Following the release of the senseless ep, Justin Griffith a.k.a. GOAT took my request for an interview. I admire how he handles his musical career and how he inspires other people to be passionate with what they do. His music is a fusion on Hip Hop, Alternative rock and Pop. Other than giving us tips on how to stay buoyant in the seas of challenges that face independent artists, he also gives us a glimpse into his project H4. You will learn about it as you read along.
1. How did you come up with the moniker GOAT and what’s the meaning behind it?
When I was around 8 years old, a childhood friend gave me the nickname GOAT. After watching Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, there’s a part where they say something about a “gnarly ole’ goat dude.” We started calling each other that and it stuck to me. For a long time, my friend Brent was the only person that called me that. I began playing in bands with him years later and the name spread. Back in probably 1998, I came up with an acronym for it – Grades Of Absolute Truth. So I didn’t choose goat, it was given to me and I gave it meaning later. Within the last few years, I noticed how many people think of evil things when they think about goats, which is completely deceiving regarding my music. That’s when I really started pushing the branding of Grades Of Absolute Truth more.
2. Can you tell us about your latest release and video?
Our new project, the senseless ep, is almost anaural social experiment. After recognizing my life was out-of-control and unhealthy, I decided to design a customized 40-day cleanse based on my weaknesses. I committed to specific diet restrictions and water intake, but also refrained from touching people, intimacy, listening to music, watching TV/movies, documented how many times I visually admired women, and more. I needed a change for myself and I wanted to build an inspirational bank to write from. We’re constantly on sensory overload and things bombard our senses every minute – marketing, advertising, entertainment – all targeting your cravings. I wanted to cleanse myself of some of that. I wanted to get back to the roots of what I feel like lifeshould be about. Less clutter, more substance minus substances.
Photo by Danny Duran
After I completed the senseLESS Cleanse, I designed five 48-hour self-induced experiments aimed to deaden one sense at a time. For example, I blind-folded myself for a weekend. It helped me appreciate my blessings more. The songs from the senseless ep are directly inspired by these experiences.
Our new video, “Hands Around My Throat,” is a story of struggle and addiction. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, food, or whatever…we all have vices. Once something has you by the throat, you’re finished until you make a decision to fight it. If you defeat it, you can’t ever let that issue out of sight because it’ll sneak back into you. “Lost in the darkness” is a phrase repeated throughout the song and Director Teddy Cool played with lighting and shadows to back that up. Glimpses of hope appear in the lyrics and the occasional shots with the bright white background drive that home. Roger Charo was in charge of editing and special effects – his post-production work blew me away. Lourdes Mabel did an amazing job of personifying struggle. We’ve heard several people comment on how creepy she played her role and that’s exactly what we were going for. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss Double J sporadically appearing in the shadows behind me. I also have to give a shout out to Jordan Palmer of JP2 Photography for makeup and Joel Salazar of Too Fresh Productions for putting in work behind-the-scenes.
3. How’s the music scene in Dallas these days?
It’s on a slow and steady incline. There are struggles like anywhere else, but the talent is thick here. I’ve read and heard that many critics feel like Dallas doesn’t have a sound. I see that as a strength. On the other hand, I’m definitely not a representative of mainstream thinking. I want diversity and multiple flavors to taste. This is my home, so I fully believe in what it can become. On any day of the week, there’s multiple shows to choose from.
4. You also play the guitar and other instruments, right? What other musical things do you do?
Yep, my first love was the guitar. I grew up listening to and idolizing musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Slash from Guns-n-Roses. That’s where my passion for music began. Then it slowly progressed into learning more about writing, singing, bass, piano, drums/percussion, sequencing, and production. Honestly, I’m just attracted to anything that has to do with music…it’s my life.
5. How challenging was the recording of the new EP compared to the rest?
The most challenging part of recording the senseless ep was the fact that Double J & I are both crazy perfectionists. That’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because now that it’s complete, it’s exactly how I envisioned it to be. It’s a curse because it took so long for us to agree that it was finished. With that said, I’ve never been so ready for that release date. With past projects, there were always things that I wish I had done. Not with this one, it was time.
6. You are also doing merchandising. I have seen the T-shirts and other things. Do you think this is necessary for artists in terms of propagating your ideas, style and brand?
Yes, I absolutely think it’s necessary. When someone believes in what you do enough to wear it across their chest, that’s powerful. That’s always been one of the coolest things people can do to support us. Because of that, I make it a consistent priority to release fresh and comfymerch – baseball tees, hoodies, thermals, t-shirts,racerback tanks, boy shorts,coozies, stickers, and more. Plus, it has opened the door to collaborate with visual artists and pushes usto be creative in another way.
7. What are the causes that you are passionate about?
Overall, I feel like we all need to lend a hand when we’re able to. Back in 2008, I foundedH4 (Hip Hop Helps Heal). It’s a non-profit collective built on the love of hip hop culture, where egos are left at home and the people involved become selfless. With close partnership with The Intelligent South, BumTheary,ArtLoveMagic, and more, we pledge to throw benefit shows annually to aid specific concerns of the community. We’ve raised and contributed thousands of dollars to organizations, such as Genesis Women’s Shelter, Toys For Tots, American Lung Association, National Breast Cancer Foundation, the Susan G.Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Salvation Army, and Children’s Medical Center. No one involved in our shows gets paid a penny and all profits go directly to the charity we chose. Hip hopfrequently has negative connotations attached to it, but we try to disprove that mentality the best we can.
