Julian Gray was kind enough to answer some questions before his show at U Street Music Hall tonight. Julian keeps himself busier than most – I talked to him about music creation, Graydient and some of his favorite artists. Check out the interview, and go see him tonight at U Street Music Hall.
What kind of space do you need to be creative? A laptop and headphones? In a studio locked with Ableton and a piano? The space doesn’t have to be a literal space. What helps you create the impetus to work when it’s not there?
I work best when I’m at home in my studio. I can get rough creative ideas down on the road on headphones or laptop speakers, but there’s something special about a late night writing session when it seems like the whole universe, except for you, is asleep. I get a lot of inspiration in the wee small hours of the morning. Something about it is really magical. When I’m uninspired to write music, I turn to design and other creative mediums. I’m fortunate to be interested in a lot of different types of art, so I can easily shift between mediums when I experience burn out. I don’t think I’m ever not creative.
What about a song tells you when you are done? Is it related to the original idea? Do you have any concrete rules about it?
I think when I finally come to terms with it being finished. That can be a really big uphill mental battle of “is this good enough” or “how will this resonate with the rest of my catalog and with my fans,” but eventually I become satisfied enough with something to release it. I can promise you, even the biggest artists in the industry experience this. It’s just a battle most creative people face in all mediums and something that we have to learn to get over on our own.
When does someone become a DJ or a producer? With an increase in technology the barrier to entry has decreased, almost anyone can be a DJ/producer. Looking back on your career, when did you become a DJ? When did you become a producer?
I think anyone who likes to share music with their friends is a DJ. Beatmatching and mixing are just icing on the cake. The real joy of DJing is sharing cool music with people, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. I don’t think there’s a certain hurdle you have to pass to be considered a DJ. I think very similarly of producers. I consider producers anyone who has an interest in music and creating music digitally. The second you start writing music, I think you’re a producer. Mastery comes with time, but I don’t think you need 10,000 hours to consider yourself a music producer. I think I became a producer and DJ the second I picked up my first daw and DJ program (around 13 and 14 years ago respectively).
You have been making music for quite some time. Are there any interesting mistakes or stories you look back on fondly? Losing files and recreating a project?
I think my biggest regrets are not being open minded enough when I was first starting. Not learning to get a mentor, or to forge my own way when easier ways of progress existed. I think stubbornness and close mindedness are big mistakes for new producers. When I meet musicians I appreciate or respect Today, I pretend to know nothing at all, absorbing all that I can. I think losing the notion that you always know everything helps you learn more efficiently, at least it did for me. No particular stories come to mind but I think that was the biggest psychological mistake I’ve made, and one that I’ve improved from since learning from it.
How did you go about deciding to create Julian Gray Media and Gradient Arts?
Long story short, Julian Gray media I started when I was 12 years old. I was DJing friends birthday parties at the time (middle school!) and I created a tutorial video to help a friend learn to DJ in virtual DJ (I think the tutorial still exists online!) It went pretty viral and I was determined to continue making DJing tutorials. I made several DJ tutorials – Djing evolved into Ableton live performance, and then Ableton tutorials stuck with me and I’ve been creating them since.
Graydient started from 2 ideas: a record label platform to release music my students created and a collective of some of my closest friends who also wrote music. Long story short I consolidated the two ideas and decided to make it a platform not only for music but all art forms. I talked about this in great length in my UCLA radio interview, I encourage you to give that a listen if you want the full history!
The compilation you released on Gradient has been my favorite compilation of the year. Can you tell us a bit about how it came to be?
Like I said, Graydient is a culmination of a lot of my students and close musical friends. Our first compilation was simply an art project comprised of music from several different artists, visual arts from some incredible designers and more collaborative works from other creative people. We couldn’t be prouder with it. We’re so excited at the positive reception it [received].
I have always been impressed with artists who can do it all and do it well. Jon Gooch is someone who comes to mind. You fall directly in that category. As someone who is skilled in multiple mediums, are there any artists that inspire you?
Jon is incredible! I admire his work a ton.
There’s so many artists that I could continue all day.
A few of my favorites in history include the late illusory illustrator M.C Escher and iconic graphic designer Paul rand, greatest musicians/songwriters of all time from bands like The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac, art history legends like Picasso for his magical ability to capture moments in his own vision in his paintings, and geniuses like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein that I consider artists in their own right. (It may surprise you but I’m very interested in logic, science and mathematics. Equations are elegant and artistic in their own way. I consider Einstein an artist.)
Some more current ones, creative photo editor Jordan Lloyd inspires me and moves me with every piece he creates (I highly suggest his book “history as they saw it”), the incredible designer Banksy for his eccentric pop culture stunts and the hundreds of millions of other creative people out there perpetuating their respective mediums forward and to a wider audience inspire me the most. Keep creating and bringing joy to the world with your art!