As GRiZ navigates the country on his current tour, the prolific songwriter, producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist continues what has been an absolute rampage that started in April of this year, when he uncaged his Ride Waves album. A song-cycle of anthemic, soul-infused earworms, the LP features an extremely diverse group of artists, including Snoop Dogg, Matisyahu, DRAM, and Wiz Khalifa. It even features iconic P-Funk member Bootsy Collins, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and one of the greatest funk artists of all-time.
GRiZ then followed with his sublime Bangers series, a triple whammy of stupefying EPs that run roughshod with his inimitable blend of funk and bass music. All three records contain three songs each and traverse the genre gamut, from reggae-infused trap ("Voodoo") to breaks ("Push The Vibe") to swing-inspired house ("Now Til Infinity"). If Ride Waves was a slice of pizza, the Bangers are the ghost pepper toppings that took his music to flamethrower status right before the second leg of the Ride Waves Tour.
That's where Imaginarium comes in, GRiZ's subversive production that envelops each stage he graces in a kaleidoscopic cloak of polychromatic lasers and sonic boom. An ineffable visual concept straight from the mind of one of the most forward-thinking producers in the game, the Imaginarium production is one that must be seen in person to be appreciated. However, it's not just a hodgepodge of LED lights that indiscriminately flicker to a cacophony of trite dubstep music. Imaginarium is a carefully curated, living organism with many moving parts that work together at all times to offer a truly interactive and unique dance music experience.
EARMILK had the pleasure of chatting with GRiZ over the phone about the release of Bangers, his staunch commitment to philanthropy and the mind-boggling thought process behind Imaginarium.
EARMILK: Let's kick things off with Imaginarium. I can't even imagine the thought process that went into conceptualizing it. Can you dive into what inspired it? Was there an "a-ha" moment?
GRiZ: I think, if I stop looking at my show as a DJ show, things change really fast. The show is like watching an interactive movie. I always thought it needed to be this one thing, right? Where the performance stands still, and that's it. And I was like, 'Man, if I could stop thinking of it that way...' and then I did. And everything changed. It was like now we can have moving pieces, people going into new formations, and turn it into a play of sorts. And everything changed.
What do you mean by "moving pieces?"
Humans. Human beings, man. We have stage piece movements as well, but we have the 6 of us on stage, creating this story that we're telling. It kind of turns into a narrative. Like, 'How can I make this thing feel like something really interesting to look at that kind of looks like a play, that's a badass thing to look at, and a cool place to just dance and let loose?' I wanted to have some common ground between the two.
And make it more interactive?
Yeah! It's more interesting to look at it that way. If we can do that, we can create something that's just fantastic. Do stage magic and stuff like that, you know? All of a sudden someone's here, and then the stage blacks out and it looks completely different.
How long has it been in the works? I feel like it's kind of like a culmination for you.
Ideas happen and they take a long time to understand what you actually think. This is something I've been thinking about and developing over the past decade really. It doesn't just take one form, and you're like, 'Alright cool, let's do it.' This is the idea and then let's do allthese other ideas, and then once you get to the point you're at now, everything you've done to find this one moment. So this has really been a living concept for the past, well, since I started touring, and I'm always trying to figure out how to take it to a more interesting, compelling, thought-provoking, more artistic level. Taking it here, taking it there, taking it here, taking it there. And then, that's just how it turns out... like 'Sh**, it looks like this? Damn, that is really big (laughs).' Multiple semi-trucks, multiple tour buses. Starting from humble beginnings, when I didn't even have money for a tour bus, and now we're like two tour buses and three semi-trucks rolling across the country. It's a lot.
Damn, I had no idea it was in the works for that long. Congrats, man. Let's move on to the Bangers series. What's the reasoning behind the titles, with the ".zip" language?
I had all these songs in a folder on my computer, and I didn't know what to call it. I just had all these songs and it was like a mixtape, but also nota mixtape. It was just a bunch of tunes on my computer, you know? So I was like, 'Is this supposed to be a mixtape? And if wasn't supposed to be a mixtape, do we release it on, like, DatPiff or something? (laughs).' It was just a zip, so I zipped it up and said, "Oh, there it is. Bangers.Zip.' For the Bangers stuff, I just wanted to intentionally be like, 'Here's a bunch of banger tracks to throw on. It's not really a conceptual thing. They weren't supposed to be released. Here's just a bunch of stuff to rock out to. Sick. Here you go.'
That's what I like about it, though. The names are super straightforward, which is a cool juxtaposition with Imaginarium considering its goal is to make you use your imagination.
Yeah, exactly! I wanted to blend those concepts. Exactly.
I guess I kind of just answered my next question, but how does the Bangers series connect to the overarching theme of Imaginarium?
That's a great question. Imaginarium is supposed to be this space of inclusion. It's all things I've put in my head that are magical to me. Imaginarium is f****** trippy. It's tripped out. It's like walking a psychedelic dance/play/movie thing. It has all these sorts of moods to it. I didn't want it to be one-dimensional; Imaginarium is the multiverse. It's multidimensional. And you've gotta have the bangers on it. There's got to be dance elements. I love getting lost in the crowd. I love turning the music louder than it's supposed to go and f****** raging. And that's part of it, man. That part's in my head all the time. Got to have that.
One of the things that sets you apart from other artists is your commitment to philanthropy and the creative ways you go about it. Can you shed some light on your next endeavor or something you hope to do down the line?
I've thought about philanthropy from a bunch of different angles. And it always turns into, "Dude, I can't save the world.' But I can do my part. So my philanthropic efforts have really turned into, "I'm not trying to save the world, but I can create a difference with the help of the amazing GRiZ fans. And I can make a difference in these kids' lives.' Which is Seven Mile Music. I wanted to work with a charity that was real. One that created a real impact, where the money would actually go and I can see it, and it's actually helping people. It's a tangible, real thing. With that, I wanted to make sure that I could do something local in my community, and that's how I want to give back. And if I can start doing that -- maybe, just maybe --by doing something real, something that's affected me, maybe it will inspire other people to do the same. And that's the encouragement here. I know that I can't change the world, but I can change the world for these few kids. So let's do that; let's start there.
I couldn't agree more. I have nothing but respect for you when it comes to your philanthropy. I have a stutter, which I'm sure you can hear, and I get involved with as many speech therapy charities as I can. And it really does make a difference.
That's amazing! I appreciate that, man. That goes such a long way. You're changing the world, and you're changing your world. You know? It's not about changing the world, it's about changing your world. So you're a hero man, that's awesome.
Thanks man, I really appreciate that. That's all the questions I've got for you. I'm pumped to see the show live!
I can't wait for you to see it, it's so good. It's just a badass thing. There's like 26 f****** lasers, it's like a kaleidoscope for your brain. It's insane.