We recently had the chance to sit down with one of Mad Decent's finest stars, multi genre producer Grandtheft. We talked about his inspirations and his journey through his music and his career. Check it out.
What were some of your first experiences with music?
I started taking piano lessons when I was 4. I started writing music when I was 12, I made beats, played in bands etc. that was kinda my real start in making original music.
How has your music taste developed over the course of your life and what was some of the music you were into at an early age and how as that influenced your music now?
I’ve always had very eclectic tastes, I played in a lot of indie bands in high school. I’ve also always been super into rap, that’s been a huge piece of my music taste my whole life. I got exposed to Pioneer electronic music in high school by some friends, people like Aphex Twin and The Orb, and that always has had a huge influence on me as well. My whole career as Grandtheft has been an attempt to fuse rap with dance music, and make songs in both genres that sound like the other. I love dancehall music as well, I have a huge collection of dancehall 45’s. You’ll hear a lot of dancehall in my music as well whether it’s dancehall fills or 808’s and then you’ll hear those housier sounds in my more rap style tunes as well bringing it all full circle for me. My trap music started by making rap beats, and then followed with the genre’s progression when I began to make it tons of different ways than I had before.
What does your creative process look like?
It’s very different every time. I try to change my process or the way I do things every song and learn something new. When it’s a remix, I usually start with the vocals. I usually only remix a song if I find that one part of the song that I really want to stay the same and then can flip the rest around it. I’ll just start with the vocal, and normally I don’t use the stems to make a new track. When it’s my own song, sometimes it’s melody, sometimes I’m just messing with sound design and make a sound I really like and build on that. It could be chords and occasionally a drum track, but drums usually come later in the process for me.
What was it like the first time you performed as Grandtheft?
I started just playing house parties. I gradually started Djing clubs in Montreal and ended up starting a group called team Canada with another guy in the scene. It was like live remixing we would use turntables and were mentored by DJ AM. We got to tour as that act with him as our guidance, but we drifted away from it as time went on. I started writing my own music and went back to my original name of Grandtheft which didn’t have any real notoriety at the time. Not till 2011-2012 did I start to gain any real momentum under the name Grandtheft.
Did you have a defining moment when you realized you want to make music as a career?
I think I always knew I wanted to do it since I started writing music as a kid. I never expected it to really work out, and that still tends to drive me. I think a lot of people in our scene who make music will say “Well I made this and this so I’m owed this” and I don’t really feel that way about it. I love writing music and I love doing shows and because I love it so much I don’t feel like I’m owed anything. From the time I did my first show or played my first house party even I thought it was all so amazing. When I first started playing clubs I was amazed that people would pay me 100$ to do a gig, it was crazy. Next thing you know, I’m in Europe or China doing some crazy shit even with my first group and it was like every day there was something new and awesome. I feel lucky to have that opportunity and if no one wants to hear my music tomorrow, the game doesn’t owe me anything. I always work really hard to make better music but that’s all you can do, there’s no entitlement and I’ve had that attitude since I started.
Who have been your biggest inspirations in your life both musically and personally?
Some that come to mind are Wutang, Biggie, Beastie Boys rap wise, and when it comes to funkier stuff, I would say Prince and Michael Jackson were huge for me. As far as personally, DJ AM was my number one biggest motivator. He unfortunately passed away, but there’s a great Documentary out right now that recent dropped called The Life and Times of DJ AM that everyone should watch. A lot of people don’t know because it’s been years since he passed, but he was really the first celebrity DJ and he was incredible at what he did. Kid Koala as well is someone I always shout out who is a super creative artist both musically and visually, and a great turntablist. He was one of the first artists who really told me like “Hey you should give this a go”. I was only 17 at the time, and to him it was probably nothing but to me it meant everything. Over the last few years Diplo has been a big motivator in helping put me on with all of my work with Mad Decent, his work ethic is always super inspiring.
When someone is walking away from a Grandtheft performance what do you want them to be thinking/saying?
That was the best show I’ve ever seen. I’ve never had such a good time before. Short and sweet.
What do we have to look forward to from you in the near future?
Bigger and better tunes. I’m in the studio writing a lot right now. Specifically working on another record with Mad Decent. Right now after my last EP I’ve just reset, being very proud of that project and the statement I made with it being more musical that dance-centered. I’m going to be writing a lot more open-mindedly, going back to the usual state of more rap influenced stuff but not trying to overthink it and just make what feels right. The stuff I’m working on right now is the most original stuff I’ve worked on, different styles, new sounds etc.
If you were stuck on a deserted Island and had to choose one record to listen to for the rest of your life, what record would it be and why?
I’d definitely rather have silence than listen to one song over and over again.