There are many ways in which mau5trap rising star Julian Gray is unlike Oscar Wilde’s vapid man-about-town title character in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. The freshly 22-years-old producer and DJ in question is perhaps one of the most introspective individuals you will ever meet. Like his almost-namesake character, however, Julian also remains almost suspiciously radiant in spite of the pressures he faces in his industry.
Just like in the book, it is the art which bears these burdens. The plot of the book involves a magical painting; Dorian’s hardships leave no physical trace thanks to a cursed portrait which itself ages, while Dorian remains youthful. Similarly, Julain’s music absorbs any sadness, loneliness, and confusion he may feel, leaving him the perpetual optimist.
I had the chance to share some words with Julian before the release of his latest single, ‘Yulian Yay’, a collaboration with Mr. Bill’s new project, Electrocado, and Ryanasaurus, out today. This eclectic track is an absolute thrill to listen to, and has surprises at every turn. There are some elements which are distinctly Julain, like the pulsating synths, which are only enhanced by Electrocado’s glitchy style.
“When I heard Mr. Bill was doing his techno alias Electrocado, I knew we had to do a collab,” Julian said. The two have been friends for years, which helped him feel comfortable sharing the work. “I’m a bit of a control freak. I have a team now, and a label, and it’s hard to let go sometimes. I want to do everything myself,” he admits. “But with collaboration I am able to let go.”
Julian’s breakout hit from earlier this year, ‘Cold Outside,’ was produced in collaboration with Dezza, who remixed one of Julian’s haunting vocal tracks, ‘Touch,’ last year. “Dezza and I became friends after ‘Touch,’ and ZeroThree actually suggested him for ‘Cold Outside’,” Julian explains. “That opened a lot of doors for me for getting into the trance progressive world which is a world I really haven’t ventured into much. It’s opened me up to a lot of that kind of music, and vice versa. My listeners are now into a lot more trancey-proggy stuff because of that collab.”
When asked the inevitable “who's next” question, Julian surprised me. “All these pop stars coming out, Billie Eillish, those types; I would love to work with them,” he said. “I also really look up to those producers who do live shows, like Porter, Madeon, Disclosure.” Julian, it turns out, has been sitting on a fully-produced live show for a while now, but hasn’t debuted that yet because “it’s a lot of hassle” (Hopefully calling him out will put the pressure on).
Somewhat ironically but also somewhat understandably, Julian doesn’t listen to electronic music that often. “I mean, I’m listening to my own stuff constantly, cuz I’m always working. But what I usually listen to is alternative, emo, indie. Sometime’s indie-pop, like The Japanese House.”This may explain some of the things that make his style so unique. While of course he has that ‘mau5trap vibe,’ which is apparent in ‘Yulian Yay’ for sure, there are attributes more gentle, and more funky, that are all him. “I have a very particular way of writing countermelodies and harmonies that a lot of people don’t do,” he says. It’s what makes my music very ‘me’".
While Julian doesn’t see himself wanting to sustain the touring-DJ lifestyle forever, he has no doubt that he will remain in the creative arts forever. His DJing career began when he was eleven years old, and that was hardly his first foray into art. “I started as a visual artist,” he recalls, “even as young as kindergarten I was drawing. I was doing graphic design, painting drawing and that evolved into videos, then got into DJing, which evolved into a love for producing.”
Julian, smiling and laughing through the interview, sobered when I asked him a final question: What are your parameters of success? Ever wise and grounded, Julian replied simply, “Happiness.” Indulging me in elaboration, he continued: “I care more about my happiness than being famous. Music for me has to be fulfilling, and I need to be either helping myself or helping others doing it. I like to play shows but if I burn out of it, I’m done. Success to me is just being happy with what you’re doing.”
Julian’s magic is infinitely purer than, but just as powerful as, the spell cast in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. Art takes on the heavy stuff, the personal burdens, the troubles of the world, and contains them in one place, where they can be manipulated to produce any emotion the artist sees fit. Julian’s optimism and perspective are the products of purposeful creation. Beautiful, evocative, and promising, the music of Julian Gray is art through and through.