Well we've finally hit the end of Complex's Skrillex Week, celebrating a number of different sides of the EDM producer/DJ/labelhead, and in a way, we're back at where we started. This story begins in April, when I get word that I'd be spending a quick two days in Los Angeles to chat with Skrillex. For a guy who hadn't been to Los Angeles since Michael Jackson died (literally, the last time I'd been to LA was for EDC LA 2009), it was kind of crazy, but you don't really turn down an opportunity to spend some time picking Skrillex's brain.
See, dude really is an enigma. I remember first getting introduced to his music (around the time of that EDC, actually), and it wasn't from people hyping him up; it was an immediate slew of hate. I got it—my first real taste of dubstep was during Mary Anne Hobbs' Dubstep Warz broadcast, and there was a gap between the dubbier/moodier side that the likes of DMZ and Skream were producing and what Skrillex was churning out (although, honestly, his early dubstep bangers were in the same vein of what Rusko and other more aggressive producers were making at the time). The thing is, Skrillex persevered. He proved that you can truly just do you, and not GAFOS about what haters or the media has to say. If you have a group of fans who are over the moon about what you're doing, that's all you really need. And his resume speaks to his drive: six Grammys, millions upon millions of records sold worldwide, making Forbes Richest DJs lists, scoring Hollywood films, and more, all the while putting on the next wave of electronic music producers via OWSLA and NEST.
This interview, which turned into the "Alien Nation" cover story over at Complex, took place in April of 2014, during that week in between Coachella, so for those who are asking about Transformers or how his Coachella set went or whatever, keep in mind that this isn't about being timely. I post this uncut interview to give the world a deeper understanding of how Skrillex's mind works. What he's feared in the past, what keeps him going, his influences, and most importantly, his thoughts on the path the EDM scene is traveling. He's a super positive guy, someone who's really easy to talk to, as well as being someone that's genuine and hard to dislike. Plus he has jackrabbit-like energy. During the shoot for that awesome cover story, I saw him scale the side of a beginners climbing rock in a pair of Vans like it was nothing. If you've seen him live, you know this already, but seeing him sprinting and walking up the side of a big rock like it wasn't an issue was a dope testament to how he's blown through the industry over the last eight years.
Make sure you check out the other Skrillex Week features over on Complex, including this rap fan's guide to dubstep, a collection of behind-the-scenes photos charting Skrillex's career (via Jason Ano), and Skrillex's most surprising collaborations.
I present to you the uncut "Alien Nation" interview.
It’s cool to finally link up with you. First I wanted to touch on this past weekend, the Coachella set. That seems like it really went off really well.
Yeah, I mean—What were you gonna say, sorry?
I was gonna say did you expect it to get as much play as it did?
I guess it’s really hard to get perspective when you’re just so in it all the time. It was like, you know, we just had the spaceship built, and it was supposed to come in way earlier, like two weeks. And we had this whole rehearsal space booked out, we didn’t get it until like a day before.
And like not even all the parts were there, it wasn’t even working.
So that was literally the first time that spaceship has ever been used, then?
Yeah, exactly, in an audience. We had some tests like I said in a warehouse around here, but all the parts weren’t there. But it was kinda like, you know I had done so many productions, like up in the—this is where we had like two cells, the Skrillex cells with the older image map and motion capturing, we did two versions of those. We did two other spaceships, this was like our fourth production.
And like, I’m so used to things not really working the first time when it comes to production. At the end of the day, it’s really about the music I think, and those things are just kind of icing on the cake, and they’re not something that, like, you know. I’m so used to playing different types of shows, like we just did these Takeover tours, which were all small venues, no production. That’s kind of like the core, which—as long as I feel prepared, everything else is kind of secondary, you know?
You mentioned the Takeover. Before we get back into more of the Coachella and stuff, do you go in with a different mindset preparing for a Takeover set as opposed to a Coachella set or something like the forthcoming tour?
Yeah, for sure. With the Takeover stuff it’s like freestyle every night. And there’s a lot of kids that come to the same shows every day, so I wanna do something different every night, whereas Coachella’s a little bit more planned, just because have features. And it’s good, it’s nice to actually have, you know, I was actually talking about this the other day, like when you have these big shows where you’re debuting production, whether it’s like Ultra or Coachella or a lot of these festivals that people get ready for at the beginning of the festival season, it kinda—that’s when you go back in.
And that’s part of the reason why I did the Takeovers, is so that I can get a ton of new music, sort of get my palette ready, and set up for that whole next year, and kind of like, you know, with my DJ sets, like I said, I like to change them up all the time, but there’s always those moments for transitions, and new edits, and VIPs and things that you get ready for those big shows that kind of get you prepared for the rest of the year almost. So that’s what’s kind of nice about them.
I think a lot of people, especially people who are outside of EDM, don’t realize, don’t get that it’s not just you’re playing these songs. You’ve got lighting cues and things going on as well. How much more involved is planning out, say—you’ve got the Mothership Tour. How long does it take you to get all that stuff sorted out so it’s working?
Well, you know, I think we’ll be good on the production side of things, as far as me goes, and the set, that’s—with every new tour, even every city, that stuff’s always changing last minute. Even with Coachella, I was backstage like a couple hours before, making new edits and stuff. So I mean it’s kind of a forever evolving thing.
I noticed with that spaceship looked like it was literally just the tallest one you’ve had so far. What was the idea behind making it such an elevated structure?
Yeah, well the cool thing about it is that it’s scaleable. When it’s down, when it’s sitting down, you can scale how far it goes up. And it can work really well in a big festival, so people can see me all the way in the back, and it also works—like we don’t have to go as high, which is nice. So it’s—I think it’s like the most aesthetically kind of pretty thing we’ve ever made as well, in terms of the shape and design, and like the different lighting it has inside.
You jump around, you’re really crazy up there behind the decks. Do you ever get scared that you’re gonna fall off of that, or is it pretty secure back there?
I mean, I don’t really think about it when it’s happening, all in the moment, you know what I mean? The cool thing about this one is I can actually climb up the front of it, before I wasn’t able to do that with the other designs because I would break stuff. But now it’s like I can actually run up the front back into the booth, which is kinda fun.
It’s like a jungle gym.
Yeah, for sure.
Now moving from Coachella, I guess the next big thing is the Lollapalooza set, right? You’re headlining that, right?
Yeah, one of the headliners on that, and that’s a great festival man. I just love festivals like Lollapalooza, similar to Ultra in the sense that it’s like you’re in the city in this like forest and you’re surrounded by skyline, man. You can’t really beat that. It’s pretty dope.
How does that process go about, getting picked for that? Is that something where they approach you?
That’s how I think all the festivals really work is like you get, you know, I mean, there’s a festival offer somewhere—there’s probably five offers, and when I mean offers I’m not even talking about money, just like requests. ‘Do you wanna play?’ For all around the world for every weekend. You know what I mean? There’s Lollapalooza, and there’s like five others in Europe and Japan and this and that that are like just as dope and crazy, so it’s all about planning out I guess where I wanna be at the end of the day, and Lolla’s one that I particularly really like going back to.
Is that set gonna be anything special for Lolla?
Yeah, for sure, we’ll do something special out there. And by the time Lolla comes around, that’s August, right? So my set’s gonna be evolved so much from Coachella, you know?
That’s right, because you’re gonna be hitting the Mothership tour as well.
Yeah, usually every big chunk I like to switch it up a lot, and even between shows it’ll be like little songs here and there that come in and out. But by the time Lolla comes I have no idea what that’s gonna sound like, and I have some other new music that’s gonna come out soon, too, that I’m finishing and working on at the moment.
Let’s talk about the Mothership tour. Who’s on it, it’s Dillon Francis, DJ Snake, and Milo and Otis. How did you pick that group of DJs to go out with you on—because this is what, two-three months you guys are gonna be out for?
