When I think of Digital Freedom, only a few names come to mind. One in particular is Slovenian producer Gramatik. I first got hooked on Gramatik with his “Beatz & Pieces” album during the summer of 2011. This was when he was playing an Electric Zoo set at 11 AM and now he’s selling out shows here and abroad. It was day 3 and I promised myself I would go, even if I attended alone. Not many people knew about Gramatik at the time, but there was something about his versatility that drew me in. The heartwarming soul, funk and blues, with the hip-hop underpinnings and the top-notch sampling made him a key player in my musical repertoire.
I didn’t make it to that set that day, because 24 hours of straight dancing does not work well with 10 AM wake up calls, but little did I know, down the road I would be interviewing the man himself. Not only one of my favorite artists for his music, but also for his mind. He has transcended genres and boundaries by living and playing by his own rules. He is not just a man of music, one that is constantly touring worldwide, spearheading his own record label and working on not one but two musical side projects. He is a man of intellect and philosophy. Check out my interview with Mr. Jasarevic to get inside the mind of a man who is so much more than just his music.
EARMILK: Let’s start by sharing one thing you're thankful for in 2012?
Gramatik: Umm, I don't know. I'm thankful for everything pretty much because it's been a great year and I've had a blast touring the States and Europe. There's not one particular thing that I could single out, but I'm still looking forward to the next one .
EM: Can you tell us what your first experience with music was when you were growing up?
G: My first experience with music growing up was, I guess, listening to music with my dad and my sister that we had. By the time I got to fourth grade, I was in a band with my classmates playing Beatles songs. But for as long as I can pretty much remember I've been making music, one way or another.
EM: Congrats on your tour with Bassnectar, I caught your show and after party at Terminal 5, what a great time. Grizmatik was definitely a highlight of the month for me. Any highlights from the tour?
G: Yeah, I'd say that one highlight of last year was the House of Blues show in Chicago. That was just incredible and probably one of the most insane shows that I've ever played. The energy was just unparalleled compared to the other places we played at last year.
EM: What track made everybody go wild? Anything come to mind?
G: The Grizmatik track made everyone go nuts because I don't think we had released it yet, but people went fucking crazy.
EM: Do you have one memory from that tour that stays in your mind? Anything crazy happen?
G: A lot of crazy things happened, but what happens in the road stays in the road (laughing). But yeah, it was just amazing and so much fun. Lorin is such a great guy and one of the most down-to-earth guys in the music industry right now. It's amazing to see that one of the biggest players in the game right now is so humble.
EM: Can you give us any information on your new Low Temp label and what can we expect in the upcoming months?
G: Yeah, The Age of Reason is dropping sometime in spring and right after that the Extraordinary Magnitude album is dropping, so I'm super stoked about that. We have our hands full right now, but everyone at headquarters is working on those 2 projects. I’m excited and stoked for everything. The Extraordinary Magnitude project is going to be really really sick because it's like 5 of us in the group, and it's like nu-soul, nu-jazz, nu-funk laced with you know sick hip-hop beats. It's going to be something that I think everyone will really enjoy, like even like old people (laughing).
EM: What’s the reason behind the The Age of Reason album name?
G: Pretty much, it comes from a George Carlin saying when he says "Catholic, which I was until I reached the Age of Reason.” And I'm a huge believer in the Age of Reason; in the idea of it that there's a specific moment in every human being's life, well not everyone, but most of us hopefully, where you just reach the Age of Reason and you realize that no one really has any answer to real life and that everyone is just winging it and you have to do the same. When you realize that all this religion and bullshit that is fed to you is just designed to keep you trapped in the system, you know.
Some people reach the Age of Reason at an early age, some people reach it later and some people never do. I think that most of us never do because otherwise the system wouldn’t still be there. If the day comes and everybody is reaching the Age of Reason, then the whole world would fucking crumble because everything is designed right now for them to feed off the majority.
That’s the whole idea behind this, you know. And the album cover actually represents the Wardenclyffe Tower built in 1917 in Long Island. And that was actually Tesla's plan to give everyone an antenna to get free energy. That tower, if it wasn't shut down, would give free energy to everyone and you could power anything. I've been a huge Tesla fan since I was a kid (laughing).
EM: We know hip-hop has clearly had an impact on your life. Can you tell us some of the artists you grew up on or any that are inspiring you now?
