A Sit Down With DJ Gramatik
Denis Jasarevic, aka Gramatik, is just getting into the meat of his Age of Reason Lowtemp tour in the U.S. and Europe. On April 10th, he made a small pit stop at the Copper Dragon, a venue in a small college town, Carbondale, Illinois. Gramatik brought his own lights, sound, and production crew, so he came, set up, and then tore the place down.
"Art progresses with mixing different influences, with recycling, with bastardising and so on. Im always searching for new inspirations and I like to bend rules."
You like to play with live musicians on stage. Why is that?
I think they bring a whole new vibe to my production, it definitely has more musical value when you see a live musician killing it on the guitar solo and there is a heavy beat smashing over it. And Russ Liquid is especially crazy, he plays keys, trumpet and saxophone. We can bring the whole concert experience, just three of us. And Gibbz sits in for a song or two.
You travel all over the world and come to France for a few dates. Are the French receptive to your music?
Carrément! I would say that the French public is among the best for artists like me. My mix between EDM, Funk, Soul and Hip-Hop is a lot to the French I think. There is a real understanding and a very high level of energy on my music here in France. It's been 5 years now that I make concerts in France, which has become even my second largest territory after the USA. This makes me happy because the French Electro scene played a crucial role in my artistic construction
We know that you are very open when it comes to placing your music online for free. Do you think that's the key for promoting DJs who are just starting?
I think the cases could not be generalised, but if you put music out for free and you promote that, you have more chances to get your music to a wider audience. There is still a general misconception that artists are making a lot of money by selling music. Today the majority of artists make their money with touring, especially in bigger markets like the US and Europe. The problem with countries like Slovenia and Croatia is that they are small markets so they usually mean just a couple of stops on a tour. Like I said, there is no formula for how to run your career, I decided to release all my music for free and its working for me.
What role do the live instrumentals play in your overall production?
These days, they play in a lot. I still produce with samples when I hear things I like, but with live samples I record myself; I can produce songs exactly how I hear them in my head.
Youve said before that you grew up with hip hop culture, including DJ Premier and Dr Dre. Which artist has had the biggest influence on your music?
There are so many of them, I cant really just single one out. There were many influences when I was growing up, from old soul, funk, rock and jazz records. I grew up on Slovenian coast and there is a big techno club there that used to bring the biggest electronic names back in the early 2000. Even Tiesto played there before he got stadium big. All of that left a huge mark on me and is still present in my production.
What's your ideal producing environment?
My ideal producing environment is my bedroom studio. I love being at home for months on end, barely leaving the house, isolated from the outside world, wired in, taking breaks to watch movies and shows in the living room and give my ears a break. Then I go back in with a fresh perspective. It's really a dream life for me.
What do you think of the scene in Croatia? Any names that stand out?
Im from the Slovenian coast so I spent most of my summers there [in Croatia] when I was a kid. Now I live in New York City and I come home once a year for two weeks. Unfortunately I dont have the time to come to Croatia but Im looking forward to all the possible dates there in the future.
Does this new EP reflect your current vision of electronic music?
Yes, very clearly. This max sums up my creativity of the moment while assuming the different genres that I had the opportunity to exploit since my debut. It's very musical and effective at the same time, with a dosage that I perfected all these years. I'm quite a perfectionist and I'm never happy with myself but that's also what we recognize an artist, I think. I approach each song as a perfect opportunity to do better. It may be like this until I die.
Do you plan to continue adding new elements to your stage production? If so, what would you like to include?
Oh, definitely once you start to feel satisfied with yourself, you are already dead in the water. We are always thinking of new ideas my lighting designer, Devon Brown, is the man, and is constantly bringing new ideas to the table for our stage production .Watch out for that kid, hes a Jedi with the lights!
What has been your most memorable gig?
So far Id have to say that the most memorable shows were the sold out show at Red Rocks and the sold out show in my home country, Slovenia.
For aspiring producers who are intimidated by the complexity of the music tech world (plug-ins, DAWs, etc.), what advice would you give to simplify music making?
The most important thing is still the song. Focus on the song, not the tech. Remember that you are not making music just to showcase your sound design or mixing skillsyou are making music because you want to make people feel something deeper. You want people to have a captivating emotional response when they listen to your music, and only when you're sure you have that figured out should you focus on the technical parts of it. And don't let the tech overshadow the song. Don't exaggerate just for the sake of using a lot of plug-insbe rational and moderate. In EDM, people often tend to forget that the end goal is still, above all, making a song that has emotional meaninga song that can transcend whatever is the current popular production trend, a song that can stand the test of time and make the fans want to revisit it over and over again because it has emotional value.
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