2011-09-30T20:30:04-04:00 2012-03-26T16:33:02-04:00

Earmilk Interview: Gramatik at Electric Zoo

The one-month anniversary of my voyage to Electric Zoo is approaching in just days, and I'm feeling sort of guilty that I didn't manage to get this interview transcribed sooner. Gramatik gave a great interview in the media tent on a sunny September afternoon shortly after he blasted the crowd at his early set with a hearty dose of Sunday morning bass. It's always nice to discover that an artist isn't only musically talented but also a genuine friendly, fun person. Gramatik's capable of chilled out tunes, but he held no bars for his set at Electric Zoo, regardless of potential temporal constraints, and everyone left happy and well-warmed up for the rest of the Zoo.

Gramatik - Live at Electric Zoo 2011

EARMILK: To start off, how're you doing?
Gramatik: I'm doing good, considering the fact that I'm sleep-deprived, 30 hours I'm guessing, I'm awesome, it's the last show of the tour, a crazy summer tour that lasted three months, and I had a blast, the time of my life, and I'm happy. I'm happy, and it's bittersweet, you know, having it end, but we go home, I'm going back to Europe on Tuesday to do ten shows there in September, October, for like six weeks, and then we're coming back by Halloween weekend to do the fall tour in the States. So me and Michael Menert from PLM are doing a fall tour together, we're co-headlining, and the new artist that just got signed to PLM, Supervision, is going to open up for us. I'm looking forward to that.
EM: You also recently signed onto PLM, right? Has that affected what you do at all?
G: No, it hasn't. I've been kicking it with Derek since 2009, we always had like, the same vision about music, you know, we liked the same kind of styles or liked to blend the same kind of genres, but we all have our own inputs and our own style of doing that. And you know, PLM is like a family. We're homies, we're not coworkers or whatever, we rage together, tour together, make music together, and it affects me only the a positive way that I'm really comfortable in that environment and that kind of setup that PLM offers.
It's not a typical kind of label, it's a label that actually gives you a chance to expose yourself to a massive fanbase and at the same time they invest money and publicity and promotion for you and all that. It's all on point. And they don't want to influence you creatively or business-wise in any way, they just let us be business-wise and creative on our own, and take control of our own artistry and our own careers and make decisions. They encourage us. Derek encourages everybody to be business-wise and creative-wise on our own, and that's the environment I was always looking for. So you know, you have the freedom to do exactly what you want.

      Gramatik - I Really Do Believe
Download: Gramatik - I Really Do Believe

EM: What kind of musical background did you come from?
G: I come from a little bit of everything. When I started out when I was a kid, I listened to a lot of rhythm and blues, rock and roll, Beatles, and stuff like that. Then I started listening to hip hop when I got to eighth grade, and then electronic music later on in high school, it's a mixture of all of it. In one day I listen to The Prodigy and fucking Black Keys, Ratatat, Arctic Monkeys, and Casabian and stuff like that too. And when people see what kind of music I listen to, they're usually like, wow, you listen to that? I would never say that. I'm just open minded and I like everything that moves me. I never considered myself to be a one-genre type of guy. I like everything that has soul, that has fucking flavor, that has substance, that has meaning. That's the kind of guy I am.

EM: How do you usually prepare for a live show?
G: I just smoke a blunt and hope for the best. It's really funny, most of the time, right before we're about to go on stage, I'm kind of like, I really don't want to do this right now. It's a weird feeling, you know, of I kind of just want to chill backstage and smoke weed and drink, and then I go, aw, we've got to go perform, and then I go on stage and I'm not sure what's going to happen, and then we drop the first few tracks and I'm all-in, like, yeah, this is what's up. So it's really mixed emotions that gets like that, weird, you know. My boy that plays guitar with me on stage always says, "how the fuck do you not want to do this right now? What's wrong with you?" And I'm like, "I don't know, I'm flaky." And then we get on stage and I just get a little wild with it. It's like, it happens a lot, you know.
EM: What was your favorite of the shows that you've played throughout the tour?
G: Um, that's hard. Oh, no, it's not hard. It's Red Rocks. It was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. So uh, it's intimidating, to say the least, you know. There are 10,000 people above you, and you're like, wow. That's one of those moments that's burned into my brain and it's going to stay there forever. Even if somebody would brainwash me, I would still remember that. So yeah, Red Rocks, definitely.
EM: Do you think you're going to stick around here and hang out at the festival?
GI'm going to try, as long as I can stay fucking awake, you know. I'm probably gonna pass out at one point, under a tree or something. But I'm going to stick around because it's our last show, we're going back to Europe on Tuesday, and I definitely want to rage out and smoke some weed and chill with my homies. So I moved to Brooklyn like three months ago, and New York's become my second hometown now, and I really enjoy it. When we come back, we're going to be living in Brooklyn, as well, and I can't wait.

