Having a time with Grahmzilla
DJ and producer Grahmzilla is the Juno-nominated music mastermind behind Thunderheist’s kickass, booty-shaking beats. He spent some time with the Vancouver Observer during the 2010 Juno Awards weekend of mayhem, sharing his thoughts on Thunderheist’s Juno nomination and break up, as well as his future projects as a solo artist.
photo credit: Mark Bennett
VO: How would you define your musical style?
I'm a lover of a lot of different things, so I'm not setting out to do any one style of music. In Europe they know the influences more, but here I've seen some amazing hybrid descriptions of us [Thunderheist]. Nobody can get it right and I can't blame them. Electro-booty crunk? I would just call it "having a time."
VO: Can party music be serious?
I think there's more lyrically challenging material that can be played in a party atmosphere. For us, it was defined from the beginning that it wasn't super introspective.
VO: Thunderheist was nominated for a Juno, does this have any effect on you?
It's exposure, it's weird though. When I was growing up I would have loved to have been nominated, it's an honor. I've strayed so far off what's going on in Canada from touring overseas that I don't know how I'll be affected by it. I'm just doing other shit. It's good because FACTOR loves us, we were pretty fortunate with them and they funded the album. Which meant we could sign a deal on a finished album so we got way better deal. That was amazing and they did some tour and marketing support, they've been really helpful. I think it's because we straddle a couple of different types of music.
VO: As you gain momentum, do you see other groups knocking off your style?
I would say that LMFAO are by-products of us, or the crew that came up around 2006 like Spank Rock and Kid Sister that were all from the same circle, Diplo-affiliated. And now it's like a machine. LMFAO got a Grammy nomination. Their stuff is very club friendly, it's not that far off from some of the shit we did but I'm over the idea of party raps.
VO: Your group Thuderheist recently broke up, can you give us a little background on that?
There were so many factors that came into play with that. We had an insane three and a half years of flying by the seat of our pants, and we didn't make money for a while. We were just gunning it. It's weird because there's been a very slow growth, it's been organic for the most part. "Jerk it" has been the slow burner, it wasn't instantaneously successful because we didn't have the support for the commercial side of it. It's a big pop track and it slowly became a big song but it's still not top 40 style. We got a label and there were a lot of problems. As a first alum release it would have been good for us to put out some stuff independently because you're gonna be unhappy with most labels to a certain extent. There's no way a label can live up to what you expect of them. We didn't know any better; before this I was a programmer for a video game company and then suddenly everything completely changed. There's no answers to what I should do because everything is changing every day. I'm still amazed at how naturally the interest gained, I don't understand it.
VO: You still have shows coming up as a group, how will that work now that you’re broken up?
Yeah, we have shows scheduled for June 10th at Venue in Vancouver, on June 11th at Sugar in Victoria, and June 12th at Chop Suey in Seattle. Those shows were scheduled before our break, and technically, those are our last shows. I’m not fully closing the door on possible shows we could do in the future. I think we work well and are most functional when we’re on stage. And just to clarify, things are okay right now between me and Isis. I just think it’s a good time for us to put Thunderheist on ice for the time being.
VO: Tell us about your solo project.
My solo project—Nautiluss—has got a pretty good story behind it. A nautilus is a little sea creature, a shellfish. It's got a circular shell, and as it grows it builds its shell and it closes the chamber behind it, shutting off its past. For me, that's what is happening. I called for a break [with Thunderheist] last summer and that's normal, the 3-4 year cycle. I moved around a lot as a kid and that has had an impact. I have stuff coming up this summer but it's not ready yet, I have to keep it under wraps. I want to establish my own sound and apply that to other people’s projects. It's gonna be weirder, it's hard to do a duo and now I wanna work with people more selectively on smaller projects. There are a lot of good people out there. I feel like Europe is gonna get it, but not here so much. I think it's even more hybrid than Thunderheist because I don't have a vocalist. Isis had to like whatever I did, now I'm free.
What else do you have coming up?
Aside from the Nautiluss thing I also have another project which is called Bassanovva. This is a project with a friend of mine named Jessica Gentile who is a New York-based DJ and producer. We’re working together on this little project and we got signed to this new record label called Grizzly, and it’s run by Graeme Sinden who’s a UK tastemaker and he has a commercial radio show on Kiss FM in London. It’s a big deal there. He started the label with amazing new young producers. We sent our stuff out and he loved it and he signed us two days later. It’ll be coming out this August—it’s gonna be crazy. From the roster of people on the label it’s gonna be hot. All young U.K. producers, this is amazing, I’m so lucky to be on the label and he wants to develop more stuff with me and with Bassanovva so I have a home. I’m going to put out a Nautiluss solo EP in the fall with guest vocalists with various artists that I’m collaborating with.
Grahmzilla will debut his Nautiluss remixes and Bassanovva tracks in Vancouver on May 15th at ION Magazine’s 7 Year Anniversary Party and in Toronto on May 22nd at The Social.