Seattle-based hip-hop artist Grieves has returned with a vengeance, unleashing a brand new beast of an album entitled Winter & the Wolves. Together with new producer B. Lewis, Grieves has created 14 new tracks, combining organic pianos and guitars with boisterous synthesizers, to paint a colorful backdrop for his unique blend of rapping and singing. In this interview, we caught up with Grieves in the wilds of Hollywood to discuss his brand new album, being a hip-hop artist on the Vans Warped Tour a few years ago, his former collaboration with Budo and current partnership with B. Lewis, and other ferocious topics of interest. Read on…
How does Winter & the Wolves compare to the previous Grieves recordings?
You could say it’s similar in many ways – it’s me, it’s the same creative process – it’s a lot of the same instruments. And it’s still a lot of what’s going on in my life as far as writing technique and style goes. But it’s different because life is changing – different producer, different state of mind on this record. I recorded and did the whole thing in Seattle. It’s really the first record I’ve done in Seattle since my first record which was Irreversible. It was interesting – new studio – new people involved with it – and more people looking at me. I think there’s a lot more pressure on this record this go around than with Together/ Apart. With Together/Apart, we really didn’t have that pressure and just put the record out and all of a sudden it started doing really well and it felt really nice. And now this second go around, we’re kind of like “how is it going to go? How is it going to be this time around?” You know, it’s still me – and it’s still exactly what I want to be doing. It’s similar – but it’s different.
Is there any story behind the title Winter & the Wolves?
I was watching a lot of Game Of Thrones at that time. I wrote Shreds first before I ever actually had the title. And the more I listened to it, the more I saw how much that was fitting the theme of the songs I was writing. Rhymesayers and my manager piped it and they were like, “Look, I think this is the name.” I had a different name for it – which was Learning What Could Never Be Taught – which was pretty similar to Together / Apart – as far as that kind of phrasing. When it hit – it hit! I like it cuz it goes with the Game Of Thrones stuff – that works for the inside nerdy me.
What is the story behind the lyrics for Shreds?
Shreds is kind of an answer to that feeling a lot of artists get – a lot of people get when the pressure is on. And also that fact that you can’t please everybody all the time. It’s when you try to please everybody all the time, is when you sacrifice a lot of yourself – whether its music, work, art or anything like that. When you spend your time trying to humor people that in long run aren’t going to be humored, you lose a bit of yourself. And that song is kind of an answer to that. It felt right and I really like the energy of it. Working with Brad (B. Lewis) – there’s a lot more energetic beats coming out of that dude than what I’m used to, to begin with. It just seemed to work altogether.
Select any other song from the upcoming album and what inspired the lyrics.
There is a song that we just shot a video for out here that’s called Serpents. It’s probably the exact opposite of what Shreds is. It’s a slower paced song, and it’s something I paid homage to, to the things that influenced me a lot as far as recording techniques and instrumentations go. It’s kind of an older 60’s, Spooky sounding song. The song is pretty personal – it’s about a situation that occurred within my family. Singing that song and singing Shreds back to back – maybe people think that the record is going to more songs like Shreds – less relatable and less personable songs. I take it all over on this record! But for me, I’m pretty proud of that song – the way it turned out – the way it conveys what I’m trying to convey. I really like the way it sounds.
What is the working relationship like with your producer B. Lewis?
It was good! I’ve never worked with anybody like I worked with Brad. Brad is a shoot-from-the-hip producer. There’s not a lot of ego involved with him. There was a lot of back and forth – and I had never really done that before. Literally I would watch these songs transform as I was writing. And it’s really hard to do with other people, because a lot of times they don’t want to change what they’re doing. But Brad makes records – that what he does – he’s a record producer – he’s really good at listening. I loved it! I would really like to do more of that in the future – to sit down with an actual record producer and not just like a beat maker – but someone that actually has an interest in the whole entire product – and what the sound will be from beginning to end – and how to achieve that. And how to do it differently than you did last time. He was really good! (Laughs) He might have ruined me – we’ll see what happens.
What to you was the best and worst part about being on Warped Tour?
The worst part of it was 60 days of NON STOP ROCK AND ROLL all the time. You never turn off Warped Tour. When all the fans dump out and the gates close – it’s the barbecue – you pass out on your bus – you wake up in a random parking lot that you’ve never been in before – you try to find a porta-pottie to shit in – and then you repeat the process over and over and over and over. The cool part about that is IT’S NON STOP ROCK AND ROLL FOR 60 DAYS! It’s pretty fun! For me, I felt like there was not a lot of pressure for me, as far as getting along with the other artists, because there’s not a lot of competition there. I saw a lot of the other guys be like, “Fuck that guy because he’s fuckin duhduhduh…” and I don’t even know what he’s saying – I have no clue what he’s talking about. But I get to be friends with both, because I’m just the fucking white rapper dude who showed up that’s neutral in the situation. It was nice for me, because I didn’t know shit about any of that stuff before – I’d never been to a Warped Tour in my life before. Sitting down and learning about bands and then becoming friends with people like The Acacia Strain or Of Mice & Men – I would have never thought that. I still have a really good rapport with the drummer of The Devil Wears Prada. He’s actually one of the first people to hear my new record. If you would have told me that a couple years ago, I would have been like “Who the fuck is The Devil Wears Prada?” The first week of that, you could have said “Blah blah blah is on” and I would have been, “Really? Because it sounds like it’s the same shit from an hour ago.” And I’m not saying that to be a dick or that the music is bad – I’m saying that I was completely unfamiliar. If you probably put those dudes in a room with a bunch of beats playing, it would probably sound the same. So once I really focused in and got to know the dudes – and sat and got to watch their sets, I started learning about the music and what I like and don’t like. It was a cool experience for me that I did not expect. I liked it!
Are you still working with Budo and what was it like working with him over the years?
Working with Budo is great. When he and I sat down to write this record, we just couldn’t get there. He had gone on Warped Tour – he had met Big Chocolate – and he wanted to do more four-to-the-floor electronic stuff – and I do not want to do that. I don’t want to make pop music – I have no interest in that kind of music for myself – that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate someone else doing it – it’s just not my thing. Him and I kept trying – we never really got there – so we both made the decision to take a step back and try some shit for ourselves – fill the tank back up so to say. It’s really worked out, because there was a lot of pressure for me to try and reinvent something with him that at that point wasn’t really happening with us – and I know he felt the same way. So the departure on that end was really good for us and it allowed him to take the time to work more on his music which he never really got the chance to do because he was always on the road with us. It gave him the freedom to what he wanted to do – and he ended up touring with Macklemore – so he’s now playing the horn and keys with Macklemore – which is awesome!
And a not so serious question – if your music was a donut, what kind would it be?
It would be a razor blade encrusted jelly filled donut – some sprinkles – a bear claw wolf paw!
Do you have any messages for your fans reading this who are looking forward to your new album?
It’s been a really long time and I’m completely aware of that. By the time the record comes out, it will be close to three years. I have seen nothing but an increase since then, in the people coming out to the shows and supporting us. And I couldn’t have seen that coming ever. Normally taking three years off, I would completely understand if some of y’all said “Go fuck yourself.” For me to come back with this record at this point and see such a positive response and see all these faces still at the shows is completely and utterly flattering. So thank you so much. You guys didn’t have to do that but you stuck with me. I will stick around for you, so thank you…
(Interview and Photo by Ken Morton)
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