Maile Carballo / KUTX


Artist of the Month - June, 2024


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Meet Austin’s grooviest intergalactic-musical cult

By Maile Carballo

The Galacian Web, a vast system of universes, each one containing a realm unknown. Within this web lies an intergalactic traveler of time and space. He has made a name for himself collecting sacred artifacts across the lands of gods and men. Many call him The Grandmaster.

He is a lord of both chaos and order. He has endured the grand stare of Alutian, The Holy Star. He has held The Holy Flame of Titunus. But most of all, he has written the Sacred Prophecy; an ancient text containing all that he has witnessed.

After traveling for centuries, he finds himself in a new realm known as “Earth”. His journey is far from complete, but in order to finish his quest he must first gather the minds of the faithful. He must pass his powerful knowledge onto the Loyal Zealots of The Grandmaster.

And so, these Loyal Zealots now pass their knowledge to all of us who wish to share in the super party that Grandmaster has brought to the people of Austin.

What started as a long running joke on an online scammer, has now turned into the largest splash in the fictitious sector of Austin’s music scene, once occupied only by Golden Dawn Arkestra.

“There was a scammer that hit me up online a while back who kept calling himself ‘The Grandmaster.” I wanted to see how far I could take it, so I started messing with him.” 

Grandmaster co-founder, Nick Leon (Lick Neon) explained to me how the ridiculousness of this scammer led to the birth of the Grandmaster project.

Eventually, I asked these two guys (Connor Mizell and Blaise Eldred) if they were down to help me create him as a real fictional story that we could portray in a live, TV show kind of thing, and it came to be where we’re at now.”

Photo / Morgan Brown Grandmaster playing their SOLD OUT album debut show, benefitting the SIMS Foundation

Since then, Nick Leon and his high school and Berklee School of Music ex-classmates, Connor Mizell (Acid Carousel) and Blaise Eldred (Sexpop), have sworn their allegiance to the almighty Grandmaster alongside their fellow core members, Sydney Harding-Sloan (Hey Cowboy!), Kenneth Frost (The Cuckoos), Jaxson Casey (Narcissus Garden) & Nick Dow (Billy Glitter), performing ritualistic live shows in red hats, eye-concealing uni-glasses, and matching suits.

Unknown to the original Grandmaster though, in the year since the conception of this super group, they’ve managed to stir up an impressively large following of new Zealots (followers of The Grandmaster), selling out the Stateside at the Paramount for their album debut show benefiting the SIMS Foundation. 

Connor explained the beginning process of their cosmic journey. “It all started last year when Nick and Blaise had some songs that they brought to each other, and then I sat in on those. From that came a lot of the songs on the album, like ‘Holy Star’ and ‘Testament.’ The three of us pretty much wrote the beginning and the end parts of the album in our living room.” 

The living room/design lab/studio/arcade/marketing agency/party zone that is. Most of the Grandmaster troop operates under one roof united by the many branches of the project and their famous super parties, of course. 

“The middle section from ‘Eternal Cycle’ to about ‘Forbidden Wonder’ was where it got more collaborative. We brought in all of these other members to help finish it out. It was really cool to work on it all in the room where it was born, but still writing as the band kept growing.” Nick relishes. “It’s a very fulfilling project to be a part of. I think almost everyone would say that they’re honored to be in this group.”

But, with a plethora of members from bands all across Austin, (Sexpop, Lick Neon, Acid Carousel, Hey Cowboy!, The Cuckoos, Billy Glitter, & Intellectual Property, to name a few) one would anticipate the group to undergo a slew of challenges during the writing process. For the Zealots though, it couldn’t be easier thanks to the creative writing skills of co-founder and funk enthusiast Blaise Eldred, the mind behind the deep lore of the Grandmaster universe(s).

“It’s really just putting two and two together and it’s so fun. There are moments where we disagree on things like, arrangements and melodies and stuff, but the lyrics come very, very fast generally.” says Nick.

Grandmaster IG The Grandmaster & Bootsy Collins during SXSW 2024

“I think our biggest influence is Earth, Wind, & Fire too. You know how a football team watches footage of their games to get better? We watch Earth, Wind, & Fire performing.” 

“Beyond Earth, Wind, & Fire and funk, other big influences for us come from video games like Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart, Zelda, and even Skyrim. That soundtrack style works well with all of the lore that Blaise writes. One of my favorite ways to describe it is ‘ritualistic funk,’ or even ‘party prog.’”

Blaise adds why they chose funk to be The Grandmaster’s vice.

“I’ve always been a big funk dude. So in this band, I really wanted to have more funk elements mixed in with the medieval tone that we all like. At first glance you want him to be this dark looking, scary dude, but then you hear the happy, funky vibe going on and it counteracts with his scary look. And it’s like, yeah, your master can get down.” 

The band’s elaborate production makes for a very engaging fan experience too– an element that has taken hold of their growing audience. Alongside Blaise’s story writing and the band’s “funky vibe,”  bandmates Conner Mizell and Greer James are hard at work steering the creative/media department of the Grandmaster ship.

Greer joined the group early on as the head videographer behind their 8-part Youtube series highlighting The Grandmaster’s journey on Earth. Alongside him, Connor works as Grandmaster’s in-house artist with experience ranging from Blender rendering for the video series to the 3D printing of props, merch, and much more. He’s the man in charge of most of the designed magic that helps the Grandmaster come to life.

All in all, this super group might just be Austin’s most impressive in-house production company. From the designs, writing, filming, editing, and sorting of it all, the band is always hard at work to make their vision come to light, even if it means that all-nighters are a necessity. 

Greer passionately described to me all of the hard labor that the crew puts into the process.

“The project is tremendous. We were up until past midnight multiple nights in a row editing to make sure that the episodes would get out on time.” Nick adds, “The deadline would be coming up in the next day and we’d work until like 10am, press share, sit there, and watch it with our fucking eyes in pain just going, ‘nice.’ The pool of blood, sweat, and tears for this is immense for us since it’s all going on at the same time.”

“It’s all for a bigger cause though, which is the growth of this project. Now that we’ve got better backing too, we’re going to take it apart and put it back together again in a more efficient way.”

And that they shall!

With their first record deal coming in hot in the following weeks, all of Grandmaster’s efforts are certainly paying off. 

We are thrilled to welcome Grandmaster as our new almighty leader, and invite all KUTX listeners to join us as devoted Zealots in this exciting new chapter this month.

Upcoming Grandmaster Shows

  • Saturday, July 27th at Hotel Vegas
  • Friday, August 30th at The Parish
  • Friday, September 20th at Sagebrush