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Grant Kwiecinski grew up in Detroit, the American breeding ground for finer electronic music, and home to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. Having been mentored through classes with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Kwiecinski found his sound in the alto saxophone and has managed to hybridize it with hip-hop samples and danceable electronic beats. His affinity for music evolved into an obsession, and before he knew it, he was supporting a Gramatik national tour and promoting his own music under the pseudonym GRiZ. In the midst of a relocation to Boulder from his home in Lansing, Michigan, GRiZ is gearing up for a late-summer album release and preparing to take the festival season head-on.
Westword: You could sit up at the mixers and just hit play — so what are you doing to change up every show? Basically, how do make each show as much fun as the one before it?
GRiZ: Right. I think that's a great question, especially when it comes down to doing a tour. That's a true test. It's a personal question, too, because you need to ask yourself, 'Am I doing the same set every night? What am I doing?' You're playing a show every day for two months straight. Since you're playing your own music so frequently — and I really respect people who play their own music, or a large chunk of their set is their own music — when it comes to those producers, artists, DJs, whatever you want to call them these days, you think, 'How do you switch it up?'
My whole thing, to keep myself interested — and you know I'm a huge hip-hop head — I have tons and tons of a cappellas. So I do these live remix mash-ups with my tracks and just throw them in there. You get a little bit of that on select dates, where it's either a headlining show or a bigger-production type of show.
When it comes to those kinds of shows, I'll play my saxophone live. I also think something that makes the whole live performance fun for me is that I love my music. I made it; this is the shit that I get down with, so I can't help but enjoy myself when I'm on stage. That way, it will never get old to me. For myself, I go in there with a blank slate, with all my songs in an open Ableton session. Right up until I go on stage, I just leave it open.
So do you have samples, or just hip-hop a cappellas that you just use randomly?
It will come down to a new track being released, and maybe I can pull a verse from it. Sometimes it's just some dumb shit that I used to get hyped on when I was in high school. I delete a lot of those samples, because music can be so ephemeral, and especially when I've done it for two months, I delete 'em. I used to use [Bassnectar's] "Cozza Frenzy" with a "Where's the Love" sample, and it hit, but I just deleted it. I like to just keep it fresh by cycling through stuff. I know what it sounds like. I'm not going to put an a cappella in that I don't know, but I'm willing to get choppy if I have to. If you're not fucking up every once in a while, you're doing something wrong.
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