      Gramatik - So Much For Love
Download:Gramatik - So Much For Love

EM: And where are you originally from?
G I'm from Central Europe, and it's called Slovenia. So that's right between Austria and Italy. Right in the middle of Europe. I'm on the coast of Slovenia, which is on the Adriatic Sea, and my hometown is really chill, it's like 30,000 people in the entire county, and it's all just hotels and beaches, you know, like, sand, beaches, grass, beaches, concrete, beaches, and hotels and casinos and that's it. So in the summer it's really fun and chill and in the winter it tends to get kind of boring. It's a small tourist town. But it's the main tourist attraction in my home country, and everybody goes there in the summer, and a lot of tours from Germany and Italy and AustriDeia and Hungary and Russia, they come, it's really chill, there's no substantial crime, there's no unemployment rates, no homeless people, it's just chill. A chill place where you can just relax on the beach and enjoy the sun. We have an above-average amount of sunny days and it doesn't get really cold, like we have snow once every five years, so it's pretty nice, but it does get boring, you know. Because growing up in a small town, by the time you're 16, you know everybody. And by the time you're 26, you hate everybody. So you know, I'm 26 right now, and it was about time that I got the fuck out of there and moved to New York. Because I always wanted to move here, so I'm happy. And I always want to go back in the summer, you know, because summer is awesome.
EM: Yeah, I'm from Cape Cod, so I can relate. So have you been to New York a lot? Have you spent a lot of time here?
G: Yeah, totally. This summer we've been chilling in Brooklyn and Green Point and doing three or four shows a week, flying out and doing shows all over from San Francisco to Chicago to everywhere. And in the meantime we're just hanging in Brooklyn and I'm like two blocks away from Adam Deitch's studio, and we've been chilling there and making music and fucking around with beats and shit, and I was working on my album while we were in Brooklyn. And then we would fly out and do shows and come back and make some more music, and it's been awesome. I had the time of my life this summer. It's my best summer of my life. Definitely. Ever since I was five years old, I wanted to go to New York, ever since I saw it in the movies, you know? I was like, wow, I want to go there. It sounds pretty cliche, but it's very personal to me. I've always been in love with the city even before I ever came here. And when I came for the first time it was all that and more. So you know, I'm happy to be here.

