Producer, DJ and classically-trained saxophone player Grant Kwiecinski (a.k.a. GRiZ) is currently traveling the country on his biggest national headlining tour to date. A brilliant artist at the ripe age of 23, GRiZ borrows the fool-proof recipe of funky, electro-hip hop and makes it his own by adding the soulful special ingredient- saxophone. Check the video below for a behind-the-scenes peek at tour life, then read our discussion on mental organization, his swift rise to fame, recent release Rebel Era (streaming in full at end of post), and how GRiZ is putting the “M” back into EDM.
MOJO: Being on the road so much, always traveling in a car, plane, playing shows five nights a week- how do you keep it all together?
GRiZ: I think you really get used to the chaos of everything. It becomes familiar and very comfortable, so when you actually slow down, you start to get a sense of, “Shit… I need to be doing something. I need to be moving.” It definitely makes it hard to work on music because you don’t have a formal space or personal space with speakers and all the amenities of it. But it does add a little inspiration- all the things you experience, so many different things daily.
MOJO: Is there ever any sense of a regular schedule? Do you have a Zen time of the day where you get to sit down and think to yourself?
GRiZ: You never know when you’re really gonna have a chance to have an hour to sit down and work, other than the mornings, and [then] you never know if you’re going to be waking up at this time or that time. It’s a crapshoot, but it’s totally cool and I’m down with it.
MOJO: What else is required to make sense of the chaos?
GRiZ: My laptop and my tour manager.
MOJO: Let’s travel back in time to Electric Forest 2012- the super-secret set on Saturday night. Do you remember that set?
GRiZ: Hell yeah! I will never forget that.
MOJO: People really started talking about you after that performance. How did the details of that set come together?
GRiZ: My manager at the time has this website called thissongissick.com and Electric Forest offered thissongissick.com a showcase spot on a secret stage. So those were his set passes he gave away to us. He offered a spot to Gramatik. Then we were just like, “We should play together.” We had a song together and Dominic played saxophone on it and he was there and he was down so, we kind of put it together in a day- the day of, it just kind of materialized- and it was amazing.
MOJO: Would you agree that that was kind of a turning point?
GRiZ: That was one of those moments where things started really coming together in a good way for us. All the things that we had been working for started paying off.
MOJO: And then it was just like the snowball effect and things have been building ever since. What’s been the biggest surprise about your elevated fame?
GRiZ: That I get the opportunity to talk to all these people that were, and still are, my idols. I remember seeing Bassnectar at Lollapalooza in ’09 and just being in the crowd watching it having the greatest time. It was like, “I could do that someday.” Now it’s like, Lorin and I are good friends and he’ll just text me every now and then to say what’s up and it’s like- holy shit.
MOJO: Let’s talk about your new album, Rebel Era. That took you longer than originally expected, did it not?
GRiZ: Seemingly so. My expectations were to put it out two months before it came out. We were dealing with some copyright sample clearance issues. Back in the day you could just put some stuff out, but now that we’re a little on the radar, you don’t want to run into those issues because people are kind of gunning for you at this point.
So that was one of the big things. The other thing is I just want to make sure to get things right- listening to it and trying to make sure that every single little second works perfectly, how I want it to be.
MOJO: That’s another thing that I really appreciate about your work is that you prefer a complete, developed album that you put a lot of time into as opposed to putting a single out every couple weeks. Can you talk about why and how you came to that opinion about the way that you put material out?
GRiZ: I think that the music that I like most has always been presented to me in that way. There’s a lot to deal with in the presentation of a product. I’m trying to convince people this is something great. And that being said, there’s so much that I have to say and so many things that I think about. It comes down to wanting to represent my ideas in the best way possible because to me, it’s worth it to take that time to put together this idea and not to just release half processed thoughts or little, quick sounds. I feel little more respective about everything. Everything has a deep and textural side to it that I want to put out there. I want people to think about it and I want them to play it for years.
MOJO: You recently played your biggest non-festival, solo headlining gig to date at the Masonic Lodge in Detroit, your hometown. That was probably pretty fun.
GRiZ: Yea, hometown crowd. There was so much love in that room that evening. It’s hard to describe that feeling. I felt like everyone was vibing in the same way. Everyone was just there in the present moment. It was so thick you could feel the energy in the room. It was unstoppable.
MOJO: Was your costume Elwood Blues from The Blues Brothers?
MOJO: And you also had fellow Detroit native Danny Brown on the bill that night. Did you happen to discuss with him that whole situation that went down with Pretty Lights?
GRiZ: No, I didn’t, because that’s really not my matter. I literally had five minutes to talk to Danny. I know that that’s something he’s probably not too happy about. It’s like if you just got a job at a new place and everybody knew the situation was that you got fired at your last job and all everybody wants to know is how you got fired from the last job; that’s not going to make you feel very good.
My whole management and booking talked about it and the implications for us. The way that Derek dealt with Danny- they’re cool, they’re fine. It just wasn’t the right fit for both of them and they won’t make that mistake again and it’s all good. They both create really awesome art in the form of music. It really proves the fact that music is 100% subjective. There’s no objectively good or bad music. It comes down to what people think about it and if you get the wrong crowd to play in front of, sometimes things go bad.
MOJO: I know you get asked often about your opinion on the state of the scene right now. People are always trying to predict the next sub category of EDM. But based off of what I’m reading and hearing, I feel like electronic music artists are getting tired of electronic music. People are always talking about short attention spans and getting back to the roots with bands. As an artist who lies somewhere in the middle of those two ends of the spectrum, are you advocating for a renewed focus on instrumental music like psychedelic rock, rowdy folk, and even blues?
GRiZ: I’m just trying to figure out what I want to do with music and I think that everyone is trying, too. It’s hard to just be like, “Yea, this is where I stand on music,” if you don’t really know. I stand completely for taking a little bit of the “E” out of EDM or maybe playing a little bit more of the “M” back in EDM. I stand for musicianship. I stand for mastery of an instrument- whether that is a computer or a synthesizer or a guitar or saxophone- whatever it is. And I stand for quality product, not cheap tricks. I think that sometime cheap music sells millions of copies and kids don’t know it. Chance The Rapper had this really, really amazing line- “Sometimes the truth don’t rhyme. Sometimes the lies get millions of views.” And that’s just how it goes.
MOJO: I know that you have kind of a really badass mustache and I was just curious if you participate in Movember?
GRiZ will perform in Indianapolis on Thursday November 28th at The Vogue, which just-so-happens to be the night of Thanksgiving. So take your turkey nap early and don’t drink too much wine at Grandma’s because you’ve got twice as much to be thankful for this year, including a party in Broad Ripple that I guarantee will keep you moving and grooving all night long.
Thursday, November 28th
10pm / 21+
The Vogue Theater
6259 N College Ave
Purchase tickets here: http://ticketf.ly/17jtFG3
Win tickets here: http://www.indymojo.com/_events/indymojo-presents-griz-the-vogue-thanksgiving-night/