Very little electronic music producers can aspire to be just as saxy as GRiZ.
Over the past few years, the Detroit native (aka Grant Kwiecinski) has become an undeniable festival staple, bringing the bass along with his trusty saxophone to deliver performances that blend together everything from funk to electro into one stage-shaking package.
It’s a somewhat surprising result for an electronic producer that hails from the birthplace of techno, as GRiZ’s work borrows from a variety of elements. He certainly drops plenty of bottom-end, but leans more toward the soul of classic Motown records, while adding a jam aesthetic. He’s no slave to the 909.
This year, the America’s Best DJ nominee is touring in support of his new LP, Say It Loud, on his own All Good label. With his staggering amount of summer festival dates—which even included five different performances in the span of just Memorial Day Weekend—Grant Kwiecinski is an extremely busy guy, but the sax stalwart managed to connect with DJ Times to chat about the new album, his unique live performances, and his views on why music should be free.
DJ Times: You’re prepping for the release of the new album. What’s gone into the creative process this time?
Kwiecinski: Oh man, so much. Endless amounts of work to try and make it happen. I was in the studio without even having an idea for a song—you know—trying to get inspired to write new songs. I would just say [to musicians], “Play this kind of a vibe in this key and at this tempo.” From there, it was just changing things up. In my view, you can’t just stick a microphone in the center of a room and record sounds.
DJ Times: Why not?
Kwiecinski: There are all these different levels to isolating players, having them play the same line, and recording it with up to six microphones. There are insane layers to understanding how difficult of a process this was, but on a base level, man, it was a project that I’ve always wanted to do. I definitely had that “Oh shit!” moment where I was like, “I have to make something of this and can’t just have fun and dick around.” Time is money, baby!
DJ Times: Considering you’re playing the saxophone in certain parts, how much has to be prepared ahead of time for a live performance, and what can be done on the fly?
Kwiecinski: I play [the sax] for most of the set, but for each song I know what parts I can play during. From there, I can play these two songs in similar key or maybe play the line from one song under the other track. There are a bunch of different ways to do it. If I feel like just tapping in and playing with it, I can loop and extend it little bit to change up the line a little bit. That’s how it evolves into an improvisational feeling. Most of time it’s “I’m going to play the line,” but who the fuck knows? It could sound a little different.
DJ Times: You’ve been such a proponent of free music over the years. How did that mentality form in you?
Kwiecinski: I just think music should be free, man. That’s just it. If you charge people for your music, that’s cool—that’s your idea. My idea is, “Why not just give it away to people for free?” It’s cool to have the stuff of inspiration. I don’t want to charge people for it and have them be like, “I can’t afford this music, so I can’t have it,” and I don’t want them to have to go to some pirate bullshit. I’m not trying to hate on selling music because I know that’s how people make money. I make money from playing shows and that’s what I want to do. This music is for everybody, not just you or you or you.
– Chris Caruso