EM: If you could play anywhere -- is there any place that would be the one place you'd pick?
G: I haven't played in Paris yet, I really want to do Paris. I had a couple of requests and they didn't pan out, but I think we're going to do it, maybe, early next year. I'm looking forward to that, I want to play in Paris really bad, because most of my favorite artists come from France, from Paris. Like Daft Punk, Justice, all the Ed Banger crew, the Propellerheads, all those guys, that's the shit that I've been listening to when I was growing up, that influenced me the most when it comes to electronic music.
And of course, the best hip hop in Europe comes from France, in my opinion. I grew up listening to New York hip hop, like East Coast hip hop, and when it comes to Europe hip hop, France is the most like that, you know, rappers from Paris and around there, and from those cities, French guys have the best kind of music. They were always original, they always had their own sound, when Daft Punk came in it was labeled French house, then Justice and Ed Banger came in as French electro, you know what I'm saying? They have their own swag and style, and they do it in a way that no one can reproduce that, so I've always been a huge fan of the electronic music scene in France. And we played in East France this year, and I can't wait to go to Paris.
EM: If you could work with any artist, who would it be?
G: Wow, that's a tough question. I would definitely like to work with anybody from Ed Banger, of course Daft Punk, Prodigy, those are the guys that I fucking admire and are always going to be like the gods of electronic music. Especially The Prodigy, like, Liam Howlett, hands down, rearranged the electronic music scene forever. When fucking Fat of the Land came out, that shit changed everything. That was like the firestarter, "Smack My Bitch Up," it rearranged my mindset, when I heard that, I was like, wow. Are you fucking kidding me? This is amazing. And people were trying to reproduce that sound for years, and nobody was able to do it until like five or six years later. They were so, so ahead of time.
The same goes for Daft Punk, definitely either Daft Punk or Prodigy, I would love to work with. And when it comes to hip hop, I would love to do something with Talib, I'd love to do something with Mos Def, you know. Those are the guys I looked up to the most when I used to be an M.C. -- I was an M.C. first, and then started producing, so those are the guys that I'd really like to do something with.
EM: What do you think are the most exciting things going on in music right now?
G: I guess the blending of genres that people never thought it was possible to blend. Like the stuff that we do at PLM and the stuff that a lot of other people do, the stuff that Skrillex does, you know what I'm saying? It's like, it's mind-blowing, and hybrids are more and more present and more and more evident and it's getting harder and harder to define genres and artists, like what they do, and I love that. because I was never a fan of genres. I was never a fan of putting music in genre compartments. And I was never a fan of labeling myself as a one-genre type of guy. So now you've got acts like PLM, and all those guys that do a mind-blowing genre-blending, and it's getting harder to define it, and I'm like, yes, that's what's up. Finally it's getting hard.
It's coming to the point where it's just good or bad music, and that's how it always should have been, and I'm hoping it's going to get more and more like that, so people who are just like, "oh, I'm listening to hip hop," "I'm a hip hop head," "I'm a dubstep head," "I'm a drum and bass head," like, fuck all that, I'm a good music head, you know, and I distinguish music by good and bad. And to define beyond that point is pointless. Because it's art, you know? Why put it in compartments? It's just a limitation. Especially for us artists, it's a huge limitation. Like, okay, I'm going to decide I'm going to be a dubstep artist right now, and just make dubstep? That's stupid, you know. And it's really nice that's happening in electronic music right now.
Especially, for example, like this festival, Electric Zoo, a couple of years ago you would never see acts at this festival like me or Big Gigantic or Mimosa or, you know, anything that's not trance or electro house before, and now, more and more of that is getting exposure, and huge festivals like this that used to be all trance and electro house, and I'm happy to see that changing, and it's happening in New York first, because New York is always open to fresh shit and the hottest shit that can be found on the scene right now. New York always supported and appreciated artists that are not trying to do more of the same shit everybody else is doing but try to be innovative and fresh and give their own take on whatever genres they like listening at the moment.
And no matter the trends and no matter the people who say, oh, that's not dubstep, that's weird, like, I never cared about that, and I was like, oh, I'll probably never get a following on the music I do because it's not trendy. But now it's starting to happen and I'm pretty happy about it because I never caved in, I was never the guy who was like, "okay, I have to do this trend right now if I want to make money or blow up." I was like, fuck that. I'm going to try to do my thing, and if people flock to it, that's awesome, and if they don't, fuck it. And it's happening and I'm really happy about it.

      Gramatik - Never That Easy
Download:Gramatik - Never That Easy

EM: If someone didn't know your music and was just starting to get into you, what would you personally give them as an introduction?
G: I would give them my No Shortcuts album, because that album is, I think, my best work thus far, and it really represents what I'm all about when it comes to music. On No Shortcuts, I blend from hip hop to electro house to dubstep to glitch hop to classical samples to soul samples, funk samples, fucking swing samples, all the kind of genres that I really, really like and enjoy listening to and hopefully my own signature sound, so I think if people were like, give me some of your music so I can see what you're about, I think No Shortcuts would be the best representation of all of the music that I have to offer from within me.
EM: Is there anything else you'd like to share before we wrap up?
G: I would like to tell people to be on the lookout for my next album, it's probably going to drop by the end of the year on PLM and it's going to be called Never Been the Silent Type. And it's going to be more of that No Shortcuts style, that mind-blowing genre blending, and it's going to try to progress that kind of thing even more. So that's my pet project right now.
Dubstep · Electronic · Festival · Hip-Hop · Interview


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Vince Currier
Vince Currier
9 years ago

I really enjoyed reading this interview....it was personal enough to make one want to listen to this man's music. The writer seemed to have things in common with the subject of the interview, which made it more interesting.

9 years ago
Reply to  Vince Currier

Yes you are right of course, for a random person, like myself. It contributed greatly to me liking them. Not knowing anything about them.

9 years ago

Gramatik. If there was no reason to life, Your music would provide enough reason. In other words, great stuff.