Gavin Griffin, also known as GMJ, has been a prominent figure in underground electronic dance music for over two decades.
Forging a successful career as a DJ, event organizer and producer, Gavin is a pioneering force in the Melbourne scene and has performed all over the globe. Playing alongside some of the world’s leading names in progressive, it was a natural evolution that Gavin would bring his passion for hypnotic soundscapes and deep grooves to the studio setting.
In 2007 the GMJ project was born and has since landed on iconic imprints including Replug, Sudbeat, AnjunaDeep, Proton, Parquet, Balance Music, Hoomidaas and many more. Spacious yet powerful, the GMJ sound has been supported by luminaries such as Hernan Cattaneo, Cid Inc, Guy J, Nick Warren, Alex O’Rion, and regularly features on the front pages & charts of the world’s biggest dance music retailer Beatport.com, with numerous top 10 entries and a rise in 2021 to the top 10 selling artists on beatstats in the genre.
Touring has followed extensively through his native Australia and beyond to locations such as Sri Lanka, Europe, Japan, India, New Zealand, Noumea and many more. Alongside great friend and collaborator Matter, the pair formed their ”Meanwhile Recordings” imprint in 2020, which has gone on to become one of the most acclaimed and respected labels in progressive house, housing the pairs own productions and becoming a destination imprint for the world’s best. With productions, the labels and tours scaling to new heights, the future is unfolding in luminous waves!
Hi Gavin, it’s a pleasure and honor to speak with you for Progresivna Suza.
Let’s start this conversation from the beginning of your career. What were some of the main challenges when you were starting out as a DJ?
Hey guys! Very happy to talk with you, big thanks for reaching out!
Starting out I was quite fortunate in many ways and also things seemed to “fall into place”, the universe put me in the places I was meant to be.
I was working at a rave culture shop in Melbourne, and through this I met quite a few promoters. My partner at the time owned the shop and she managed to help me find some early gigs. In those early days the hardest thing was, I started on CDs, where all the venues were using vinyl! It didn’t take long though for me to move over to vinyl.
Based in Melbourne (Australia) you’ve been a primary figure in the progressive house scene for over a decade. What are your thoughts on the current state of the scene and what would you like to see maybe more?
The current state of the scene in Australia is, I feel is a combination of hopeful and challenging. Big events still work, names like Guy J or Hernan Cattaneo and Nick Warren, but for promoters putting on smaller events it is a particularly challenging time as people aren’t buying tickets until the last minute often, if at all.
In my home city Melbourne we have not many smaller nights running in the progressive sound, at the moment due to these factors, but there are still very passionate crews here and I believe we will rise out of it. In Australia we have so much amazing musical talent and I hope and feel the way forward is for crews to work together to help build the smaller events with our local talent that are the heartbeat of any scene. I would love to see people coming out and supporting the locals that are putting out amazing music and working so hard on their craft.
What were your early rave days in Australia like and could you remember the first dance show that really blew your mind?
I started raving in the early 1990s and those days were truly amazing and life changing. I really felt like I “came home” through some of the experiences I had then, of complete awe and wonder about the music I was experiencing, the lighting, venues, crowd, everything was pure. There were so many amazing events in those days, but one of my all time musical heroes and prophets is Oliver Lieb – he played 2 live shows in the early to mid 90s that were absolutely mind blowing and transformative for me!
By your opinion, what are the most noticeable changes to the electronic music industry that you’ve observed over the course of your career?
Wow there are so many! Transitions from vinyl to CD to digital, were all movements I have experienced. The advent of social media (for better or worse) has been a massive change since my early days. I remember starting my “myspace” page back in the day, and its amazing how much socials have become prevalent in a musicians life. For me this is of course a very powerful tool, but can also be draining and toxic if in excess or the modern blight of promoters booking artists based on “stats”.
Also I remember the days when people weren’t holding a phone to experience a moment on the dance floor, but were actually there experiencing it. Beyond it all is, the amazing evolution of the music itself. So much transformation in what is possible and the possibilities are endless. The tools to take us there of course too! From production set ups on ever futuristic computers, to club set ups, VST’s and hardware synths and more!
Speaking about your monthly radio show ‘Future Memory’, we have to admit that you deliver quality mixes every time, including the guest mixes as well. What elements do you bring to maintain a level of originality?
Thanks so much for that! The focus on ‘Future Memory’ of late has shifted for me into wanting to support up and coming and emerging artists who are really breaking through or deserve to be heard in my guest mix slots. I have a pretty discerning ear after all these years and I don’t choose a guest lightly.
