Photography: Jason Siegel
So you’ve made a choice to read this interview with GRiZ. That’s awesome.
Perhaps you’re a massive fan of his and you consume everything the Denver-based bass fusionist puts out.
Perhaps a friend has recommended it because GRiZ says some very profound and inspiring things about how to navigate the infinity and how to harness and even encourage moments of creativity.
Perhaps you’ve heard his new album Rainbow Brain and its turbo-charge exploration of that vibrant, volcanic melting pot of the late 2000s has poignant nostalgic weight for you and you want to know more about the total and utter trip it is…
None of the reasons for the choices of why you’re here matter. You’re here. Right in the only moment that counts. Now. The past is done. There is no future. The moment is now.
So forget everything else in life for these few moments, let go of the distractions, the vexations and botherations and frustrations and just absorb this brilliant dialogue with one of bass music’s most unique individuals as we dive deep into the creation of his last two albums, how the context of covid influenced his creative process and how art changes when it stops being created and is put out into the universe and how stories and art are essentially a form of a time travel. Intrigued? Read on and find out more…
I want to start with your last album, Chasing The Golden Hour Part 3, because I think that album and Rainbow Brain are intrinsically linked. I also read that you finished writing that album as the first cases of Covid were starting to show. Basically the start of this whole lockdown / isolated chapter…
Yeah that was pretty crazy. I was in Thailand, which is a very special place for me. It’s a place where I can avoid the compression I experience everywhere else in the world. This constant need to be somewhere or achieve something. Growing up you’re always told to ‘Be the best!’ But in Thailand that’s alleviated and I can just exist.
So yeah, that was the start of this whole thing. And through that I created choices and took responsibility for these choices. That was the whole inspiration for Rainbow Brain. It’s me letting go of perfectionism and this incessant need and desire for things. And for sure it was written in the forced parameters of Covid – you can’t do this, you can’t do that – as someone who’s a manifester I had to switch my skill set to what I can control. It’s the practice of letting go. Let go into the universe, which is the message right at the start of Chasing The Golden Hour Part 3. That’s the message I practiced. It’s never like ‘Okay, this thing is going to happen, there’s going to be this moment of clarity, this moment of ‘Aha!’ and gain temporary enlightenment, which Zen Buddhists call satori.’ That’s not permanent. It’s a state of being, and states of being flow into each other and affect each other depending if you’re present in that conscious moment of nowness and able to let go of all the other bullshit in life and tap into that moment of enlightenment.
And it’s not a ‘know it all’ enlightenment, more the appreciation of the fact you can never know everything. The only thing I can know is my state of perception and my state of self. Those are things I need to know for complete decompression.
Those ‘Aha!’ moments are so special. It’s learning or practicing how to catch them and interpret them, right?
That’s the feeling of inspiration. As a creative person in any kind of sense, it’s all about practicing how to explore those moments. if you don’t practice it a lot it’s a skillset that becomes dull. That’s exactly what Rainbow Brain is. It’s me polishing the mirror and sharpening the tool.
The album took me through a lot of moods. Back to the idea of letting go, I saw this thing on Tiktok and this person was talking about all the distractions and compressions in life and letting them go through you, instead of capturing and attaching to them. Attaching to a mood becomes a state of being and, after a while, it’s the state of being you’re in and you don’t even remember why.
The practice of letting go and detaching is the big lesson of Covid for me and something I hope to keep practicing. We’re just making good things here, we’re creating. That’s the best thing we could do. Holding onto the state of being – I’m doing what I can. That’s the ideology. During the creative process you have these blocks like writer’s block or things not sounding what I want them to. But instead of letting that be a block you have to face it like ‘Okay, I’m in this moment, I have what I need. So what information am I getting here and what information am I putting out? How can I transmute this situation? How can I be a chameleon into the moment and let it happen through exactly what the universe has given me at this moment in time?’
I love that. And through that journey, I’m guessing you experienced a lot of nostalgia or reflection? Being away from live shows and the road. Thinking about your inspirations and maybe how you got here?
Oh hell yeah. There’s a tune called 548 MAC Avenue and that’s one of the sticking points for me for the album inception and what the album was saying to me. I went through a profound depression during my time in isolation. It was really tough. There’s no way around it. It’s an infinite wall, you look for seams in the curtain but it’s the fabric of reality – you can’t go around it or over it, you got to go straight through that thing. I had to align my spirt to push through that crack. I had to change or transmute or I’d still be stuck there.
A change has to happen and that change is there forever. There’s a part of me that now makes me a new me because I’ve been through that experience. There is no past self, there is no future self. The only moment we have is now. You can’t be in a different time any other than now. Even nostalgia itself is a form of time travel. You have new parts of self that revolve around old parts of self and it’s this constant healing process. A process that’s helped me to celebrate and enjoy a lot of things that brought me joy in my past self. Honouring that past-self is helping me heal into a beautiful feeling. It’s this transmutation of letting myself grow into the new form of me. Growing through this album and letting the nostalgia shine through me. Going through Hype Machine and so much UKF stuff! You guys were a huge influence! Doctor P, Rusko, Coki, Benga, Caspa, Sub Focus.