It’s only—what is it? Two months? A month and a half? And I just thought, I mean, those are like—they’re all, for one, really good friends of mine, we’re all really good friends actually, and I’ve played with them in different shows, sort of one-offs. I was in, you know, had some stuff on the Takeovers with Snake in Barcelona and have brought him to Vegas a couple of times. All those guys have just kind of, have just kind of, I think really dope up and coming DJs that, I feel like we all fit together. We all have unique sounds, but it all complements each other, you know?
Will it be a situation where it’ll be pretty much the same lineup every night, where I guess you’d be headlining, or will you guys be switching up who’s gonna be going on first?
Yeah, I think the whole idea on the tour is that we’re gonna get cool local openers to open. So there’s no dead space, so right when we walk in there’s something groovy happening, and then I think it goes—I don’t know what the lineup is exactly, but I think when Dillon isn’t on the shows, Snake comes in and does direct support for me. So Dillon’s off a few of the shows, Snake comes in, and the Dillon’s usually right before me. And he has some new production that he debuted at Coachella, too.
I’m assuming you guys aren’t traveling together, but there’s a lot of time before—like I’ve seen when you guys went on like the train tours and things like that, there’s a lot of down time where you guys are together, do you guys do a lot of collaborating like that, or is it more just like ‘I’m trying to chill?’
Nah, we’re always hanging out. I think the EDM scene, or electronic music scene, or whatever you wanna call it, in general everyone’s just like—we all brought ourselves up on like, fucking glued to our laptops. We’re always making beats, we’re always like sending stuff and edits, and man, I couldn’t tell you how many records there are that are unfinished, in the pipeline between not only myself and other people, but in just the fucking ecosystem of electronic music, from people being on tour, and people just kind of hanging out in like random situations. So I’m sure there’ll be some tunes.
I’m glad you brought that up, it actually makes me wanna talk. Because you dropped Recess, brilliant album, and it’s one of those things where looking at the tracklist, I’m like ‘damn,’ there’s a lot of feature work, there’s a lot of collaborative work on there. Was that the design from the beginning, or was that just how it ended up?
That’s just how it ended up, man. Really, it was kind of—you know, it was hard, because Recess was like, in ways thrown together at the last minute. A lot of people think I was gone for two years, and working on an album for two years, but it really wasn’t that way because I was touring so much last year. And then like, you know, doing all this stuff, and all this European touring with Skrillex in Japan, Asian markets, like bringing the old Mothership out to all these places. South Africa, all this shit. And just like not really even trying to focus on a record, I didn’t even know what I was gonna release. And the thing about, like with the press, and a lot of rumors, was like ‘he’s working on the record now.’
Yeah, I would see like Rolling Stone and stuff would say that. Or there were times when maybe you might’ve lost a laptop or something like that and they would say ‘Oh, he was working on an album.’ So the assumption was that you had had something in the pipeline for a while.
Exactly. And that record, the album that I lost was like in 2011, and it wasn’t even an album, it was just like all my old work and then new shit that I was working on. And that was before Bangarang and all the stuff from Bangarang on was all my new stuff on my new computer. This record really came together in the last two months.
I never really had—whether this was to my advantage or my disadvantage, it was kind of how it turned out—it got to the point where I think the most I ever worked on my record was maybe two days a week. Like actually sat down in a studio. And I was just flying all over the place, you know what I mean? And when I mean working, that means actually sitting and actually piecing it together, because I would cut vocals. Like I was in Korea for a show, went back to G-Dragon’s studio and CL’s studio in the middle of the night to cut vocals really quick.
The track wasn’t even really a track back then, it was a drum beat. Wes and I—Diplo and I—just worked on some beats, and he called me up like ‘yo man, there out there, they wanna kick it with you.’ So we cut vocals really quick. But then it wasn’t until like when I got back home like refining the actual sound of the track and like chopping up the vocals and all those things that are like my expression, which is Skrillex, which is outside of just the vocals. Like the drop, or whatever you wanna call it, the instrumental part. That shit was like, that process came so few and far between.
So it was scattered in that sense. And I think that kind of created what the record was, because it wasn’t like I sat down and had a concept. It was just kind of like piece by piece, like as much as I could work on it.
I don’t wanna say that’s how it comes off, but it does feel like it’s kinda just…
All over the world.
Yeah, it’s a collection of where you are right now as opposed to some type of specific thought…
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just kind of what it was.
Yeah, and I don’t think anybody’s trippin’ about that at all.
It is what it is.
And I like that. The thing is with art, you have to move in the wind of the moment—you can’t over-think things and that’s the character it will have forever and that will be that special moment, that record because it was done that way. And I’ll never have a record that sounds that way, just the same reason that “Bangarang” sounds like “Bangarang,” “Scary Monsters” sounds like “Scary Monsters,” “My Name Is Skrillex” sounds like “My Name Is Skrillex” is because I was in a different place at a different time.
Is it fair to say though that this is also one of the most varied in terms of EDM genres for you, just the full album. You’ve got...you’ve dug at the brostep stuff, you’ve got the Chance track which is pretty much, I wouldn’t want to call it proto jungle, but it’s like a 160 type, jazzy type thing. But then you’ve got "Fuck That," it’s kind of like a little more deeper house-y type thing. Is that just you just saying I’m gonna throw whatever I’m feeling right now into the mix or…
Well in retrospect, looking back at even “Bangarang,” with songs like “Summit” or “Right On Time,” which don’t even fit into any genre—“Right On Time” is kind of like a hardstyle and then it goes into glitch hop and goes back into weird. And then you’ve got “Summit,” which is kind of like a more ethereal, trance-y, liquid dubstep song.
If you take the essence of Recess and compare it to my old stuff, whether it’s like “Try It Out” and “All Is Fair”, even “Stranger” which has some four-on-the-floor vibe. “Ragga Bomb” which you can compare more to “Kyoto” because it has that 170BPM. That right there could have been more of a classic Skrillex piece. The fact is, that as a record, if I’m going to put more tracks out, any one of my records—or any one of my tracks from the previous records—you can’t put any side to side and say this sounds like the other one.
I’ve never done that with a record. It’s not like with “Bangarang,” there was only one “Breakin’ A Sweat,” there was only one “Bangarang,” there was only one as far as the songs go. I felt like if I’m going to make a record, every single track to me has to live in its own world but feel cohesive, so that was the idea.
I guess what we’re hitting at is people thinking there is a stereotypical sound of yours. Do you ever feel weird about that, like being lumped into a...because I guess in the beginning, it was always, oh he’s this part of dubstep, you know what I mean? When your sound is a little more varied. Does stuff like that ever piss you off, or do you ever feel like people aren’t giving you credit for the different BPMs and genres that you’re working in?
I used to think that way before. A couple years ago I would get insecure like that almost, but then I found that in my mind, my tendency was to prove something but it shouldn’t be about proving anything really, other than making myself better and just doing what I know.
I think with any artist, if you just do what you do, people will realize what that is. Even someone like, artists that have grown over the years that have so many different identities. I don’t know any artists that started at one place that kept that same, whether it’s sonic, identity, from the beginning. I don’t know one artist that I’ve looked up to for my whole life that hasn’t changed or switched up their sound.
I feel like people that will follow me will expect that and continue to expect that. But I feel like with Skrillex though, that the one thing that I’ll never let go of is the energy. No matter what it is, if I could play that live...and that’s what’s cool thing about my record, I was testing it live with nobody knowing it and got reactions. So that’s all that matters. Skrillex is a DJ so it’s gotta make people move, it’s gotta make people get up and have a good time. That’s the only real criteria—I think the sound is second. It’s more about the energy and my personality.
I mentioned earlier the Chance the Rapper track. I remember reading on your Reddit AMA, you said that you actually worked with the Social Experiment, you basically just recorded them playing. How was that different from where you were previously? Was it more difficult?
I came from bands you know? I record live stuff all the time. My favorite thing to do is to actually work and actually produce. And work with vocalists, like last night I was in with Usher and Ed Sheeran and doing this similar thing where I had this basic track and helped them with melodies and they were writing the lyrics and getting in, and that’s almost my favorite thing to do is have musicians and have people piece it all together.
