Griz, 24-year-old, master of soul, sax, and livetronica’s new album, “Say It Loud”, comes out tomorrow. We sat down with him to talk the upcoming release, the recording process, his new record label, and much, much more. Check out the interview and grab a copy of his highly anticipated album tomorrow out on his very own label, All Good Records.
Where did your relationship with music begin?
I think it was watching Fantasia when I was like maybe like 3-5. It was on VHS because you know, VHS was what it was back in the day. And my mom played it for me so many times that the tape burned out, so we had to get another one. No one in my family is really musical so I think it was just like the whole nature vs. nurture side of things, just being exposed to so much music when I was younger that influenced me. It triggered something in my head.
How did you get into the sax?
Well I just…. I don’t know. I just really loved musical things. Did you ever see the Disney Merry Melody clips? They were like Donald Duck in the Christmas Merry Melody and a buch of Christmas music and Donald Duck running around, shit like that. A lot of that stuff made me really interested in music, and I really wanted to learn how to play those sounds. I was also in the choir in my church as a kid. Through one of the people in the choir I started taking piano lessons, and my mom bought me a piano. Then in elementary school everyone had to pick an instrument to play – well either you chose an instrument or you did like extra curricular reading, which no one did. So at first I chose oboe, and that didn’t go very well. So then I like had a crush on this girl who was playing saxophone and I wanted to sit next to her. But she was really good so she was first chair, so I had to get really good too.
Then my with my competitive nature and wanting to be good I became better than her then stopped caring about her and just wanted to be the best musician and impress the band teacher.
So I Just started playing the saxophone as much as I could, just learning stuff by ear and playing and playing and playing. Fast forward to now, it’s such a staple. I had no idea it would be that important.
When did you first start fusing live instruments with electronic music?
I spent my first summer ever doing music festivals and saw EDC Los Angeles where Derek (Pretty Lights) played, and watched that, and thought “I could do this shit. Fuck yeah, it’s awesome”. Then I saw Bassnectar play at Lollapalooza in Chicago, and Glitch Mob, and there was all these different styles between the Heady group of kids – you know like Eoto, Big Gigantic – just your crossover livetronica shit and I was really enamored and started to think that I could just play along to my stuff. I sucked at doing it at first, like it sounded so bad, but at least I was doing it. I was doing it because it was fun. It started getting more serious so I had to get better at it.
I took my whole freshman year of college off from playing saxophone because I wanted to have sex and do drugs, and to me at the time that was way cooler than anything.
Plus there wasn’t a platform where I could play music accessibly, I would have had to join the marching band, and that was like a 24/7 thing, so I just kind of took time off and brought it back in once I started to get into the underground music scene in East Landsing, which is where Michigan State University was – doing these things called Co-Op Parties, where it was like a fraternity but with guys and girls both living there, like hippies. People were there taking drugs and playing electronic music and I was like “this is fucking cool. How do I get myself in?”. So I came in from the ground floor up, I was always the opener and then maybe getting a good time slot. Then we started this thing called Lands Electronic Artist Collective – LEAC, and we started doing parties outside the basement. Drug fest parties, like playing in proper venues and getting a residency at this place called Max Bar. And it started taking off from there. And posting on Soundcloud became like the next thing.
Can you explain the change from Liberated Music to All Good Records?
Simply put, the ethos didn’t change behind it. It might sounds like it did because of the name switch, but we just couldn’t keep it because of copyright issues. Which sucks. But there were a few labels out there with similar names. It didn’t matter how active or inactive they were, these people thought we were encroaching on their intellectual property, so we had to change the name.Take us through the recording process for Say it Loud coming out March
So I went to a few different cities to record. The idea was to get away from sampling records because copyright issues with that stuff and I’m getting a little bit bigger. Like my song “Getting Live” got taken off of Spotify because there was a sample in it, which sucks. I just didn’t want to have to run through that anymore. And also I have this desire to create more original content. I know I’m not reinventing anything here like I don’t think that I’m a visionary or a whatever.
I’m just a guy who makes cool music and I want to make and write cool songs. If people can vibe with that, then that’s cool. If not, alright, at least I made something that I liked.
