Datsik is Canadian DJ and producer who specializes in dubstep. Born Troy Beetles in Kelowna, British Columbia, he started off as a hip-hop DJ but got into dubstep after hear Excision’s set at an electronic music festival in 2008. Since then he's become one of the genre's fastest rising stars, and has collaborated with Skream, Excision, Rusko, The Crystal Method, Diplo, and Steve Aoki.
After many successful remixes and releases that made waves on digital platforms like Beatport, Datsik is releasing his debut album, Vitamin D, on Aoki’s Dim Mak label today (April 10). After he got done rocking a huge crowd at SXSW last month, we pulled him aside to chop it up about his music, the future of dubstep, and how he deals with the inevitable haters.
Interview by Rob Kenner (@boomshots)
What just happened out there on the stage?
I played dubstep for a bunch of people that didn’t really know what it was and I had a bunch of people moving to it, which is great.
Where did you first get into dubstep?
I’m actually from the West Coast of Canada. The dubstep scene in Canada is great—it’s unexpectedly good, which is kind of crazy. You go up there and the crowds are so energetic, it’s insane.
How did you start playing that type of music? Did you get into it from other DJ styles?
I got into through hip hop and whatever else and eventually dubstep kind of just caught my ear, I heard it at a festival Shambhala Music Festival in B.C. and I heard crazy dubstep on a big system with tons of bass and I was just like “Oh my God, why have I not been making this earlier?” As soon as I heard it I just instantly converted. And I’ve always tried to keep a little bit of hip-hop influence when making dubstep so that’s kind of the way I approach it.
Opening for like 13 shows for KORN was a crazy experience, but we stayed on the same bus and I showed [Jonathan Davis] the tune and he was really stoked on it. He asked me if he could record vocals over it and I was like 'Hell yeah! Let’s do it.'
So I understand you have a record that’s about to drop.
Yeah the record is called Vitamin D. It’s about to drop on Dim Mak. It comes out on April 10. I’m really excited about it. It’s really hip-hop-py but it is dubstep, so it’s cool. I think people are going to be stoked.
Is it all instrumentals or do you have guest artists on there too?
Yeah I did one track with Z-Trip who’s like a wicked scratch DJ—he’s a legend in the scene. Did two tracks with Downlink and I also did another track with the Infected Mushroom. And it has Jonathan Davis from Korn singing over it. So it’s a really crazy combination but I think it worked out really well.
Jonathan Davis from Korn! Where has he been hiding out?
You know what? It’s crazy. His knowledge of electronic music baffles me. He knows more about it than I do and it’s crazy. I went on tour with them, we helped work on his album a bit. I went on tour with them and I was opening for like 13 shows for KORN and that was a crazy experience, but we stayed on the same bus and I showed him the tune and he was really stoked on it. He asked me if he could record vocals over it and I was like “Hell yeah! Let’s do it.”
When you were on tour, what was the livest crowd you played for?
We just did this big tour called The Deadmeat Tour. It was myself and Steve Aoki and a bunch of other Dim Mak artists and it was out of control. The whole thing was nuts. I’d say that the thing that set the pace for the tour or the show probably had to be San Francisco. It was our third show in, we sold out a big venue in San Fran and there were 7,200 kids there and it was absolutely mind-blowing.
Out here in Austin, Texas, you’ve got rock fans, you’ve got rap fans, but maybe not as many dubstep aficionados. Still you were getting some good energy back from the crowd.
I think the key for me in any case is to try to get their attention. I’d play a bit of dubstep and then I’d get into some hip-hop stuff. I played some Dr. Dre and a little bit of Ice Cube and just whatever. I played “Ante Up” by M.O.P.
I think the key for me was combining them all into one and just trying to play as much as I could and just mashing it up with my favorite stuff mixed with stuff people know, but keeping it hip-hop basically.
What record of yours got Steve Aoki’s attention?
I don’t remember how it came about but he asked me to remix “Wake Up Call,” which was a big hit of his, a track he did with Sidney Samson and I was just like “Sure, let’s do it.” So I remixed it for him and I guess he was really stoked on it and from there, he heard I was looking to put out an album.
I did the whole Identity tour with him and he seemed really stoked on it and he seemed like a really cool dude. He’s super passionate, such a nice guy. There’s a wicked team over at Dim Mak and for me, it just felt like the right fit. I don’t regret a minute of it. It’s been a really insane ride. We just did a full bus tour—50 shows in less than 2 months. It’s been crazy.
A lot of times with these “underground” sub-genres people get worried about keeping the integrity when it gets big and mainstream. This year we had DeadMau5 on the Grammys, we had Skrillex and Diplo and A-Trak on the cover of Billboard. Is that a good thing for music? Is it a challenge for you as an artist to stay pure?
To all the purists I guess, all the people who think dubstep shouldn’t blow up, it’s like 'Who are you to say that it’s your genre?' Let people fall in love with it. What’s the problem in that?
No matter what way you look at it, it’s good for the scene. That’s what I think. I think people who are so stuck in the thought of “Let’s keep it...” Obviously dubstep and whatever is going to blow up, get bigger and bigger, there’s always going to be the underground element to it. Some stuff is too hard for the mainstream or some stuff is too deep and melodic and different.
Even though dubstep is going mainstream, I think there’s always going to be different avenues to it and that’s part of the beauty of it. No matter what as dubstep gets bigger, we get bigger crowds, more fun, bigger shows.
To all the purists I guess, all the people who think dubstep shouldn’t blow up, it’s like “Who are you to say that it’s your genre?” Let people fall in love with it. What’s the problem in that?
Who are the younger cats that you have your eye on who are coming up?
There’s a few guys. I actually just started a record label called Fire Power, I just signed this one guy AFK he’s actually from Dallas. Another guy, Recoil, this kid’s 17 and he’s making really dope tunes. Another guy Space Laces, he’s going to blow up.
Where is he from?
I don’t even know.
He’s from space I guess.
Yeah he’s from space. [Laughs.]