Bass, tech house and Jersey Club have historically had little to zero representation at the Grammys, but this year, Marshmello is bringing all of these subgenres in through the front door via a best dance/electronic album nomination for his 2021 LP, Shockwave.
The album, a dozen tracks formed from a flurry of styles and made alongside a flurry of collaborators, has given the Los Angeles-based star his first Grammy nomination. He’s up for the award alongside fellow high-profile first time nominees Black Coffee, Major Lazer, Ten City and Illenium — who, together, mark the Grammys acknowledging a group of acts who’ve long been at the forefront of their scene and respective sound.
Here, the producer talks about why he wishes the Grammys would get even more expansive when it comes to electronic music, and what he’s going to do to celebrate after the awards in Las Vegas this Sunday.
Where was Shockwave made, and how long did it take to make?
Shockwave was made right when the pandemic and quarantine started, in Hollywood, in my old house. I obviously wasn’t touring or anything, so I was just at home, so it too me about three months front to back.
Who was the first non-album collaborator you played it for, and what was their reaction?
I was in the studio working on something else, a studio that wasn’t in my house, and I remember playing it for some friends and people I was working on music with. Like, “Yo, I have some ideas for this album; this is the direction I’m going.” Their response was really great. I showed my manager as well, Moe [Shalizi]. I’m very private about my music, even to my close team, until I get it to a point where it’s like, “Okay I could release this right now,” so I was just showing them snippets here and there. Then I delivered the whole album all at once, finished.
This album was, at least a lot of the drums, very hip-hop inspired. On “Fairytale,” on “VIBR8,” it’s all hip-hop drums. I just wasn’t sure how they would take it — because, you know, Joytime III was more pop-punk leaning, and Joytime and Joytime II were more my old style. So I wasn’t really sure. But the response was great, and I was really excited.
Did you know the special album was special or a “hit”?
I can only hope to be Grammy nominated. I try not to overthink too much about the music I put out. I just think, “I like this, I think it sounds really good, I’m going to put it out.” That’s where my mind was going into this album. Not overthinking it, just doing what I want to do.
What were you doing when you found out you were nominated?
I was waking up and looking at my phone. I saw… I don’t even know how many texts. The whole screen was full. I had to scroll down. I was like, “Oh my god, what happened?”
Why do you think Shockwave appealed to Grammy voters?
I would like to think because it’s a wide range of genres within the electronic dance music genre. That’s what I was going for. With my other albums I wanted to hone in on a certain sound, but with this one, I was working on hip-hop beats a lot, I was doing this and that in a bunch of different genres and was like, “What I just try this?” Because even when I play my sets, it’s very multi-genre.
One thing that consistently stood out to me during the album-making process was listening and thinking, “Can I play this live? Would this go off live?” Some of my other albums were intentionally chiller or just kind of more song-y electronic music. If you look in my live sets, I play every single song from Shockwave. They’re all there.
The collection of albums nominated in the dance/electronic categories this year is really sonically diverse, from house to future bass to bass and beyond. What’s your take on disparate styles of dance music competing against each other in the same category?
Yeah, you know that’s the great thing about… I don’t like saying “EDM,” but in let’s just say “in EDM.” I think it’s really representative of how diverse the whole culture is. Like you said — there’s house, there’s future bass. I’m obviously proud that my album got picked, because it’s diverse in itself. I’m kind of representing multiple genres. I personally listen to a lot of genres in general, so it’s kind of in my blood to do that. I also had a bunch of favorite artists I was listening to, and I would go see their sets when I could. I just knew I could put something together with everybody that I like, regardless of what genre they are, and make it work.
In this category its the first nomination for you, Illenium, Major Lazer, Black Coffee and Ten City – why do you think it’s taken so long for such a well-established group of artists to get the nod?
I’m not sure. I’m close with most of the people nominated in the genre. I feel like we’re all just kind of… not shocked, but kind of like, “Whoa.” We’re all just super grateful. I’ve been working at this for a long time. We’ve seen all the waves in EDM, you know what I mean? I just think that everybody who is nominated has their place in electronic dance music. Everybody who got nominated represents their genre very well. We definitely have a sound and we have stuck to it and just kept doing it, doing it, doing it.
Is there anything you would like to see the Grammys change, evolve or expand in the way they handle electronic music?
This goes back to what I said before, that there’s a lot to explore in EDM. [I’d like to see] the Grammys just really dive in and get more into the nitty gritty of EDM, of producers who might not be the biggest, but who really put a lot of passion and time into their artwork. There’s so many of us.
If you got a chance to perform during the telecast, what would you do?
I’m obviously a producer, but I always really like getting hands on, whether it’s a guitar or drums or something. I would maybe do a rendition of a big song of mine with a band.
What’s the best Grammy afterparty you’ve been to?
I can’t even remember.
Are you going to Vegas for the show?
If you win, how will you celebrate?
I’m just super happy and grateful to be nominated, and to get to go under a nomination. I’m actually playing XS that night, so it’s going to be a party, regardless.