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.]
I was at a panel today about UK Bass Culture and some of them feel a certain way, like they haven’t gotten proper credit. They’re like “This is some UK shit." What are your feelings on that? When you first got into it, who was catching your ear?
It was like Skream and Excision. All of the big producers in Canada and the U.S. have the utmost respect for these guys. Dubstep has evolved so much from the UK sound, it’s just something different now and it’s all those people who seem to get the most upset about it because it makes it harder for them to get into it and have people really listen to it.
It’s not this little thing it once was and respect goes out to all the people in the UK that started the genre—like Skream, Caspa, Hatcha, Benga, Rusko, all those guys, Mala, Coki—all those guys who started it.
All of us respect them. I think they respect us too and I don’t think us as artists have any animosity towards each other. I think it’s everyone else that is jaded because of the way dubstep has gone and there’s always going to be people that hate on mainstream. It is what it is.
Right now, I could be wrong, but I’m thinking we’re hitting a spot where it’s like, 'OK, [dubstep] is either going to get really big or it’s going to evolve in some way.'
When you talk about dubstep, you have to mention the roots of ‘dub.’ Do you listen to any of that old Jamaican dub?
Oh I love it. I do love it, but the way I make dubstep is a bit different. It’s not that I don’t love it though. That’s what got me into it. I wouldn’t be making this if it weren’t for that. It’s going to start coming back, just with heavier and tighter production and whatever.
I think it’ll be cool just seeing the way the whole thing evolves. Right now, I could be wrong, but I’m thinking we’re hitting a spot where it’s like, “OK, this is either going to get really big or it’s going to evolve in some way.”
Or morph into something else?
My personal prediction, dubstep was the start of something new and it basically showed people that you can work at two different tempos at once. You can have the double-time at 140 [beats per minute] or you can have the half-time at 70 [bpm]—that’s the beauty of it. You can see electro producers making electro tracks at 128 but playing at halftime, right? So it’s even slower. From all this, this new genre, moombahton or moombahcore has kind of spawned out of that.
It’s like this hip-hop, kind of 110—you can approach it from a “shake your ass” kind of perspective or total hip hop. It just goes to show that everything is being morphed together and everything is becoming one and I’m really excited about it. Because even though I’m the biggest dubstep fan, even me I’m looking at different stuff right now. I’m making a lot of 110 [bpm] because it’s going back to my hip-hop roots.
The term brostep is totally actually backwards. If anything, brostep should be the mellow stuff because there’s more dudes sitting there smoking weed and just chin-stroking and kind of just nodding their heads. You don’t find girls really doing that.
Is that what they call bro-step?
Brostep was a term made by the elitists for dubstep that is noisy or geared for a dance floor at parties. They call it brostep, I don’t know, to separate it. It’s just like what you were saying, people were angry—really though, it doesn’t matter. Just because you make a dubstep track for the dance floor doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more bros on the dance floor.
If anything, you don’t really find many girls just sitting there and nodding their head. You find girls going crazy and wanting to rage and party. The term brostep is totally actually backwards. If anything, brostep should be the mellow stuff because there’s more dudes sitting there smoking weed and just chin-stroking and kind of just nodding their heads. You don’t find girls really doing that.
So brostep is actually the stuff girls like?
Well brostep is basically like noisier, more aggressive dubstep.
Oh, so it’s supposed to be more masculine or something?
I guess, I guess. But at the same time, it’s gotten—they’ve opened the word so far now they started calling all party dubstep brostep, which is so not fair.
So you consider it a negative thing?
That shit is so old news, no one even cares anymore. For how far the genre has come and how many different avenues you can approach dubstep from, it’s like who cares? Whatever.
So how would you describe your sound in 2012?
Dubstep, drumstep, whatever. That being said, my stuff does not have a lot of the UK dub elements like the ragga vocals and this and that—but it’s still dubstep, so whatever.
I’m glad you can clarify these things for people.
It’s cool, it’s good. I’m happy to answer that. Obviously if I had time to sit down and write exactly what I thought about it I would’ve came up with a better answer but off the top of my head that’s how I feel about it.
You explained it well for me. I’m a reggae guy, so when I hear dub I think of King Tubby.
Yeah dude I love it. My record is mostly dubstep. I love making dubstep, but I think after this album, I’m going to switch gears a bit. I think I’m going to start making different tempos. I’m already working with other electro producers.
I’m doing a lot of 110 stuff, a lot of hip-hop stuff, doing more stuff with Diplo and just trying to evolve in some way. As big as dubstep is now, who knows where it’s gonna go? I just want to be prepared.
What have you been doing with Diplo?
We’ve done three collaborations and I remixed a track for him as well a track that he did with Lil Jon. That came out like two years ago. We did this other electro track, first electro track I’ve ever done, with Diplo—it’s called “Pick Your Poison.”
Then we got another electro track with Kill The Noise—Kill The Noise is such an amazing producer—just did another track with him called “Lightspeed” and it was actually the best selling track I’ve ever had and it came out like a couple weeks ago, which is crazy. It goes to show that dubstep is still not even on the same plateau yet, but it’s getting there.