It’s a musical partnership that has raised a few inquisitive eyebrows. The unlikely pairing of two of Dubai’s better-known musical forces, Hollaphonic brings together MC Olly Wood and radio and club DJ Greg Stainer. The latter already has more than 50 productions to his name, many released on labels such as Hed Kandi, CR2, Stealth and Pacha Recordings, so we’d have expected to see 36-year-old Greg recruiting a hook-friendly female vocalist to help bring his house productions further into the mainstream. And the natural move for 30-year-old Olly – who has performed warm-up MC duties for the likes of Coldplay, Ne-Yo and Busta Rhymes – would have been to look for grimy yet catchy urban beats to showcase his vocal work.
Yet it’s a partnership that clearly works. Debut single ‘I Don’t Want it to End’, featuring UK-based vocalist Shaduno, picked up airplay across the region weeks before its February 4 release. A follow-up single featuring Dia, the vocalist with Abu Dhabi rockers Juliana Down, has already been laid down.
Billed as the first dance duo to be signed to a Middle Eastern label, EMI Music Arabia, Hollaphonic threaten to become a serious addition to the local scene. Sitting down with the duo, it’s clear they’re enjoying riding the wave. Like a pair of naughty schoolboys egging each other on, the temptation for deadpan jokes and sly take-downs is just too great for either of them to resist, so we’d take half of what they had to say with a large pinch of salt.
What did you expect from one another before going into the studio for the first time?
Greg: I thought Olly was just going to be a typical UK garage MC and everything that came out of his mouth was going to begin with ‘buda buda’ or ‘diggy diggy’. I was amazed when he wrote an actual song, showing the world that an ex-UK garage MC can write music as well.
Olly: I was convinced we were just going to add a big bass drum to lots of ’80s tunes and side-chain everything, that annoying bleepy noise on all house music.
How did it go on that fateful day?
Olly: We emerged after a few hours with the track you hear as our debut single, aside from a couple of hours mixing and mastering. Having gone through a lot of producers and friends for years, it was really nice.
Greg: I’ve worked with a lot of singers and normally just let them get on with it and worry about the music, but now I feel comfortable changing the lyrics, and Olly will ask about the production. We’ve come out of our shells a little bit.
Where do you see the tune fitting?
Greg: We want to make tracks that will fit between Kanye West and Katy Perry on the radio.
Olly: The idea is a pop powerhouse of really happy, positive music.
Can you describe each others’ musical personalities?
Greg: Olly likes fiddling with beats and making bass faces. He has an underground sound with sparkly bits mixed in. Did I just say sparkly bits?
Olly: Greg is a technically advanced Mac-manipulator with a pop personality that has now been brought to the surface. He popped up like a pop tart. We’re doing to pop what David Hasselhoff did to Germany.
And your most annoying qualities?
Olly: Greg can’t get my coffee right. Every time he asks how I like it, and every time he gets the same response. I wish he could remember.
Greg: My usual complaint is personal space. [Olly jabs Greg]. Like that. There’s no separate vocal room in our studio, so we just sit side by side and it’s all too much for me.
What’s the game plan now?
Olly: We’re taking Hollaphonic to the world.
Greg: We’re going to be the biggest and best thing in electronic music to come out of the Middle East.
Olly: There’s a woman in Qatar who says she likes to shower to our tune – she must be very clean because they play it every hour.
Would you like this to be your full-time job one day?
Greg: This supports the other things we do. Gone are the days when you get given a house and a car when you’re signed by a record label.
Olly: Did you not get a car and a house?
‘I Don’t Want It To End’ is out now on iTunes. soundcloud.com/hollaphonic.