Dropped by Robert Miller
It’s almost becoming redundant to begin introductions of some of these electronic acts as “17-year-old producer/DJ so-and-so.” Pretty much everyone on the small Orlando-based Relief in Abstract label and their friendship circle currently fall into the high school or recent-graduate category. But contrary to what any ageist may tell you, these teenagers are defying odds and limitations, creating and patenting a tight-knit community of friendship and music.
This is especially true for Grant Peyton, the hip-hop friendly beat maker who simply goes by GRANT. He just recently released a new album called Beat Tape Vol. 1. It’s an eclectic mix of 90s era hip-hop, electronic beats and smooth jazz. I got the chance to talk to Grant over the phone where he discussed the parallels of hardcore and hip-hop, the luxurious theme of his new Beat Tape, and how an artist survives while giving away their music for free.
Here’s how it went down . . .
The Dropp: For Beat Tape Vol. 1 where did you get the album art and what made you choose that particular picture?
GRANT: It’s a photograph I took in Paris. I manipulated it a lot, though. It was cropped down from what it originally was. It’s one of the lamp posts in downtown Paris. I just cropped it down, recolored it a little bit, and I felt like it matched the aesthetic of the way the album sounded.
The Dropp: Did you take that picture already knowing you were going to use it for the album?
GRANT: No, I actually take a lot of photos. I used to be really into photography, and I do all of the art for my own stuff, with the slight exception of the first LP I did. It was a picture of someone I saw on my English textbook, and I took a picture on my iPhone, and it became album art.
The Dropp: Did you manipulate that one, too?
GRANT: Not really. I just photoshopped the color a little bit, but it’s basically just a really cropped down picture of someone. I think they were cooking something—I don’t even remember—but they happened to be looking right at the camera. I thought it was a really funny visual, so I took a picture on my iPhone during class.
The Dropp: How long have you considered yourself a musician, and how long have you been involved with electronic music in particular?
GRANT: I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been a guitar player, which it kinda weirded out everyone that I knew when I started doing electronic music, cause I’ve always been playing rock-n-roll and blues guitar. I got into electronic music in a bunch of different ways. It all kind of fell into place. I’m actually a professional DJ, like that’s my day job, and I’ve been doing that for a minute as well. I started off doing my friends’ birthday parties and eventually started doing it for corporate events and weddings. I’ve also just been recording myself forever, like my guitar and stuff, but it eventually ended up being me experimenting with synthesizers and drum samples and eventually ended up doing hip-hop.
The Dropp: What’s your traditional music background?
GRANT: I grew up listening to glam rock, like David Bowie and T. Rex, and that kind of stuff. I’ve always played blues guitar. I haven’t really been so much into that as of late. My dad played in a blue-grass band, and I’ve always been around banjos and that stuff, too. But, yeah, I just kind of fell into hip-hop on my own. I also play in a hardcore band. I’m really into punk, as well.
The Dropp: Yeah, I was going to ask about that, too. How does being in Throat Dump and making hip-hop beats work together with you?
GRANT: For me, making hip-hop and hardcore kind of go parallel to each other, because they’re both so DIY. I’m recording all of my own music myself; all Throat Dump stuff was recorded in my makeshift studio. Relief in Abstract is completely independent; we release all our own stuff ourselves; we don’t have any help from anyone. It’s all just really “do it yourself.”
The Dropp: Were you into hardcore music first or hip-hop?
GRANT: I was into hip-hop first. I’ve been making stupid remixes and beats since I was about maybe 13 or 14 and was figuring out how to use Garage Band and stuff. I’ve always listened to “punk rock”—quote unquote—and Iggy Pop has always been my favorite performer. There’s always been that side, and as I hung out with more people I slowly got into hardcore, but hip-hop has been a part of me for a while.
The Dropp: What was the first hip-hop album you listened to?
GRANT: I wasn’t so big on hip-hop albums at first, because I kind of got into hip-hop mostly through DJing, and whatever was on the radio on the time is what I would have to play, because that’s what gets you paid. As I got more into it I started listening to more stuff. I was really into Wu-Tang and A Tribe Called Quest. GZA’s Liquid Sword is one of my favorite hip-hop albums ever.
The Dropp: You mentioned Relief in Abstract before. How long have you been with that label and what has your time with them been like?
GRANT: It’s been about a year. It’s really cool, cause it’s like a family kind of thing. We all help each other out, and hang out, and do shows together. It’s a really relaxed environment. There’s no deadlines; there’s no contractual obligations. It’s all just friends helping out friends, like promoting each other. I think we have individual styles on our own, as well, but it’s just really helpful to be in that environment as a collective.
