Pioneering the movement of #digitalfreedom, a push towards dismantling and reshaping the current covetous industry standard of music distribution, Gramatik has established himself, in the eyes of many, as one of the great musical mavericks of our generation. With a catalog of productions too rich and complex to be pigeonholed into one overarching genre, Gramatik’s presence and mentality serves as a poignant reminder that music is all-encompassing, and that regardless of its origins, it is eternally art, no matter the form it takes. In the wake of his highly anticipated career milestone LP release, ‘The Age of Reason’, Gramatik was kind enough to sit down with us to talk Lowtemp, ‘Street Bangerz’, live performance and the contributions that he plans to inject into the future of electronic music.
HT: So where are you guys coming from today?
Today we actually came from New York cause we were suppose to play Output on the 21st and the show got postponed to Monday.
Because of the weather yea. I actually live in New York too so it was awesome to have two days off in New York?
HT: What’s the reason for such a short tour? Do you maybe anticipate that you’ll embark on a tour exclusively performing with EXMAG?
The short is because it’s like a January run that we just decided to do some markets that we skipped on the fall tour and spring tour. Obviously no body wants to tour too much in the winter you know (laughter)? It is really fucking cold most places. As far an EXMAG tour it is definitely going to happen. I’m not apart of EXMAG live. I’m an EXMAG studio member, so the four of them are the ones that actually tour live. They just started doing it frequently and there is probably going to be a tour that they embark on in the spring, either on their own or with somebody bigger.
HT: Looking back to December, can you tell us a little bit about how your SnowGlobe set turned compared to last year from the crowd presence and just the way you guys laid down you set this time around?
Last year we played one of the smaller stages, in a tent which was cool. This year we played the main stage which was really cool (laughter). It was really cold too but luckily they set up the warmers on stage and everything. I really enjoy playing SnowGlobe it is just I’m not fan of winter festivals just because I come from a Mediterranean Sea town. We have snow one every four or five year so it’s just like I prefer to be at summer festivals. But I loved SnowGlobe. It was a great time. We did the after party too. It was really cool.
HT: Favorite summer festival you have in mind for this year?
Oh it’s definitely…my favorite festival of all of them is Electric Forest. It just has the best vibe and I always have the best time there.
HT: In regards to samples. Did you ever feel a sense of competition where you needed to be the first one to find a sample and incorporate it into a release when you were making ‘Street Bangerz’? For example, ‘Flip The Script’, the vocal sample used in that release was used so many other times after. What are thoughts on recycling samples?
I actually never cared. I was always just trying to find samples that I would want to flip regardless of how many times it was flipped or who did it before me or whatever. I just never looked at music making as a competition of any sorts. It’s just art you know? I’m not trying to compete with any other artist or anything. I’m just trying to make the music that I like, that I think would be worth listening to you know? I approach the sampling part of my music making process the same way. If I hear a sample I want to sample I don’t care what it is, I’m just going to do it. It’s always going to be in my own way too you know? As long as you do it in a creative way you can always recycle art. Like collage sampling especially. Combining samples from seven, eight different song from different musical eras. That’s my favorite thing to do with sampling.
HT: Last year you put out ‘Street Bangerz Vol. 4’, which silenced the part of your fan base asking for more ’Street Bangerz’. Even so, many of them were dissatisfied with the length and depth of the compilation. How do you respond to that and do you have plans to return with a Vol. 5?
Well Volume 4…I found those beats. They were leftovers from when I was making Street Bangerz Vol. 1. I had like 100 beats at that time and then I took like 20 of them and then made it Streeet Bangerz Vol 1. It’s just not something that I was planning to release as an album or anything it’s just a collection of my beats that I put out on Beatport and I thought, “nothing was ever going to happen with it”. Recently, when I released, I guess it was a couple of months ago or whatever, I just found this whole entire folder of leftovers from Street Bangerz Vol. 1 and I decided to just select another 20 of them and release them as Street Bangerz Vol. 4. I totally thought I had lost it. I found it on a drive that I misplaced for years. I never even knew I had it. So it was really cool I just retouched the waves. It was just bounces. It was just two minutes. Most of the those sessions were lost too you know? So I just retouched those waves and released them a Street Bangerz Vol. 4 while everyone was waiting for me to finish ‘The Age of Reason’, so I thought it would be cool to drop something like that. And I might do a five too. I still have a bunch of them left that I could put into 5 and I can make some new ones too, eventually.