With Skrillex, before I got into synthesis, I was sampling a lot and taking pieces and remixing, and that’s my favorite thing to do. I worked with bands and I worked with vocalists—I’m a vocalist myself—I feel like it’s actually a stronger point, even working with the Doors, I’m breaking a sweat. All that was done on camera, had to be done in a day, tracking instruments and getting shit.
And the big thing with that is being able to read people and going with the flow and not over-thinking things and just having the vibe. That song in particular was we just rented a studio that night, we were both in Seattle, Chance had a show, both brought the party back to the studio and that was the vibe of the song.
There was no idea at all about…
No. About what it was going to be? It started with a drum loop and a very basic chord progression. And then they reinterpreted that with the horns and some keyboards and I brought it back to my computer and took the bassline and chopped it up and fattened it up. So it’s kinda like that, that sorta thing.
That’s crazy. I mentioned earlier that it’s kinda got a jungle vibe. I got a feeling that you’re more into drum & bass then people will give you credit for. I know you’ve cited Warp and Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, is that where your love for that comes from?
That’s where it came from, man. Breakbeat in general, and after jungle itself, my love for jungle jungle didn’t come until later, like soundsystem stuff didn’t come until later. But Squarepusher, his older records where he was doing live bass, it was "Amen" breaks and "Think" breaks, all these classic breaks you still hear today—that stuff, just those rhythms, that fast head-bobbing stuff. I think this comes across in my music because there are a lot of edits, but Squarepusher shit where every other bar there was a different drum-kit, or a different cut, that shit fascinated me, that shit was like a mosaic painting, how detailed that stuff was.
I think it was Ram and Metalheadz, Pendulum, and DJ Baron, records like that. I remember getting Hold Your Colour on vinyl the year it came out and I was 16, in this little drum & bass vinyl shop called Mechanized in Salt Lake City, and that shit changed my life. That’s when it moved from IDM to more dancefloor, jungle, and drum & bass, was when I heard Hold Your Colour. Then getting into Metalheadz and then getting into Ram and stuff like that.
I’m guessing 12th Planet put you on to a lot of stuff, too.
It was prior to me meeting him and knowing him as 12th Planet and going to his house and listening to his tunes and listening to Ed Rush and Optical—when Ed Rush and Optical, I don’t know if you’re familiar with their stuff, with neurostep, where they took neurofunk and took...drum & bass jungle was so urban before and so Soundsystem and so Jamaican. They were the first guys to make it more tech and white in a sense, and get into the synthesis shit.
Wormhole, that was the first, before there was noisey, that sound in Wormhole, that wobble, that really dark...that shit fascinated me a lot, too. And 12th Planet was putting me on to all that stuff.
I fuckin’ knew it. I’m sorry. [Laughs]
It’s true. Do you know John?
Yeah, I’ve spoken with him back and forth online. I’ve never actually met him in person but I’m a big drum & bass fan myself. Like you guys put out the Dieselboy mix last year, and there was the “Burning Man” remix you did and that one had a little bit more drum and bass in it. And then when I heard the Chance track, I was like 'okay, there’s a little bit more to it than just digging those things a couple times.' But yeah, that’s crazy. You also mentioned some soundsystem stuff. Obviously you’ve ended up working with Damian Marley, and you’ve got the Ragga Twins on the album a couple times. Are dancehall and reggae also big influences for you?
Yeah, it always has been. I think in a sense, the kinda UK-Jamaican crossover music stuff I’ll always love. I came from punk rock as well. All my friends were traditional skinheads—black skinheads, white skinheads, kids that were going to reggae, dancehall shows, punk rock. I would go to those shows and I was a punk kid and all my friends were skinheads and liked listening to that stuff. Growing up skateboarding, there was a lot of hip-hop, dancehall, soul, funk that bled through our playlists.
Through dubstep and drum & bass and jungle and grime, it had so much Jamaican reference and dancehall reference with all those genres. Even something like grime, even the Foreign Beggars, working with them in the early years, they had something so close in vibe to that culture. Obviously the Damian Marley record, so yeah it was something that I’ve always loved.
Speaking of Damian Marley record, I remember reading that it started out as a bootleg that you did and then it got to him. Were you surprised when you got that call? How random was that?
It was amazing. It was just a bootleg of "Jamrock," it was the drop and that. I actually didn’t meet him until a year later, after we did the track, it was crazy but we did online and cut the vocals and it was amazing. I had something I was going to say and it totally slipped my mind.
That’s crazy. Let me get back to Recess. I remember sitting at the computer and I was writing about something and somebody said hey, what about this app, this Alien app that came out? With what seemed to be a countdown. How did the Alien Ride become the vehicle for previewing that album, how did that come about?
The game was actually the last thing, funnily enough. The idea for me, I just wanted to leak the album. The thing about when records leak, it’s almost just like a bummer in the industry and it’s weird how it has that perception. I always like when records leak at the right time and you have everyone else’s label thinking the opposite, but how do you leak the record in a cool way, in a different way? But not like oh, the label fucked up and some guy at some promo thing leaked it.
So my idea was to leak it through an app, a free app. The first initial idea was to have an app and the countdown timer and people go, what is this? And assume it’s something. And then my idea was, how about we have a countdown and to pass the time, there’s a little game people can fuck around with.
People love that shit. [Laughs]
For how last minute it was put together, it worked out well.
The app came out...I want to say it was only a couple days before the album [pre-order] came out.
Yeah, it was only three days.
What were you doing that Monday night when every half-hour someone came up and…
It was in the daytime where I was at, so I was actually, funnily enough, I was doing Japanese press. I was shooting the cover of Ollie Magazine for Japan, this fashion magazine over there. Then watching each countdown, then looking at my Twitter and just going crazy.
Yeah it was blowing up.
It was dope.
I guess it’s really cool to gauge that quickly what the people are saying. Were there any tracks that when they were previewed and you saw the responses, did they surprise you or anything like that?
To be honest, it was the most positive reactions I’ve ever had, even in terms of people who were like, "I didn’t fuck with Skrillex before this Chance tune." The cool thing about this record is I feel like there was something for the old fans that they really liked.
I feel like the biggest thing I noticed like the older, older fans that I don’t think are into dance culture or dance music, they don’t get the rest of the record. They don’t get “Stranger,” they don’t get “Fuck That.” They only get “All Is Fair” and “Ragga Bomb” and “Try It Out.” Those are the songs. People that—maybe in middle America, that have never experienced something like EDC—go oh, this is what it is all about, this is about variety, it is about dancing and nice rhythm.
So I feel that other than that, people who are in current music—and people that didn’t fuck with my sound before—there’s a lot of crossover. My record did crazy in Asia, in Korea, because of that “Dirty Vibe” record, it’s a big more spastic and twerky so I think it opened up to a lot. Even other DJs are playing it, a lot of different DJs that probably wouldn’t have played my records before are playing some tracks. It’s cool.
I keep seeing a lot of the DJ community being like, "yeah, I’m still fucking with this Skrillex record, what do you got to say?" Do you feel like it’s one of those situations where it’s to the point where maybe people are coming around now and starting to understand? Do you feel like that’s part of it?
I guess so, man. The thing is—and it’s not to toot my own horn, and knock on wood because I don’t take anything for granted—but I’ve been selling out thousands and thousands of shows and selling records...between all my records, prior to Recess, I sold almost 10 million units.
I would say certain people are coming around, but I still have those fans previously that got what I was doing. The thing about it is there’s a lot of people out there that don’t make their own decisions. They go to a lot of tastemaker press that usually can be highbrow and talk shit, or not even talk shit but post about things that are going to be controversial so they know how to get hits and people are going to say certain things, and they subscribe to that shit and it molds the way they are. They don’t even have their own taste.
