We sat down with Guyus Grey ahead of his Andes inspired EP ‘Rain Summoner’ on Downpour Recordings.
Listen to premiere track ‘Phenotype’
1. Could you briefly tell us about yourself, where are you living and how long have you been producing and performing?
Hello there and thank you very much for having me. Yes, absolutely brother. My name is Guyus Grey. I am a music producer, live act, storyteller and entrepreneur. The music I write is electronic music, ranging from progressive techno to modern jacking house jams. I have also recently begun composing chilled hip-hop-like beats too, which I will be putting on the B sides of all of my future EPs (after this current one).
I was born and raised in West Toronto, where I currently live and operate my studio, as well as my record company out from. I have been performing music since I was about 12, being a french horn player throughout middle school and high school (picked up DJing around then too), and have been producing electronically for about 7 years now.
2. How is living in Toronto as a creative artist?
Toronto has become a genuinely awesome city to do business in as an artist. This city is really emerging into her own hub of world renowned talent. She not at the level of NYC or London yet in terms of total global cultural influence, but I feel Toronto definitely punches above her weight class in terms of the international artists and tastemakers this city pushes out (just look at the A-listers we’ve given the world this past decade, Drake, Deadmau5, Carlo Lio, Nelly Furtado, The Weeknd, the list really just goes on at this point haha). And its not just our music industry which is booming, our whole creative industry has so much international talent flocking to it now too.
I find that there are so many unique areas, interesting neighbourhoods and different cultures in this city for any artist to draw inspirations in from. It’s one of the most multicultural cities in the world, right? So when I go exploring for inspiration in this city it becomes a really fun adventure of ‘seeing the world’ because our neighbourhoods are more or less broken up into their respected cultures, creating an easily engaging way for citizens to interact one the different lifestyles. It’s really unique and awesome. I find it plays a huge part on my overall sound as an artist based in Toronto.
For me, on a personal level, I’m really blessed because my studio is situated at the edge of a hill that over looks both a forested national park and downtown Toronto. This is really cool because I get to combine a unique juxtaposition of multicultural industrialized city life with the nature around me into my electronic music. In a single day while producing back here, I can chill with live deer, turkey and foxes while simultaneously admiring the glow of neon city lights and traffic. Where I live in Toronto gives me the best of both worlds. I get to f-off from the world, to produce records for you, while passively observing and drawing inspiration from it through my studio.
3. Who have been your biggest influences for your sound and style?
Both of my parents I feel have an impeccable taste in music and they ultimately introduced me to the artists that would become my biggest influences. The genres and sounds I was exposed while growing up to were not the typically 90s pop radio stuff that I found my childhood peers enjoying. I mean I would still listen to the pop garbage of that era when I was a kid to try and fit in I guess, (boy bands and all that) but because of my parents, the primary sounds I grew up listening to were really diverse.
It ranged from the classical giants like Beethoven and Brahms, to soul masters such as Marvin Gaye and James Brown, as well as rock geniuses like Hendrix or Led Zeppelin. My Dadd threw in some classic 90s hip-hop every now and then too. Later on I recently found out that my Mum would play artists like Madonna and Queen on her belly while pregnant with me, which I’m sure had influenced my sound to some degree as well.
What inspired me to dive into the world of electronic music was a combination of my father brining home a Deep Dish CD for me when he returned from the early days of Miami Music Week, as well as my discovering of Plastikman (and later Deadmau5), which just changed the whole perception I had of what an artist could do with electronic music and who an electronic musician could be. From there I fell in love with how awesome and free this genre is, and I just began expanding my electronic library as well as my knowledge base of electronic music as best as I could. Picking up different synths, and drum machines to play with, working my ass off to afford turntables and a JP-08, educating myself in different production tips and tricks, learning how to properly calibrate ones monitors for mixing, learning what the f*ck mixing even is, how to operate your DAW, etc.
4. Can we talk about your new EP ‘Rain Summoner’ being released on your label Downpour? How did you go about creating this EP, could you talk me through me through the processes of each three tracks?