G: My first hip-hop album was 36 Chambers (by Wu-Tang Clan) and that’s how I got my start. Then it was Tupac and Doggy Style. Those were the first three albums I had that introduced me to hip-hop. And than of course after came The Chronic and Dr. Dre. I prefer lyricists like Mos Def and Kweli, but I still love the West Coast hip-hop totally because the production is good.
EM: What do you think of Kendrick Lamar?
G: His stuff is sick and very fresh. Although I haven't listened to his new stuff that much so far, the couple songs I have heard have been pretty cool. To be honest, I haven't listened to too much new hip-hop as of late, I've been out of it. I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental and old blues, like Muddy Water.
EM: If you could live in a different decade which one would it be?
G: Hmm, that's a good question. I don't know, but I think like music-wise the 60s would be the shit. It's when everything was happening, the invention of pretty much all the genres that I sample. My music nowadays really comes from sounds that came about during the 60s. That'd be a pretty cool time to make music because it was so real and organic. If you wanted to have a hit single, it had to be something with substance. It couldn't just be just a stupid dumb song and have no meaning. Like back in the day the song had to have a meaning to be a number 1 single. Now it’s like the complete opposite. It's like the dumber the song the better it does on Billboard.
EM: If you had your own festival lineup who would you have headline? Artist can be dead or alive.
G: Um, that's a hard question… I mean, I don't know. If it were dead or alive, then I'd resurrect all the legends. John Lennon, Jim Morrison, and even Tupac, you know.
EM: Can you tell us a little bit more about Grizmatik? How you two linked up and what can we expect in the future?
G: Me and Griz met at Snowball just last year and right we were playing together so that’s pretty cool. But yeah, we met and felt a vibe right away, kinda like soul-brothers pretty much. So after Snowball, I got Griz to tour with me and things just kept on rolling. So one day we just sat down in the bus and started working on a track. It was the most natural and smooth process ever.
I've worked with a lot of people before, but I've never connected with somebody that had the same process. We made that track overnight on the bus and it was one of the best tracks we both made and we decided that this Grizmatik has to continue. So then we did a secret set at Electric Forest and played our track before Grizmatik was decided. It was just a collab at that point. People went crazy and the next day everyone started calling us Grizmatik, so it was cool.
EM: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
G: Just trust your instincts. Don't listen to what society tells you because like I said nobody has any real answers. That’s the Age of Reason pretty much: everybody’s winging it and you got to do the same and find your place.
EM: Can you tell us a little bit about what inspires you?
G: Well there's not one particular thing that I draw inspiration from. My inspiration just happens and sometimes I don't even know that I've been inspired and I'll just sit down and let it flow. I do get stuff from Jon Stewart and his political satire and all types of stand-up comedy like Robin Williams and Louis C.K.
EM: Speaking of comedy, when was the last time you laughed really hard?
G: Probably right before you called me (laughing). I live with five dudes, they're all producers and they're all super smart genius people and comedic, so we laugh all the time non-stop. We don’t have any routines. We're just a weird house of creative zombies and we have no routine, no regular life, no 9 to 5 whatsoever, and sometimes we'll all be working for three days straight. It's a different situation, but it's really cool and works for us all. We inspire each other by doing what we're doing on a daily basis and we're having a blast at it.
EM: I know you smoke weed (laughing), but is there one person you'd like to burn one with?
G: I'd love to smoke a blunt with Snoop Dogg, but I think that's someone everyone would like to smoke with at some point.
EM: What's your favorite HBO show, because I know you're a huge HBO fan?
G: Ohhh, that's so hard. Right now, it'd definitely be Boardwalk Empire. But for non-HBO show, it'd be Breaking Bad. It's pretty much a tie between Boardwalk and Breaking Bad. Game of Thrones and Mad Men are up there too.
LH: Biggest vice?
G: Biting my nails, I can never fucking quit that shit. It looks awful and I hurt myself doing it but I can't quit. I've been doing it since kindergarten, and there's no hope. So yeah, if there is one thing that I'd like to get rid of during my life it's biting my nails off.
LH: Are there any albums that you're looking forward to this year?
G: Well, I'm looking forward to the Pretty Lights album and pretty much all my friends that have something coming out. It's a cool feeling seeing the work they put in and the reception they receive. And with OWSLA, they're really doing things right over there. The stuff they're putting out gets so much traction, so that's pretty cool how they're really helping out their artists. Sonny is one of the nicest guys out there, so that's always great to be around.