That’s why I don’t do a lot of press. I’m going to speak to someone who’s going to give me the time of day and talk about something wholesome because a lot of people spin that. What tastemakers do is they’re programming how these kids should look in terms of what’s cool, and I was the antithesis of that. I was the uncool thing, because I came from an underground sound but blew up. None of my shit was pop, and people couldn’t figure out why it happened.
I wasn’t making Top 40 records, I don’t have any Top 40 records. And I never meant to make Top 40 records, that wasn’t my goal for Recess. I’m still learning who I am as an artist and I’m not trying to force anything. People don’t understand why I got so huge, so all they can do is hate on it and put me in a category because they don’t understand it.
It’s funny that you bring that up too because you mentioned that 10 million in sales with stuff before Recess. You’ve got six Grammys, you’re doing very well for yourself. How much of that do you actually even—I don’t want to say not care about—it’s obvious it doesn’t drive you. If you were in a situation where you were kind of just like a dude making music, throwing stuff on the Internet and didn’t have all that hype, would you be okay?
Yeah, that’s what it was for both my bands, when we were right at the brink of crossing over and being huge. I’m such an in-the-moment guy, I like to be happy, I like to have fun. People don’t realize how simple it is—you’re writing this article right now, you’re just writing stuff, you’re not thinking about it, you’re just doing what you’re doing now. But then you put it out there and all these people are ripping it apart and talking about, and the last thing you can even do is think about that shit.
Like I said, it’s all about doing you and going back to the core of why you like doing music, why you like making music. I’ve always made music for that kid in me, and that kid that...I read something so awesome the other day about what youth means. It said something along the lines of, being young, the idea of youth, that feeling, that creativity that ties into youth is not giving in to the things that happen in society that can make you jaded. That kills your creativity, and that’s when people burn out, that’s when people...that child in you, that’s the purest form of human, in the sense that that becomes destroyed in society in a lot of ways.
Whether it’s from social stuff, whether it’s from peers, you’re not supposed to fucking look like that, you can’t listen to that shit, you can’t listen to Skrillex. That shit destroys you and makes you jaded, which will inhibit your creativity as well, and what you’re willing to take in as well as give out. And that’s something to protect as you grow up no matter what you do in life, because that will actually put a roof on you. That negativity and sort of judgmental attitude—look at the top and the best of the best of the best. Ninety percent of those people out there, at least 100 percent of the people I know personally, could give a fuck what color, black, white, yellow, dubstep, brostep, underground, overground—who gives a fuck?
The fact that you’re being critical of something and someone else so much is because you have your own insecurities, that’s the only reason. If you’re feeling on top of the world then I could give a fuck about what else somebody else is doing. I think that’s the sort of essence of it.
I’ve been talking with people about the idea of...I guess with so many makeshift blogs and critics and everything—there’s fans out there, but there are so many people who probably could be fans but they aren’t anymore, and I guess that kind of ties into that idea of…
No, for sure, yeah. And that’s the thing. There’s this kid named Trollphace, I don’t know if you saw this article the other day but he was like, you know what man, I used to fucking play Skrillex, I’ll admit it. I used to play Skrillex records and then I was fucking hating on him because that was the thing to do and I jumped on that bandwagon. And I understand that dude—I was growing up, and as a kid you...with growing up so fucking strange, we all feel pressures.
I was different because I was punk rock and I was like fuck that and I was always the kid in the corner that had potential in him, I was always the first guy to go over to him and be like "yo, what are you up to with this, what the fuck are you drawing over here?" I was always interested in the underdog and that sort of the thing, but growing up as a kid, it’s all about what’s cool and TV and programming and all of that stuff in that world and that programs, that’s what’s programming us. I feel like there’s enough of that out there, I’m just going to push my energy into being free and expressive and fill that space in that world because there’s enough of that. That’s cool for other people but…
Now you spoke on Trollphace and I feel like one thing that you’re into, I guess as kinda might be part of the reason you guys created OWSLA, is putting other people on. I mean you guys have put on Porter Robinson and other things like that, early, early on, these really talented people. Was that part of the basis of starting the label almost three years ago?
Absolutely. The thing about the label is, I distribute my records through Big Beat but all due respect to them and love, they’re all the way in New York. I’m in LA and the creative all comes from this group that we started with OWSLA anyway, with Kathryn, Clayton, and myself and my manager. That’s where all of the creative of Skrillex has come from—OWSLA was a home for me so I can have my people around to be the creative, to think of these things like the app and to think of these things like marketing things, or whatever it is and planning out our year and how we release records.
It’s all about being surrounded by the people that you feel free around and they can help you basically see your vision, and it’s hard to do that when people aren’t there. It was about building our own crew. And then the second thing was like dude, we gotta sign other people. I feel like there’s still a space that OWSLA is alluding to that we haven’t even quite...we’re three years old, even our brother labels like Mad Decent and Fool’s Gold and Dirty Bird are 10-years-old.
We’re still learning and growing and I feel like there’s still...even when you look at a Skrillex crowd at a dope festival, it really is fucking all types of people. EDM kids, rock kids, black kids, white kids, Asian kids, rap kids, all these different types of people in one crowd. There’s elements of all that in our attitudes as OWSLA people. We’re not really one sound but I think that will be refined over time.
One thing that I noticed that I don’t see getting touched upon a lot is you guys are a label, but you guys also do shit like helping put out the Bromance stuff in America. Or the Moody Good, and that shit is great.
That shit is great. Wait til you hear this record, man. It’ll fucking blow you away.
Clayton hit me up personally with the remix, the Slum Village remix. He mentioned it and I’m like, I need to hear this. It was fucking beautiful, but then when I got the press release saying that you guys are doing the American distro for MTA, not a lot of people are doing that. And it’s funny when you say OWSLA is only almost three years and you guys are already giving that American co-sign. Where does that come from, where you’re able to be that American distro?
With everything like that that’s happened, like Jack Beats—Jack Beats [are on] Sony over there, we do the American stuff for all their records. That just came with us being really good friends, I’ve known Eddie for years and have been a huge fan since 16bit, because you know that was his previous thing. And I’ve been friends obviously with the Chase & Status and the Nero guys and Subfocus and that whole MTA crew. Wait Nero’s not…
I think they were…
Yeah, they used to be. That whole world has been my early supporters and I was really fans of them and it was just natural, it was like man this is dope. Every time I hear someone dope, I’m like who’s putting it out? And they’re like, well you know we can do something together. It was just natural, it all happened naturally. It’s a little extra work but it’s all worth it.
I think it strengthens what you guys are building, it makes it more than just, we’re putting out dope shit, we’re also putting out dope shit that we’re supporting from our peoples all over.
I know you were speaking at the IMS Engage last year, I want to say? You were speaking about OWSLA and it seemed like you guys aren’t just a label, aren’t just helping out with distro. Is it really more of a creative outlet where you guys are just trying to pump out different cool shit? Kind of like Kanye West’s DONDA? Would it be fair to look at it in the same light?
Well in the sense that we do festivals—we did this Good Times event in Miami, I don’t know if you saw that flyer.
We put on festivals. I think just media in general and creativity in general within music is just becoming so versatile. It’s music at the core, but it’s more of a window into an alluding culture almost of what’s growing. I guess what I really like to do or hope to do is almost document what’s going on on our side of the world and what’s really happening, and show the world so much more than...obviously it’s so much more than Skrillex. It’s this whole group of people that are just trying to make stuff together and do it themselves. So that’s a big part of it, too.
You guys also recently announced that you’re turning the Nest site into a free label?
What was the science behind that?
There’s just so much dope music out there that I feel like, there’s a lot of kids who will put stuff out for free on SoundCloud that’s really dope, a lot of new kids we find. But no one even knows about it you know, whereas these are free releases that will hopefully get more attention when someone puts it out that we enjoy.
I think it helps with my music too. People don’t realize, I’ve been playing since my first sets, I’ve never had a set that was all dubstep in my whole life. I’ve never played two hours of 140 tunes ever, you know? The whole idea of signing off is showing what I’m into as well, the shit that I believe in that’s going to blow up.
