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Success Stories – October 9, 2018

His Fans Know Him as Graves

Photography: Aaron Yoshino

Christian Mochizuki grew up on Windward Oahu and earned a worldwide reputation as a music producer and DJ, and continues to work on his solo music career

Christian Mochizuki has worked with Kanye West, won a Grammy and traveled the world as a DJ and music producer. But the local boy from Kahaluu says Hawaii is where he wants to stay. His advice to those who hope to achieve similar success: Work on your music every day, just like he did, and pick a focus.

“I’m not on this, ‘Let’s do anything and everything and be insane,’ ” Mochizuki says. “In my head, I know how I want my next project to sound, sonically. Visually, I know how I want it to be represented. That took me awhile to build. It wasn’t something that just came. It took me training my brain.”

His start in music came playing guitar with friends in the neighborhood. After graduating from Castle High School, he moved to the Mainland to learn audio engineering. He returned home and worked at Island Sound Studios in Hawaii Kai, then known as Avex Honolulu Studios, deejaying almost every night at clubs in Waikiki and elsewhere, often for little pay.

His big break came at Avex, assisting Kanye West on his 2010 album,“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and West’s Jay-Z collaboration, “Watch the Throne.” Mochizuki won a Grammy for his sound engineering work on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” a complex album that many consider West’s masterpiece and some call one of the best rap albums of all time.

His DJ break came when he won a contest with other local producers as “OOF” to play at the 2014 Electric Daisy Carnival’s Discovery Stage in New York. After that, he started producing an emerging type of electronic dance music with hip-hop drums deemed “EDM Trap” that got plays on the world’s biggest music festival stages from superstars like Diplo and Flosstradamus.

Mochizuki once used the out-of-control moniker of Christian The Lion/Glitchdick, but rebranded himself simply as Graves in 2015. The former guitar-playing punk rocker turned worldwide touring producer has grown into a confident artist and father. We sit on his balcony and talk as he trims his plants and shares his story, while his family lounges inside of his music studio/apartment.

He says he is now nurturing his own distinct sound as a solo musician. His new single will be released soon, the follow-up to his 2017 EP debut named “Hilo.”

Traveling between Oahu and various Los Angeles studios like Skrillex’s has allowed him to network with some of electronic dance music’s biggest artists, including RL Grime and Flume. Those relationships have helped him shape his sound, he says.

 

“In my head, I know how I want my next project to sound, sonically. Visually, I know how I want it to be represented. That took me awhile to build. It wasn’t something that just came. It took me training my brain.”
—Christian Mochizuki

 

“When you care about something, you put more effort into it and it’s not just like throwing paint on the wall and saying, ‘Look at my art.’ That’s still art, but it’s not the same type of art as if someone sat there for 10 months painting this masterpiece. It’s a different type of art. I’m on that type of art.”

Releasing a steady stream of music, or mixes, helps him stay relevant as an in-demand producer and sell tickets to his sold-out shows on the Mainland and in Australia, Japan and elsewhere. When he’s not touring, he says, he’s working on music all day, every day, in his home studio on Oahu.

Mochizuki says Hawaii is his favorite place, even after touring the world many times. What excites him most are intimate club events he’ll do in Honolulu as a surprise, without advance promotion. He says these are similar to his DJ gigs at obscure Waikiki bars before he broke through in the music business.

He acknowledges Bruno Mars as someone who followed a similar path to musical success, including leaving the Islands to get recognized by a broader, more accepting audience. Mochizuki says that although his success took years, he doesn’t “want anyone’s sympathy, ever,” because he’s always been doing what he loves.

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