There are few artists in the music business like Grant Kwiecinski, better known as GRiZ. The saxophone-toting live electronic music performer is among the rare breeds of dance music acts who consistently combines a live aspect into his performance, while also producing top quality music at a remarkable rate.
GRiZ is in the midst of his annual 12 Days of Grizmas, with all proceeds from each day of activities going to charity. Thus far, summoning his legion of fans in the Detroit area where GriZ calls home, he has helped adopt some dogs, donated coats and hosted a bowling event. Tonight fans who participated over the past week will get a free party, which will be streamed live on Twitch here.
We had a chance to catch up with GRiZ to talk about his "fantastic" next record that is currently in the works, some of the legendary names that will be on it, GriZmas and potential plans to expand it, how to get signed to All Good Records and the struggle to maintain the label.
Music Times: Where did the idea come from for 12 Days of Grizmas?
GRiZ: From the magical land of ideas. We just thought it would be cool to try to extend something good that we've got going on, try to get people involved, connect more fans and see them interact with each other more. The people that are helping us are really creative and we wanted to just take it to the next level. Year one was super successful so we said let's beef it up this year and do all this awesome stuff that we can introduce and get people behind.
MT: What are your goals for Grizmas?
G: Well we're doing it in Detroit this year and it would be really nice this year to expand out to other cities like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago.
MT: How do you find the artists to sign to your label?
G: We act kind of like a group of friends so typically it's just kind of like people in the circle who have a similar kind of vibe. We find them from hanging out at music festivals or online via SoundCloud and Spotify. We reach out and we want to become friends with people to expand our social groups.
MT: Is a person's personality as important as their music?
G: I would say it kind of goes hand in hand. I think your inner personality kind of shines in the music that you make and most of the people that we work with are their music.
MT: Has it been difficult to finance your label because you're all about free music?
G: Yes, it has its drawbacks because the label doesn't make money off of shows. That's kind of an artist's deal. We're working on how that's going to work but we all believe in the projects. We do sell music after all from the support of the fans and for people who may not be able to download free music or understand that system, so we do sell a healthy amount of music. But we try and give back and support the label through doing shows. We're open for some licensing deals to give it some capital. We also sell hats.
MT: Have you seen benefits from streaming?
G: Most of those royalties go under BMI & ASCAP. That comes in monthly but it's nothing too crazy
MT: It's not enough to support a label with an infrastructure and office and staff.
G: No you can't, so you have to find other sources of income for the time being. Right now the label is run by someone who's saved up money and is taking time off work to work on this full time. Including myself, it's just the two of us.
We function off of belief. We have this idea that it's going to work and if it doesn't work then fine but music is what means the most to me in my life. A lot of people cop out, go to sponsors. go to advertising and they charge you for this that and the other but I'm going to try and prevail and hold onto some bit of righteous for as long as possible before I run this into the ground and it doesn't exist anymore. Hopefully it attracts the right people where it will be able to function independently of some kind of bullsh*t sponsorship.
MT: What do you see in the future of a self-sustaining all good?
G: I'm hoping that All Good Records can start throwing festivals/shows that would generate enough capital to keep my label head employed. We hope to make All Good merchandise popular enough so that we can make profit margins on that. With the increase in popularity of the artists on the label hopefully people, you know the auxiliary fans the hardcore diehard fans the fans who know about free music, will start buying music. The majority of people who download music don't even know how to download free music, so we do have it offered online and hopefully streaming service like Spotify and Pandora will be able to provide more income for artists.
MT: Your sound is uniquely American and you just came back from Europe, have you found the response in Europe to be different or surprising?
G: The Parisians really get it, I haven't done South America yet, but the Parisians really get it. The Londoners really vibe with it, so do the Germans and so do the Italians. I feel like I've been pretty blessed that it's been going well and received in a good manner. It's definitely different but I think what they like about it is that it does sound American. It has that American eclecticism about it and it's got that funk flavor to it.
MT: Was it hard to get your music to Europe to finally tour?
G: It's not as easy as it is to appeal to the American fan base. The American fan base had the Grateful dead and the heavy rock culture to break open this collective machine that I think our dedicated fans a part of. That's not something you really see in Europe. I'm understanding Europeans culturally little by little and consuming it little by little. I don't live over there though maybe at some point I will to try and tap into the culture better. Mostly our plan of attack right now is trying to increase our awareness via the internet with like streaming services like SoundCloud and Spotify but that only goes so far. So we're working with European PR companies on the next record to hopefully get some radio play out of the next record and hopefully that will increase our listenership in the rest of the world.
MT: When you recorded Say It Loud you did it in various cities with 30 session musicians. Are you going to do it again with your next record?
G: Probably not. That project was all over the place and I think that with this next project that I'm already involved with I'm just going to specific people for specific songs and not necessarily trying to do too much at once. Mind you it feels like I have a million songs open at once. For that approach I was trying to make songs from scratch with a bunch of session musicians and not get everywhere that I want to go, waste time and spend a lot of money to try to get to an end that I don't know. It was explorative and experimental, which was cool and I'm glad I had that experience because I really wanted to do it but now I know that I just have to focus my efforts more. It's like I have this idea for a song and I'm going to go to this person because I want them to sing and do the horns or the guitar or bass
MT: You're known as the guy who plays sax on stage. Do you always want to be known as the guy who plays sax?
G: I don't really give a sh*t what I'm known for. I just want to be happy with the product that I'm creating. I love playing saxophone but I'm not the best at it, not even close, not even as good as I'd like to think that I could be. But I give one million percent every time I step onstage and that's something I'm really passionate about doing. That's the whole philosophy. It's passion driven, it's belief driven and that's what gets us from point a to point b.
MT: What does 2016 have in store for you?
G: Well we have some cool featured collaborations for the album that we are trying to lock down. If they come through would be really awesome. A lot of the old legends want to stay relevant so they look at dudes like me to make that trade like, "Hey we want to be a part of what you've got and you want a part of what we've got so let's collaborate."
This next record is going to be fantastic. I want to say something like that but I think my focus is really good right now. I think that the universe is helping me make music right now. Sometimes the universe hinders your creative ability. This time around it seems like the universe is helping me and my brain is working a bit more creatively and quickly. After the last record I know what I want even though there was a period where I was a little scared. I still always feel a bit of trepidation about the future of music because who the f*ck knows how people are going to receive something. If you've ever experienced success you don't want to lose it. I'm self-conscious about the things I do but at the end of the day I'm the one who has to live with the art that I create.
MT: What's something people might not know about you?
G: I'm a good cook.
MT: What do you cook?
G: I'm trying to broaden my pallet right now. It's my new American food such as taking an aspect of another culture and Americanizing. One example is bastardizing a pizza, like a Pad Thai pizza.
MT: Do you have a menu of stuff that you make?
G: Definitely. I think that everyone has a thing that they go to. I love chicken, it's such a versatile protein. I really like tofu and pork. I also really like lamb. I think lamb is my favorite dish. My favorite dish is this mint cumin and honey and cream and mascarpone sauce and you put that on top of lamb ribs and it's just like holy sh*t man you've never tasted some sh*t like this.