GWIZ is an amateur stock car racer, an electronic DJ, and a former ska band member.
KOSU intern Matthew Viriyapah did this interview with her back in November of 2018 and a lot of things have changed. She has since moved to Los Angeles, California, but recently came back to perform at Pride on the Plaza in Oklahoma City and is performing again in OKC in July.
Hear the interview above and read some highlights below.
On Stock Car Racing
So as a kid, I was really really really into racing, specifically stock car racing. It honestly influences the music a lot. I love racing culture a lot and last year I got to do some testing for a team called Patriot Motor Sports in Boise, Idaho… then I wrecked a car, but other than that it was fun!
When I was growing up watching channels like TNT or ESPN playing these old races that I used to watch as a kid, they had a really distinctive sound to them. Upon reviewing a lot of those races I watched as a kid, I noticed there was a lot of sounds that are untouched on in modern pop music. So I wanted to take some influence from that. You’ll hear with some of the songs we make we have real heavy distorted 80’s sounding guitar.
On Alan Kulwicki
One of our songs, "Alan Kulwicki," straight from the beginning the opening guitar melody is very much somewhere between pop and country. But the name of the song is the name of my favorite race car driver.
He was the 1992 NASCAR champion. His story really influences me. He was a person who didn’t have funding for his dream, didn’t have the high end equipment that champions usually drove, but he was DIY and he won the championship. He beat the odds. That story—when I think about the things I want to achieve in my own life—really influences me so I look up to him a whole lot.
The original version of that song actually has a vocal from Alan Kulwicki saying, “I wanted to do something special. They’ll never be another first win again and I just wanted to give them something to remember me by.” He said that when he won his first race because what he did—all the rest of the cars were going onto pit road, he pulled his car backwards down the front straightaway—he was the first person to do that.
On her monitor helmet
I was browsing Facebook and one of my friends, who is really into cosplay, she posted a photo of her in a TV helmet thing that she made to this anime convention’s web page. And at the time—I’ll be real with you—I was real depressed. And I saw this person with a TV for their head and I was like, “I relate to this. I feel like that. I feel like I don’t even need a face. I just need something else.”
She ended up selling it to me and I’ve been wearing it ever since.
Early on when I was really struggling with my self-image—when I first started this project, the monitor head made all the difference. It let me be myself on stage, essentially. It allowed me to show myself to people before I was ready to show the rest of me.
On Post Pop
I've kind of coined a new term for us—Post Pop. And the reason why I call it that is because we make pop music, but we use a lot of influences from genres or sounds that aren’t necessarily as relevant in pop music anymore.
On Crossroads Mall
I have a fascination for abandoned places. And abandoned malls in particular. I think it's really fascinating to see the death of a culture manifested in a physical space. Crossroads Mall (in Oklahoma City) really got my interest the last couple years it was open. I used to hang out there with my friends when there would be like no one around. When I was writing that song, I was like, 'this sounds real spooky… Wait a second. Crossroads is spooky.'
Leading up to the closing of Crossroads, we filmed a music video inside. Not with the mall’s permission, but I mean we didn’t really need since they were closing.
GWIZ is planning on releasing her first album and that music video filmed inside the mall later. She will be back in OKC on July 27th for Over the Rainbow: Pride Prom at Tower Theatre.