The Dropp: Do you think of “GRANT” as a persona, or is it just simply your name?
GRANT: I mean, the name kind of only came out of not having anything better. I figured I might as well pull a Cher and use my first name. [Pause] Cher’s probably not the best comparison to use [laughs]. But I guess with my music I kind of portray a character on stage. Just being the nerdy white kid making the hip-hop beats.
The Dropp: What were your goals for Beat Tape Vol. 1, and do you think you accomplished them by the time you released it?
GRANT: I didn’t really have a lot of goals for it. It just kind of started after I released the first self-titled LP. I just kept on making beats, and it eventually it turned into what the Beat Tape was. I was trying to go for more short themes and visuals as opposed to long, full-length songs. I guess there was kind of a theme. I tried to create an aesthetic of exotic luxury. Like you can tell by some of the titles on the tracks, like “Versace” and “Gucci Loafers.” I was trying to go for that visual, and I think the album art kind of goes with that, too.
The Dropp: Yeah, the songs are quite short. Did you do that on purpose?
GRANT: Yeah, it was not so much trying to do full-length songs, because music the way that I do is mostly a lot of loops and layering, and if you do it for too long it just kind of gets self indulgent. I don’t want people to get bored. It’s the same thing with hardcore; I wanna keep it short and simple.
The Dropp: What does your typical process look like when you first start to put a song together?
GRANT: It’s different every time. I usually start off with drums, like that’s usually the main focus, cause I want to start off with the groove I’m looking for I guess. I usually start off with drums, collecting samples and making a drum kit. It’s either that, or I’ll find a sample I really like, and I’ll chop it up, loop it, or do whatever and then build from there. That’s my favorite part of the process, just arranging things and seeing what I can add.
“I kind of portray a character on stage. Just being the nerdy white kid making the hip-hop beats.”
The Dropp: The new Beat Tape is available for free download on Bandcamp, and in the description for it you say, “Rappers, do with it what you will.” So what are your thoughts on file sharing and living in an age where music is ripped, rather than bought directly from the artist?
GRANT: I think it’s kind of flattering if people are ripping off my stuff. I think music should be—for the most part—free. It’s art, and it should be enjoyed by everyone. And that’s why I usually making everything pay what you want. So if people dig it, they can donate to it. I do the same thing. I’m guilty of downloading some stuff for free, but if I really support the artist, I’ll pay for it. I also collect copies on vinyl and physical copies. I like to pay for it physically, but it’s art and all art should be accessible by everyone.
The Dropp: Any chance you’ll be making your own vinyl?
GRANT: Definitely. I’m actually planning it right now. I really wish I had the funding right now to print the first LP on a 12″, but that’s not looking like it’s going to happen at the moment because of the money. But I have a 7″ in the works right now. I’m trying to do a four-song EP on a 7″. I don’t know when that’s going to happen, but it’ll happen eventually.
The Dropp: One of the songs on the Beat Tape Vol. 1 is the track that you produced for Kitty Pryde, “Give Me Scabies.” What has your relationship with her been like?
GRANT: Kitty Pryde is the homie. We hang out and stuff, and I’m actually her live DJ as well. She’s been recording stuff at my house, and, yeah, she’s a good friend of mine.
The Dropp: Do you see yourself collaborating with her a lot more and continuing that?
GRANT: Oh, definitely. We’ve already got some stuff in the works, and I send her beats every now and then.
The Dropp: Anything else you can say about that?
GRANT: We don’t have anything planned at the moment, but that’s pretty much how “Give Me Scabies” happened. We were joking about the song “Call Me Maybe.” I don’t think she actually expected me to remix it, but I sent it to her, and she was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna use this.’ So she used it, and here we are.
The Dropp: If you could produce or collaborate with any artist in the world, who would you want to work with?
GRANT: That’s a good question. There’s a lot of rappers I really admire right now, particularly Danny Brown and Action Bronson.
The Dropp: What has been your favorite album this year so far?
GRANT: Man, that’s a good question. Um . . . wow, there’s so many to choose from. There was one I was literally just telling someone the other day. This is the best album of 2012 so far, and I’m blanking on it right now. I can IM you on Facebook when I remember. [It was Action Bronson's Blue Chips, El-P Cancer 4 Cure and The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends album.]
The Dropp: What do you see for yourself in the future? What’s the next step for GRANT?
GRANT: I really want to start touring eventually. I still have one year left of high school to worry about, but I’ve got some stuff in the works. I definitely want to start touring. I’m just trying to get my name out there right now, trying to work with some bigger names and send myself to rappers, and you know, fighting the good fight.
Mon Jul 9