[Q&A] Behind the Mask with Bear Grillz
[Q&A] Behind the Mask with Bear Grillz

With his unforgettable bear costume and heavyweight bass-driven sound, Bear Grillz has quickly risen to the top of the food chain with release after release, keeping his ride-or-die fans hungry for more as his diverse output continues to push the boundaries of the genre as a whole. (Check his This Is Your Brain on Dubstep EP here for a supreme example of the flex he’s capable of.)

Having recently completed a massive tour of sold out shows across the country with the homies Terravita, Midnight Tyrannosaurus, p0gman, and Wooli, Bear Grillz shows no signs of pumping the brakes anytime soon. In addition to the killer lineup of special guests being featured at his shows, Bear Grillz has also unveiled his all new and original stage production called The Void, guaranteed to ensure a night of mayhem anywhere it’s featured. You know, just for good measure.

In the midst of all the chaos of traveling, Grillz gave Bassrush the opportunity to sit for an in-depth interview that not only covers usual talking points about future releases and projects, but also provides an intimate glimpse behind the Bear Grillz mask for a sense of the very human artist known as RJ who makes it all happen.

As RJ/Bear Grillz told us before we even began the interview proper: “For the entirety of the Bear Grillz project, I have always answered questions in the character of the bear. The ‘Bear’ has always conveyed a message of debauchery and just plain mayhem. However, moving forward with this project I will solely be answering as myself, aka ‘RJ,’ in hopes that my true message of togetherness, positivity, and love will be what you take away from anything I do.”

How was The Void tour? It looked insane!
(Laughs) The tour was AWFUL! I spent an entire month living on a bus, shared a tiny bunk with my girlfriend Ashley (aka Bee),and shared a living space the size of a normal bedroom with eight smelly grown men who never showered…and we had to work everyday!

All jokes aside, living on a tour bus is a difficult thing, but it easily ranks as the greatest month of my life. Nothing compares to being able to share this opportunity of traveling across the country, selling out shows, and meeting so many cool people with my best friends and love of my life.

Did you have a particularly favorite stop on the tour?
Even if I did have a favorite, I wouldn’t tell you! Do you think I want angry bassheads across the country calling me out?! I love you all. But if I had to pick one it would be Denver. I live in Denver, so it was so special to be able to come into my home and sell out the Ogden. I remember just a short year ago, Ashley and I were discussing the possibility of even just playing the Ogden. It seemed so far-fetched because I would see some of the biggest acts in electronic music playing there; I didn’t think I belonged. Being able to say I sold that venue out is something I will take to my grave.

Tell us a little bit about how you came up with The Void stage design.
I dreamt it up over a year ago. I wanted something that signified me being a bear, but I wanted it to look cool as well. My original idea was to DJ inside of a Bee Hive but it would have been a little too complex. I settled for a cube like structure in the shape of hexagon. I think it turned out pretty cool.

What’s it like going from support to headlining your own shows? You seem to have been able to achieve this pretty quickly!
I had two great mentors. Firstly, Datsik (Troy) took me on tour a few years ago and that was the start of the learning curve for me. There is so much to learn about being an artist that goes well beyond just music. Because of Troy, the PK sound guys really took me into their family and I’m very thankful for that.

Secondly, the (Excision) Paradox tour was everything for me. Excision (Jeff) taught me so much that I needed to learn. There is so much more that goes into growing and nurturing a brand than I realized and Jeff is the master. He’s a machine and such a smart guy. I will forever be thankful for being able to learn from him and his crew. The Paradox tour also gave me the opportunity to play in front of several thousand people every night. I think Excision’s fans took a liking to me because every show I play across the world, I swear there are more X t-shirts in the crowd than my own.

You had some really sick openers for this tour! How did that come to be?
I was fortunate enough to have my real-life friends come and play with me on this tour. I really wanted to cultivate a positive dynamic on the bus amongst everyone, so from the support to the crew, I made sure to pick people I knew would turn into a cohesive group.

[Q&A] Behind the Mask with Bear Grillz
[Q&A] Behind the Mask with Bear Grillz

Let’s get to the This Your Brain on Dubstep EP. Which track has been causing the most damage at your live shows?
Without a doubt “Rage.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen people go harder to anything I’ve ever played.

It’s one of your most diverse releases in general and it’s obvious that everyone is loving it. What was the inspiration behind it?
I think the only inspiration for me was growth as an artist. I really wanted to show a different side than just trying to make dubstep bangers. Specifically, I wanted to change lanes and make some different stuff (i.e., tunes like “Long Run”). People should be able to make whatever genre of music they want without fear of being ridiculed by the public. I see the EP as the beginning of a lot of really cool avenues I will be exploring in the future.

In addition to revealing your “true” identity this past year, the EP seems to fit in with a broader impulse to reinventing yourself as an artist as well.
Yes, revealing myself was the first step to significant changes that I’ve been making. I wanted people to connect with me as a person and not see me as just some dude with a bear head on stage. I want people who come to my shows to feel like they know they can approach me—because I’m always running in the crowd—and hang with me. I’m just some random dude who loves talking with everyone and just so happens to be a DJ. If I weren’t a DJ, I would be in the crowd raging just like everyone else. So if you see me at a show, come say hi! Don’t be shy!

What are your top four tour essentials?
One, my girlfriend Ashley, aka Bee. I can’t exist without her. Two, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I eat one after my set and one when I wake up before I fly. Three, my portable iPhone charger. I am always on my phone and I ALWAYS need power. And four, Jameson, ginger ale and lime. I typically don’t drink at shows but when I do, this is my go-to cocktail.