Forgive me if this answer gets longer than the rest, but I am a storyteller, and I enjoy captivating people through story, especially when it’s a story about what inspired a specific pieces of my work. Haha.
I know this sounds weird by I don’t have a single track process when I write music. I typically write multiple pieces at once or within a similar timeframe, all which focus on a similar motifs and subject matter. No tracks on any of my are independent from one another. Most of my work can be seen as concept EPs. I love educating myself on literally everything, from history to science, you name it. When I discover something new, I learn all that I can from it so that I can create my own interpretation of what I’ve discovered for others to experience and enjoy. I believe that one of the many jobs an artist has is to capture and inspire the minds of his or her audience with enjoyable material that they would have never sought to explore or learn about before.
Now, with all of my philosophical nonsense and jargon said and out the way; in 2013 I was in Ecuador exploring the volcanic mountain Cotopaxi. While at the foot of the mountain, the tour guide began explaining how the native peoples of this land used to once refer to the mountain as the rain summoner. She went onto telling me that this culture would have crazy ceremonies for this mountain during dry seasons so that it would summon the rain when needed. Now, I may or may not have been elevated to a ‘higher’ consciousness at the time, if you know what I’m saying, and I thought all that was billiant. So I snapped a photo of the mountain on my 35mm film camera and continued on. I knew then I wanted to compose an EP about this mountain and my experience around it, I just didn’t feel I was ready to do it then in 2013.
Fast forward to this past summer, 2018, I was chilling with a girlfriend of mine looking through my film photos when we pulled out the image of Cotopaxi. I looked at it and thought, “Yeah, I think I’m now ready to turn these experiences into some electronic music.” So I pulled out my field notes from 2013 and I got to work on the EP. The title track Rain Summoner came super easy, I think I banged it out in a 3 hours (probably because I had been sitting on it for 5 years haha). Lemon Walker and Phenotype were a bit more difficult because I had to get back into that ‘higher’ mindset I had during the initial exploration of Cotopaxi, which required me to go out and find the strain that lead to said ‘higher’ mindset. Once that was found, consumed and the ‘higher’ mindset was brought out, the two tracks came out pretty naturally. Lemon Walker is aptly named after said strain. Phenotype was inspired by the smells of both the strain and the mountainous area I was exploring.
5. What initially led you to create Downpour Recordings?
Ahhh, Downpour Recordings, my love child. Haha. Honestly mate, I had this vision in high school of operating a creative hub that let me publish content the way I wanted to, with little restrictions or things holding me back. I wanted to give other artists and hopefully fans a spot to experience escapism and maybe find some inspiration for their lives too.
So I figured the best way to go about doing that was to create your own brand/ company. It began as a promotions and nightlife company, we did some wicked bookings and managed some epic weekly events. We later evolved her into a record label and now are in the process of having her expanded into a fully integrated recording company and entertainment enterprise with an expanded universe of music, characters, stories and all sorts of content. More on that next time though 😉
I should mention that all of the current album art that the company uses are 35mm film photographs that I have taken from the various parts of the world that I have explored. We had a space theme going on for a while, and in 2017 decided to change the aesthetic direction as I wanted to give fans images that were as real and genuine as the sounds they were listening to. Something that would bring the into the photo as they’d listen to the music.
6. What are your biggest challenges you face as an artist and label owner in the industry right now?
I don’t view things in my life or business as challenges. The standard idea of a challenge doesn’t really exist to me. To me they are simply objectives, goals, projects that I have not yet gotten around to completing.
As a label owner and business man, one of the objectives that I am currently fascinated with completing is how to effectively integrate different operations within Downpour and in tern reach new fans for the company through the new operations. For example, at Downpour we are currently in the process of developing an Art portion to the company where we have the album art blown up onto custom acrylic panels and then have said sold art to fans with a vinyl album and smaller poster of the album (plus an artist image poster) included with each purchase.
