Ten years ago, it was nearly unheard of for an artist’s talent to be seen or heard primarily through online outlets. Today, that is quite the contrary – people listen, love, and share by the click of a mouse. A poster boy of the power of social media in today’s music scene is Grant Kwiecinski better known as GRiZ. As a result of promoters’ curiosity, GRiZ’s first gig was booked via Soundcloud. Two years later, the DJ-producer continues to break through music barriers by playing his saxophone during his live DJ sets. We talk to GRiZ post Governors Ball NYC Music Festival to discuss his opinion of dubstep and his potential partnerships with some of hip-hop’s greatest.
Life + Times: What was your first introduction to music as a child?
GRiZ: I’d say the most musical thing about my childhood was the fact that my mother would play me Fantasia on VHS like every single day. I ended up watching it so many times I burned out the VHS tape.
L+T: Wait…Fantasia? Disney?
GRiZ: Yeah, Disney. (Laughs)
L+T: On “Gettin’ Live,” you play the sax. Are you self-taught?
GRiZ: I did the whole saxophone thing in elementary school through middle school through high school. I did the band thing. I took some lessons from my mentor at the DSO, which is the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I kind of, like, took my freshman year in college off. Then, I got back into it and started incorporating saxophone with electronic music.
L+T: Soundcloud has definitely played a significant role in your career. Are there any up-and-coming producers that you like and you’ve discovered off of Soundcloud or while touring?
GRiZ: There’s this group called The Floozies that’s a two-piece funk group – there’s a drummer and a guitar player. Also, this guy named Manic Focus who’s dope out of Chicago. There’s a few others, but those guys are doing it.
L+T: I’ll have to check them out!
GRiZ: I’m trying to jump off with a label currently. I like self-directing music. I feel like labels sometimes hamper creative direction within the artist’s original intent of what they wanted to do before they had the pressure of presenting it to anybody else. I want to facilitate that as much as possible.
L+T: That’s great! At least you have a game plan and know what you won’t compromise on. That’s the worst thing you can do.
GRiZ: I feel like within electronic music right now, the fanbase incorporated with electronic music are Internet kids. It’s this whole new wave. It’s crazy.
L+T: Mad Liberation was your last release. Are you releasing an EP or album in the fall?
GRiZ: I like to release records – just a completed idea and thought. EPs tend to be part of a more momentary thought or idea, whereas a record can be more encompassing and have a stronger idea behind it. That’s kind of what I like to do with my music – convey some bigger ideas, something you can think about and might stick around for a year or two. So, I’m working on my next full length to be released September 14th, which is the first birthday for Mad Liberation.
L+T: Can we expect any crazy collaborations?
GRiZ: I’ve got a lot of really wicked talented friends. Right now, just as a non-disclosure to make sure that those things happen and I’m not talking out of my ass, there’s definitely going to be some cool features and collaborations. On my last record, I had my buddy Dominic Lalli from Big Gigantic. I’ve met a lot of new people since then. There’s a lot of cool stuff coming up. I’m trying to work on this beat with DJ Green Lantern for Joey Bada$$. Either it comes on my record or it gets released with him. Hopefully, try and get in with Nas. Nas is Green’s friends, so we’re trying to put the pieces together.
L+T: Your music features some dubstep. A lot of people are saying that dubstep is dead. How would you respond to that?
GRiZ: I would say that in a lot of sense they might be correct. That kind of style of music, it’s a specific style, it’s a feeling, it’s an emotion you get from it. Music is a feeling. That kind of feeling of how to dance to that music and how that music makes you feel is kind of played out at this point. So, people are, like, using those sounds to create this different feeling or are using new sounds to recreate that feeling. That really, really aggressive in-your-face, loud, high pitched noises, distracting sounds kind of thing – I feel like that stylistically is kind of on its way out. The new trap movement and all that kind of stuff– kids are enjoying that tempo and that energy of music in a different way. I think it’s just change. Nothing’s really dead, it’s just different.
L+T: You play the sax in addition to actually DJing live, but do you feel like a DJ is a musician?
GRiZ: Yeah! A good DJ is a musician for sure. Doing that stuff that’s in the mix is very musical. It takes, like, harmonic mixing and beatmixing in account…and that is very musical and technically musical because music is an assembling of notes and frequencies of sound. If mixing isn’t an assembling of sound and notes, then I don’t know what is.