RL Grime is no stranger to bangers, but he's also got a soft side.
The 23-year-old L.A. native says he's always wanted to produce songs that are more mellow, which is what he's done on Void — his first full-length album, due out next month on L.A. label WeDidIt.
The trap/bass music DJ and producer's reinvention also comes with his first headlining tour, which kicks off today. He'll also play two sets at Hard Day of the Dead on Sunday — his own, and a second set with his Void Team crew.
We sat down with the dude himself, who's actual name is Henry Steinway, to talk about the motivations behind his musical shift, his thoughts on trap music, and where he hopes to take RL Grime in the future.
How has your sound evolved with this album?
I think this album was the first time that I had to reflect on how I wanted to be seen and the kind of music that I wanted to make for myself. It was really the first time that I discovered stuff about what I like. That’s been really great — to just go in levelheaded and not distracted by what people would think.
Have you been distracted by that before?
I think in the past I’ve made music that I know fans would like, and it never really got on a deep, like, “emotionally expressing myself” level. Around last year I put out this record called “Because of You,” and that was sort of the track that started my wanting to make an album. There was a lot of emotion behind it from what was going on in my life.
What was going on in your life?
It was just relationship things, you know. I just met a girl and I tried to put what I was feeling into music. I think it came out really well, and every time I listen to it, it sort of takes me back to that time in my life, so I want to be able to do more of that with the album.
How have you seen trap music evolve?
All this stuff has evolved. There's so many subgenres now. I know it sounds cliché, but I don’t like giving a name for any of it. As far as the stuff I’m making, I’m trying not to be pigeonholed into one sound, so a lot of the album is a variety of BPMs and genres.
You have your own stage (the Pink Stage on Sunday) at Hard Day of the Dead. How did that come about?
We’ve been really close with the Hard guys, Gary and Danny. I did my first Hard Haunted Mansion way back, three years ago. Since then, we’ve kept grinding and have maintained a really good relationship with them, and they were nice enough to give us the opportunity for the stage.
As for the other DJs slated to play on the stage, did you choose them?
Yes I did, we actually sat right here with Danny. I basically gave a list of 15 or so artists that I’m really into. It’s crazy how it all came together.
See also: Best of Hard Day of the Dead, 2013
What were you like in high school?
I was very social. I had a really tight group of friends and went to a lot of house parties. I started DJing house parties in high school — I think that had a really big influence on how I DJ now, because I’ll throw in some old tracks that I know everyone will like. I would play house party bangers and rap anthems and stuff like that.
Tell me about WeDidIt.
Wedidit was started by Nick Melons and Henry Laufer, who is Shlohmo, and they both went to [Crossroads] High School in Santa Monica, which was really close to me. They were a grade above me. It started as just a group of people making music and it’s transformed into a label. It’s crazy that so many talented people have come out of Hamilton High School and Crossroads and all of the surrounding areas. It’s also a product of growing up in LA. It’s like, you grow up in this mecca of creativity and it’s surrounding you, and it’s hard not to want to be a part of it.
What direction do you want to take RL Grime in the future?
I want to wait until the album comes out because it’s a big turning point, I think. I want to see what the reception is to it and go from there.
RL Grime plays Hard Day of the Dead on Sunday, Nov. 2. Tickets, full schedule and more info at www.harddayofthedead.com.