INTERVIEW: GRiZ (Live from Sonic Bloom 2012)
With a huge tour almost over and a massive first album on the way, twenty-two year old producer Grant Kwiecinsk, aka GRiZ, has wasted no time in making a name for himself in EDM circles. We were lucky enough to catch up with Grant at this year’s Sonic Bloom Festival to talk about the album, his plans for the future, and the world of EDM as he sees it…
LMB: So you played an off the hook set set last night, and I heard you mention you were trying to play a secret sunrise set this morning but I didn’t hear anything else about it. What gives?
G: Yeah the sunrise set didn’t happen. we got too twisted and everything just kind of went in twenty-million directions. We ended up staying up all night and only caught a few hours of sleep this morning so yeah. We did get to catch Josh’s (Ooah’s) Of Porcelain set and that was absolutely beautiful. One of the dudes from Emancipator was playing violin backstage and that shit like made me cry. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life so I’m really glad we got to catch that.
LMB: So you’re pretty new as a producer in the EDM scene but you’ve been playing so many awesome festivals sets. Did you grow up going to festivals and seeing electronic acts or is this all a sort of new experience?
G: Well I’ve been producing since I was fourteen years old, I just turned twenty-two, and I didn’t really start doing it seriously until about eight months ago when we started getting shows out of state and stuff. Before that I was hanging out in the festival circuit a bit. I did EDC in LA at the Trojan Coliseum which was crazy. That’s where I saw Pretty Lights for the first time back in ’09. I also did Lollapalooza in 09 and that’s where I saw Bassnectar for the first time so those were both big eye openers as to how electronic music was becoming popularized. Back then I was listing to like Aphex twin and doing a lot of idm stuff, which I’m still really big on, but more like sample based stuff is popular now. As far as what we’ve done this year, we’ve done Lights All Night, we did Snowball, Coachella, Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF Movement), Sonic Bloom, I just got back from Bounce last weekend. Electric Forest, What The Festival coming up. So yeah. We’re feeling it out.
LMB: Wow it sounds like your really working hard to put your name out there and I guess its really been working. You definitely have a unique style and some super memorable tracks that have been getting a lot of buzz in EDM and festival circles. I know you have roots in both the Detroit music scene and the Colorado music scene which, in my opinion, are vastly different. Where would you say you feel more at home and how has being a part of the scene in each city effected how you make music?
G: As far personal relationships and social connections go I feel a lot more at home in the Colorado scene. There are so many small pockets of people out here enjoying it, just in the rockies in general. The Detroit techno music scene is so prevalent and prominent though because that’s where a lot of it started. You have Richie Hawtin and Carl Cox and Carl Craig. Techno legends really. Not house necessarily but just straight techno, minimal house kinda stuff. What I actually got stoked on wasn’t really the whole Detroit music scene but just things I was into in high school like top 40s hip hop. Like J-Kwon “Tipsy” and Crime Mob and then you had all the classics like all the Jurassic 5 stuff and A Tribe Called Quest stuff and Biggie stuff and Nas stuff. 50 cent was kind of like whatever and of course Eminem is from michigan and he had the whole angst, angry, trapped in a low economic status area kinda thing that I wasn’t really into but it was just that hip hop was a major influence for how I feel about electronic music these days and it’s contributed to my style being more hip hop oriented. At the same time though I was still till listening to James Brown and to The Meters and stuff that was more funk and soul and funkedelic and using both of those feels together is where it really hit. Where it finally stuck. Taking the grooves and the drums from hip hop and the swagger from hip hop and putting it with funk and soul and adding some bass, which is more current I guess. You could say the was the real birth or the start of Griz music and what we’ve started trying to do. On a side note one of the big things that is popular right now in detroit is the J Dilla style stuff you know? Like beat music. It’s basically hip hop instrumentals with a little bit of latentcy and thirds and swing and a rogue beat kinda feel to it and random weird synth tones and stuff. There is this huge sub culture of this stuff. I mean you’ve got Ghostly International coming from Ann Arbor, Michigan doing this whole other underground thing too so you’ve got a lot of underground stuff coming out of Michigan and sort of spreading all over.
LMB: Yeah I think you can definitely hear that unique blend of influence in your music and you’re releases so far have really helped develop a recognizable GRiZ sound. I know you’ve had a full length album in the works for quite some time now and you’ve had to push back your release date a few times for different reasons. What can you tell us about where you are with that?
G: So the album is called Mad Liberation and for me it’s one of the ideologies I’ve grown into. It was something that was definitely conceived but not necessarily thought about. Like it just came into being and the we just found with a name for it based on how we feel about music and culture and like what we’re doing. I can say that we’ve finished it and done mastering and all that kind of stuff and right now it’s on this hold because we’re pushing for artwork and publicists and deciding how we want to release it. We’ve gone down all these avenues and hit all these mental roadblocks. The road is always there but we didn’t really want to go down that path yet. We’ve come so far and we’ve come to this place where all these things are about to happen and I’m not sure we’re ready to take that step so finding the right direction for the album is a very important thing for me and delivering it properly to the people is super important because everyone wants certain things and we to cater to everybody but we also want to show what we’re doing and show it as generally as possible. After the music was completed it was like yeah ok we’ve got this release date and now we’ve got this release date and now we’ve got this release date and it kept going and going and i didn’t think we had lived with the music enough and let it become something that was a musical feeling that showed us how we wanted to deliver it and we’re just almost there now so it will definitely be released very shortly.