It was a golden time in music, man
That time was special for my experience and interpretation of the music for sure. The dubstep came over around 2007/2008 in a very underground way and there was a relationship with what was happening in the dirty south with rap music, like this subwoofer culture. I was puzzling over these two different ideas together. Rap music, hip-hop with the backpack and mid-tempo stuff which I guess would be called half time now. Breaks essentially, and there are so many intersections – old hip- hop and break culture, the east and west coast sounds, 90s hip-hop meeting breaks with acts like Prefuse 73 and guys like that who all went on to influence Pretty Lights. All these things are the shades of what I love and do and it gives me so much joy. I see myself as a transmutating chameleon. That’s my energy, I’m always changing colours and flavours and styles and the things I love are so vast.
Well Rainbow Brain is a transmutating chameleon of an album! It’s interesting to know your thoughts on time, especially considering the fact it’s exactly 10 years since your first album. That can’t be a coincidence….
If we want to get heady with it, I think humans find this need to create placeholders. Like binary, 1s and 0s. It holds a set value that our brains hold on to. Values like 10, 100, 1000. Even though the number million is so big, but we use it so casually. Like, what’s in a decade?
It’s arbitrary isn’t it?
Yeah! But back to your question, I think the feeling of admiring growth or development is something our procedural brains have come to understand. That need to understand and categorise and create terms of perception that are relatable. So there is some significance there for sure. But my experience and my perception – let’s say a more ‘squiggly’ brain – is best compared to a fractal, which is infinite.
It’s like this constant battle against the infinite and binary. With the infinite, the time is now. It’s not then, it’s not future, it’s just now. Infinite can’t be counted or quantified, it’s forever now, it will always be now. Always being the predeterminate for forever. All ways, all times. The more I feel and the less I think, the better I feel about myself and about the way I feel about music. This is what creates the flow state. That feeling I’m tapping into infinity but also the procedural side when I need to. The functional part of my brain. That’s why the flow state of writing music is so appealing to me.
Now let me throw it back to you as a writer, someone who is beyond the lexicon of storytelling and that is another form of time travelling so we’re both diving into this sense of infinity and being outside of time.
Oh wow that’s very apt. I’m co-writing a legendary DJ’s book at the moment and that literally is time travelling! You do get into that flow state, exploring so many ways and perspectives and just riding them…
That, for me, is like starting to create ripples in the pond. It’s not even a pond, it’s just a plane existence of water that consists of all the different ways you can tell that story. The human element here is the style and the flavour. That’s choice. How will I edit it? What is the colour of this? What is the saturation of this? When you get into that you get this linear sense of the flow, it changes from a wavey thing into a much more of a linear passage through which we as writers need to go; then it goes from flow state to editing, which is where you create choices.
That’s the point where you go to a very technical state and you sew things up and loop them and link them so it has all those special details you want in your work. It’s like two-sides of your brain isn’t it? And to bring it back to the album – I’ve only heard it as a mix, and it does all those linky and loopy things with all those special details. You must have made it with a mix in mind?
Sure yeah! I’ve made a bunch of albums over the years and I thought it would be a cool way to deliver this one. So you have a little bit of left-brain procedural thinking, creating that thread of choices throughout the record. But there is also a lot of cool stuff to infer, depending on whatever you’re up to feeling. For me the record is about less thinking, more feeling, more living.
The album is definitely a journey. Each song will live in a digital world as its own chapter and you can explore any chapter in any order you like. Or you can press play and take the journey through the entire thing. It’s actually a 23-track album but 10 of those songs are interpolative transitions, key changes, tempo changes, crossover moments. Some songs are mixed together, others have a jarring stop to take a left or right turn, but it’s different ways to interpret it I guess.
Well my interpretation, especially building up being able to clubs opening again, is just this… Not thinking, just feeling and just wanting to go raving again! Especially the era you tap into, which is very nostalgic and inspirational for anyone who was raving back then…
Yeah man, it’s always music for people. Well, it’s music for me first of all. But the moment it’s created and out there it’s the people’s. Art is either a solo endeavour or a collaborative endeavour and when it’s being created it only exists in the minds of those creating it. Once it’s out there, people attach their own moods to it and have their own stories about it. The artwork changes at this point, and it’s a story that’s told by all these different people who’ve consumed it. That’s very scary when you think about it. Especially as a lot of creatives don’t want to feel misunderstood, because it’s a very personal form of self-expression.
But this comes back to the point of letting go. Not everyone sees red the same way or hears a sound the same way. Our ears are built differently. Functionally we all hear sound, but we don’t know how each other hear things. And when an album goes into the world it’s scary. Creators are control freaks, you’ve controlled this flow state into what it is and then it becomes everyone’s. In the next few days Rainbow Brain won’t be mine. That moment of creation is mine, but letting it go figuratively is one thing but putting it out is such a trippy thing.
It is! And it’s not until years later you might hear those stories. Hearing the effect your music has had on people. You don’t hear them until another point in the infinity…
So true. And you’ll never get to hear all of, or understand all of, those ripples. I think that falling into the grand mystery of the universe and realising you don’t need to know everything and you don’t need to figure everything out is a very liberating experience. We assign meaning to everything and the only meaning that’s derived from the universe is something we’ve created. None of this means anything, but we make choices because we need a motivation in life or a purpose. Get what you need out of life because this is all our own choice and all our delineation through the infinite moment of now and the choices we make. Whatever you need to pursue the purpose you want to find? That is living life, that is a beautiful thing and I’m so excited to continue to experience and create this narrative together as we get back into it…