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Interview:
GRiZ hopes for third-time charm at Movement festival
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

Grant Kwiecinski -- better known as the electronic music artist GRiZ -- recalls an inauspicious debut at Detroit's Movement festival a few years ago.

"My first time was at three in the afternoon," says the Southfield-raised GRiZ, a Birmingham Groves High School graduate who began attending the festival as a teenager. "I was trying to convince all my friends to come and party, which wasn't the easiest sell at that time of the day.

"It ended up we packed the house, but it was so hot at 3 p.m. I was dripping sweat on my computer and broke my track pad and all this craziness happened, just one thing after another."

GRiZ's third time playing Movement looks set to be charmed, however; he'll be on the Movement main stage on Memorial Day, closing night, performing just before DJ Snoopadelic (aka Snoop Dogg). Not surprisingly, he's "excited to see what kind of crazy we get into this year. My hope is that Snoop and I get to smoke a joint together, at least."

The top-tier booking certainly speaks to GRiZ's ascension in the electronic world, however.

The onetime "Disney music freak" who took up saxophone during elementary school to impress a girl he had a crush on has been part of electronic world during college, when he started DJing for Michigan State University parties. "It was edgy," GRiZ recalls, "and then I started putting together these seven minute long opuses of crazy, glitchy sound design and really finding my own kind of music in all this."

That music has appeared on three full-length albums -- including the new "Say It Out Loud" -- as well as a side project, GrizMatic with fellow EDM artist Gramatik, and remixes for other artists. GRiZ has become a festival mainstay, too; his Movement show, in fact, will his seventh festival appearance in a five-day stretch.

And while GRiZ's extensive use of live instrumentation combined with real-time sound sampling makes him a bit more musical than some of his peers, he maintains that he's "definitely an electronic musician -- and also a musician. In no way would I besmirch being called an EDM artist. I make electronic dance music; it's created electronically, with computers and stuff. But I'm playing guitar and bass on it, and tenor and alto saxophone and a little keyboard.

"That gives me a lot of freedom, yeah. But I totally embrace the electronic side of it."

GRiZ's love of funk and soul, however, gets a full and rich airing on "Say It Out Loud." "That's the (stuff) that makes my heart melt, man," says GRiZ, 25, whose brass arrangements were influenced primarily by Earth, Wind & Fire as well as James Brown's bands and even Chicago. The album, he adds, "has its sentimental moments, its introverted moments, but for the mast part its very extroverted. Funk music is very extroverted. It's supposed to move people. It's groovin' music."

The album also finds GRiZ -- who resides primarily in Boulder, Colo., but also has a place in downtown Detroit and recorded some of the set in Ferndale -- working with a variety of new collaborators, including New York rapper Talib Kweli, members of the Antibalas Afrobeat band and with New Orleans musician Ivan Neville on the bonus track "Take It High."

"I spent a year and a half writing with a bunch of musicians and trying a new way of approaching the creation of music," says GRiZ, who recorded in multiple cities and even incorporated a children's choir from Los Angeles on the opening track, "The Anthem." "I've been getting better at writing albums; I'm not quite there yet, but this is a really good stab at writing that way, not just a bunch of parts that we put together and call an album."

There's another album in the works already, GRiZ says, which will be different yet again. "I'm doing it the old way, sampling, but it's going to be on a different keel," he explains. More music for that will likely surface during the summer, GRiZ adds, when he takes what he hopes to become an annual working vacation in Michigan's Manistee National Forest.

"Y'know, I can finally afford to do some crazy (stuff), and one of the crazy things I always wanted to do was spend time in north in Michigan every summer and rent a house that's all mine and go out in the woods and make music," says GRiZ, who's planning a return to Detroit in December for his second GRiZmas concert. "I think every kid dreams about having a place in northern Michigan, right?

"So now I get to live that dream, and I get to use it to help me make music. How cool is that?"

Movement Detroit 2015

Noon-midnight, May 23-25.

Hart Plaza, downtown Detroit.

Tickets are $65 per day, $150 for a three-day pass and $260 for a VIP package.

Visit www.movement.us for more details, schedules and pre-festival and afterparty information.

Web Site: www.movement.us

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