As the music industry is evolving into a new beast, with the comeuppance of streaming services dominating the music market and putting money back into the pockets of artists and labels, another objective I am also fascinated with how to grow my artist brand effectively on these services and engage with new fans through these mediums. After all, this is where the future of the music market lies, direct sales is pretty much dead, and because of this I find streaming platforms are also where I can reach the most amount of active fans. So I would say that fan growth and keeping the fans engaged with loving the work will always be at the centre of what I consider to be my main objectives in the music industry.
7. What was the last track you listened to that blew you away?
My brother has an extended edition of Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man album on vinyl. Theres a track on there titled, ‘“T” Stands for Trouble – Unedited Vocal Version’, you can find it on Spotify too, give it a listen. If it doesn’t blow you away delete this part of the interview. Haha. :p
Honestly mate, that piece of music is unbelievable, I hadn’t heard it in years and it just came on by chance last month, and man… I stopped everything I was doing just to jam out. I find it’s one of those records that just has everything it needs to be near perfect. That and the recorded performance of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Machine Gun Live at the Fillmore in ’69,’ are the last couple of records I’ve recently heard that have literally blown me right away.
On the techno side of things, I heard ‘Dances on Wood’ (Original Mix) by Thomas Schumacher last month and that track is just beautiful. It’s such a complete dance record.
8. What other genres do you listen to that express the sound of Toronto?
As I mentioned above, Toronto is incredibly unique due to the extensive multicultural nature of this city. The different genres one can encounter just on their day to day activities is exponentially huge. One genre that is all over the city would be reggae and soca music. We have a whole weekend in the summer dedicated to it called Caribana.
I’ll will also confess that I have stepped out of Toronto’s club and techno nightlife scene for a while now to refine my studio skills and become a better producer/ performer. I am not too sure what’s exactly happening there at the moment, however I know that companies like INK and Live Nation, along with clubs like Coda, as well as resident Toronto DJs like my homies Casualties of Sound all do a phenomenal job of representing what our cities nightlife techno scene is all about.
9. I’ve seen on your Instagram you have a lot of fun equipment in your studio, could you talk to me about your favourite bits of kit?
Oh absolutely. I would love to. Currently for hardware in my studio I operate with a Maschine MK2, the complete Roland Aira Series, the Korg volca bass, keys and sampler, the OP-1 by Teenage Engineering, the K2 controllers by Allen & Heath as well as the JP-08 by Roland. I’m probably forgetting something but oh well. haha. I operate it all through Ableton.
My favourite synth in the collection is the JP-08. She’s a beautiful instrument and gives me everything I am looking for in terms of my sound and playability. When I perform live, I’ll occasionally bring her out for the gig just to give that extra oomph to the live set. My favourite controller is a combination of the Maschine MK2 and A&H K2’s, I run them off of custom MIDI mappings I built so doing things in the studio are super easy and fluid with these instruments in my arsenal.
10. What in your opinion makes your music stand out?
Umm the fact that its absolutely awesome, unlike anything you’ve ever heard, and will take you to the farthest depths of the universe or your imagination, maybe?… Duh… haha. 😉
No seriously, I think a unique selling point to my work is found in how I try to make my tracks feel real, emotionally sound and groovy as f*ck. I mean yes, this is electronic music/ music made with electronics, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that this is music and therefore must tell a story or convey some form of an emotion for the listener. When I’m done writing, I physically go back and analyze every note, groove, sound, etc. in my records to ensure that I’ve put that feeling of naturalness and harmony into the music. To ensure that the story I am trying to tell can get conveyed as electronic music in the best way possible. Another thing I guess is in how I try to make new sounds or create stuff that isn’t typically conventional for electronic music, something that I hope is diverse for listeners.
11. What is on the horizon for next year and do you have anything planned you want to share?
A good magician never reveals all of his tricks. But I will say this, Downpour and Guyus Grey are working on some really exciting and innovative projects for 2019 and 2020. What I am allowed to say for now is to watch for Downpour Art, which will be launching in Q1 2019. Also keep an eye out for the new promotional materials Guyus Grey’s brand launching too, and the attached expanded universe that will come with it.