INTERVIEW W COLBY GROVES : JAN 2021
Updated: Jan 10, 2021
I met Colby Groves virtually in 2018, when he was working on the publishing team at a production company in LA that was putting out one of my books. Right when the project was about to launch, the company began to implode with the energy of a gentle murder rampage, and everyone in the publishing department was sacked out of the blue... everyone, that is, except for Colby. Though we never met in person, he was there to virtually hold my and my co-author’s hands through the whole ordeal. His telephone conference line demeanor was impeccable: warm yet knowledgeable, on-the-ball yet relaxed – as if he was just kicking back while the walls around him burned, calmly sipping a Coors. He even sent us a few extra boxes of our book for free, kind of under the radar – he was just that sorta guy. Later when it was all over and the company folded, we kind of all went our own ways.
Cue December 2020: Everyone and their mom is living their life online now, and somehow it came across my radar that Colby Groves, the nice guy on the conference line from 2018, had somehow ended up in a live beat making competition on TWITCH.TV. I was new to the whole Twitch thang, but quickly found out it's a platform for gamers (which my cousin-in-law also has quite a following on). Anyway, I started tuning in for the battles, hosted on the COMPLEX Channel, and it was fucking brilliant. This week, I was able to catch up with Colby (virtually, of course), to hear more about his work, creative process, and how the hell he ended up as the rising star of the beat making world.
CS: Hey Colby! Why don’t you give your version of how we know each other.
CG: Hey Caitlin! My version of the story would be that we know each other through Utomia, of which I was lucky enough to help publish the first installment. Then, due to a shared love of music, art, and Matt Wise, we’ve managed to stay in touch.
CS: How has the pandemic affected your work life and your creative life? Has it impacted your ability to make music, and/or what you’re thinking about or inspired by? Has it changed what you’re making?
CG: I lost my day job pretty early on once the pandemic hit. I was working at a used books/movies/record store out here in Austin and once places started shutting down there wasn’t really much hope.
I’d say the pandemic has slowed my creative output. Initially I thought that being quarantined at home would give me the time and space to work, but it’s been time wasted more than anything. It’s also been a year filled with anger and frustration, which are two emotions I suppose I’m not too skilled at expressing, so creatively they’re pretty useless to me. I’ll figure out a way to make them more productive at some point. Until then I’m stuck threatening politicians on twitter, honking my horn in traffic and whatever else it is that I do.
There’s also been a pretty powerful sense of alienation and disconnect. That’s provided a healthy amount of inspiration for some pretty moody stuff that’ll never see the light of day. All in all, I’ve learned a lot and I’ll be better prepared for the next quarantine.
CS: Tell me about creeplogic, your collaborative project. What has drawn you to a collaborative musical identity vs going the solo route?
CG: My good friend Chris and I more or less formed creeplogic a decade ago when we met in school studying audio recording and whatnot. At first it was just going to be “Jim D & Colby” then we started calling ourselves the Unusual Suspects, but eventually it became creeplogic. I think we changed it for SEO reasons..? Whatever it was, I think we arrived at the correct name.
I first had a feeling that we would make good creative partners because neither of us told the other what we did. We’d been acquaintances for a few months before I knew that he rapped and he knew that I made beats, but once I heard him rap I was sold. He sounds great, what he writes is smart, very clever, and it was clear that he cared about the craft. He seemed to like rapping more than he liked *being a rapper* and I think that’s pretty key.
I prefer a more collaborative process because–simply put–I’ve never made anything that didn’t sound better with Chris on it. We still do our parts pretty independently most of the time, especially now, but there’s something so satisfying about bringing these different ingredients together and watching the pieces become a song.
I’m also not too keen on being the face of anything. To go solo would require doing that to some extent. I’m a pretty behind-the-scenes guy typically. This beat battle thing has put me more front-and-center than I would prefer. If anybody doubts that they’re welcome to tune in and see how much I blush when that camera is on me. God damn. But I’ve kinda leaned into it all. Been having fun playing with my “image.”
CS: As a musician, I love the nuance of what I’ve heard you do in the live beat making department. It’s also SO far from what I know how to do, musically. What brought you to this realm of music?
CG: This live beat making stuff is pretty new to me as well. Normally I take a lot of time to put my beats together and it’s usually never with an audience, mostly because I think it’d be very boring to watch. It’s a lot of playing with different sounds, listening to different music, changing the pitch up and down on stuff, repeatedly playing the same noises over and over with tiny little tweaks, and I’m sure none of it makes any sense outside of the dialogue and wacky problem-solving going on inside my head. I initially got into sample based hip hop production through listening to people like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Wu Tang Clan, J Dilla, Madlib, A Tribe Called Quest, No ID, MF DOOM, etc. I wanted to make stuff that sounded like them so I picked up the gear that I’d seen them photographed with, then I tried to figure out what the hell they were doing with it.
The beat battle gives contestants only 40 minutes to make a beat after being given the sample. That’s pretty short, but it’s taught me to go with my first instinct and to see it through to the end. No real time to explore other ideas. I don’t think this skill has any real value to me outside of the beat battle, however, so I’ll probably dump it once I’m knocked out of competition and get back to the tedious shit.
CS: Given the current cultural moment we’re having around discussions of race and systemic racism in our country, what is it like to be a white guy in an area of music that seems (to me at least) to be traditionally populated by black artists?
CG: Everybody knows that white people have stolen pretty much every genre of music from minority artists. The entire history of the white “race” has been one of theft and exploitation. The only thing I really wish to say to justify my participation in the hip hop community is that I approach it with an appreciation for the culture and an interest only in supporting it. I’m not interested in taking from this community in order to achieve anything for myself outside of it, which I think is at the core of appropriative behavior. That said, I’ve never been confronted about my whiteness by any of my peers, not in any serious way at least. It doesn’t really come up. I think folks are pretty good at sniffing out good intentions. I’ll never blame anybody for being skeptical, though. Just look at what white people like Vanilla Ice, Macklemore, and Alexander Hamilton have done to the genre.
