Electric Forest Spotlight: GRiZ
The saying goes that “with age comes wisdom.” But in the case of Lansing, Michigan-based producer Grant Kwiecinski, stage name GRiZ, this couldn’t be less true. At a mere 21-years-old, Kwiecinski is just beginning his professional career, transitioning from a laptop DJ to a true electronic musician. While his resume in terms of discography is in its infancy and his new life on tour still requires some getting used to, Kwiecinski speaks introspectively like an old soul.
“I don’t believe at any age you are too old or too young to be doing much of anything. It’s all this mental mind frame of how you take in your conscious awareness,” says Kwiecinski as we sit in Xprmnt studios on the outskirts of downtown Dallas. He is finishing his debut album, Mad Liberation, scheduled for release in mid-May. He is riding the high of his second Dallas show the previous night as an opener for Big Gigantic. He has been doing a lot of thinking lately.
“I don’t feel like I’m 21, that’s just a number I put on things. People find it interesting I’m a young person, but, really, how long I’ve been doing this doesn’t even matter. I see it for what it is and I experience it with new eyes every time.”
That’s the root of GRiZ’s creativity. He observes, absorbs and ingests, then turns up the speakers to unleash a whirlwind of solid beats, creative samples and homemade synthetic sounds. Kwiecinski maintains an affinity for organic instruments because of his background in saxophone (which he usually busts out during a live performance except when he’s opening for Big G’s Dominic Lalli). Keyboard melodies and sultry horns often have a place among GRiZ’s composition – stylistically comparable to Gramatik — but he is also admittedly enamored by dubstep.
“The new music today is very insane. It’s just organized chaos, and, if you break it apart, all of these sounds are wild!” Kwiecinski says enthusiastically. “We have this technology that allows us to do almost anything. What we’re doing right now is unlimited. You’re really only limited by your ‘own,’ whether it be expectations, stamina … whatever.”
Kwiecinski grew up in Detroit, a city that lost its economic gumption alongside a large percentage of its population due to the housing crisis and sequential recession. According to an article by the Wall Street Journal, the number of people in Detroit fell 25% between 2000 and 2010. GRiZ is discouraged by the perception his hometown is left to waste; he doesn’t really like talking about that. Instead, he proposes, there is a new demographic “rebuilding” the city.
Economics show that Detroit is cheap, like dirt-cheap. From the real estate to the food to the amenities, it is the place for people on a budget. Therefore, contends Kwiecinski, it’s attracting a younger group of kids either who just graduated college or opted out of education. They can get the most for their money as well as their adolescent experience in Detroit. This new demographic are also the ones cultivating a modern art and electronic music scene.
Cirque du Womp was the first collective to start throwing shows in this scene and they did in style — fire throwers, hoopers, circus troops and performers, the whole shebang. Kwiecinski remembers the beginning days of the initiative called Dubstep Circus with just 800 kids. Now, he says, the production company can sell out a 1,500-person venue in a matter of days.
“I have the highest hopes that music is changing the world,” GRiZ says, not fully convinced there is truth in his optimism. “The music scene there is bringing back young people with the promise to spend money and to create infrastructure, which is what really needs to happen.”
Between Kwiecinski’s logic, sensibility and idealism comes a spontaneous urge. A random slip of the tongue on my part encourages us to break out of the norm and make a unique experience of the day. We find ourselves at DFW Gun Range behind protective eyewear and a 9mm pistol. We are with an experienced friend who teaches us how to load and shoot. We stand awestruck as virgins of the sport. It’s loud as hell, even with headphones on, but GRiZ looks calm and collected. I, on the other hand, am sweating bullets.
POW! A loud burst and the ripe smell of gunpowder fill our plastic cubicle and GRiZ looks at me with beaming eyes. We move onto a revolver and an ak-47, getting slightly more used to the feel of pulling the trigger and more direct with our aim. Shooting guns is hard, Kwiecinski says, like way harder than playing to a sold out crowd. It’s an uncanny statement for someone slated to play in front of 15,000 people at Electric Forest music festival this summer.
After the gun range, GRiZ dives right back into the studio to work on the last track on his upcoming album called “Fallen,” adrenaline and inspiration running rampant in his veins. It’s the only unfinished track and his desire to complete it is bittersweet.
“I took a solid listen to [the album] minus this new song when I got back from Miami,” Kwiecinski says contemplating the brief days between that and his trip to Texas. “I was sitting there and having a real existential crisis moment of despair, thinking this kind of chapter is done. It’s sad, but it was all these little constructed pieces put together and all these little moments and experiences that became this manifested thing.”
GRiZ is not hesitant, regretful or self-conscious about putting the final sequence of dots on his pointillist masterpiece. He is anxious to step back, see the big picture and share it with others once it’s done. Plus, he says, this means he gets to start an entirely new painting.