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Interview: GRiZ

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

I caught up with the producer/saxophonist after his set at Lollapalooza.

Interview: GRiZ

Just a warning: don't say the word "EDM" around producers or DJs. You just might get wrapped up in a drinking game they are playing that revolves around that very buzzword.

That's exactly what happened to me during my interview with Grant Kwiecinski, better known by his stage name GRiZ, after his set at Lollapalooza a couple weekends ago. I thought I had asked a harmless question about when he had first gotten into EDM. Then, one of his personnel walked away with a smile on his face. While he was answering, the man walked back with a large bottle of tequila, which put a huge smile on Grant's face.

"So we're playing this game where you have to take a shot every time you say the word 'EDM.'" I began apologizing, thinking I had mistakenly dragged him into doing a shot. Turns out the shot was for me. I bucked up and threw it back, and it certainly made the rest of the interview (and evening, for that matter) much more interesting. Just some good, clean festival fun. Check out our entire interview below: 

CHARGED.fm: So I caught most of your set today and I thought it was pretty awesome. How do you think it went?

Grant: Amazing. I had a great time, man. The crowd was really responsive, that midwest mentality, and it permeated through the crowd. It was good.

CHARGED.fm: You're from Detroit, how far is that from Chicago?

Grant: Five hours.

CHARGED.fm: Five hours, so it's sort of in the same vicinity to Chicago.

Grant: I mean, it's a lot closer than a lot of other places to my hometown.

CHARGED.fm: So I've always wondered this. What is the process of developing a set to play live? What goes into planning everything you're going to do from start to finish?

Grant: Right, that's a good question. I think you have to have the proper balance between old material that people really want to hear and bringing in new fresh material that people really crave, but they don't know it yet. So it's hard to like, snap and get them right away. I mean, your best song, I remember playing these songs on the last record way before the record had come out. And the response was like (shrugs). It was hard, because the way I format songs, bring in certain elements is not 100% normal. It's a little bit different.

That being said, when I play new songs, I try to introduce them in a way that is very danceable and easy to understand. It's kind of like Jenga or a puzzle. You get the borders first, your stand-up songs that you know or kind of describe you as an artist and then just kind of fill in the pieces as you go.

CHARGED.fm: So when did you first get into EDM?

Grant: Uh… I kind of got into this sort of scene at the start of college when I had a good friend that was DJing local house parties and stuff like that. So what I did was be like, "Can I play?" And lo and behold, I decided to play my music that I've been making since I was 14 and a half, 14ish. And back then it was all IDM, intelligent dance music, breakbeat... (laughs).

[Shot incident occurs]

CHARGED.fm: (After taking shot of tequila) Now I know not to say that again.

Grant: Say what again?

CHARGED.fm: Exactly. Not at all. So was this your saxophone music that you were playing along with it or something else?

Grant: It was like pre-that, like really glitchy, very detail oriented kind of stuff. Then the whole introduction of the saxophone happened kind of out of a whim. I had this saxophone, and I had been playing it for so long, but I took a year off playing it because I thought college was cooler than playing saxophone. Turns out it wasn't. So I was like, "Alright let's try this out." After years and years of trying to play with it live, I think I've finally got it dialed down.

CHARGED.fm: Yeah, it seems like there's a really good balance of just hitting your controllers and then getting up and hitting the sax, and you can see the ebb and flow of the crowd as it goes back and forth along with it.

Even with that, introducing a live saxophone, it seems that even within genre, the stuff you can kind of do is almost infinite. What kind of things do you want to continue to bring to your music in the future?

 

Grant: I'm a really really big fan of large, exasperated horn lines. Like those major funk chord progressions. And copying and pasting that with the saxophone and being able to play that live and getting into horn instrumentalists and session players to actually play with me would be great. So a lot of live instrumentation that doesn't sound too live. It sounds pulled together, not jammy, but live.

That and pushing the boundaries of what synthetic-based music can sound like in a different, understandable and triply but like focused manner.

CHARGED.fm: OK. So you just got done touring with Bassnectar a little while ago, how do you think that went?

Grant: That was amazing man, I mean his crowds are really receptive to all different types of music. Lorin himself plays a vast array of styles and energies, so it's great to play to that kind of crowd, especially since they don't get that hip-hop, neo-funk, future funk kind of steez, and I think that mashes together really well with his group of fans. So it's cool to bring that side of music to them.

CHARGED.fm: So what would your dream collaboration be on a project or song, anyone you would want to work with that you could?

Grant: Two of my dreams came true, which is really really cool, but I can't speak on either of them yet. But, I would love to work with Led Zeppelin, even though they aren't a thing anymore. That's kind of one of the big things, and also like the JBs, the Meters, the O.V. Wright's, anyone like that or Nina Simone, you know? That would be amazing.

CHARGED.fm: So what's on your agenda next as this year comes to a close and for next year?

Grant: So we have our fall tour coming up in October. Then that's going to be a tour of the new record called Rebel Era which is going to be released early September.

CHARGED.fm: Awesome. And who are you pumped to see for the rest of Lollapalooza if you're sticking around?

Grant: The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons.

CHARGED.fm: I saw the Lumineers last weekend in Newport, and they were out of this world.

Grant: Dude, that's my favorite music.

CHARGED.fm: You should collaborate with them!

Grant: Haha, we'll see!

Let CHARGED.fm get you the best concert tickets all year long!


Comments (2)
  1. Philip O'connell's profile

    Philip O'connell

    August 13th, 2013 @11:21

    Awesome interview Ross! I saw him at Governor's Ball while you were off seeing someone else and he was great. Good to know he's introducing live instrumentation into his sets.

  2. Ross Bernhardt's profile

    Ross Bernhardt

    August 13th, 2013 @17:18

    Yeah, watching him switch between sax and the decks was pretty interesting. If he can expand that further, he could open up the genre and the live experience even further. He was a super cool guy, too, as evidenced by their "EDM" drinking game!

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