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Orchestral Tools Junkie XL Brass

Sampled Brass Instrument By Dave Stewart
Published October 2020

Junkie XL Brass includes an extra-large 12-player trombone section. Ear plugs not included.Junkie XL Brass includes an extra-large 12-player trombone section. Ear plugs not included.

An A-list Hollywood composer joins forces with Orchestral Tools to create a major brass library.

The name Tom Holkenborg might not be as familiar in Hollywood film circles as that of Hans Zimmer, but based on the commotion Mr H has been generating in recent years, that may be about to change. Operating under the alias of Junkie  XL (occasionally shortened to JXL to avoid offending conservative sensibilities), this affable Dutch musician has stormed the film world with dramatic, atmospheric and massive-sounding scores for blockbusters such as Tomb Raider, Mortal Engines, The Dark Tower and Terminator: Dark Fate, as well as collaborating with his erstwhile mentor Zimmer on several superhero-themed box-office smashes.

Born into a musical family in 1967, Holkenborg began playing instruments when barely out of nappies, learned drums at the age of eight and fell in love with studio technology, synths and samplers as a teenager, a passion which has never gone away. In the 1990s he began releasing breakbeat-driven albums under the stage name Junkie XL and toured the world extensively, before scoring a spectacular breakthrough with a funked-up remix of Elvis Presley's 'A Little Less Conversation', a chart-topper in 24 countries. Having relocated to LA to pursue a career in film composing, our man has spent the last 21 years steadily building a reputation as a creator of exciting contemporary soundtracks.

The jewel in Junkie XL's crown is his explosive score for the 2015 post-apocalyptic road movie Mad Max: Fury Road, an astonishing tour de force ('force' being the operative word) which combines a large, manic-sounding orchestra, an 80-voice choir, a huge artillery of battering drums (created using the composer's personal percussion collection), brutally aggressive metal guitars, earthshaking sound design and pulsating industrial synths straight out of the Prodigy playbook. Described by Holkenborg as "over the top" and "very loud, very dark", this relentless sonic onslaught should be a study score for anyone wishing to turn their hand to creating action film music.

Self-confessed 'big nerd' Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL) with his small collection of synth modules.Self-confessed 'big nerd' Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL) with his small collection of synth modules.

Top Brass

In order to maintain a personal signature in his film work, Holkenborg has always built his own sample libraries, starting with guitar and bass and progressing to small orchestral sampling sessions. Dissatisfied with the articulations available in commercial brass collections, he resolved to create his own large-scale sample project which would nail all the details and dynamics of a Hollywood-style orchestral brass line-up, "from the super-soft to the super-blatantly-loud". Aware that this isn't the kind of thing you can knock up single-handed over a weekend, Holkenborg set out to find collaborators.

Around the same time, Orchestral Tools were looking to start a new series in conjunction with different composers, and an idea was hatched: a big, next-generation brass library designed for maximum playability, just a few notes from which would, according to Holkenborg, inspire users to instantly create their own major movie themes. After much brainstorming, the composer and Orchestral Tools team agreed a stylistic blueprint, copyists sprang into action and a large cast of brass players was hired to record a stupendous amount of samples at the Teldex Scoring Stage, Berlin.

Pick & Mix

Junkie XL Brass (which we'll call JXLB for short) features the traditional orchestral line-up of trumpets, trombones, French horns and tuba, and adds a modern ingredient: the cimbasso, a powerful cross between a tuba and trombone which has now become a standard fixture in film scores, recorded here in a three-player section. The first four instrument...

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Published October 2020