Whether it’s new stuff that we’re signing now, guys like What So Not, like super fresh sound. What So Not is more refined, but there are kids out there that are too young to tour and haven’t really found their sound yet, but that can give them a leg in the right direction if they’re putting stuff out that feels a little bit more official than something free on the SoundCloud that blows away in the dust. That’s the idea of that.
Is it something that’s going to be a weekly thing or just whenever you guys feel like dropping something new?
No, it’s going to be a lot more often. With OWSLA, with the record label, we want to really refine our artists and narrow down and slim down the roster a little bit and develop records. We’re working on the new Kill The Noise record. Man, this record...Jake, I’m so proud of this kid because he still has his sound but similar to what Recess is, he will fucking stretch the limits. He’s making some sick records, it’s really dope. So that’s really exciting.
We’re such a small label. We’re all independent and there’s only so much we can work on. I feel like OWSLA, for a while, was releasing so much. Nest gives us a dope platform for kids that want to put shit out for free anyway and get it out there. OWSLA newsletter can be separate to Nest. People can get the Nest newsletter, they know they’re getting a lot of shit, whereas OWSLA is going to be a bit more staggered.
You had a really good 2013 with your releases on OWSLA. You said you’re going to pare it down, pare it down in terms of releases coming out through the year or are you going to hone in on particular artists for the actual imprint?
Well for OWSLA, I think what we want to do is help make more records and less singles. Not always, I’m not saying we’re against that, but we want to create stuff like the Spitfire EP or Kill The Noise Part 1 or Part 2 or Kill Kill Kill. Those records that are like worlds, I feel even like Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites, or the Jack Beats EPs that we developed a little bit more in terms of videos and spreading out an actual release, and I think that’s what we do best.
Building that hype around something that you feel really good about. You mentioned your brother labels earlier, Mad Decent and Fool’s Gold, you guys are all regularly putting out stuff. Do you ever feel like a competition or like a oh shit, you don’t know what we picked up?
No, not really. The only competition we have is from ourselves to be the best we can. I was with Wes last night. We’re always with each other and it’s dope. Even Bromance, we do their distribution, we are their label pretty much in terms of our team out in the States. But there’s shit like, they actually passed Alesia off to us. Not like they passed but it was more like "yo, you guys should fuck with these dudes" and now we’re working with them and they’re new release. Alesia is yet to be seen. Their new shit, too, it’s insane.
We’re all just kind of friends and we all help each other out really, and it’s really more about that than competition.
You mentioned Wes and I have to first say, I was home during Ultra Music Festival. I didn’t watch a lot of the stream, as much as I did last year. I made sure when you and Wes were up for the Jack U set. That was probably the best set that myself and many people heard during Ultra. Was there a lot of practice or thought about what you guys were gonna do?
Not really. There wasn’t any practice, we just kind of were like this is what I’m feeling, this is what you’re feeling and we’re just gonna go up there. We kind of rehearsed a little bit in this little office with some speakers, we fucked around, but the whole idea, the only thing I do is say let’s just be fun and be crazy. Let’s play loud, crazy records.
Especially with the main stages, I feel like—and this is no offense to anybody—there are some amazing producers, but I feel like so many people are making the same sound and it’s very predictable and safe. The only thing I say is let’s be unsafe. Let’s play stupid records, man. Let’s play stuff you don’t hear on the main stage, stuff even from Trollphace records to hip-hop records to underground records to Toto's "Africa," like fuck it.
You with the Toto shit, every time. It was one of the Takeover videos you had playing, you dropped it at the end of the set. What is that?
That’s a song I just remember from my childhood.
And you just feel like bringing it up.
Yeah, and then Emoh from What So Not started playing it and it’s kind of our song. There’s always one of those records in my sets that I like to play and cycle through, that’s just been something I’ve been obsessed with lately.
For the last six months, something like that. Now, you collaborate a lot, we’ve spoken about that. How did you and Diplo work and go from just knocking out a couple records to we are Jack U? Where did the basis of that come from?
I guess it was more like something to represent the live show. I think part of it was we’ve worked so much together, we have some records we’ve done in the pipeline, that we’re not sure...we have some stuff that we made that’s going to go on the Major Lazer record together. Obviously we did “Dirty Vibe” for my record, we have some other singles, so we just work together so much naturally that we might as well call it something and hone in what that sound is and everything we’ve made just has such a crazy sound, our sounds together. It feels like someone is just jacking you, like you’re getting jacked up. Jack you up, it just happened naturally I guess.
It was last year you guys were saying you had four or five tracks together. What’s the idea for a release, or is there any plans for putting those out any time soon?
We don’t even fucking know yet, it’s so crazy. In terms of these days of music, before it was like you sit down, you’re in a band, you record 10 songs and you release those 10 songs and don’t do anything for two years. Now it’s like, you’re making records so quick, you’re touring so much, but we’re just refining them right now. They’ll come out sooner rather than later. We’re going to have some shit before HARD. We’ll have some stuff before we’re headlining HARD Summer and we’ll be doing Electric Zoo as well in New York. So we’re going to have some more records as well for that.
Do you guys ever think of doing a Jack U tour?
Do you think fans would like that?
I think fans would fucking love it. Like I said, sitting online and watching your set and just tweeting about the set, it was not only just a positive response but this was the set. But I guess part of it is, we’re not going to be safe, we’re going to have fun, we’re going to do what we’re going to do. And it was just dope shit you were playing so everybody was already into it anyway. I don’t know, like you said you guys are both busy, so I don’t know if that’d be easy to pull off but…
It would be fun. We’re doing some more shows, we’re definitely planning but I think he’s finishing the new Major Lazer record, which is big on his plate. I think it would be fun to tour with him regardless.
Looking at the layout of the shoot in here and everything, and thinking about “Alien Ride” and the cover of the album, would you say you have an alien theme?
Yeah. The thing about it is, I guess the way I’ve always spun it and our visuals and the content is like, I think space is such a relatable thing but it’s not taken so seriously. Even the whole idea of sampling that emoji and blowing that up and using that as an image, these things that are really—images you see in culture today, even if you don’t notice.
You blow it up and you give it a whole new context but it’s not taken so seriously like, it’s not like a message I’m trying to tell anybody but I feel like in a lot of ways, in culture and in media, you see it a lot more whether it’s like aesthetic culture. Even stuff like, you turn on the History Channel and it’s Ancient Aliens.
Ideas like that aren’t as crazy as they seemed 10 years ago and with technology changing and all this stuff it’s a fun thing to play with, after all all the spaceships and car designs and all these things that are real tangible things are ideas from the concepts, whether they’re from science fiction movies or art pieces. Those can inspire things. I feel like in a long time those ideas, even if they're sprinkled in was, there’s so many different levels and dimensions you can take it, but it’s really just sort of fun, you know?
So it’s more fascination and not you actually thinking aliens are coming down?
I don’t think. I don’t know [Laughs]. Who knows. I mean, I believe in aliens, you kind of have to at this point because I mean I was just watching this thing last week, this documentary, they found this new Earth that we can go to. They’re like 12 million light years away to travel, we don’t have the technology to get over there but there’s places just like this out there that we can’t actually see.
We don’t have a telescope that can see on the planet to confirm there’s life but there’s water, there's atmosphere. I think it’s just exciting. I always loved space as a kid, too. The stuff that had space books or star stickers. I think it’s like bringing that along with me in my adult years and it’s the same thing as stickers and fun space books and cartoons. It’s still kind of that level other than like the context of these days.
Like you were talking about earlier making sure you’re still having fun.
Yeah, it’s not taking it too seriously. I think a lot of people are mistaken [and think] I take myself really seriously as far as the imagery and that stuff.
I remember you were talking about not being in the conspiracy theories, but you did a lot of research, you would look into that type of stuff.
We’ve all gone down those YouTube black holes. Where you show your friend one thing like, “Look at this new alien video,” or whatever and you look to the right and it says “You should watch this,” on YouTube.