So even just on a business level I wanted to move away from sampling because it just wasn’t possible for us to do anymore, I couldn’t get away with it. So I ventured in this new direction, started out in Detroit recording with these guys called Will Sessions, who are a fairly prominent Funk band within the underground community in Detroit. So we started just recording simple ideas and thoughts. Like we would say let’s do this kind of a riff at this tempo and just play around with it and see what feels right. I’ll tell you to play whatever you want then I’ll tell you what I liked out of that, then go from there. We would have these free-form jams and record them, and then we’d try and cut it up and find something cool within that. Did that also in New York with the guys from Daptone Records and a mismatched crew of people from this group called Antibalas, and another group and a few other players just from the record label. Then we went back to Michigan with Exmag and Eric Bloom of Lettuce, then went up North to Manistee National Forests and recorded music for two weeks in the summer and just made a bunch of cool shit. Went out to Los Angeles to work with the children’s choir, then went back to Detroit to get the few finishing touches, then went to New Orleans and hung out with Andrew Block who’s a guitar player, and did a song with Ivan Neville and these guys The Shady Horns, and it was really fucking cool. That was my favorite. But really it was me writing these like ten-minute long free form jazz things with a few like added parts that we kind of heard someone – myself, or one of the other players – then taking those parts and dismantling them and putting them back together. Every single song is like four songs in one, which was taken from different sessions.
So would you say this album’s more improvised than the last?
Definitely. It started from pure improvisation. It was like a jam, like I felt like I was back with my friends, just like writing music as a shitty band back in high school. You’re like “oh yeah this is really good” or all of a sudden someone plays something off-track, and it’s bad but you really hope that something good comes out of it. Good shit peeks its head out here and there, and all of a sudden it’s a huge, beautiful part. Or the whole jam sucked and we would all take a break and come back and vibe. It all stemmed from improvisation then turned into a more planned thing once the breaks started to come together in songs, and getting lyricists to sing lyrics I had written.
Can you explain the Griz “Liberators”?
Well I really wanted a street team. There were kids that wanted to do that. Mad Liberation was our most popular namesake album as far as download and plays go, people loved the name. So we were like yeah, we’ll call these kids the liberators and give them a strong ethos. It just started as a small idea and then the key members of it took it on their own and had all these ideas of what it could be. I was like yeah, you wanna start a charity movement? That’s totally cool. A lot of other compatriots of the music and the Facebook page started gravitating towards it, and it was clear that people wanted more than just the music. At this point these kids don’t even have to like the music anymore, they’re like way more involved in the project than they are in music. Of course they like it, that’s kind of a given, but this is even more important to them.
I feel really blessed.
But it’s not really for me, it’s for them. It’s something we meditate on only the lightest level, we just let everyone do what they want. And it’s never been for promotion, we started it for a whole year never asking people to hand out flyers. Harrison Diskin is the national street team organizer and we have a few regional ones. They kind of just do their thing, but I talk to Harrison almost everyday just about how we can facilitate more cool stuff.
Do you have a favorite festival experience?
Oh for sure. Watching the sunrise at Burning Man is like one of my favorite moments. Playing after Sonny & Wes (Skrillex & Diplo) was really fun. The stage was insane.
It was like the biggest party I’ve ever played. Not like the “biggest”, but just a big fucking party.
That was just tons of fun. But also all the Electric Forests’ are fun…. Doing the Big GrizMatik set there for the first time was the coolest ever. One of those things you could have never planned better, and it wasn’t planned.
What was your favorite album growing up?
My first favorite album was “Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then “The White Album” by The Beatles. Then “Midnight Marauders” by A Tribe Called Quest. But a lot of the stuff I liked when I was younger wasn’t really album, I just liked songs. I liked a lot of Earth, Wind, and Fire songs. I like a lot of Chicago songs. Now I love albums, and I sit down and listen to the whole thing to find the deep cuts, not the singles.
I still do love single pop music though. Meghan Trainor is my shit. I’m all about that bass. Whatever, it’s fun. Super catchy. I’ll hate it in a year.
What have you been listening to lately?
Just reopened Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”. New Jack U album is really great, new Floozies album is sick – always my shit, new Black Messiah shit is really fucking dope, lots of singles
Pulls out his phone
Hmm what else, burning through Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” a ton…. Sugar Ray…. Just bought a Bon Iver album, and some Bonobo
Lastly, any underground artists that deserve a shout out?
Manic Focus, Muzzy Bearr, The Floozies, The Geek x VRV – the new album is sick, uhm… Now time to check Soundcloud… Leon Bridges, but he’s not quite underground but he’s doing like the new Motown sound, it blows my mind how accurate it is, Falcon Punch – sick, and Cartel.