A composer, producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist who has charted internationally with both his electronic music and his film scores, the Netherlands' Tom Holkenborg is also known as Junkie XL. Though he began his career as musician/producer in bands such as Weekend at Waikiki and Nerve in the late '80s and early '90s, he made his name in big beat music with the Junkie XL moniker in the late '90s. His cover of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation," released as "Elvis vs. JXL," topped the charts in over a dozen countries in 2002. In the meantime, he found work scoring the occasional video game or film, a sideline that picked up substantially toward the end of the 2000s. By the mid-2010s, he was composing music for such blockbusters as Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool, and, with frequent partner Hans Zimmer, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Beginning his career at the age of 14, Holkenborg initially played in area funk and reggae units, later switching to alternative rock. While working in a music store, he began experimenting with synthesizers and technology, and in 1996 won the Grand Prix of the Netherlands as best house music producer. After completing Junkie XL's 1997 debut LP, Saturday Teenage Kick, a blend of electronica and rock, he enlisted rapper Rudeboy (an alumnus of Urban Dance Squad), DJ Frankie D., drummer Baz Mattie, and guitarist Renee van der Zee to transform his one-man studio project into a working band.
In the meantime, Holkenborg provided music for a handful of video games and made his feature film scoring debut with the 1998 Dutch film Siberia (as Junkie XL). Returning to dance music, Big Sounds of the Drags, released in 1999, was the first album from his expanded lineup. More than two years later, Holkenborg masterminded the first (legal) remix of an Elvis Presley song, "A Little Less Conversation," as heard in a Nike commercial to coincide with the 2002 World Cup. Released as a single, it hit number one in Britain by June, and reached the Top Ten in over two-dozen countries. The track landed on his 2003 album Radio JXL: A Broadcast from the Computer Hell Cabin, which also featured vocals from Chuck D, Robert Smith, and Gary Numan. His 2008 effort, Booming Back at You, featured vocalist Lauren Rocket on a cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Cities in Dust," along with a guest appearance from fellow producer Steve Aoki. Synthesized, from 2012, included contributions from Datarock, Tommie Sunshine, and Tears for Fears member Curt Smith.
By the early 2010s, Holkenborg was taking on more and more work as a composer of film music, often collaborating with Hans Zimmer. In 2014, he was credited alongside Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr, Mike Einziger, Andrew Kawczynski, and Steve Mazzaro as a member Zimmer's the Magnificent Six on the soundtrack for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That same year, he received sole credit for Divergent, which reached the Top 20 of the Billboard Soundtracks chart. Soon, he was scoring such international box office hits as 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road, 2016's Deadpool, and, with Zimmer, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, also from 2016. He closed out the decade with work on such projects as the 2017 video game FIFA 18 and the 2018 film Tomb Raider. ~ Marcy Donelson & Jason Ankeny