Grimes talks about Discord and his album “Space Opera”
Discord – The Movie, which also included a J Balvin cameo, is part of Discord’s recent “Imagine a Place” campaign reframing the once-gamer-centric platform as a place where people with all kinds of interests can come together – y including the artists and their fans. After a preview of the film in the press – and between the boisterous interruptions of her one-year-old baby – Grimes took a moment to discuss his strategy as an artist on Discord, his relationship with social media, the how her upcoming “space opera” album differs from her last and future plans for television and podcasting.
Watch the short film below, and scroll down to hear Grimes herself.
How did you first learn about Discord?
I actually heard about Discord because I needed this teenager to help me figure out how to create a 3D model – it’s kind of a long story. I had a technical issue, and the person who was going to teach me how to fix it was like, “I only use Discord,” because they were, like, 14 years old. And then if I did any kind of group play situation, I’d be on Discord, because it’s fun if you play games with a group of people and everyone is chatting. So I was using it for social and personal life stuff.
What did you like about Discord that led you to launch your own official server?
I thought for a long time that we should start a Grimes server. The more I get into the gaming community, it’s a lot less toxic than the community of independent music fans. Everyone is going to laugh at me saying that gaming culture is less toxic than indie stan culture, but it’s kind of true, frankly, to have lived a lot in both. [Discord is] a healthier social network. Social media really does incite sensationalism and negativity. I started to realize that even in general, I used my fake accounts a lot more than my real accounts. Social media is much healthier if you are primarily with your friends and use them until the end, as opposed to just a time-consuming situation. I’m really into, I guess you could call it “human technology”.
Right – no one joins a Discord server to hate something. People only really congregate around things they like.
You proactively join a fandom or game or chase that you dig, as opposed to the passive consumption of information that an algorithm decides for you. I don’t get flashes of PTSD when I open Discord like I do with Twitter. [Laughs.] We just had such problems with trolls, fake news and haters. I feel like shit when there is a 13 year old kid coming in [social media] and saying, “I love Grimes!” And then there are 30 people who come to explain to them why they shouldn’t, and not even with factual information. I have the impression that it also happens with other artists. I’m just looking for better fan experiences. It sucks when you want people to engage, and then you feel like they’re intimidated or harassed when they engage. It’s a top priority for me in my life right now: how do I remove the toxicity from the fan experience?
How do you think it went when you teased “Shinigami Eyes”?
i like to play a [new] live song. It is difficult for people to grab it and download it. I like to test things on people without knowing it’s going to live on the internet forever. I think our next Stages event will be better. We’re actually going to be playing a whole bunch of new music and stuff.
From your next album?
Yeah, more stuff from my album. Sorry, our baby is just screaming, but I think … [To baby] Watch out for this step!
Ah yes, very late congratulations, by the way!
Thank you! So yeah, I just tried things. I don’t like to be too precious with music. I just like to see what people like and try things out. I really enjoy playing video games with my friends – maybe there is a way to do it with the fans at some point in the future.
What else can you tell me about the album? Is it really a space opera?
We made an album and we were like, “Is this a finished album? And that was before I signed with Columbia. Then I signed to Columbia, and we keep debating singles and that just keeps changing. It’s kind of a concept album, so it has a narrative. It’s a space opera, and I try to make it airtight, to really bring it together, to refine it. With my last album, I had a lot of big ideas, but I just left it more impressionistic. With this album, I think I have a lot more to say. I am very attached to the material. Plus, we’re continually making songs as we go. But I think we’re going to start ditching singles, which I sort of prefer. I prefer not to put too much pressure on the album, and to be able to keep adding stuff, because I like long albums too. So I think we’re going to start releasing singles this summer, then keep releasing singles and then releasing the four, five, six singles album or something like that. I’m a big fan of albums, but I also like releasing music.
I can understand the tension between wanting to get things out but also wanting to have a fully formed concept.
I think it’s enough to play the devil’s game because we’re in a real world of singles right now. There aren’t a lot of albums that I listen to, although I really enjoy it when people release a whole album these days, it’s solid. I really, really, really appreciate it. But the way things are actually consumed, it doesn’t really work that way. So whatever, I’ll do both.
From a sound point of view, would you say it’s in the same vein as your last album? Or should we expect something else?
I think it’s quite different. I try not to talk too much about it. Maybe I shouldn’t answer too many questions about the album. I’m probably not supposed to do this!
Fair enough. Knowing that your music has always intersected with futuristic concepts like the metaverse, cryptography, and artificial intelligence, how does it feel to watch the music industry as a whole and the world start to adapt?
I think it’s really great and important. I feel like over the last 10 years people have been like, “What are you talking about? Everyone is thinking, “Grimes is so eccentric and weird!” And I’m like, “No, I’m actually talking about real things. I’m not just trying to be weird. These things really exist. I feel like people perceive me as very crazy, and like, “Wow, she’s so crazy and eccentric.” It’s nice to be kind of justified on certain things.
The other thing is watching the world catch up makes us think about some really sick things to do, because we’ve been so basic for the last decade. Now, how do we actually use this technology to do things that no one has done before? Because when everyone starts to have it, we have to — [baby starts crying again] Dude, you get a real time view! But anyway, I feel like the game has gotten more difficult, and it’s really exciting. We want to do a bunch of really crazy stuff this year that nobody’s done before. We have some really good ideas and we are figuring out how to technically execute them.
I’ll let you go, but are there any other projects you would like to mention? Heard you are working on a podcast.
I am working on a podcast called Homo Techno with my friend Liv [Boeree], who was previously one of the best female poker players in the world. She’s now working in AI theory and stuff. Our thesis for the podcast is that we are no longer homo sapiens, we are “homo techno” – we are full-fledged cyborgs. It investigates the most controversial theories of Futurism or the most advanced people in their ideas or practices regarding how the world can be.
i’m also in this tv show [called Alter Ego] To choose next [virtual] pop star, who is also very post-human. No one has a body, and no one is bound by age or sex or anything like that. I really enjoyed that, because we’ve been living in a society for so long where you’re stuck in the shell you’re in, and you just have to face it. We may be about to step into a new reality where we can all live to the potential of our brains. As a woman in the industry, I don’t give a damn about my appearance. I hate to think about it. I literally don’t care, and it takes so long, and it’s expensive. We could really democratize things. All of these things give me a lot of optimism about the future.