Do you draw inspiration from doing any of that stuff? Aside from the different imagery that you’re playing around with. Will you incorporate that into a song that you’re making or a melody or things like that?
Well that record “Fire Away,” the lyrics that came after, the one I sang with Kid Harpoon which is kind of like, “Take me with you when you go/Don’t leave me out here on my own,” you can use that a lot. A photographer friend of mine, his family dog just died and his daughter was listening to that track on repeat in her room because that was the song that she was crying too because her dog died. It just has that and people can take it any way.
We know you’ve got forthcoming material with Diplo, you also mentioned that you have some other works in the pipeline, what other stuff is coming out from you musically?
Well I have, man, a lot of stuff. I was working on some sound design for the new Transformers movie. Actually Moody Good and I, Eddie, we were just making full-on bass, dinosaur, robot, killing each other sounds. Just fucking noises, the craziest Skrillex and Moody Good sounds but times 10 for that movie. There’s dino bots in this new movie so we really got to really focus on that new sound.
Are you guys doing music for that as well?
It’s more sound design. I didn’t really want to do music. They first assumed I was scoring and it even took a second—it was nice to be like no, I don’t want to make music, I don’t want to make melodies, I just want to make crazy sounds and it was a lot of fun sitting there geeking out with Eddie who’s just a genius, one of the best sound designers in the whole game and you heard from the stuff that he’s on that crazy level where it’s just so detailed and 3D and cinematic.
Well I know producers spend a lot of time getting their own sounds, crafting their own sounds so it’s cool to actually have that not go into a song, go into some other type of project.
Totally. And it gave me a whole new palette as well, I was like “Fuck!” A lot of times when you sit down to make a song, your mind says let’s make a song, which is about the vibe and everything else. The opposite of that is sound design because you spend the whole day on making the sounds, you make shit you never thought you’d make and I have all these new presets I made and new synths that I have that I can use later, too.
Did they ask you or show you footage from the film to do that?
We didn’t have time to do the whole thing, but we did a good chunk. If we wanted to, they would’ve let us do the whole thing, they were so cool and open. We looked at scenes we could identify with immediately like, “Okay we’ll do this, we’ll do that, We’ll do the dinosaurs.”
So I know one collaboration I think has just been chilling, I don’t know what the status of it is, the shit you did with Kanye. How did that come together, where you were actually working with him as opposed to some of your other collaborations?
Well that was even before the concept of Yeezus was even Yeezus. It was so long ago, and I think how his records usually come together is just bits and pieces from so many...if you look at the list of each producer from each track, so many pieces from so much so I was in there in the early times. We were in LA and we both had a show in Vegas that same night, he was actually on the Watch The Throne Tour, so it was way back then, he was still on tour with Jay Z. It was probably my second favorite show ever since Daft Punk. It was amazing then.
But yeah, we rode a jet together to LA, or from LA to Vegas, and hung out, played each others’ beats and I flipped a couple samples he had, the beats, with him. When we got to the hotel, this giant hotel suite, he was actually getting his haircut and I’m playing back and he’s giving me feedback and basically flipped some stuff for him. It just didn’t get used, it was so long ago. He sent me so much crazy stuff that didn’t even make it on Yeezus that I got to hear. So many pieces that I even remembered, like the lyrics and the vocals and the melodies that didn’t even make it on there.
We’ve been going back and forth for a while about getting back together again. Our schedules are just so crazy.
Because he’s not really big on sending Pro Tools sessions or anything like that right? He’s more in the studio.
Yeah, for sure. I think with how he rolls, it’s the best way to do it. He’s able to do that, kind of get up and fly anywhere, which is really cool.
Do you ever plan on taking time out like that? Blocking out a year or half a year?
I need to, that’s my next thing is actually taking time off.
Because I haven’t. Even though it’s seemed a little slow last year, it was just so full on with the label side of things and getting in our new building. But I want to take some time off to really reflect on everything and this is just ongoing all the time.
So it’s not going to be a time for you to even work, it’s time to kind of just…
It’ll be both, though, because this is fun for me. It’s different when you’re under the gun and there’s all this other shit going on, when you’re making music, it’s different. The hardest thing to do as an artist when all this other shit is happening is getting into that zone where you’re almost bored, which is the best thing to do. When you’re an artist and you feel bored, you looked for something else to do. You try and do this, you try and do that. It’s easy to be getting shit done fast and being comfortable with what you have. But if you have time where you’re doing nothing and you just get that itch, that’s when the best stuff comes out.
You were one of the first labels to put Porter Robinson on. I get a feeling that that is where he’s at now, he’s tired of the mainstream EDM and he’s basically flipped the script. Have you heard a lot of his new album, the new stuff he’s been working on?
I’ve heard actually all the album. I think his record is definitely less dancefloor sounding. When I say that, definitely more song-y, as opposed to my record. My record is still dancefloor but I don’t think it’s the most...it’s not commercially dancefloor. Whereas his stuff doesn’t sound very dance-y. It sounds good, it’s very song-y and very well produced, he’s a genius producer. I think it’s different, I think it’s gonna change his live shows. Like my stuff is always DJ ready, no matter what, aside from songs like “Doompy Poomp” or “Fire Away," every song you can play out and has a reaction in a club or festival. Whereas his may have some reworking live if he’s still going to be DJing, or if he’s going to be doing something completely different to fit what he’s doing, like a live thing. Who knows.
Yeah, I haven’t heard too much. He was talking to some of the people over at Astralwerks and it sounds like he’s kind of trying to take it, I still think he’s going to have that DJ element to it, but I think he’s definitely turning the page and trying to highlight that next level that he’s trying to attain.
For me, I want to keep that essence—aside from what I’m doing in the studio—I’m a performer, I’m a DJ. I want to stay within that realm but the thing with guitar, you limit yourself with guitar and the bass and the vocals. You can take that so many places but it’s limited. I like the idea of knowing that the framework, it has to give you that feeling. Because in essence, I’m a fan of dance music too. I feel like there’s some people out there, and I’m not putting Porter under this at all, but they’re jaded with it and kind of try to do a 180 as a kind of knee-jerk reaction. Whereas I’m a fan of the new stuff that’s happening, I’m a fan of the old stuff that’s happening, and I think it’s just going to keep progressing and changing. So many new sounds coming out, it’s so exciting to be making dance music.
I guess that leads into the next point I want to get into, which is about where you think the scene’s going to be going. I hate asking that question but…
No, it’s a great question.
Well because in the scene, there’s a lot, there’s a lot. Everything from the footwork stuff in Chicago to the more 100BPM bounce stuff. Where do you think it’s going to be heading in the next six months to a year?
Well, okay six months to a year, I was going to say, it all depends on how long you’re saying. Six months to a year, you’re going to hear all the Australian stuff, the future classics, the stuff like What So Not that we do over here, Wave Racer, all those guys are going to come up huge with that sound. You’re going to hear more Baltimore and Jersey club come back, it’s going to be that shit, you’re going to hear footwork a lot more. You’re going to hear Juke elements.
I think as far as footwork breaking out in a purer sense, I love the purer stuff, it’s amazing. But I feel what’s going to amplify this is kids who are younger, taking those sounds and flipping them a little more. Just like grime went into dubstep, dubstep went into whatever it is now and keeps evolving into trap and this and that. I feel like you’re going to hear a lot of footwork elements, drum and bass is gonna come back, and when I say come back, I feel like people are going to start producing it. I feel like Netsky’s new record, when that comes out, is going to influence a lot of people again, to make some 174 stuff.
I think what it is at the end of the day is if you look through the trends and the history around exciting music, it wasn’t an accident that anything happened. There were these people with an energy and a crew, or like a state of mind, that projected that on to the world, and then it catches on. That’s how scenes start. Genre doesn’t mean the fucking 2003 dubstep couldn’t come back. There was a group of people producing it and keeping the scene alive, that’s what it all is.
