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Gramatik Wants Electricity To Be Free

The Slovenian producer talks about his new album, his favorite weed strains, and his love for Nikola Tesla.

Photo by Daniel Leinweber, courtesy of Razberry Photography

Gramatik is sitting cross-legged on a bed in room 3327 at the New Yorker Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, deeply engaged in a dorm-room style discussion about the historical importance of Nikola Tesla. "Imagine how much more progressive and evolved we would be if we had free electricity in the early 1900s," he ponders. Such lofty musings must be common in room 3327, because this particular suite is where the famed 19th century inventor and engineer breathed his last breath. The fact that Tesla spent the last ten years of his life in this room makes it a landmark to those who worship him.

Gramatik is one of those worshippers. In 2012, the Slovenian producer and DJ debuted a dazzling light show inspired by one of the scientist's most famous inventions—the Tesla Coil. Although he retired his take on the Coil for his current tour, he's found other ways to celebrate the legacy of his favorite electrical engineer. The title of his latest LP, The Age of Reason, is an homage to Tesla's struggle with investor JP Morgan, who funded the scientist's endeavors to create a telecommunications tower in Long Island. Unbeknownst to Morgan, Tesla started to build a tower that would enable everyone to access electricity for free, which was a threat to one of the capitalist's other investments, General Electric. When Morgan caught wind of what Tesla was really up to, he shut down the operation. Gramatik's album was inspired by a counterfactual history in which Morgan allowed Tesla to complete the project. "[Humans] never reach the age of reason," Gramatik says. "That's the whole point of this."

"This" is, of course, Gramatik's latest full-length effort, which he released for free as a Bit Torrent file on January 25. The Age of Reason marks a new phase of Gramatik's career: he recently unveiled a new logo, redesigned his line of merch, and now he's prepared to roll out a new stage show to match the fresh aesthetic. We caught up with the pensive artist in room 3327, which was decked out with plaques and pictures commemorating Tesla's achievements—where we mined his expert knowledge of weed and discussed utopian societies.

THUMP: Can you describe any of your favorite moments from the Winter tour?
GRAMATIK: So far my favorite show was definitely Montreal. It was a really awesome venue—we sold out like three days in advance, and it was just wild. Montreal is always a great party, but this time was really awesome, because I was able to play for two hours, and I did a bunch of songs that I never played before.

Montreal is really great, it's definitely the New York of Canada. I really like it. The vibe there is very European, [and that's coming] from someone who comes from Europe. It's really cool to just be that close to New York. I couldn't live anywhere else in the States because it's the most European city, 'cuz I can find food here, and I can find any kind of race or nationality you can imagine. That's what I love about it, it's still 70% immigrants—everyone's an immigrant, but we all belong.

Did you have the Coil in Montreal?
No, we are doing something different on this this run. We're not doing it because most of the venues did not have the big stages, so the stages were too small to fit the Coil. But we're doing something different with the new G [logo] design.

For spring, we're going to do a hybrid between the Coil and this new design that we're doing with the G. My lead designer actually built a wall in the shape of the G that we just designed. It looks like a thought bubble, but it's actually a G and a thought bubble as well. We're trying to promote that as a like some sort of "leave your mark" thing that people can use to tag and write your own thoughts inside the G bubble.

What's your favorite type of weed, and how do you like to smoke it?
My favorite is always any kind of sativa. I'm not big on [indica], unless I really want to go to bed, cuz I like to smoke weed and make music. And I'm not big on like edibles and dabs or all that stuff that here in America is like really popular. It's just that no vapor pen can make me as satisfied as a nice little European spliff. I don't put as much tobacco in as my friends from Europe, because in Europe, it's usually 50/50, and thats way too much for me.

The French are the worst; they do 80% tobacco, 20% weed. I got one of those French guys high when I was in Paris for a show recently, and he felt like he was tripping. I was like, "Dude, you are just high on weed for the first time in your life. You're welcome." He couldn't even talk, he was so fucking high. I was like, "Yeah, that's what I am telling you, dude. You guys don't smoke weed, you smoke tobacco joints, and you sprinkle a little bit of weed on top of your thing and think it's a joint—and it's not."

Why did you decide to host a press day in Nikola Tesla's former hotel room?
I have always wanted to come here, since I was kid, just to honor his memory in the place where he spent the last ten years of his life. [He] died here. He gave the world so much—he gave us everything, in terms of technological advancements. I feel like, the least I can do is use whatever fandom I have, not to just throw parties for kids to get fucked up on drugs, but also to tell them about people who are actual heroes, who deserve to be praised a hundred thousand times more than we or you know. I always tell my fans, like, "Dude, don't put us on fucking pedestals and tell us we're gods or whatever—we're not." We're just dudes that are making music for people to party and feel good about when they are having a shitty day and that's all it is. We're not saving the planet and curing cancer. Nikola Tesla, Einstein and those guys, they deserve that praise. They actually cured, and saved the planet, and invented technologies. That's a hero. That's somebody you should praise, not Kanye West.

So, The Age of Reason is coming out in about a week. Tell us a little about the process of making the album.
It was a really awesome process. [I was] living with the Exmag guys in Brooklyn, and I was pretty much on lockdown for three months, working on both albums at the same time. There were six dudes living in an apartment together where no regular space and time laws apply. It was just nuts.

Did you ever leave the house?
Barely. We just went to the deli to get some food every once in a while, when we realized, "Oh we haven't eaten for two days, we should maybe eat." We made like, 150 tracks something in two or three months. We're talking about five computers, 24/7 making beats, producing, recording, and it's just really awesome to be in that environment. It inspires everybody, it's a feedback effect; everybody is inspiring each other, and it just builds up into this awesome fucking universal thing of music.

Everybody was working on a track at all times, whatever was felt at that moment. I would be working on one of my tracks for Age of Reason and we would be working on an Exmag track at the same time. It would be like, "Yo Tyler, come here, let's lay down these chords," or, "Play this guitar here, let's work on this track right now." Then we would combine. Every once in a while it would happen that we would be working on two tracks simultaneously on two different computers, and we would realize that we're in same in key, and we could just combine the session and make it one big track with two different segments.

So it wasn't planned at all?
Nothing. Free-flowing, completely dynamic and unpredictable, like the way art should be.

Why did you decide to release The Age of Reason on Bit Torrent, for free?
I'm actually a huge fan of [Bit Torrent]—they're one of my heroes, just like Nikola Tesla. They invented the bit torrent technology, which revolutionized the Internet and the music industry and everything. It pretty much made a couple major labels go bankrupt, which is a huge achievement for a bunch of nerds that sat behind their computers when they were 16. So, I really support those guys, because they are the scientists of the modern age. Torrent technology made everything [on the Internet] super fast and more reliable, and peer-to-peer sharing became way more reliable. [And that's] the main thing: sharing information. The only way we can evolve faster is to have uncontrolled internet, and uncontrolled sharing. That's why I really support BitTorrent.

The Age of Reason is available for free via Soundcloud. Catch him at Output in Williamsburg, Brooklyn tonight—Monday, January 27—for a special Lowtemp showcase.

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