Gramatik and Michael Menart Givin’ Us the Lowdown
Gramatik is one of the flyest and most passionate artists in music. I had the opportunity to catch up with him and Michael Menart at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge, where this dynamic duo dished out their thoughts on their art, business, and…tomatoes.
One of the most difficult aspects of working in the music industry is finding the balance between business and art. Gramatik and Michael Menart have successfully mastered this recipe. They have the perfect varietal blend of samples, beats, and melodies that make it hard to find a genre for their eclectic songs. Essentially, channeling this constant use of variety makes their pieces simply amazing.
G: I’ve never been a fan of labeling myself as one genre. To an artists, that’s a total limitation and it’s not natural. It’s weird to me because we look at it and we are making art, and every art is unique. My appetite is way more than one genre. In fact, I listen to twelve different ones on a daily basis.
MM: If you do one thing that’s a signature, it’s hard to break away from it. If you follow one element of style, it limits you to a certain style and feel. It’s hard to have certain elements of music in certain genres that have this categorical feel to them. Some artists flock to that. That’s all they do and I never want to do that in my life.
Both Gramatik’s and Michael Menart’s true artistic form beams through when discussing the topic of business. Even when it comes to their performances, both of them express their desire to make music as an art form rather than being controlled by any source other than their own. Thankfully, they both have the fortunate opportunity to channel their artistic skill and philosophy by being on the independent label, Pretty Lights Music. From their music to their shows, they are creating an independent avenue that is often rare to find among musicians.
G: One example is me and Michael are co-headlining this tour so our managers thought we would choose the obvious route when we co-headline where each night, one goes first, and switch off. It arouses two tensions for who’s going to headline the last biggest cities. In order to avoid that, we came up with the idea that during every show there is going to be 4 slots for 40 minutes. I go on, then he goes, I go on he goes on, then encore together. Every night we end up together. If offers variety. I start off with more hip-hop beats, like more street bangers, and then Mike comes on with his mellow sound. Then the other two sets, we just kind of crank and go through that glitch-hop. In the encore, we just go crazy and each of us drops one track. It’s fun!
In terms the overall music business…
G: We are not competing with anyone and we are not making products. We are making art and that’s the way we want to keep it. We want money just as much as the next guy, but we don’t want to do it the wrong way. There’s a right way of making money. We don’t want to do music because that’s the hot thing to do. We’ve always been doing music and we like it. There are many things in my life I’m not good at, but this is one thing I am.
MM: We didn’t hear music and get moved by it and say, “Oh I bet I could get money off this song.” Since I was a small child, I was immersed in music and wanted to discover it. There was nothing to do with money in return. The return was being a part of the music.
G: To me, music is personal. People always ask us, “What does your work process look like?” They always presume we have a steady 9-5 working process or we are working in a factory. It’s never like that. It’s never in the same process. When you are making art, you are a slave to your creative impulses and it cannot be predicted or forcibly produced. You have to wait for it to come and then be ready to seize them because they go away very fast. Many people have creative impulses but just ignore them and go about their life. I have friends that have just as good as impulses as I do, but do nothing with it. You have to try to know yourself as much as possible to see how your thought process works and work within that. To a certain extent, you have to be responsible. You keep yourself in mind and figure out a way to harvest those impulses. I used to ask myself, “How can I make a good track one day and a crappy track another day?” You just don’t know how your thought process works. As you get older, you get wiser and you work around that. The past 2-3 years, I’ve been happy with the way I work and try to keep a system which keeps it all together. I’ve only figured out about 10-20 % of how my mind works, and I’m still getting there. I started being more focused on achieving my goal in music for the soul reason I didn’t want to be doing a 9-5 job. Humans are dynamic beings that are not robots and putting ourselves in a static environment for 30-35 years destroys you. I’ve seen what it does to people. It crushes your spirit. If you have a choice to not do it, why not?
MM: Everyone puts their dream in the back seat and they say, “When I retire I’ll do that.” I don’t even know if I’ll live that long. I would rather regret doing something than not doing it.
G: “I would rather die trying than die wondering.” That’s one of my favorite quotes. Life is short and what does it amount to at the end of the row? All it comes down to is trying to do your best and be happy. Me and Mike have been blessed with talent in being able to make music; music that people like. It would be irresponsible for us to not try and pursue our dream because there several people that don’t have talents and would love to have them.
Not only does this dynamic duo share the same opinions on music, but they share the same opinions on….tomatoes as well.
G: Mike and I discovered we have alot of points in common; for example, we both don’t like tomatoes. We always say, “No egos, no tomatoes.” Egos are bad, but tomatoes are even worse. There’s a holiday in Spain where the entire city is covered in tomatoes and that would be a nightmare for us.
MM: We are going to try to do that for immersion therapy. Overcome the fear.
In terms of life (not tomatoes), both these fellas should fear nothing and seem like they can take any obstacle that life throws at them. Their interview was undoubtedly the most sincere, passionate, and refreshing interview I have ever conducted. Both represent the type of artists who will save the music business from the commercial corruption and they will forever bestow hope for the business. Much appreciated.
Oh, and did I mention that their show was absolutely ohmyfuckinggawdincredible???