Interview: Domino Grey and ‘Boxing The Girl’
With the release of his latest E.P. Boxing The Girl, Domino Grey reaches the end of his Butterfly Affect Series. This arc of music includes instrumentals that swing from pure listening vibes to house-inspired party tracks. We sit down with this electronic artist and pick his brain over the latest releases.
Where did the obsession with butterflies come from and what does it all mean?
I wouldn’t say obsessed. It’s just the overall umbrella idea that I had everything fall under. Butterfly into caterpillar- everyone gets that. People changing over time…deciding to see yourself as you are and not through the eyes of others… The affect instead of effect, because I’m talking about how these thoughts influence our self-image and self-esteem. If you think you’re a caterpillar, you will crawl instead of fly.
But the goal is to make dance music, isn’t it? To be a part of that scene…
Well yes and many find it strange that I’d try to inject meanings and metaphors into music where- making them move is the main motive. But not every song is weighed down in deep thought or me trying to impart some kind of message. Sometimes it’s just in the liner notes. Sometimes it’s just one track and the rest are straight cuts. I party too.
The big idea for Boxing The Girl is a long, rambling message from a girl in a bit of trouble. What’s the story behind that?
I always pull my song ideas from real-life events. Usually I clean them up and make them universal enough so that everyone can relate without exposing anyone too much. We have all gotten or left an embarrassing or somewhat compromising series of messages. It’s just that no one usually saves them and slaps them on top of some music.
The one video, “It Feels Right” , I’ve seen from this EP and your online images, have you behind decks and yet you continue to say “I am not a DJ”.
Oh yeah, it’s no longer about the quotations required skills. It’s just that I don’t want you to expect me to be playing other people’s music. My set is my own music with some songs I only do live and a few other performance-based antics. I was recently asked to appear and do ‘one or two songs’ and I realized what I really do is being lost somewhere in translation. I respect DJs, but I’m a producer and artist. But DJs are vitally important to what I do.
I turn to them for early feedback and also how my songs are doing in their sets, once the records drop. Like, Nick Johnson is a DJ with People’s Choice Entertainment. He broke my first records at clubs in Manhattan and spots like Pranna. He has a very critical ear and I pretty much knew if I could get past him, I’d be fine. Sometimes when I hear these DJs talking about gear and techniques and all these rules to be a real DJ, I wonder if they remember what a DJ’s purpose is. Rock the party, break new records and never let us forget the classics. That’s it. Everything else is personal preference for how you get it done.
Is the current explosion of electronic music a good thing or a bad thing?
How can it be bad? There’s always this thought that if everyone or the wrong people discover something, then it gets watered down and loses its purity. I think that’s a silly idea. Underground spots play what they play and the top forty or even top ten charts aren’t going to change that. All we’re seeing is the same curve that was the upswing of Disco. It peaks and then it settles back into the space that it was in before the explosion of interest. If you really are an avid fan, you will follow the music like you always did. Surface dwellers will have a passing interest and move on to the next hot thing.
The American EDM craze is arena music for a new generation of disco-lovers and electronic heads. It’s big anthems meant to be enjoyed in large spaces. Remember arena-rock? Same thing. I’d be upset if someone considered my headphone-brood-music a failure because it doesn’t chart. It’s not supposed to. It’s personal…please vibe alone stuff. Every piece of art has a context and it’s possible, shocking I know, that the intended audience simply isn’t you. Calm down and move along.
So what are you going to do to break through?
Firstly, get my head right. This is a challenge. How do I get myself out there in front of more people and do what they’ll like and at the same time stay true to my artistic self? Again, that is a challenge. I could easily press my two thumbs against my chest and say me, me, me that’s all I care about. I’m doing it my way and if you don’t like me, then tough. But then you can’t complain when no one cares and blame the rest of the planet for being too musically-illiterate to get you. Both people need their hands open to make a handshake. Meet them halfway. I mean, I don’t make music for DJs or other producers or anyone quotations in my lane. I make music for people that will enjoy my music. Any kind if stuff that is strictly for me is stuck on a hard drive. Once I put it out there, it’s yours- to enjoy or hate or be indifferent to. It’s a challenge though.
That’s very philosophical, but what does that really mean in practice?
Okay. Okay. Think of it this way. People say commercial music is simplistic. It’s not simplistic; it’s just stripped down to the parts that are effective. The fat has been trimmed. Some artists thrive on technical wizardry, some on dexterity and technical merit. I consider dance music, in essence, to be tribal. That’s the connection I feel. So when people analyze it and argue about stuff unrelated to the vibe, I feel like they’re keying in on something else, something I’m not interested in focusing on. And when you stick to the basics of making people feel good, or whatever emotion you are trying to capture, you’ll see that a lot of their rules don’t apply.
So why end the series at all?
Seriously, I think five is enough. I’m not saying I won’t make any more records that sound like they could be on a Butterfly Affect project, but there are other ideas to explore. I have a ton of music piling up and it almost feels like it’s being blocked by the zone I’m in. It’s time to close that umbrella; the weather has changed.
What else do you have to say in closing?
Um, thanks to you for taking the time. I’m not even sure if you know how important this kind of stuff is. But yeah…thanks to everyone that takes the time to listen to my stuff. Man, I feel like I need some kind of thought here. Well, I need to say that I’m not alone in this and I have a circle of friends that help shape and aim my Domino Grey efforts. I think every artist should be able to set aside their ego and open themselves up to new ideas and considerations. I’ve never met a successful person that felt like they had all the answers, but I do know a bunch of know-it-alls that are still struggling to express themselves. Thanks Rick.
Thank you, Domino. You can check out more of Domino Grey by visiting his website www.DominoGrey.com.