 hours every day. I was a bit obsessed and wore out a lot of albums. There were no tabs or rock teachers back then so I learned everything by ear and picking up new chords20along the way.”
Were you in bands? Have you performed live?
“I use to play in quite a few garage/basement bands back in the seventies. There never was a name for any of these bands. In my favorite band, during that period, the closest we ever came to a band name was naming it after the drummers ugly clay skull that he always had on his floor tom. It’s name was Stinky the Skull. We played at parties and schools and a few outdoor venues. I was really into it for the fun of it. But, I also wanted the bands to practice more. A few times we would suck so bad, that we could put a hundred vacuum cleaners to shame. Unfortunately, egos and drugs became more important and broke up the party.
“During the eighties and early nineties, I would be asked to sit in with some local bands from time to time. I thought it was just a one time stint every time. Until I was told I was in and here’s the dates we’re playing. I loved to play guitar, but was not into being in a band situation anymore.
“I think my biggest thrill was playing at The World Expo ’74 in my own town. We played original tunes throughout the day and also got to play the main stage. I guess what made most memorable was the old ladies wanting to know if they could get copies of the sheet music. We said we made the songs up. They just stared at us and wouldn’t leave. I was praying that they weren’t groupies.
“I never have been payed to this day. So, I still am of amateur status.”
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
“First song I ever came up with was in ’74 called the stomp, not great, or so I thought at the time. It is the same chord progression as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dani California. I wish I wrote… ah, never mind. I like the RHCP’s.”
You have clever little cartoons as song art on many of your songs. How long have you been into drawing?
“My whole life I was into drawing. Even at a early age I could draw better than average. Now the funny thing is I would get bad grades in art at school. The problem was I would do the assignment. Like copying the drawing from the blackboard. A cabin in the woods with snow on the roof. But, I thought what would be cooler if there was Santa’s jet powered sleigh with machine guns strafing the cabin. Well, this went on for years. The usual routine. Bad grades, my dad’s face turning beet red mad and calling the schools to tell them they where idiots, so cool. So fast forward to my last year in high school, I had to take a year of art classes in order to graduate. I drew at home all the time but avoided the classes. The first day they told everyone to draw a person at your table. I drew everyone. Turned one in and tossed the others. Well, the next day all the crumpled drawings where posted up on the wall. These teachers gave me free reign to let me be me. THAT, I found was the inspiration for me for the rest of my life in anything: to believe in myself and not worry about pleasing others expectations – and breaking rules, as long as I didn’t set them of course.”
Do you have any musical aspirations beyond sharing your songs on Macjams?
“I’m such a late comer to the recording process. I’m always on a learning curve and inching my way to achieve what I really want to hear in my head, It’s the creation process that thrills me the most.”
What obstacles have you overcome making music?
“My biggest obstacle was to get into singing. I was always shy and apprehensive about it. I know I have gotten a little better about it. But still, I am by nature not a great vocalist, so I have to go with what I got and if anyone laughs… Well, I’m taking names… and I’ll laugh with you.”
“Guitar wise: I’m into my new Gibson SG, I also use my Ibanez SA, Epiphone DOT Deluxe quite a bit. A Schecter 5 string bass that I recently bought. Ibanez EW acoustic are my main recording instruments. M-audio keyboard (I play my drums via midi & some backing synth pads). Plus, A few Strats and Ovation Celebrity acoustic guitar and a bunch of misc. guitars and amps.
You have a TON of guitars. How did your collection grow so large?
After I sold two ’74 Fender Strats and a Fender Twin Reverb in ’79, it dawned on me that I had done a very stupid thing. So, I decided to keep whatever I bought from then on. I do still play them all, but I usually record with six of them. I have fifteen presently and am eyeing another acoustic…”
“I use an iMac, 2 GHz Intel Core Duo with 2 GB memory. I record into Logic Pro 8. I record direct using a Digitech GNX2 pedal board for the electric guitars. Bass and acoustics are plugged in direct. I have one room that is set up for recording. Another room for guitars and amps to practice in, although I haven’t had much time for that. My favorite plug in, in Logic has to be the rotary effect, to me it sounds like the real thing.”
What is your recording/mixing process?
“I set up my guitar tones and effects externally and pre setup the levels and pans, plus set up the basic plugins for the tracks before I record. If I have a song pretty well figured out before hand, I’ll lay down the basic tracks pretty fast. Most of the time I will record each track twice to give the sound a good stereo spread. Then I’ll play along with what I have already done and come up with added pieces and solos. If I goof up or miss a note or two, I will redo the whole section rather than punch in. When I’m at the final mix stage and with luck I make adjustments in levels and pans. I will spend a fair amount of time here making micro adjustments throughout. Whether its shifting a panned track setting a little off its pre set or playing with level settings.”
