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Interview: RL Grime

"I just like to take my time."

When Henry Steinway—better known to fans as RL Grime—dropped his debut album VOID around this time last year, I had no idea of the magnitude of party anthems that would pave my path into 2015. Since showcasing the work that would distance his image from being just a SoundCloud artist (and the face behind Dim Mak’s EDM sensation, Clockwork), Steinway has been touring the world extensively—setting crowds alight with bone-shaking bass, and drops that make your legs weak. Between touring, Halloween mixtapes and hanging with his WEDIDIT fam, Steinway stopped to have a chat about life in the trap-throne.

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Your debut album VOID dropped a year ago – looking back, how was that experience?

It was amazing, I think I learned a lot from it. And it was really awesome to be able to pretty much tour the world off of it. So I got to see a lot of new places and play a bunch of new cities. It was definitely a big milestone for me so I’m very happy about how it’s gone.

Did a lot change for you after that release?

I think so. It sort of [pulled me] further away from being just a guy that put out remixes on SoundCloud, and that’s ultimately what I wanted – to sort of have a level of artistry to it and really put time and effort into how you roll out music and how you put it out and present it to the world. So I think a learned a lot from that.

So do you think you’ll be putting out a new album?

I don’t know yet. I’m sitting on a bunch of songs that will eventually come together for either an EP or an album, but I’m not really sure yet. So right now I’m just making the music and then I’m gonna figure it out.

Do you feel any pressure on your next release because your debut album was so successful?

Not really, I mean, I think I really just wanna put out something that I’m proud of and that sort of represents where I am in my life. There’s not really pressure, but I’m definitely a perfectionist when it comes to music, so it takes me a while for me to be happy with something. I just like to take my time.

I also think there’s sometimes a kind of pressure from fans to deliver the same kind of sound when they hear a record they really love. Like, I noticed that some Shlohmo fans were kinda pissed because Dark Red didn’t sound like Bad Vibes. Do you think that the idea of fans wanting the same sound impedes on any desire you would have to explore new ones?

I think that can definitely happen to people. It’s easy to fall into just trying to please everyone else. But at the end of the day, I’ve just been sort of making what I want to be making. I just wanna put out something that I’m proud of, and I’m not interested in just putting out what’s hot right now. I think that’s the same thing that happened with Shlohmo, I think he just made what he wanted to. But I loved the album, I thought it was amazing. I think it’s easy for people to fall into that trap, but I think it’s important to just make what you want at the end of the day.

Is that kind of why you started creating music under two different monikers, with RL and Clockwork, to more freely express different genres without pissing anyone off?

Yeah, that’s exactly why. I was making house music as Clockwork for a while and it just started to feel a little stale to me. I had sort of built up this following and people had come to expect a 128bpm banger and it’s hard to sort of branch out from that. So I just decided instead of trying to shift that project toward something new, I just wanted to completely start from scratch. So that’s how it started.

Do you draw many parallels between RL Grime and Clockwork?

Yes and no. I think the RL Grime stuff is much more developed at this point. And it can be all over the place. It’s not really tied down to one sound. So, I think the similarities are like… I still really like big songs with a lot of energy and very cinematic vibe to it.

Do you find that you connect with RL more than Clockwork?

I definitely feel much more connected to the RL project right now, just because it stemmed from me moving to New York, and my life was changing at that point, so it sort of represents a new step for me. And I’ll always feel more connected with that project, I think.

Are there any major differences in the whole scene with fans and shows and business between the two?

I think because the RL project is a little more nuanced, I can sort of reach a broader audience than just people that are into generic EDM – so I can reach people that listen to indie rock or listen to rap, it’s cool to be able to cross into those worlds too.

Would you say that being apart of an artist collective with your close friends affects you creatively?

Absolutely. I think thats sort of what started the whole RL thing – because I was living in New York and hanging out with Shlohmo and Nick Melons and the guys from WEDIDIT and just getting inspired by them. Whenever we’re in LA, we still all hang out and share music and I think it’s a great outlet for me to have creatively, just to have them, because we’re all very likeminded and we have similar music. So it’s great.

What are some other major creative influences in your life?

That’s a good question… I don’t know. I love travelling, and I always like seeing new places. I know it’s sort of cliche but whenever I do travel – and play a festival or show somewhere, somewhere new – I get inspired to keep pushing the sound to try to keep reaching people that I haven’t reached before.

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You’ve mentioned that your parents are both artists, did having that art background as you were growing up help you find your path into music?

Yeah I think so, definitely. They were very open minded when I was younger. They let me go to shows, and go to festivals and stuff that I probably shouldn’t have been going to that young. But I think that’s really sort why I make music, and the reasons I got into making music and it’s been amazing. I also had to make a tough decision to drop out of school and pursue this, so they were totally supportive and I’m very fortunate to have parents like that.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learnt from them?

I think just sort of finding what you love to do and tying to focus on it. My mum is a fine art photographer, she’s had some other jobs but she’s really taking photography full on now. And it’s very inspiring because there’s a lot of parallels I found, in any art world – in photography or film or music – there’s a lot of parallels, so she’s always got really good life advice for me about being creative and about being an artist.

You’ve been touring a lot since VOID came out, how much to the crowds differ from city to city?

Yeah it sort of depends on where it is, I think. The crowds in Australia are always very crazy.

Yeah I’ve heard that.

Yeah it’s one of my favourite places to play… ever. But I think they’re not as big on rap music in Australia right now. It’s sort of a regional thing. So I’ll play less rap in Australia, but I’ll play more rap in Paris or London. It just sort of depends on how I perceive the crowd and what I think they’ll like.

What’s next for RL Grime?

Doing a bunch of shows to close out the year. Obviously coming to Australia for the end of 2015 which I can’t wait for. And trying to just finish up this project and I don’t know what it’s gonna be yet, but I’m just gonna keep making music and I’m sure it’ll fall into place sometime next year, so I’m looking forward to that.

Check out his website for tour dates, including FOMO Festival on January 9 in Brisbane.

December 29 – Beyond the Valley, VIC [Tickets]
December 31 – Origin, Perth [Tickets
January 1 – Field Day, Sydney [Tickets]
January 2 – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide [SOLD OUT] 
January 9 – FOMO Festival, Brisbane  [Tickets]

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