We are gearing up for Mysteryland USA this weekend in NY and one of our newest staff members, Riley Loula (who will be on hand covering Mysteryland USA for Independent Philly) spoke with one of our favorite artists, Gramatik, about his upcoming performance at Mysteryland.
Denis Jašarević, otherwise known as ‘Gramatik’, necessitates no proper introduction, unless one is inclined to do so without his request. Gramatik is, by all accounts, a true artist, who leads a solid lineup of music artists on his music label, ‘Lowtemp’, while maintaining a strong fan base (who embrace his ever evolving nature of thought and consciousness). In this interview, we talk about Lowtemp’s budding influence on young artists, exploration of the female character in film and music, and collaborating with Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon on his upcoming EP Epigram.
Independent Philly: Performing at music festivals around the world and hitting some pretty legendary stages in your career, where do the grounds at Bethel Woods (for Mysteryland USA) – the same grounds the original Woodstock was held on – rank among the many experiences you’ve had playing both indoor and outdoor venues?
Gramatik: I’m very fortunate to be able to play around the world, have nothing but gratitude in my heart for all the fans around the world. I try to treat every performance we do equally, there’s no good, bad or mediocre shows or festivals, when people come to see me perform live they all deserve the same. I’m looking forward to the Mysteryland performance. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the festival.
IP: The official ‘Lowtemp’ website lists 13 total artists, including the likes of yourself, ‘Freddy Todd’, ‘The Geek X VRV’ & ‘The Noisy Freaks’ to name a few (of my faves). When releasing music on the label, how do you distinguish a temporary promotion such as an album or track release, with an actual addition to the record label line-up?
Gramatik: We don’t consider ourselves a traditional label, we give all our music away for free. Complete miss if you ask anyone running a traditional label.
I’m from Slovenia, a small country in central Europe and I got my career break because somebody saw potential in my music and gave me the chance. For me, it is only logical to return that favor and help young, up and coming artists expose their music to my fan base. Well, that was the initial idea but eventually Lowtemp grew out of those proportions and became a small independent label with its own fan base. There’s no corporate mentality behind our concept, we don’t hold our artists hostage. That’s why some of them only release a single or short EP with us, because we’re only a stepping stone in their career. We also provide worldwide distribution and all Lowtemp music can be found on all streaming services and retailers. Because we don’t play that corporate game we usually don’t get that much media coverage so we established our own DIY concept, where we promote music in any way possible. Mix tapes, playlists, posting music on my social media, taking artists on tour as openers, collaborating, remixing… basically creating an environment and scene, where the music finds its audience. There’re no repressive contracts, nobody needs to stay, if somebody signs a better deal because we helped expose his music to bigger label then our goal is reached. We’ll stay true to our concept, freeing music by making music free.
IP: As a huge fan of your music and art in general, I was considering the original Lowtemp mammoth logo as my first tattoo. Why the sudden logo change or brand update?
Gramatik: At first Lowtemp was considered more like an outlet for young creative musicians, that would help expose their music to my fans. We started it in my apartment in Brooklyn at the time and through time Lowtemp grew. We saw Lowtemp getting momentum, way more than anticipated and because the first logo was reminding us way too much on logos that other labels have (i.e. OWSLA) we wanted to create something original and more minimalistic, something that would be more appropriate on a longer run. We changed the logo and we added the motto: “Freeing Music By Making Music Free”. We try to focus on the future, we think that Lowtemp is in the beginning of its path and this was the right time to make necessary changes.
IP: Stepping away from music momentarily, I’ve noticed that science/space exploration and film/cinema are on the fore-front of your other favorite hobbies. Can you provide a brief history of your growing interest in these two ventures?
Gramatik: I try to find things that inspire me. Music was always just one of many and as an artist I like art in all kind of forms. Music and movies go hand in hand, they compliment each other and this is something I want to develop in my career. Mainstream doesn’t inspire me, there’s no substance behind it, only corporations making money through faces we chose to like. What really inspires me are people that are making this world a better place and they’re not reality shows contestants, politicians, religious bigots, human rights deniers, basically people that want to keep humanity in the dark. I like progress, evolution and this can only be possible because of outstanding individuals in different areas of expertise. People that can tell stories through visual art and people that think Earth is not the last home for humanity. They rule 🙂
IP: Sticking with your recent short films, specifically Brave Men and The Condor teaser, I’ve noticed a theme of female empowerment in your work, is this a particular perspective that you’ve taken into consideration during production?
Gramatik: I always thought that women are mistreated by movie industry, there’s a long history of not crediting women for their contribution to cinema. In movies and shows they’re usually portrayed in a way our patriarchal society treats them. They’re usually obedient and submissive. Brave Men script was written more as mockery of the fact that ‘brave men’ beat their women behind closed doors. She was abused but she was way smarter than neighbors and husband thought. She had a dark side. So we didn’t want to make good and bad characters, they’re all bad, just like most people are. We showed human nature without any romantic bullshit. We all wear different faces for different occasions, we play the game society wants us to play but deep down we’re still animals. The Condor was written and directed by Nina Varano, it’s her take on man/woman relationship. I like dark stories with unclear characters, the depth of human nature, history of humanity was written in blood and men have been killing other men since the beginning of time. I like to criticize society, I give everything away for free because I don’t believe in elitism, I believe art and culture are for everyone not just for people who can afford them. And with internet people all over the world have the possibility of seeing and hearing my point of view manifested in my art.
IP: Can you describe what it was like to collaborate with not only up-and-comer Orlando Napier, but also the legend himself, Raekwon, on the Epigram single, Native Son?
Gramatik: I met Orlando 2 years ago and we collaborated on my previous album The Age Of Reason. I think he’s an amazing singer and songwriter so when he came by my place a year ago with Native Son I just knew we had to do it. We thought that rap part would be perfect for this song and when we started thinking who to contact my first idea was Raekwon. I grew up with Wu Tang Clan and Raekwon was always my favorite. This was the perfect time in my career and song to pitch it to Raekwon’s management. I didn’t hold my expectation high so I was very surprised and stoked when he said yes. I’m happy to say that Raekwon collaboration is now crossed off my bucket list.
IP: According the to dictionary, “epigram” is defined as, “a concise poem dealing pointedly and often satirically with a single thought or event and often ending with an ingenious turn of thought.” Could this term be an allusion to the process or laying of the upcoming EP?
Gramatik: Yes, for sure. There will be 8 songs on Epigram, many different styles, many different statements. We’re also preparing a special surprise for fans, the whole artwork concept will make way more sense when we reveal it when Epigram comes out. We’re planning a couple of goodies for my fans, a special DIY app and more. But all in due time.
IP: Finally, can you describe for me, in all of its glory, the sensation of performing in front of a crowd during a snow storm, as you did on May 13th at Red Rocks in Colorado?
Gramatik: I think this was the first and last Red Rocks show held in these kind of conditions. I was cold, our gear was on the verge of being destroyed by snow, the show was sold out but the venue was 3/4 full. And you know what, it was epic! We made history. I want to apologize to everyone that missed the show, but the feedback we’re getting is more than overwhelming. The weather was beyond us but Colorado fans were raging and that’s why the Red Rocks crowd is one of the craziest in the world.
Gramatik takes the Boat stage at Mysterland on Saturday, May 23, at 11pm. We hope to see you there as we head to Mysteryland USA this weekend to bring you a full weekend of coverage.
[Interview by Riley Loula]