Do you have any kids? Do they play?
“I do have a step son that I taught to play when he was real young. I would make him think of shapes on the fret board. Like, a upside down triangle for a D chord and so on. He was getting good enough that I could teach him Nirvana and Foo Fighter songs. He has his own little girl now so he doesn’t have time to play anymore.”
How do you come up with a song?
“All of my songs originate on a acoustic guitar. Usually, in the evening I’ll just play around without thinking. When something interesting comes up I start working around on it. Chorus, bridges, etc. just seem to fall in place. If something doesn’t work, I won’t force it and let it go.
“Lyrics come last. I can go a week without any ideas at all. So after awhile I’ll start to record and ad lib especially over the chorus. Sooner or later a catch phrase comes up and I build around that. Then the lyrics come together very quickly. Knock on wood.
When I look through your playlist, many of your earlier songs were about fictional characters (Convertible Hearse, The Librarian, Annie Will Roam…), many of them are female. Most of your recent tunes seem to be from your perspective. Any reason for the shift?
“The fictional characters: I had this idea for amusing myself on a collection of songs about all these fictional characters who lived in one town. Then there would of been a long song to tie them all together. I never got around to finish it or I lost interest. There were other songs that were stories about men as well. I deleted quite a few of my first years songs, years ago, some were included in that group and a few song never where posted.”
You could come out with a Book and CD combo, short stories and songs…
“I was always blown away on how John Lennon would write songs that people could relate to with their own personal perspective. It was pretty scary at first, to let others in on your feelings and thoughts about life in general, but I thought it was about time to dive into the deep end.”
What is your philosophy about lyrics writing?
“I might be all over the board about lyrics and how I come up with them. So I have no set rules. It is the hardest and most dreaded part for me to work on in a song. So, I try not to think of any given formula.”
What is your strongest point, musically?
“Hopefully I come up with a song that has some interesting changes throughout without going to far off track. And I think I have a good ear to know what’s going to work.”
Your weakest point (and how you get around it)?
“Vocally, I have a limited range. I can’t hit high notes or harmonize as well as I wish I could. Plus, I wish I could find better melody lines in some songs that I have done. I haven’t found any way around that, but I keep trying.”
Any tips you can share with others?
“Try not to force a song, you’ll only get fustrated. Try to get the each track recorded as close to the finished product as possible. It will save a lot of hair pulling when you are in the final mixing process. I’ve learned the hard way with a lot of trail and error over the last few years.”
How has your Macjams experience been so far?
“When I first started posting songs on MacJams, my tracks were pretty bad. I really didn’t have a clue how to get a good recording done. (Luckily, a lot of them have been trashed and some still older ones should be too). I realized that a lot of artists here were putting a lot of effort into there songs. That inspired me to work harder and try to figure out how to get a good recording done.
“I also found great MJ’S friends here and have done quite a few collaborations as a result. What I found was how easy everyone gels together on collaborations. You get the impression that everyone is in the same room and not scattered all over the world. A few years ago I never thought they could be possible.”
You are one of the most active participants, have been here (MJ) for 4 years. What would you say has changed the most? What do you look forward to in the future?
“The collaborations on this site are outstanding. It is amazing how people can contribute and work on songs together and come off like they have been in a real working band.
“If the people that I have worked with on songs all lived in my town, and worked together as a real band, I think there would of been a very good potential of having a fantastic pro band.
“Future-wise, I still feel I’m in a learning mode and take it a day at a time. But I do have to say that this site and its people have really motivated me to push myself and just to keep up.”
Do you have any musical aspirations beyond sharing your songs on Macjams?
“I have given it a little thought of using a online distribution network. It is a chunk of change especially when you add in the marketing and promo aspects. That may be down the road a bit, I still need to go back to some songs and fix things that bug me.”
What Macjams’ song you are most proud of?
It’s really hard to pick, because it can change any given day. But I’ll go with these three. They seem to stick in my head at the moment.
You collaborate often. What are you favorite collabs?
“I’ve done twenty collaborations so far and they are all favorites. I guess these would be good examples.
– There She Goes
With Bud, Micheal Wark & Michael2:
– Tomorrow Knows
– Buffalo Skinners
Any additional comments, things I forgot to ask?
“I’m approaching four years of being here, I can’t even remember how I found this site. But it sure has been a great eye opener and motivator to me. If I hadn’t found a place here, then I would probably have a excellent landscaped yard. Oh well, that’s the trade off.”
I know what you mean.
“Thanks, Tobin, some of these questions really got me thinking about a lot of stuff I hadn’t even thought about for years.”