HT: Back in the summer of ’13 you posted a track from Emiljo A.C. on Facebook. How does it feel to know the capacity to go on social media and post a track from an unknown artist and have them get some exposure after that and bring them into the spotlight?
I think it’s cool you know? If you find somebody like Emiljo A.C who’s from my home country, Slovenia, which only has 2 million people and he was inspired by me and he’s 14 years old and he’s making Street Bangerz type shit that is really fucking dope, why not you know? When I was his age, I started making beats at 14, the same age he is right now and I could only pray or hope that someone would plug me like that. There was not even a platform like that, back in the day. When I started making beats when I was 14, it was the year 2000. There was no Facebook or MySpace. It was just forums and web. There was no platforms, not even close to as powerful as Facebook is today. I guess it would be stupid not to help somebody out that you really like…in his particular case I just felt like I saw myself in the same situation. I was inspired by people that were making beats before me, and coming from a place like Slovenia where there’s not much of a scene to begin with, I feel kind of obligated to help other people out because I would’ve died if someone helped me out.
HT: Is that one of the underlying reasons you started Lowtemp, to expose artists up from the underground exposed, and what is your criteria for bringing people onto Lowtemp?
No not really. I started Lowtemp primarily just because I wanted to have my own label for me to release my own music whenever I want to. Not having to deal with any middle, anything. Just release my own music, on my own terms, on my own label, without having to talk to anyone about it. I just want to get all that all that bureaucracy out of the way cause it’s just fucking annoying (laughter). I just want to make music. And then obviously to help my friends too who are making music with me, so that they can have a platform to release music and use my fan base to expose their music too. And that’s pretty much it. I never actually started Lowtemp with the purpose of trying to find artists and bring them out. I’m too consumed with my own shit to be caring about that at this moment in my life. Maybe later on in life I’ll use Lowtempo to actually run it as a label, cause I don’t want to make music anymore for some reason, maybe that happens, who knows? Right now I’m just too overwhelmed with my own stuff and my own ideas in my head that I want to execute. I just don’t have time you know? I don’t want to put it in somebody else’s hands to run it the way I wouldn’t. So for now it’s only go to be a platform for me and my friends.
HT: Do you ever think you’ll ever get tired of playing E Zoo, E Forest, things like that?
Who knows. You can never say for sure. I’m 29 years old. When I’m 39, who knows how I’m going to feel about all this shit. People change, mature, change in interests. I never even want to say that I will be making music for the rest of my life because I can’t say that for sure. But I’m definitely going to always be doing something creative.
HT: To briefly touch on ‘The Age of Reason’, musically, how does it rival and compliment ‘#digitalfreedom’? Some people are saying nothing has really changed. Did you channel the same energy and same personal feeling when making TAOR?
The Age of Reason is pretty much the continuation of what I tried to do on ‘#digitalfreedom’, even further, more mature musically because I had all the EXMAG guys as my disposal to sample them because they’re like great musicians. There’s a lot of vocals and original vocal tracks that I didn’t have the chance to do in ‘#digitalfreedom’ because I didn’t stumble upon the people that I wanted to work with until now. It’s fifteen tracks of the most diverse genre bending that I’ve ever accomplished so far in my opinion so, I’m eager to see what people think about it.
HT: We tend to ask a lot of people this question to get a baseline of where major players in the industry feel like this movement headed. In what direction do you envision electronic music evolving toward and how do you see yourself playing a roll in getting it where it is today to where it is in two years , three years, ten years down the road?
I don’t know man. I never considered myself to be any kind of trendsetter or inventor of anything. People always ask like “how did you go about inventing all these new cross genres or whatever?. I’m like “I never did anything of that shit”. I just sat down and made some music, and whatever came out, came out. I never said down with intent like, “I’m going to create a new genre”. I just hate putting shit in compartments like that. I just like to make music that I like and you know, hopefully other people like it too.