I feel like a lot of people also in dance music are sort of reluctant, is that the right word? Tendency, is that what that means?
Some people have the tendency to get insecure about genres or being labeled, but I just say don’t fucking worry about that, just be an artists, man. Be yourself, do you. All the genre shit is going to evolve naturally and you’re going to evolve naturally. As long as there’s artists, which there are so many, have confidence, no matter what genre. I think that the shit is going to continue to evolve is the stuff people are excited about. That comes from the scene and the producers and the labels, and that’s going to trickle down into the world.
How do you feel about things, like I know there’s been talk about an EDM awards show on TV, or like the stuff that SFX is doing with Beatport, trying to put more EDM on Clear Channel radio stations and things like that. How do you think it’s going to affect what’s coming out, whether it’s aboveground or underground?
I think you’re going to see a lot of people turn their backs to it and a lot of people gravitate towards that. It’s weird because as much as I’m a DJ and you can definitely categorize me as EDM in the sense that I am playing electronic dance music. Not to go off subject but I feel like the one problem with major EDM outlets is that they don’t cover enough of the underground stuff, which makes underground stuff feel like they have to not be a part of that.
The essence of what EDM means is electronic dance music, it’s made electronically and you dance to it. By definition, anyone who DJs or produces is EDM by definition. But like what I was saying before, there are just not enough outlets that cover the credible broad spectrum of electronic dance music, which makes EDM seem like only a mainstream thing. I’m not saying there is nobody credible in mainstream, that’s not what I’m saying either but there is such a wider spectrum of things.
I think electronic is not a genre, it’s a platform. That’s where people get confused too, is EDM a genre, is EDM a way to make music? I view it as more of a way to make music. There are people who…like hip-hop elements in electronic music and even the same way hip-hop is created with samples and MPCs and how it was back in the day. People are making electronic music on their computers for the same reason as hanging out and whether it was sound systems in Harlem or downtown warehouses, it’s the same thing. Getting together, throwing your own thing, doing it, starting from underground.
I think the EDM wars, I have no idea what that really is or what it’s going to look like. But at the end of the day, it all shows that it means something, to a great or less degree.
Over the last couple years, there have been a lot of people who have been trying to say that the EDM bubble is going to burst. Every time something new happens, they say, oh this is the end of this. Do you think there’s ever…
Never a situation like that?
I think there’s always going to be, there always has been. I think maybe just like anything, certain sounds and styles if they’re copied too much, it becomes diluted. That happens with everything. But that’s up to the artist to create their own world and create their own individuality, that’s not really a bubble thing. Diplo will always have a career, A-Trak will always have a career. Tiesto will always have a career, he has for 20 years, or however long he’s been doing that. He’ll always be doing it, he has a real fan base. All these people have created their own identities, whether as DJs or producers, they’ve created their own world and in the space of music at large.
I think it’s impossible. There’s so much, and that’s what I was talking about earlier. It’s not just EDM, how can the EDM bubble burst? How can there even be an EDM bubble? People from the hip-hop world are fucking with EDM people, people from rock world. It’s so more intertwined than people think, that it’s this own thing that’s happening. But it’s at Coachella, it’s at Bonnaroo, it’s at Lollapalooza, and it always has been. There’s always been dance tents, they’re now just getting a little bigger. All the artists are actually put on an even pedestal.
I think certain things there could be a bubble, just like anything else, if you put all your eggs in one basket then...if Las Vegas all of a sudden builds 15 new casinos and it becomes this giant bidding war, then it kills the vibe. It all comes from the top down. If the vibe gets fucking dirty, then it’s going to make the fucking show look dirty subconsciously, yeah.
When we were at your part, I saw your plaque for your one million YouTube subscribers. I’ve been wondering, what would you say is the reason for you blowing up? You were on MySpace and you obviously gained a lot of fans there. When I was talking to people at the office, they’d be like, damn I didn’t realize that the video with Damian Marley had 85 million views. Where do you think that comes from?
I think it’s because there was no one who was doing what I was doing when I was doing it. That’s where it started. There’s no one—this might sound conceited—but there was no one like me. Deadmau5 put me on and gave me this huge platform and put me on his label at a time when his label was like fuck man, it was a dream to be on. And took me out on tour and put me in that dance Beatport world even though I was cultivating my own audience that was outside of club culture.
So when I came in there, there was nothing like that in club culture, that took from rock, that took from melodic, even trance and house elements and then mixed it with tear-out music and even did other things with that. I feel like there was a space open for that and I happened to fill that at that time.
But it wasn’t conscious or anything, it was just what you were doing and the chips fell.
People think there’s this giant, major machine. The team you’re looking at is pretty much sitting in this car. We just make records, we put them out and we tour. We do what everybody else does. But the thing is, this isn’t my first record. “Scary Monsters” wasn’t my first record, “My Name Is Skrillex” wasn’t my first record, I’ve been putting out records since I was 16 on bands and touring. Even though it’s different, it’s still the same patterns and you learn certain things that always work.
I think it’s touring smart, it’s not signing giant deals, touring deals, at least for what I do. Certain people will sign away three years of touring and get a big advance and then you’re limited to those type of venues and you’re limited to promoters, whereas I play so much stuff that I feel like has a lot more culture and flexibility. Rather than taking residencies with certain promoters, I like to give it all to everybody. Just go with the people who are doing the coolest shit rather than the people who are doing the biggest shit.
I know you did a Vegas residency last year. Was it difficult to move around the way you wanted to move around?
No, I guess Vegas residencies are different because I’m already booked up til 2015, mid-2015 through my touring. All a residency is is you pick a club that you like to play. It was basically easy because you only have so many off days where you can play Vegas and you fill them up through the year when you want. Then you can commit to those promoters, it becomes a residency. You can basically schedule it yourself.
So it’s a little bit more flexible.
So even if I’m like I can only play five shows in Vegas this year because I’m touring, you still call it a residency because you’re only playing there five times in the year.
What was that one like, because you were working with Cirque du Soleil and stuff?
I think that club has a lot of potential and it’s just very new. It’s a really nice club, it’s a really beautiful club, but it was a lot of mix ups in what resources we could have to build out our show in reality as opposed to what they said. But at the end of the day, I like the fact that it was more stripped down for our shows. When I play a club, it’s not about it being too crazy for me, it’s more about playing the music anyway. I didn’t want to have to have this other giant, crazy...because a spaceship is enough to fucking worry about as far as a show and planning it. Vegas was easy and when I say easy, I mean more that’s a time when I get to basically experiment and stuff.
You’ve been all over and I remember watching the documentary about you taking the tour out to Mexico. It feels like that’s one of the new hotbeds for EDM, especially with Electric Zoo going down there. Their fan base is really that heavy into it?
Dude when I was out there we were doing like, it was me and Guetta were the only people who were doing that size shows out there. After that, I’m not trying to take all the credit because people were doing house, people have been playing big festivals there for years and techno and clubs and discotheques but I feel like before that—dude, now? I swear after I went to Mexico and after I put that video up, half of my tweets are from Mexico. There’s so much more of a community and like so EDM, the ultra EDM community out there. That’s their window into like another world.
There’s no other scene out there that kids are as excited about compared to like hardcore music or compared to metal or compared to hip-hop. EDM is such a youth centered culture that goes from being 14,15,16 year old all the way up to 40 years old. Giorgio Moroder still fucking DJing man, he created electronic music pretty much. For these kids, all the new stuff is such a scene over there now, it’s crazy. Like shameless, they don’t give a fuck, EDM is their shit. I love that.
I wish it were like that sometimes around here where people could be that open.
If we just keep doing our thing and put that positivity out there, people will look back and go, “Shit,” and we’ll set that example and it will be that way. I think it’s easier to get jaded and look at things, when you read the Internet so much. When in real life, man, go to EDC, it sells out 100,000 people without announcing a line-up because of the scene, that goes to show. Anything else is refrigerator buzz.