There are so many talented people coming through and it’s great to be able to help in some way! For my own sets, my focus is always on the deep and ethereal in future memory. It is also a good space to test out some new and upcoming releases!
In late 2015, you joined forces with Matter (Matty Doyle). Tell us a little bit more how did the GMJ & Matter collaboration come about.
In 2015 I read an online interview Matty had written for Progressive House Worldwide and I really resonated with what he was saying and what music means for him. I had been following his sound for a while as well, using tracks in my sets, so I sent him a private SoundCloud message just saying hi and maybe we should catch up sometime and chat about the music and maybe even have a jam! The funny thing was, he was about to reach out to me as well, so the stars aligned there I guess you could say!
Next thing, you know, I was going to his house, meeting his wife and kids and starting to work on some tunes together. Our intention was to write an EP that we could both listen to in our Rainbow Serpent Festival sets and we achieved that! The EP was released on Proton Music and the rest is history and the future being made!
Together, you founded Meanwhile label in 2020 and since then, label had constant growth, with many amazing artists and releases behind. How do you feel about running a label and how pleased are you with the success of it so far?
Meanwhile has been an amazing outlet for Matty and I, for both our own music and for showcasing our many producer friends and amazing artists from around the world. We owe a huge thanks to Jason from Proton, for meeting with us at ADE in 2019 and showing how Proton could make it easy for us to get started. 2020 was for us a great time to start the label, as we both felt more than ever people needed music to give meaning and to rise above the negativity that swept the planet with Covid.
Our focus with Meanwhile is always on the deep and cosmic sound, and more than ever that vibration was something important for people to feel inside themselves. Since then we are completely humbled and amazed by how the label has grown and evolved and continue to do so! We are grateful to all the amazing artists who trust us with their work and we are very excited with what’s to come!
What young DJs or producers have grabbed your attention?
Many great artists are coming through, some of my faves of late include Jiminy Hop, Ivan Aliaga, Andres Moris, Covsky, EMPHI, Not Demure, Meeting Molly and many more!
Last year, you and Matter were included at the project by visual artist Andy Thomas, working on the soundtrack for it. Can you tell us something more about this experience and switching from the progressive house tunes to, let’s say, more ambient music?
Andy is a long time friend of both Matty and I, from different circles even before we met (fun fact there)! He has been honing his craft for years and had spoken to both, Matty and I individually, about doing something together, and then the three of us, so when Andy was chosen to present his work at the Lume gallery in Melbourne, he asked us to work on the sound with him.
The process and experience is so much fun. We have now worked on a couple of projects with Andy (a piece for Avatar 2 was the second), and both times we have been layering and timing sound moods to his visuals. Sitting together and refining this process is very rewarding and inspiring. We have some plans for more collaborations this year and beyond, including ideas for a combined transportable audio visual live show.
So obviously you have the difficult job of juggling your time between the label, your radio show, DJing and of course your own music production as GMJ, including the collaboration with Matter also. Which of these do you find the most challenging to keep on top of?
The most challenging parts are keeping up with the social media stuff when you sometimes can’t be bothered, haha. Of course, as a creative inspiration does ebb and flow and this is the nature of things; keeping yourself detached and keeping on going at these times can be challenging. Music production is a great teacher in life lessons and as in anything you need to work through the lean times to embrace the exciting ones!
For the end of this conversation, we have to mention great time during ADE festival in October. You performed there on a few events with Matty. How would you say Amsterdam stacks up against dance music ”centers” like London and Berlin? We can say, there is a very educated fanbase with promoters and industry figures frequently looking to expand the artistry and creativity.
It was so awesome to hang with you Marina in Malta and at ADE! I will never forget us riding in Ruby’s car (the mayor of Malta, haha) listening to Navar’s incredible “Return Of the Sun” together! Beyond that, ADE was so special; this was my second time, and Matty’s, and each time it is so fulfilling to be around so many of your peers, artists and humans you admire and resonate with! We were privileged to run our own event last year for Meanwhile and Morning After at Club NL and that was so epic!
For me nothing so far compares to ADE in terms of how many amazing events there are in the city in so many amazing spaces during those 5 days! It can be hard to see and hear everything you really would like to, but what is for certain is, you will come away feeling tired but inspired and regenerated at the same time.
Can’t wait for ADE 2023!
Thank you once again Gavin on your time for this talk, we really enjoyed.
Big thanks guys, it is my pleasure and thanks again for having me!