8. What’s the best thing about playing live and meeting your listeners?
Playing live is an addiction and I go through withdrawals when I go long periods of time without it. Feeling the energy and connecting with people in the moment is amazing. When a listener tells me that a song has helped them through a tough time in their life, that’s one of the best feelings in the world. Music has always been a form of therapy for me. So when someone can relate to something I went through and it directly helps them, I think of it as turning something negative into a positive.
9. Who is your mentor?
I’ve never had anyone that I’d call a musical mentor. There are people that I’ve learned from, but only for short periods of time.
Dr. Paul Tucker and Dr. David Schwarz were two professors I learned a great deal from while studying music at UNT, but I’ve also learned from collaborating and consistently working with other lyricists and musicians. The internet is something that’s really contributed to my growth, but it’s probably stunted it in ways too. Tom Jackson, Derek Sivers, and John Oszajca are a few industry leaders that I’ve been following online for a while. They put amazing info out for indie musicians.
10. What’s your message to your readers?
I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to hear what I’m about. Please feel free to hit me up anytime, it’s always cool to connect. You can also sign up to get 7 free songs on my site. Check out the LIVE IN YOUR LIVING ROOM page while you’re there too!
Stand up against the struggle , Time to make a few changes.
These are the lines that are repeated throughout the song. For Justin Griffin a.k.a Grades of Absolute Truth, the message is important as the music. The aggressive sound is more Nine Inch Nails than say, Bone Thugs and Harmony. A new video debuted just a couple of hours ago and is now available via YouTube. An interview with this groovy alternative rock artist will be out soon. So watch out for that one. For now enjoy this wonderful song. And drop him a line when you can!
Lost (Acoustic Version)
The Intelligent South
Director: Teddy Cool
The shout out for this writing goes to Justin Griffith a.k.a. GOAT(Grades of Absolute Truth). I follow his Instagram and Twitter feeds and I understand how he keeps his music community happy. Apart from writing and performing his music, he also teaches kids and adults to learn musical instruments, even if he doesn’t teach them to sing or rap. And what is that? Well, he has this exciting merchandising going on.
These days it is not enough to post tunes or performing live through social media. You gotta give your fans something they can use for their everyday live. And nothing is better than a cap, a shirt or a jacket-anything that’s ‘practical.’ And Griffith is so good in this. He also posts snippets of his live videos via Instagram.Instagram is a good tool in exposing your music/art/blog. Never underestimate the power of the hashtag. He reminds me a bit of Beck who jumps from one genre to another. This music video I posted represents that point.
Remember where you came from, understand where you’re at, & know where you’re going. #GradesOfAbsoluteTruth
So who are the musicians backing Griffith?
They are :GOAT(Griffith) – Lead Vocals/Guitar, Double J – Producer/Keys/Backup Vocals, Christian Sly – Guitar/Backup Vocals, Graham Impey – Bass Guitar, James Bownds – Drums/Percussion/Backup Vocals, Lourdes Mabel – Backup Vocals. His inspirations are singer/songwriters, conscious hip hop, rock, blues, (and soul while combining the depth of an introverted poet), the precision of a perfectionist, and the relevance of a leader. He was included in the Top 10 Artists in DFW by LIT Monthly.
He has an impressive array of performances having opened for Everlast, Bubba Sparxxx, Shwayze, Paul Wall, Jon Connor, King Los, Devin the Dude, Snow Tha Product, Mac Lethal, Ceschi, Mr. Dibbs, & more. He can also perform as an acoustic act, duo, trio, or with a 6-piece band. See how versatile this artist is? He exudes an amiable vibe. You can just tell it not just from his social media posts but through his charisma on stage. So yes this is a shout out to this awesome guy and I am sure other artists out there can learn from his tireless way of getting his music out there.
The holiday spirit is about keeping warm while taking that time to reflect on what was before and what will be. The songs of Michael Stovall is very proper for the atmosphere. I know people are out there busy with their preparations. Singer/songwriters have to put their craft aside to make way for family gatherings. There are those who have lost loved ones and this Christmas was awfully sad.
Goodbye & Goodluck is for all of you sad ones. It’s because no matter how hard we try, this world is not a perfect place. And though life is beautiful, life can also be painful. It’s these little things or bigger things that make us human. And this tune is so beautiful I feel my soul calmed after listening.
Passion is unpredictable. Passion makes us prolific. JP Kallio is prolific this year. He has released more than one album and wrote many songs. I know some of them are yet to see the light of day. Apart from performing and writing songs, he is busy with his music blog. He writes quality articles that merit discussion. I think when you are an artist, you just gotta ride the wave when it comes. Because there will always be moments when inspiration is hard to squeeze. It speaks for me as a blogger. There are days where I feel like I want to write something but there is nothing there to write about. There are many tunes worth covering but my brain is dried up or on something else. I am distracted. So when the impulse happens, I grab my Mac and type away in case the muse escapes again!
Wooah! Check this tune out! It’s a repost from an electronic musician that I follow, his name is Ben Landis. I am sure you people from the gaming community is familiar with his works. Anyway this tune is not from Landis but from a group called Enhanced. They are from the UK and they have more than 22,000 followers via Soundclound. This is a dance track that has the winter chills going all over your body when you listen to the melody. And yes the title is called Wintertide. I am following this group now.
Mary Fahl is my muse.
About the video:
Exiles: The Wolves of Midwinter, written by Mary Fahl, former lead singer of October Project, along with John Lissauer for the audiobook version of Anne Rice’s new novel, The Wolves of Midwinter, which will be released Oct. 15, 2013.
Lastly, don’t forget to follow this amazing Irish singer/songwriter, Peter Chains. I like his voice. It has got that Peter Steele kind of deep but with the soothing style of Leonard Cohen, Anyway, you be the judge. If you think Hozier is amazing, I am sure you will find his singing mind-blowing.