LMB: It sounds like you’re being very meticulous and putting a lot of hard work and careful thought into this album. Would you say you’re a bit of a perfectionist?
G: Yeah I mean I guess it comes from how myself and my manager work and the conversations about trying to do proper delivery as well as me trying to show people and give people what we’re doing in an exactly proper light, because we’re not trying to just do, you know? We’re trying to do things and do them right for our own good and for everyones good. Yeah sure there are the couple thousand people who want to hear the album today and we want to cater to those people but there are also a lot of people that don’t really know what we’re doing yet and we want to make sure they hear it and do it all at the same time. It’s not that we’re trying to make a big deal out of it but we’re definitely trying to make a statement. We want to release it and have it become this very big thing in a lot of peoples’ minds because this is something we’ve curated over the past year and I’m not just trying to toss it. We’re trying to progress it. It isn’t marketing because marketing is a really dangerous and terrible thing to talk about you know? You being a marketable artist is all kind of bullshit because you look at people who obsess themselves with that and they get lost in it and their public image and what they’re trying to do versus what they are actually do do. We’re just trying to create this world where this is who we are and this is what we do and we want people to enter that world at the right time. We just came off of a bunch of tours and a bunch of shows and we were working hard on the website and doing a lot of downloads and singles and the album got pushed back because we just weren’t ready for that. I guess this is my apology now for not having the album out months ago. We just want it to be in the light that is proper.
LMB: I mean I don’t think you need to apologize. I think your dedication to timing and building the anticipation is truly authentic and in a market that is almost over-saturated with EDM artists, it’s endearing to see a really talented producer taking their time to get real meaning out of their music. You are clearly well on your way to doing some huge headlining shows and working with some big names in the scene. Can you tell us anything about the future as far as touring goes?
G: I wish I could. We’re working on stuff with a lot of other people right now but the plans aren’t really ours yet. Other people have heard what we’re doing right now and are bringing us into their world and allowing us to do big stuff with them, because it isn’t just a show show show show show thing, and when it becomes something like that you lose a lot of the music culture with it and its just like people trying to make a buck off of really big shows and thats just disgusting. We did this tour with Gramatik and it was basically set up but at the same time it took his whole acceptance of what we were doing and so we connected really well. We’re just trying to help build a culture here and perpetuate that instead of just throwing shows willy nilly, and sometimes that happens because it’s just fated to happen because it’s still early in my career and sometimes you just need to play a new market, but for the most part what I would like to do and what I think we’re doing is to educate people on our vision and what our vision is isn’t really describable in words but I think it is something that is relatable in terms of experience and hanging out and talking and describing it through music and conversation.
LMB: Has being involved in the scene and seeing how things like huge, expensive stage production and independently owned labels have changed the whole EDM world effected how you approach your own live performances and music?
G: We’re very new to all this so we’re just trying to find our way and grow. My knowledge of the scene and people and whats going on, like every single time I travel and I get to talk to new people and it blows my mind how short sighted I can be sometimes or how much i\I can help other people know about certain things. It’s such give and take. As far as the production for shows goes, and I’m trying to think of where the first big surge of huge lights and production came from, and I’m thinking that STS9 really kicked it off with their live act, and maybe what happens, and i don’t know because I haven’t thought too much about this, but at festivals and bigger shows an artist comes in and the stage has LED screens and maybe projector mapping and movers and big sound and special effects, because when you’re at a festival its like, ‘Hey anything goes!’ When it comes down to the big tour stuff, you’ve got Pretty Lights and Amon Tobin and Bassnectar and Deadmau5 and Skrillex, you have all the big people in the industry taking that aspect of the festival experience and adding these big budget things to their tours, and now it’s a completely new scene, and it’s a little scary to see it at the level we’re at now because it’s not like we’re trying to compete but how can you really compare our live show to their show? We go on tour with people and we open up or do support and its like, “Do we have lights? Do we have sound?” I just have my songs and my sax and thats what I do now. I hope at some point we’ll be doing our own production and everything and it will add this whole new dynamic but are all those things necessary? Probably not really, but it definitely adds an aspect to the shows that people really appreciate and it has production value and people notice that and they think its awesome and it’s okay. We’re just doing what we’re doing and we’re taking it in stride and we’re getting really positive feedback from the fans because I think they give a fuck. And we give a fuck. It’s all really important to me because this is my job; and its more than a job. It’s what I’ve been passionate about since I first got a piano from the old choir room when I was seven and I was just making sounds. We’re all out here just trying to make sounds and do things for ourselves and other people and bring people into our world and hopefully they can just vibe on that.
LMB: Well I think they definitely have and I’m really stoked to see how things go for you in the future! Thanks so much for sitting down with us!
G: Absolutely! Thank you!
Joseph Smith is a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder as well as an editor/writer/photographer for LMB CO.
You can follow him on twitter at @JosephS89.
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