INTERVIEW: Gramatik @ SnowBall 2012

In case you missed some of our coverage from SnowBall Music Festival, we got some great photos and some great thoughts from the three-day festival set in Vail a few weeks ago. And I’ve finally gotten around to getting some of my interviews posted that I did when I was chilling in the media area waiting for the music to start. On Friday at 3:45pm in the Groove Tent, Gramatik did a set and was definitely killing it…here’s what we talked about (with Ales, his guitarist) before his set…

LMB CO interview with Gramatik

LMB: How do you feel about being back in Colorado?
G: It’s awesome. I wish it was a little less cold but it’s pretty cool here.

LMB: Do you have any acts you’re really looking forward to seeing?
G: Yea, I’d love to see Snoop Dogg… like everybody else of course. I’d like to see a lot of people here. They’re all amazing artists. It’s a festival in Colorado. What more can I say? You know it’s gonna be awesome. So yea, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing some stuff.

LMB: Where does the production process start with you?
G: It differs, it’s very dynamic. I’m not a static creature. I don’t do anything in routines because I feel that makes me a robot and I’m a human. I always like to keep a dynamic that’s just going with the flow you know what I feel like. That way maybe I’ll start with drums maybe I’ll start with a bass line maybe I’ll start with his (pointing to Ales) guitar. I like to keep it open so whatever can come through. I hear a sample and I’m like “aw shit I really wanna chop that shit up right now” or I hear a bass line in my head and I really wanna play it so it depends on the mood you know.

LMB: Your music uses elements from many different genres. Do you feel that you draw influences from anywhere in particular?
G: Yea, I draw influences from everywhere in particular (laughs). Anything inspires me to the point where I want to incorporate that style or that sound, I put my own twist on it. That’s most evident in hip-hop productions because when I do hip-hop I do it like the old school way, like the DJ Premier/Pete Rock kinda way just like choppin up mad samples. I also try to elevate to a different level where I take like five or six different tracks from different time periods, take something out of every track and then combine it all into one puzzle. Derek and I call it collage sampling because that’s what we do. We’re not amused anymore by just sampling one track and putting the kick and snare to it. It’s just like sampling one umph or whatever but we’re more and more intrigued by combining all these different tracks from different time periods, the 30’s, 60’s, 50’s, 70’s, whatever. It’s like taking small bits and pieces out of every track and combining and making something beautiful out of all of that. I think that’s the future of hip-hop in terms of sampling. But then again I also like to incorporate a lot of synth stuff in my tracks more and more now making some sort of hybrid between classical hardcore hip-hop and the new glitch and steppy sound. It always differs but I draw influences from everything, not just music, even people and TV shows. The Daily Show with John Stewart is one of my biggest inspirations ever. You wouldn’t believe how many times it’s happened to me where I’ve watched an episode of The Daily Show and it was so fuckin’ awesome and it amazed me and just like left me totally inspired that I went straight to working on music. And I wasn’t inspired by another musician. So inspiration comes in various forms of course that’s nothing new but something like The Daily Show with John Stewart definitely inspires me to be creative in my own craft. People always think I have to be inspired by something that’s the same as what I’m doing. But that’s not true. You can take creative input from a person no matter what the craft is he’s doing and put it into your own craft that might completely something different.

LMB: Do you sometimes find things you want to chop up and sample when you’re watching TV or movies?
G: All the time. I’ll be like, “Yo dude (pointing to Ales, his guitarist) get the Shazam on it. I want to know this track.” And it’s a nightmare sometimes because you find tracks in random places like mixes and sets and sometimes you never discover what the track is. You can’t find it anywhere. And there are still a couple of tracks like that that I heard parts on the radio, Shazam didn’t work, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I googled it for a day and couldn’t find it, like every single search. But it did happen, there was this one track I was looking for for like three years and then one day somebody played it. I was at this dudes house and he had it on his computer. I’m like, “Are you fucking kidding me. That track.” It was like this track from the 60’s that I was just unable to find. Whatever I did, I couldn’t find it. And then I found it like that. So that’s one of life’s moments where I really appreciate being alive… cause that’s the beauty of life. After three years of searching, I already gave up and then it just pops in your face at a random moment. And then you have it, and then I sample it, and that track is on “Beatz & Pieces” so it’s pretty cool. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about music.

LMB: What sort of hardware and software do you use in your set?
G: The sets nothing crazy. I just use Ableton Live, an APC 40 and a bunch of effects, VST’s to tweak shit up right away and I use some separate channels besides the two track channels. I’m using three of four channels with like, percussions and hi hat loops and stuff like that like shakers and vocals samples and then I play that over and I try to rearrange the arrangement when I play it live, but nothing too crazy. And then of course he (points to Ales) plays guitar over through Ableton and through Guitar Rig. So… yea, we have fun.

LMB: What was it that brought you from Slovenia to America?
G: I’ve always wanted to visit America since I was a kid. I’ve been in love with New York since I first saw it in movies and now we’re living there so it’s pretty cool. But, before I even came to America “Street Bangerz Vol. 1″ came out and it was doing really well on Beatport so I got spotted by PGA by Hunter Williams which is my booking agent now and also Pretty Lights’ booking agent and SuperVision’s and so on. He spotted me on there and signed me for North American territory and up until that point I’d never performed as Gramatik. I was just making beats and releasing them on Beatport. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t even think they would sell on Beatport because at the time it was just electro house and techno. I didn’t think anybody would buy my shit off Beatport because it’s just a weird platform to sell hip-hop beats. But it just so happened that people liked it, and it charted really well for like 6 months so my agent saw me there and brought me over to support Derek (Pretty Lights) on his first tour so that’s how I got to America. And then I kinda liked it and I stayed here.

LMB: We’re glad to have you. Do you have any final words for your fans on SnowBall?
G: Yea, we’re Snowballin. It’s definitely a nice growing festival… even though it’s really odd that it’s a festival in the winter. But, it’s working. People are here, raging. It’s fucking freezing cold but everybody is having fun so I guess festivals work in winter as well so I’m looking forward to next year.

Thanks to Gramatik for taking the time to sit down with us…