A Vivoscene Feature Article by Jason Schreurs
“You can hear them, but when you walk by they shut the fuck up!” – Skrillex referring to his detractors as “crickets” in a 2011 interview with mixmag.com
It’s easy to trash-talk Skrillex. For as long as music has existed, it’s been simple to blacklist and denounce skilled musicians that we either don’t understand or don’t want to understand. Before I was assigned to review Skrillex’s debut EP, My Name Is Skrillex, for one of my freelance outlets, I was of the opinion that all DJs were coked-out hacks who made a career out of spinning other artists’ music and wearing glow bracelets around the brim of their sideways-turned hats, while dancing and hand-gesturing like douche-bag marionettes. Not real musicians.
Skrillex changed my misconceptions and preconceptions. And it all took was some splicing and dicing, some sampling and mixing and mashing. And, yes, a kid named Sonny Moore who probably spent every waking moment since quitting the emo-core boy band From First to Last in 2007 holed away in his bedroom, writing the music that would soon be changing our whole landscape.
“Bangarang.” We’ve all heard it, at least a dozen times. It’s replaced “Girls, Girls, Girls” at the go-to stripper pole tune. It’s that song that every jacked-up truck in every small town in North America seems to keep on repeat for those daytime jaunts to the lake and those nighttime Budweiser runs. It’s the song my kids always want me to wake them up with in the morning, like a tricked-out alarm clock. My friends hate when I say this, probably because I say it all of the time, but “Bangarang” is this generation’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I know, you all hate that, but deal with it. And how dare I compare Sonny Moore to the genius of Kurt Cobain, right? Well, guess what folks, Sonny Moore has more talent than Cobain ever had. And guess also what? He’s. Not. Dead.
I rated the debut Skrillex EP four out of five stars. I was being generous. It wasn’t fully developed, but I was so endeared by this kid’s energy and enthusiasm that I got carried away and just kind of went for it. It was like the time when my oldest son made me a pottery trinket jar and it was all misshapen and twisted, but it was so original and cool looking that I just had to hug him tight and trust that someday this kid would be an artistic genius. Four years later he was doing paintings that blew my mind and designing side-scrolling video games that should have had Nintendo battering down our doors.
Skrillex was/is a wunderkind. His second EP, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, was a beast of epic proportions. Sure, the underground will claim that he was just aping those dubstep, drum ‘n’ bass and [insert countless other electronic subgenres here] legends that came before him. I won’t be listing names.
But, in actuality, Sonny Moore took everything he knew about the dance-floor and kinda threw it out the window. This was a kid raised in Los Angeles and San Francisco, bouncing between punk rock shows in the urban cores and raves and dance parties in the suburbs. The kind of kid who early in the night, after grabbing the most authentic burrito in the Santa Ana, would hit The Locust and Jenny Piccolo show at Koo’s Cafe, then much later go and dance to Spice Girls with a different set of friends over a half-dozen Smirnoff Ices* (*This very well may have happened). The rules followed by most DJs in the dance scene didn’t really apply to this particular young fellow.
And so came the notoriety, and the groupies and the haters. And real fast-like. When I met Skrillex at a sold-out Toronto show a few years back, he was the most humble person I’d ever encountered in my music coverage travels. He invited me backstage after reading my review of his first EP, and was stoked that the punk rock publication for which I wrote would be covering his stuff. I explained that due to his start in the punk/hardcore/emo crybaby scene with From First to Last, there would always be interest from the underground in what he was doing. He smiled, lit a smoke, closed the dressing room door to keep out any hacks or hos (of which there were copious amounts in the room next door, hanging out with Nero), and offered me a glass of whiskey. We hung out, chatted a bit, kinda did some deep breaths together, and then I decided to leave him with his thoughts. Sonny Moore hugged me, thanked me for my review and sent me off into the night. It felt like I had just caught up with my eccentric nephew, the one with the unfortunate haircut and the wonderful smile.
Of course, we all know that Skrillex is one of the hottest things going in music right now. Mention his name in any circle and you’re bound to get some sort of reaction. The 65,000-plus who saw him at the Festival d’Ete in Quebec City, the largest outdoor music festival in North America, in the summer of 2012 (myself included) experienced a performance that transcended music genres, an event that they would be hard-pressed to ever wipe from their memory banks, no matter how drunk or high or heat-stroked they were that particular night.
Skrillex, like all great musical artists, has the power to bring people together over a common cause. And even though I don’t completely understand what that common cause is, besides saving the world one rump-shake and “no, no, no” hand gesture at a time, what really matters is that we can all be together and connect with each other. Hate all you want, trash-talk until all of the big-wheel monster trucks have run out of the earth’s supply of petrol and we’re all running around like the misfits in Mad Max-land, but Skrillex is the future of music. And he’s damn well going to save it.
“I never really even hear these haters’ views, mainly because I don’t have much time for the Internet. I go to shows and all I see is love.” – Skrillex quote from a 2011 interview with mixmag.com
Here are a few essential Skrillex songs you won’t be hearing on the dance floor (unless your DJ is really fucking rad):
“With You Friends” from My Name Is Skrillex
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that this one is inspired by Sonny Moore’s love for everything related to the Spice Girls.
“Scatta” from Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
Featuring UK rappers Foreign Beggars and British DJ Bare Noize, this is the kind of track you’d expect from grimey limeys, not some pimply kid from northern California.
“Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (Zedd remix)” from Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
Straight-up circus music, remixed by a German DJ who I once referred to in a live review as the “Justin Timberlake of dubstep.”
“This Is The Shark Attack (Skrillex remix)”
Sometimes I think Skrillex is just fucking with us with some of these remixes. This one is for those late-night MDMA binges.
“Get Up (Skrillex remix)” from Korn’s The Path of Totality
The first time I heard Skrillex’s collaboration with nu-metal originators Korn, I made a massive stink-face and thought, “You have got to be fucking kidding me?!” Now I often listen to this song when I brush my teeth in the morning to get pumped for the impending day.
“Kyoto (featuring Sirah)” from Bangarang
Would be a slamming dance-floor tune, but it all depends on whether your DJ wants to risk playing the same track for over 26 minutes. I would.
Watch: Korn featuring Skrillex “Get Up”
Hear: Our Skrillex playlist (Missing is “This Is The Shark Attack” – not available through Rdio)