Funk master GRiZ, known for fusing electronic music with saxophone production, showcases his versatility as a producer on his latest release, Rainbow Brain, which dropped July 23, 2021. The 23-track LP takes listeners on a sonic journey through sexy and groovy saxophone production, skull-shattering drops, wonky beats, bass production, uplifting melodies designed for dance floor euphoria, trippy sounds and more. Indeed, the LP proves to remain true to GRiZ’s distinct sound and versatility as an artist.
Alongside the album comes “Rainbow Brain, The Movie.” The visual and theatrical production boasts psychedelic visuals accompanied by tracks from the LP as well as GRiZ’s live saxophone production. The chameleonic artist’s tour announcement features nine shows across the nation, including Elements Music & Arts Festival in Pennsylvania, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Brooklyn Mirage and Imagine festival in Atlanta. In addition, GRiZ proves to stay busy with announcing his seventh annual GRiZMAS Shows, taking place December 10th, 11th and 12th at The Masonic Temple in Detroit. The holiday staple features 12 days of charitable events to benefit Detroit communities, with the event raising over $200,000 in the last two years alone.
Here, GRiZ took the time to share with Forbes the inspiration behind Rainbow Brain, how he was inspired by artists from the renaissance of bass music and the dubstep golden age, learning to become himself as opposed to checking the boxes that society expects of people and more.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Lisa Kocay: The concept behind Rainbow Brain stems from the experience of letting go and relinquishing control. Can you talk about how that concept influenced this project and how it was inspired by a psychedelic experience?
GRiZ: “Many. There’s not one in particular, I guess. I always find the more I try and control things in my life, because I’m a control freak, [but] really, I am a producer. My job musically is to wrangle the sound into some sort of palatable version of this chaotic expression of energy. I find that the more that I just let go and let the process dictate what it needs, then things end up turning out so much better. So this album is inspired by that feeling. And also every single time when you’re tripping if you’re trying to control what’s going on, it’s never good. As my buddies would say, ‘bask in the chaos.’”
Kocay: In addition, you were also inspired by artists from the renaissance of bass music and the dubstep golden age, which were some of the sounds that helped you get into making music. Can you talk a bit more about that concept?
GRiZ: “It was a conceptually, it was a feeling and like one of the first times I really felt liberated by my exploration and through music and through dance music. It’s sort of like a nostalgic thing for me and being able to share that feeling of exploration, that wonderment, that feeling of excitement. That’s what I went in to do.”
Kocay: Some of these artists were particularly influential to you and you had some early days DJing in the basement of a Michigan State co-op. Can you further discuss that time in your life?
GRiZ: “I was pretty lost. I was pledging a fraternity, I hadn’t come out yet and I was just looking for things to box myself in. I was really filled with just anxiousness, you know, anxiety and worry and sadness. Things I was like, well, I’m going do what I’m supposed to do. I’m going to be in the business school and I’m going to be in this fraternity and I’m going to do all these things, because I’m lost right now. I don’t know what to do, so I guess I should just check the boxes. And then it was like, what if there wasn’t a box? And that was the ticket. It’s more like a Möbius strip, infinite searching, you’re never going to catch up with yourself. That’s the fun and that’s where I exist today.”
Kocay: Going off that concept, why do you feel like this album is most authentic to who you are?
GRiZ: “Just mostly authentic to who I feel like today. The person that I am is ever evolving, and I don’t think any one thing is particularly like me. I think I’m a chameleon through time—through the slipping of time. So this is me, this is how I’m feeling right now. And over the past, I guess in some records there’s been an attempt at trying to be more like ‘blank,’ be more having vocal tracks or be more having appeal to this or that. It’s yet again like, ‘oh s**t, I need to check these boxes. Every album has this, every album has this,’ and it was like, let’s remove that box.”
GRiZ: “Ride Waves was an album that was created in a time of wanting to really narrate a time of deep sadness. The Chasing The Golden Hour really lives within this boundary of it’s supposed to be this super chill vibe thing. Those are always awesome, because I need to give myself a break from making dance music. Through the [pandemic], feeling kind of bummed and purposeless—and life’s purpose is to enjoy energetic soundscape spaces with people. It’s one of my life’s purposes. I haven’t found the next journey yet, still on it, but that was that was a calling that I found. And with this record and a loss of purpose is just that was kind of sick of just feeling down on my s**t. And I was like, ‘nah, I’m just gonna write a bunch of dance music that makes me feel really good about myself and reaffirm the things that I like to do.’”
Kocay: With the album release, you’re going to have a live performance set/narrative that will come out that day, and the full narrative is like a spectacle show at the Mission Ballroom in Denver. Can you tell me more about what that narrative is?
GRiZ: “It’s really a loose narrative, and I didn’t really want to tell anybody exactly what it was supposed to be. In the past, I think I’ve contextualized things too much and kind of drawn a boundary around what it’s supposed to be for people to understand. Therefore, you’re like the artist painting, a visual artist, painting a picture and standing next to them, telling them what they should be seeing. I feel like that soils the opportunity to give them to make their own distinction about what they think it is. So it’s a movie that we drew upon a bunch of influences, like set pieces, influences like Broadway kind of things, EDM show kind of things or working on creating moments within the camera that you can only see through the lens—like you couldn’t see with the naked eye. I’m excited for people to just enjoy that and draw their emotion about it. My main thing is I just love it. That’s really it.”
Kocay: What are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned from touring over the years?
GRiZ: “You don’t need to be a party to play a party. Partying can look like a bunch of different kinds of things. I spent a long time in my career feeling like I had to be like at the bar versus under the influence of drugs and alcohol to be a party, and that’s very unsustainable. It led me down a pretty deep depressive state. Staying healthy on the road is the biggest lesson. You can enjoy the show and it’s more focused on performing rather than focusing on being in a headspace, like being at a party. You’re the conductor of this experience. Every good conductor needs to be a good navigator and your navigation becomes impaired and leading people on a journey that you get lost in. So don’t get lost in the sauce.”