What do you think about, because it seems like there’s a situation going on in Miami with this last Ultra Festival, how do you feel about that commissioner trying to shut down Ultra? I think he said the money they’re making is blood money or something like that.
[Sucks teeth] Yo, listen, in Ultra’s defense and I’ll be completely honest here, every festival I’ll put my hood up, pull my hair back, put my sunglasses on and walk around and take a good look. I feel like four years ago, and I’m not just saying this, other than knowing the promoters for years and stuff, I have no personal thing with Ultra. I’m not saying I don’t care for it but there’s no agenda with this but I walked around this year and okay, four years ago I walked around and midday on a Friday, the first day people were fucked up. People were zombies, zonked out of their minds. It was nasty to me. This last year, clean.
But dude, this year, it was such a clean, mature fucking all the genres were going off. It just felt like such a great vibe this year. Even the early EDC days, man, you walk around and it was so new and people don’t know how to fucking—
Exactly. This year I was like, man, it’s a shame this tragedy happened to one person to put that blood money bullshit out there because I don’t believe that. This year I felt was a turning point for Miami. It was also a lot quieter in the sense that it wasn’t so touristy, it was like, the streets on South Beach were a lot more thin. I think some of the old school parties suffered from that, maybe, some of the guys that haven’t put out records in a long time, their parties were dead, but all of the younger shit was going off. The audience was so, it felt clean man, it felt nice, it felt more together and mature, so I think it’s unfortunate that happened because I saw the opposite and I took a good walk.
Outside of all that, there was one thing I heard that you guys have, there’s a clothing collaboration coming up?
Yeah, with Long.
How’d that come about?
Oh man. Basically I just love their clothing. Alvin Risk kept wearing these shirts and I was like, “What the fuck is this?” And it’s Long and it’s basically one size fits all, you can fit into it, she can fit it, it’s crazy. It’s like a long shirt and kind of oversized and it’s actually the same guys that relaunched Boy London a few years ago. Boy London’s been a brand since the ’70s, I don’t know if you knew that. You know Boy? That thing you see everywhere? It went out of business and these guys had launched Long Clothing which had very similar aesthetics and they were approached by Boy to re-launch Boy. So Long Clothing is essentially the same team as Boy London but it’s their own kind of baby thing, and it’s just dope and really kind of like future, minimal, gothic aesthetic. It’s pretty cool.
We’re actually going to Japan next week to launch this clothing line at this store called Candies which is like the sickest, sickest, fashion, like the epicenter of fashion in Japan, crazy store.
So the clothing line is going to launch next week?
Um yeah, yeah, it’s launching next week. We’re actually having a party in L.A. as well at this spot called The Well in downtown L.A. Shout out to The Well.
Are you big into fashion?
Yeah I really love fashion. I’ve always kind of like, when it comes to fashion I guess, to a degree. I’m always just, I love how it’s a whole eco system within the creative world that has so much. I mean it propels itself to new heights all the time and it’s constantly evolving. There’s certain things in the world that the need for certain things can die out, fads can die out and as far as like, I’m trying to think of a good example.
Like for two years, everyone’s into coconut water and then coconut water goes away but fashion always sustains itself no matter what. It’s like, people, I really believe if you want to, whether it’s eating good food or wanting to present yourself a certain way. If you have that mindset the universe around you, you kind of create the ability to have those things and I think fashion, there’s a materialistic side to it, slash “I want to be able to sustain a certain lifestyle,” and it makes you have to create that lifestyle, if that makes sense.
There’s a lot of different angles to it. You grew up and you want to buy those expensive shoes. One day I want to be able to afford those shoes, that’s part of your dream and now you can afford those shoes. And it’s not even about those shoes because I wear vans anyway. I appreciate fashion more than I am fashion, if that makes sense. I’m very simple in what I wear.
That’s why I ask. I saw you rocking the Hood By Air stuff, you can talk about that stuff but it doesn’t seem, you.
It’s not me. Exactly. Sometimes I’ll just buy something really dope, just because it looks dope and I’ll never wear it. I’ll just like appreciate it and then maybe give it away some day.
You were talking about doing the sound design for Transformers and you said you wanted to get more into film stuff, are there any more projects like that on the horizon?
A couple of things that I’m all NDA’d on right now but for sure, it’s something that’s just fun to do. It just really helps stretch a different creative muscle, so yeah, it’s nice to do that and stuff.
I know you were skateboarding earlier, what kind of other shit are you into?
That’s pretty much it. Skateboarding, making some beats, I love eating. I love good food.
You’re a foodie?
I’m a foodie, pretty much. We definitely are always trying to eat—that’s another thing, like, I want to be able to afford the clothes I want to wear, which isn’t really much, and eat the food I want to eat. That’s all I really care about, anything else material is like, whatever. Oh, make the music I want to make, and eat the food I want to eat. Eating is so dope.
What are your favorite meals?
I love to hit a good sushi meal. This place from Jiro Dreams of Sushi is from this Japanese guy who’s like a famous, it’s amazing, actually, it’s very inspiring. I would recommend it to anybody. It’s this guy, he just makes sushi, he’s arguably the best sushi maker in the world.
It’s the very simple rice and fish and that’s it on top. But it’s how he massages the fish, where you get the fish, which buyer, he can see the fish and see how healthy it is. He knows exactly, and he does the same routine every day and he’s 90 years old. It’s keeping him alive and he said something that’s really inspiring. He said, to him, simplicity refined, is purity. Refining simplicity is purity, and that’s what sushi is.
Not to say everything has to be simple, and everything doesn’t have to be pure, it’s not right or wrong but like, if you want to create purity just refine simplicity and that’s what he’s doing. People were blown the fuck away when they eat that shit and he’s still like, I can get better, I’m just getting to that point. His son is 60 and he’s in there and still giving his son shit but his son is insane at making sushi, it’s a really dope movie to see how dedicated he is to his craft that keeps him alive.
If you do the same thing—even if it’s as simple as making sushi—every day, if you do something you love every day and go over and over and over it, at some point you’re going to be the best at that. If you stick to what you do, and that passion, and it really shows that even something as simple as making sushi.
Do you approach your music like that in a way?
Yeah. I think what I took from that is repetition and doing it over and over. It’s like that 10,000 hours thing, you can always get better. Even when you hit that 10,000 hours, become a master, you still have a whole new range where you can go and what you can create after that point so it’s like, you know.
Is there anything musically that you’re still trying to attain?
There's tons, man, there’s so much. On a career level, I guess I take this with anything whether it’s music or the label side, anywhere I’m in life, you always have some options whether it’s fuckin’ get stabbed and die or there’s the option to live, for the most part I’m talking about whether it’s music or what you want to do with a career. You always have options, just take the highest road always. So from that, there’s going to be doors that are going to open and you don’t know what’s on the other side but you take the one that’s going to keep you moving, you don't want to stop.
The worst thing you can do is stop. When I joined the band From First To Last, I didn’t think that was my thing, it wasn’t my voice really. It wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing but I was like, doing but I was like, dude, it’s an opportunity to go and get out there. I think a lot of people have a certain idea of what they should be doing in their head. We all have these friends who have that very specific fucking thing in their head that they have to be and they ended up never being that because they’re waiting around like it’s just going to happen but no man, you have to go with the flow. You’ll never know where you end up if you keep going and keep going in the industry, especially when it comes to creativity.
Even a song man, I can’t ever make a song and say it’s going to be “this,” because by the time it’s done on a creative level, it’s going to change. You can’t be attached to this thing, you just have to go and go. I’m just a creative person, I’m not even a musician, I’m just a creative person that makes more than anything—I’m saying I’m not a musician, I can play musicians and stuff but I just like to make stuff.
Part of what Skrillex is outside of the music I make is creating, like I said, there’s such a gap for this culture that’s happening and people don’t have a name for it and I hope to, overall with the label, with the shows we produce, with the people we have around us and the example we want to set, I want to fill that space more than anything I guess.