As far as the future of EDM, there is no way anybody can predict that. The way the technology and the skills of young generations are evolving at lightning space you know, it can go anywhere. Personally, I’m always going to be keeping it musical. For me, EDM without the funk, the soul, the blues, the jazz, it just doesn’t have any real value. So that’s what I’m going to be doing as long as I’m interested in making music. I’m always going to be basing it on those four elementary genres that I feel are essential, which obviously electronic music evolved from those four genres. In my eyes there is no EDM without the funk soul, blues, and jazz. So, that’s going to be my road for the next couple of years.
HT: Are there any emerging breeds of electronic of music that you’re excited about and that you think are going to grow in popularity and catch hold future?
I just think that shit that we did with EXMAG and the stuff the people like Mr. Carmack, and Lindsay Lowend, and those guys, I think that that’s a kind of a style that’s fresh and really really intricate right now, to me personally. Because as much as it is clubby, and trappy, and steppy, it’ still like based on serious mature music, and musical chords progression and some serious musical knowledge that not anybody can just produce. And for me that is really awesome. I hope that it going to be at the forefront in the next couple of years. The neo-soul vibe with the real EDM.
HT: What did you to develop your musical skills? Did you play instruments when you were younger?
I just played a little bit of keys when I was younger. Nothing too serious. I wouldn’t call myself an instrumentalist. I’m good at manipulating music. As far as being an instrumentalist I’d rather worth with people that are actually good at it and then I sample them as I would sample a song from the 60s or whatever. It’s even more fun to sample somebody that is your friend and really good at instruments. As far as my skills, I don’t know. I’ve just been fuckin’ hashing out beats since I was fourteen you know (laughter)? I wouldn’t call myself particularly technically a good producer but I always just go with my feeling you know whatever I’m doing. I don’t focus as much on the technical side as some people as some people do in the EDM scene because I feel like it takes away from the moment in which I’m in when I have this creative impulse. If I don’t seize it the right way, if I get lost in the technical side too much, then I forget what it was that actually inspired me to even start making this song and then I just close the session and just go to bed. So you know (laughter), I guess I have a more romantic approach to it than technical.
HT: How do you feel about the often binary way that performers interact with their audience? At a lot of shows there is simply an artist playing behind the decks with little to no improvisation, at others you find DJs throwing cake or spraying champagne into peoples face. Do you think that type of performance style adds to the experience or do you think it attracts a creates a crowd that is unable to appreciate the musical nuances of your type of music?
I don’t know. It’s hard to say those things because there’s different parts of an audience you know? Once you amount a certain type of following there’s always going to be different people that listen to you for different reasons. Us as DJs or producers or whatever the fuck you want to call us, some of us are more socially awkward than others, some of us are less self confident than others you know, which you can also see reflect on stage. It’s hard. Everybody is trying to find their own way through this because if you think about it in a realistic way, like we’re just a bunch of nerds that started bringing our laptops on stage and playing our music that we’ve been making in our rooms you know? And now all of a sudden that’s cool. Nerds never used to be cool like that. So that’s like a completely new culture that we have to find ourselves in and figure what works for us the best and for our audience or whatever. It’s a never ending progressing process I guess. I guess you got to be comfortable with yourself and then you can do whatever you want and people will accept it as long as it’s positive.
HT: A lot of people are asking and longing for an answer but can you give us any details on the Grizmatik EP?
Well now that me and Grant are done with our albums, we definitely want to make a Grizmatik EP in the near future. That’s definitely going to be happening there’s just no way of telling when because both of us are touring all the time and doing all this shit for our own careers, and then whenever we have time we get together and make a track or two. So in the next year we definitely plan to drop a Grizmatik EP.
HT: Headiest nug, paired with your headiest tune, what would it be?
Headiest nug, paired with my headiest tune? I don’t know (laughter). That’s a good question. I guess Collie Buddz’s ‘Come Around’ and, I don’t know (laughter)…Blueberry Kush. Something like that (laughter). It’s funny cause like as much of a pot that I am, I’m not that much into the pothead scene I just like to smoke weed. But I don’t get involved as much as people would think into the whole scenery, I guess the culture of it you know? Like I said I’m always consumed by my music making life. It’s hard for me to keep track of everything. But yea, weed man. It’s fucking good (laughter).
HT: If you could create a festival and have five people perform, doesn’t have to be electronic music, for a one night thing, who would you pick?
I guess I would do Justice, The Black Keys, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu..that’s four right? I’ll be fifth (laughter). That’d be fun. Those are all people that I really like. That’d be awesome.