Review and interview by Michael McCarthy
Last week fans of Britney Spears were treated to a special release, BARE, an unofficial album containing over a dozen unreleased songs produced by a fan who calls himself Gryves, otherwise known as Dani Alcázar. More than a compilation of demos, the songs on BARE have been done over with Gryves not only remixing them but adding instruments (which he performed) and taking some away. Additionally, the project has been mastered to sound as though each of the tracks was made for this album, as though they were all recorded during the same sessions with the same producer and mixer. It’s quite the treat, and very cohesive, to be sure. I’m especially fond of its rich electro-pop sound and the production of the smooth bass guitar noodling. And not only does it contain some killer unreleased gems, there are songs on hand that simply did not exist until Gryves created them. Two such songs are covers of Radiohead’s “How To Disappear Completely” and Björk’s “Generous Palmstroke.” Technically speaking, Britney has never covered either song. But that didn’t stop Gryves from crafting them out of thin air. Well, OK, not thin air exactly, but he did extract words she’s sung from dozens of songs and piece them together, altering the pitch and otherwise tweaking them, until he had assembled these covers. They might not be the strongest tracks on BARE but they’re certainly among the most interesting. All in all, it’s a very spell-binding collection that no proper Britney Spears fan should be without. I was so taken with it that I reached out to Gryves himself and conducted the following interview…
First of all, what should we call you? Are you just crediting yourself as Gryves for this release?
Yeah, Gryves is fine, as it’s my artistic name. ^^ You can call me Dani too.
Had you made any other fan albums before producing Britney Spears: Bare? If so, can you tell us about some of them?
Well, I haven’t. This is my first album. ^^ I’ve made lots of remixes before Bare though, but sadly, most of them have been taken down and lost forever.
Is it safe to assume that Britney is your favorite pop star?
Yes! I’ve been a fan of her since the beggining. I was 4 and I remember listening to Baby One More Time for the first time – and I thought it was Michael Jackson. I’ve grown up with her. :3
Who else are you a fan of?
I’m also a huge fan of Madonna. <3 And I love Björk, P!nk, Melanie C, Marina and the Diamonds… And many more. 😀
I’m very impressed with how all of the songs on Bare really sound like they’re from the same album. Did you modify any of the demos you used here to make them sound right together? If so, what sort of changes did you make?
Yes, I edited all of them, but some are completely different instrumentals. For example, Welcome To Me, Baby Boy or Remembrance Of Who I Am – which I changed almost everything on the song. Then we have Look Who’s Talking or Rockstar, which are less heavily changed – I added some percussion on the background, some more instruments, changed the structure of the song making it longer…
Which songs were demos? What albums were they written for?
All of them are demo songs, except for Bare, Fantasy, Perfume, Generous Palmstroke and How To Disappear Completely. We have demos from Britney-era like Welcome To Me; In The Zone-era like Strangest Love, Ouch, Peepshow, Look Who’s Talking, Money Love & Happiness, and Rockstar; Blackout-era like Remembrance/Rebellion, Just Yesterday, 911, Sugarfall and Let Go.
To my ears, Bare sounds like an album that should have come in between Blackout and Circus. Is there a particular album that you wanted it to sound like?
Well, actually I wanted it to sound like an In the Zone 2.0 or something like Ray of Light. As you can see, most of the demos used are from the In The Zone era, and the mysterious Original Doll era. But my main purpose was to make a completely different album, something in a style we’ve never heard on her, and I think I kinda did it – although not having the official acapella of these songs made it sound too dirty at times.
Somehow you’ve created covers of Bjork’s “Generous Palmstroke” and Radiohead’s “How To Disappear Completely.” Could you tell us how you pieced those together? What software did you use to do this?
It’s kinda hard to explain, but I like to think of it as a “musical collage”. I took pieces of diverse acapellas of her. I did this word by word, finding songs that sang what I needed and assembling them. I changed the pitch and then I mixed them on ProTools.
Are there any other tracks that you created?
I made a lot of stuff that finally didn’t make it into the album. I might release a short “part two” of Bare, with 4 or 5 more songs.
I think it’s safe to assume that Radiohead and Bjork had an influence on you when you were crafting Bare. Who else influenced you?
Well, Björk – specially Vespertine, Biophilia and Vulnicura albums – inspired me more than Radiohead, I guess. I was “inspired” by Miley’s new album too, the one with the “dead petz”, and all of Madonna’s albums since Bedtime Stories too – I guess you can notice this on Ouch! particularly.
How long did it take you to produce Bare? Did you reach a point where it sounded perfect to you and then leave it alone or did you find yourself constantly tweaking it?
Oh, I would still be tweaking it. That’s why I’ve been 2 years producing it, and I changed its concept and name so many times (Living Legend, Peepshow, Recover…). I’m happy with the outcome anyway, but I’m one of those people who are never 100% satisfied with the results.
Are you happy with the version you’ve released via Soundcloud or do you wish you could go back and change something? If you would change something, what would it be and how would you change it?
Yes, I am happy, but I wish I could change Remembrance Of Who I Am, for example. I love the concept, but it’s clear the demo I used hadn’t the greatest quality.
Have you heard anything from Britney or her people about this? Are you afraid they’ll sue you for it?
No, I think they won’t heard this. One part of me is wishing them to notice it, but yeah, the other part is kinda scared if they don’t take this as a tribute, but as a copyright infringment.
Aside from working on Bare, are you a musician? If so, what sort of songs do you make? Do you play any instruments?
Yes, I guess I might call myself musician, but I’m not really as good playing instruments as I am producing. I play piano, guitar and ukelele too. ^^
Do you plan to make any other albums like Bare? Are you working on something already?
I’m already thinking about making another one like Bare, but I’m not sure of which artist will be “my next victim”. I’m thinking about Madonna, Lady Gaga or Ke$ha.
What are you listening to lately?
I still have Rebel Heart by Madonna stuck in my head, and I’ve been listening to Melody’s Echo Chamber this last week too.
Thanks for taking the time to do this!
Download your copy of BARE from Gryves on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/gryvesmartell
Gryves on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GryvesMartell