CS: Ok, so this COMPLEX beat making competition on Twitch: How did this come about, and how did you get involved? Were you on Twitch already? Is it a big platform for live music?
CG: I’m not 100% sure how my participation in the battle came about. A buddy of mine in Los Angeles reached out to me and told me to send some music to a third person. I believe the third person was casting for the show. Then I had some phone calls with a fourth person who explained what the show was and asked if I was interested, which, to me, seemed like such a silly question. Picture me saying “not really.” Then the first episode aired and it was a battle between Ron Browz and Dizzy Banko. Dizzy had worked with artists like Pop Smoke and Meek Mill. Ron had worked with guys like Nas (he produced “Ether”) and Big L. I could see why the show’s producers might want to confirm that the artist is interested in giving up their Friday nights when they’re already so established.
Anyway, still no idea how I got to be a part of this but I’m grateful. Somebody involved liked my music I guess and thought I ought to be on there. I didn’t really press to find out. Didn’t want to blow it.
I’d never used twitch before this but it’s been a lot of fun. Some friends and I have been pretty active in the live comments section for the Type Beat Battle since the beginning of the show. Love host Ryan. Love the interactive side of things. We’ll probably see a lot of cool music stuff start to pop up on there if it isn’t there already.
CS: So in my eyes you’re already famous, but in reality you’ve been kind of a ghost candidate, appearing out of thin air… whereas your competitors have pretty healthy followings and have worked with well-known artists. How do you feel about being pegged as the underdog, and what has it been like to battle against opponents who have more industry experience?
CG: I love being pegged as the underdog. It’s been a great angle for me. I’m underestimated because I don’t have a ton of credits to my name, I don’t have loads of followers, I don’t have “For booking: __________@_____.com” in my instagram bio. It’s a great advantage. Of course, these are silly metrics that have no correlation to one’s ability as a beat maker, but there isn’t much out there that might tip someone off about me. My competition has no idea how much I’ve put into my music up to this point. I like the beats I make and I’ve worked hard to get myself to a place where I’m proud of what I’m putting together. That makes it hard for me to think of myself as an underdog. I’m also older than most of the other people in the contest, which has the same effect.
That said, I do have some industry experience. Nothing to be proud of. It’s not really the world for me. It’s part of the reason I moved to Texas and started applying for jobs at bookstores. I’m so skeptical of “success,” I don’t think I’ve really been affected by the amount of credits/followers the other competitors have had. Flames Emoji Beatz has to be, in my opinion, one of the most talented producers that’s been on the show and he didn’t have as many wild credits to list as some of the other people. That’s how it goes. But that was the most intimidated I’ve been by far.
CS: Have any new opportunities come from this competition? What are you doing to do to make yourself stand out during tonight’s battle?
CG: I’ve had a few people reach out with questions about my music or asked for beats. Someone did tell me that he wants to work on something and then have me direct the music video. I think it was after he saw the Cloby video. I really hope it happens. People have been very nice.
I’ll probably be on my same old bull shit tonight, although I am going to try and make it all about DOOM. My entire run on the show has been a sort of tribute to him, even though we only recently found out about his passing. My friends in the chat have been shaming the other beat makers for not appreciating DOOM enough and I think it’s more important than ever that we keep that up.
CS: What’s your next move, musically-speaking, after you eventually go as far as you can in the COMPLEX battles?
CG: Chris and I are working on more creeplogic stuff. We have a small project in mind based around a track we did a while ago called Code Words. I’m in the early stages of a project with a singer right now that I hope will blossom into something cool. Would love to work with KoF BaFF more. Hoping you and I can put some things together. I wish I was the strategic type and could tell you I had a plan for riding the Type Beat Battle wave, but I don’t. Plans are silly anyway. Did anybody’s plans work out last year?
CS: You’ve created some pretty hilarious promo videos for this whole thing (which I’m gonna post, btw). Is video or film work also something you’re pursuing? If you had to identify as a triple threat, creatively, what would your three prongs of creative genius be?
CG: I love movies. Absolutely. I’ve written some screenplays and am always trying to find ways to shoot little things here and there. It’d be a dream to one day round up the kind of capital and resources one needs to put something together. Would also love to write a book one day. I envy you.
CS: If your platform grows overnight and you’re suddenly speaking to a much wider audience, what kind of messages are the most close to your heart right now? What do you think the world needs in this moment?
CG: Well, to avoid sounding overly-opinionated and didactic, I’ll leave it at this: I’d like to see the death of capitalism and for the good people of our world to quit letting those fat pigs at the top that hoard everything decide how our resources are distributed. We need to get real about how our economy actually functions, about the immorality of profit and about the very origin of private property. We also need to blow up the CIA, defund the police, and make an example of Henry Kissinger.
CS: Do you ever wish you were back at Adaptive Studios and did you actually read Utomia or not? (DONT LIE!!!!)
CG: I wish I was still around Matt Wise, Kate Imel, Stephen Christensen, Jim Dunn and several others. I wish I was still publishing books (like Utomia parts 2 through ∞) and I wish I still had a salary. Beyond that I have no further wishes with respect to what is mentioned in this question. I did read Utomia! Several times! I also had my computer read it to me. I very much identify with my man Laoch.
CS: What do you want everyone who tunes in to support you on Friday to know about how to help you win!
CG: Set up a twitch account so you can vote and participate in the live interactive chat! It’s a lot of fun! Ask the host questions! Make it weird! Crack jokes! Talk shit about my competition! Talk shit about me! But also vote for me.