Gramatik: EDM's game changer
From online fights with the law to a genre-blending style you won’t find anywhere else, EDM producer Gramatik might just be what the EDM scene needed to rekindle the flame. On May 17, he will end the biggest tour of his career with a headlining debut at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater. All without selling a single album.
For many musicians, the chance to grace that stage falls as a crumpled pipedream on the floor of the band van. But for a young boy from Slovenia, those dreams become reality this summer as he headlines his first tour. More amazingly, he gives away all of his music for free.
Denis Jasarevic, more commonly known as Gramatik, started out as another young kid with a knack for sound. His mother would catch him next to the old record player, snapping his fingers and dancing to her old jazz and blues records. This early introduction to others’ genres served as the foundation upon which he built a global sound. Fast forward a couple of years, and Gramatik just released the biggest project of his career and is touring the country, finishing with a headlining debut at Red Rocks.
Gramatik credited comedian George Carlin with titling his genre-blending album “The Age Of Reason,” released in January “He made a joke on the fact that he was Catholic until he reached the age of reason,” said Jasarevic. “I also firmly believe that there comes a time in a human life when you reach the so-called 'age of reason' and realize that there are so many irrational beliefs, shameless contradictions and illogical restrictions inflicted upon society. Some people reach it sooner, others later, but a majority unfortunately never do. I'd like to guide more people to reach the age of reason sooner. Maybe. Or, hopefully at least unite the ones that feel the same way."
While his music won’t provide you with the same brilliant epiphanies you have on the porcelain throne every morning, the album does illustrate a man who seems to have reached this theoretical age. Fusing together sounds from what seems like every genre, Gramatik can’t be classified as just another EDM producer; it wouldn’t be fair. Sounds that range from pop- house to dubstep with an in-your-face tone that highlights dramatic bass drops more than anything else saturate EDM’s past decade.
Gramatik, on the other hand, chose another route, carefully fusing together sounds from genres you wouldn’t normally expect: hip hop, jazz, blues, rock, funk, soul, etc. “I love hip-hop, funk, soul, jazz, blues and some of EDM genres,” he said. “I try to mix the genres I like into a new genre. I don't like my music to be called just one thing. That's why I constantly try to develop new genres within the music. With the new album, I stepped away from sampling, and I've incorporated live instruments played by my friends.”
With his name at the forefront of EDM, this album could write him into electronic history, and he says he understands its significance. “I think this is the most important project for me until now, it is the most diverse and the most mature record I've put out since I started producing,” he said. “The message stays the same: Open your eyes, get smart and enjoy free music.”
He says he wants to “free music by making music free,” partnering with BitTorrent to provide fans with free downloads, though he does sell albums. “The Age of Reason” reached 1 million listeners already. Gramatik remains somewhat of a pioneer with his free music campaign as a catalyst to his becoming one of the biggest names in EDM.
“I believe that all music should primarily be free because in this corporate-run music industry, the artist is the one that gets the least out of it,” he said. “So many artists now figured out that they can do their own promotion through social medias and release music for free, so it reaches more people and they make a living with touring. If people like your music and they can get it for free, they will more likely come to support you in person whenever you're in town.”
His current tour began with a massive set in Miami at Ultra’s Live Stage, but he knows May 17 is a career step. “Headlining Red Rocks is definitely the biggest and one of the most important events in my career,” he said. “Colorado has become somewhat of a staple in EDM, transforming into a must-hit city on nearly every major artists tour.”
Notwithstanding, Gramatik assures us his sights are set on spreading his music across the globe.
“I treat all my tours as important,” he said. “I have an important tour in Europe this spring, and I'm taking it very seriously because it will jump-start my touring days in Europe. Getting my music to the fans on the ground is essential for me, and finishing both tours at Red Rocks seems like a perfect ending.”
The shows prove different from his albums, a healthy balance between the constant, repetitive flow of a standard EDM “set list” and the hard separation of recorded songs. He even adds in carefully placed Grizmatik tunes, the musical combination of Gramatik and EDM heavy-weight Griz’s beats. Call it a journey; he’ll run from electro-funk through hip-hip to dubstep, quite capable of holding 9,000 drugged-out partiers’ attention for some epic journeys. He promises no two shows are ever alike, each evolving from the last.
“For the past two years I had a guitar player with me,” he said. “This year, Russ Liquid will be joining me on the stage. He's a multi instrumentalist, he plays flute, trumpet, saxophone and keys. I think we have a successful year ahead of us.”
Russ Liquid may be on the stage with Gramatik, but he isn’t the only one of Gramatik’s friends joining him on tour. In fact, the EDM leader started his own label, Lowtemp, a couple of years back and is bringing some of his labelmates along for the tour. The Red Rocks show will also host Exmag, Branx and Gibbz, who are all artists signed to Lowtemp.
“Lowtemp tries to be as diverse as it gets. All the artists signed with Lowtemp right now are amazing musicians and producers, with sounds varying from soul, funk, glitch hop, disco, and EDM. You should definitely check them out or see them playing live.”
Although Gramatik was formerly signed to Pretty Lights Music, he started Lowtemp to fulfill a lifelong dream. Leaving the Pretty Lights Music label was a big step in his career, but the relationship between the two remains strong. In a press release, he commended Pretty Lights for helping him reach his goal faster. “I’m launching my own label because that is something I always wanted to do, and I think it's something that every artist eventually wants, to be fully independent and have complete creative and executive control of their own artistry,” he said. “It's a natural step forward. Pretty Lights Music is family for life, but the time has come for me to do my own thing.”
He creates a sonic dreamland with atmospheres of sounds taken straight from space, and delicately synthesizes them with groove, funk, and a head-nodding beat. Within the depths of “The Age Of Reason,” hide covertly added messages of realizations and conspiracy, further proving his musical IQ.
“I just try to evolve my sound from album to album,” he said. “I don't want to stay at the same spot for a long time, I want to continue exploring new sounds and new genres. And if that makes me fresh and original, so be it.”
From starting the #digitalfreedom movement in a fight against ACTA, SOPA, PIPA and other Internet censorship laws, he finds himself explaining away the idea of him versus the world.
“This concept existed before me, and there's a lot of artists that are doing it right now,” he says. “In fact, there are more and more artists each day that are figuring out that releasing music for free will get you more exposure and you can make money playing music touring all over the world.”
Still, he says he’d love to tweak the music industry. “An enlightened music industry would first lose the word ‘industry’ from its name,” he says. “I guess, like any other enlightened system, it would be strongly based on fairness on all possible fronts. Everything else is just maintenance. I don’t believe I’ll witness that change in my lifetime, but I’ll do everything I can to help it become a reality for the next generation.”