Getting to the Core of the Artistry
The latest headliner for Tiny Waves, Graz has been making music for close to half of his life and is currently on a blazing hot streak of new releases. He started off in the early 2000s and has evolved his artistry in tune with the development of new and better software while also growing his impact in tandem with the developing communities he inhabits. Having just dropped his latest album “Next Level (The Remixes),” Graz and I chatted about his journey to becoming a producer, the balance of productivity and mental health, and the difficulty of finding one’s sense of self.
Let’s get right into this new release – how did it start and what was development like?
The original “Next Level” EP is arguably a snapshot of a bizarre chapter of my life. I was holed up in my house nursing a back injury that left me unemployed and with nothing to do all day besides watch television, sleep off and on, and make music. I quickly caught a case of cabin fever and was desperate to go out and see the world and spend time with friends again. After nine months of that internal struggle, the Covid-19 pandemic hit which meant another two years of being cooped up and isolated from everything and everyone. The resulting mix of emotions ended up evolving into a musical fever dream. The music itself carries an emotional energy partnered with my go-to production style, resulting in a dancefloor tribute to my solitude.
The remix album came together organically. Different people hit me up, some inspired by my previous work. I didn’t really set a particular direction for the remixes and yet we ended up with a strong cohesion and flow between all of the tracks. I’m really happy with how it all turned out and highly doubt it will ever be replicated.
What originally drew you to music production? You’ve been producing for quite some time, yes?
I’ve always had a passion for creativity but could never find a medium that spoke to me while also challenging me. During a ninth grade summer vacation to my cousin’s house, I was introduced to music production software. Mind you, it was 2001, so production software was nowhere near as complex and sophisticated as it is now. There was also a lack of processing power which meant I was limited with what I could do. But just seeing that I could make music on a computer and not just with band instruments at school really resonated with me. I may not have had the most in-depth musical knowledge or experience, but I felt free to explore and learn and experience with what was available to me electronically. Music production quickly became a hobby and evolved into a passion.
Fast-forward to 2004 and 2005 where I discovered communities dedicated to music, and I realized that I could make friends with others who shared my musical curiosities. I was always the shy kid growing up, so having a common interest to connect over helped me to feel more confident when talking with peers. As a result, almost all of my friends from age sixteen onwards have been found through music and related interests.
Connecting with others often helps us to better understand ourselves. How would you define yourself as an artist?
It’s never easy to take an outside look at yourself and define what you do. My top priority as an artist has always been to make songs that will get people hyped up and moving; something that will whisk them away from reality and transport them to a dance floor. So my music generally revolves around rave culture, early 2000s techno and anime, as well as video game culture. As for genre, my music inhabits a sweet spot between rave music, chiptune, and hard dance.
Has it gotten easier for you to make music as time goes on? Or are there always different challenges for new projects? How do you overcome those hurdles?
In terms of taking something from inside my head and translating it into a workable piece, yeah, it has gotten easier. I don’t think you can ever get to a point where you have a perfect transition from initial idea to finished product. But developing a better understanding of a mental vision versus a full production is a process that I’ve gained more confidence in along my musical journey. If we break it down into individual projects, then there will always be different struggles popping up. Sometimes the mental and physical capability just aren’t there, but you’ve got to push yourself to at least start. The more time you spend in the studio, the more time you have to process the gray spaces and buried ideas. Motivation can still be a struggle, though. I’ve learned to always go with my gut. If you need to, just drop what you’re doing and wait for inspiration to strike. It’s those electric moments that keep you falling in love with music. Just letting the creative thoughts flow over you… That’s what I love about making music.
Perhaps one of the most important things I’ve learned is that it’s okay not to create music for others. You can absolutely create music, art of any kind, just for yourself. You can work on something and never show it to anyone else. Taking time off to nurture your mental health with some carefree writing or painting or producing is necessary and beneficial. Burn out is real but it doesn’t have to feel permanent. If your brain says it needs time off to recharge and build up that spark again, then take that time. You’ll know when you’re ready to jump back into things again. There’s no set-in-stone timeline that you need to follow. You’re on a journey wholly your own.
You seem to be well versed in solo ventures. How about collaborating with others?
Honestly, it’s never easy for me to work on a project with others. Keep in mind, it’s very much one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of situations. I don’t like to take a project to completion unless it feels like lightning in a bottle. That often results in marathon studio sessions and sprint-style workflows that really only work out if you’re in the studio together. That said, I do love remixes. It’s not necessarily the collaboration itself that excites me; rather it’s the opportunity to explore and develop an existing piece of art. Knowing that you helped contribute to the final product is always extra special and rewarding.
What do you consider to be the most rewarding part of what you do? Is there more that you want to achieve? How about upcoming projects or future goals?
Seeing how my art can impact and inspire others to make their own art is hands-down the most rewarding part of what I do. Hearing people’s stories of different experiences they associate with my music, seeing the murals and dance routines that my music inspired, I live for that stuff. The realization that my own creative energy can be put out into the world and then resonate with someone else to the point of them expressing their own creativity? It is beyond humbling.
Looking to the future, I want to create music for a video game. It may be a long way off, but it’s something to work towards. I also want to reach a point where I can support myself and my family with my art. I’m still working a full-time job and just making music on the side. Ideally, I want to get to a point where my “work” and my passion are in perfect balance. I’d also like to have a home to call my own. Life is short, and there’s nothing wrong with taking your time to follow your passions and to find those who will support you.
And lastly, how would you describe your overall journey to becoming Graz?
There was a long period of time where I was trying to fit this mold of what I thought others wanted me to be. I have since realized that embracing and showcasing my own genuine personality makes me easier to connect with. There’s no need to inflate yourself with some pseudo-ego because you’re afraid of people knowing the real you. I used to put myself in a box in the hopes that it would impress others and earn their admiration. But I’m so much happier now just living my own life while making the art that I love. It doesn’t have to resonate with others. If it does, great. If not, I’m not worried about that anymore. I’m happy doing my own thing, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.
A cool head behind some fire releases, Graz continues to blaze trails for himself and for others. It often takes time to get to where you want to be, and Graz is a perfect example of how best to simply enjoy the journey. Be sure to support Graz and his latest release and keep an eye out for more interviews featuring some of the featured artists on the remix tracks. And, as always, be sure to follow Tiny Waves on all our social media for upcoming releases and incredible music.
- Charming H. Thomas