Keeping up with Skrillex


Keeping up with Skrillex

The EDM super on being an outsider and why Justin Bieber is a piece of art

By Sonam Savlani  October 14th, 2015

ELLE: You’re the hottest ticket in EDM, yet you’ve said you feel like an outsider. Why?
Skrillex: I feel like I’ve always felt like an outsider, in the sense that when you think of EDM music as a whole, it paints a certain picture in people’s heads of what that means. And not that that’s a negative thing, not that I’m saying that EDM is negative, but I’m constantly just pushing music in my own sort of direction and using a computer as my tool. So a lot of times we even get lumped into a certain category. When I first came out everyone just called me a dubstep artist, even though, if you listen to my full releases, it wasn’t just dubstep. People are always going to put you in a certain box because they need to label something on Beatport charts, but for me I’ve always kind of done my own thing.

ELLE: You’ve collaborated with so many artists over the years. What do you look for in a collaborator?
Skrillex:
You know, it’s crazy because everybody works differently and I just like that no matter who you’re collaborating with – this is for me – you always learn something new about yourself and how to approach making music. Obviously, collaborating with Diplo is fun because when we go into a session or whatever, it’s normally never really a session. We’re just kind of hanging out and ideas pop out randomly. Doing the song with The Doors – they were the strongest ones – Robby [Krieger] and Ray [Manzarek] were just jamming together, so I made a drum loop and they were literally jamming, and from there we pieced stuff together. That’s how they like to work. A lot of the collaborations even happen online; it’s kind of the new way of collaborating. 

ELLE: You’re working with MIA on her new album. Can you tell us about how that is coming along?
Skrillex: We were just sitting on our hotel room floor with our laptops and coming up with really organic, fun, fresh ideas. Blaqstarr was in there with us as well who is one of my favourite producers from Baltimore, there’s this kinda crazy mixture of sounds between all of us and it’s really fun. MIA is just so open to try anything. 

ELLE: You let visitors doodle on Justin Bieber’s footage in an LA art gallery before using it in your ‘Where Are Ü Now’ video. Did you filter it much?
Skrillex:
Well, no. The whole idea and concept that we came up with was taking someone like Justin Bieber, who’s such a huge icon, and making him a piece of art and putting him in that sort of light – the fact that, no matter what, he touches so many people whether you love or hate him. If you pause in that video there's a lot of hate, there's a lot of love, there’s everything you could ever imagine. The idea was that no matter who you were you could come in and say what you wanted to say, and it was just a very collaborative collage or curation. That’s kind of what Jack Ü is all about, and kind of where we come from. 

ELLE: Did you ever have a mentor in music?
Skrillex: Absolutely. Mentors are so important. I had two that really come to mind right off the bat. One is Ross Robinson who produced the second From First To Last album, my old band, and he also [worked with] At The Drive-In, The Cure, Korn and Slipknot... a lot of records that I grew up listening to. He was a real mentor to me, he really believed in me and told me to believe in myself. And also a guy named Noah Shane, who I did my solo album with that never came out. He was the first guy to teach me how to drive Pro Tools. I was doing demos myself and he was the first guy to listen to my electronic productions and say, “Yo, these aren’t demos, these are real productions.” He was the first guy to call me a producer and turn that switch in my head.

ELLE: Any young artists you're listening to at the moment?
Skrillex:
 There’s a lot of great stuff. Dej Loaf, her EP is one of my favourite things right now. We've got a lot of cool exciting stuff on my label that I’m really, really passionate about as well. It’s kind of hard to think of anything specific but there’s a lot of good stuff. There’s too much good music right now, which is a good problem to have.

ELLE: If you had to pick three songs to be remembered by which would they be?
Skrillex: Let me think... I really love the song I did on the first Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites EP, ‘With You, Friends (Long Drive)’, and I feel like that’s something that the surface level Skrillex fan wouldn’t really know but it’s something that I’m really proud of.  

‘Cinema’ is a big remix that I did for Benny Benassi a long time ago and that was like such a crossover point for me, to sort of whimsically take a big pop record that I heard Ultra play. Ultra played me a bunch of records like, “Do you want to remix stuff?” I heard the vocal and fell in love with it and flipped it and turned it into something it shouldn’t have been. And that was a big sort of crossover moment for me. 

It’s so hard, because I’m so proud of everything I do, obviously. The Justin Bieber song [‘Where Are Ü Now’] is one of the most incredible songs I got to be a part of and help create.

ELLE: Which has been your most exciting performance yet?
Skrillex: Probably the craziest, most exciting performance ever was closing Ultra this year, 2005.

ELLE: You mean 2015.
Skrillex: Fuckin’ 2015, man… [Laughs] How many hours of sleep did I get? Ultra was crazy because we were getting on the plane from Lollapalooza to Miami, and Diplo wasn’t booked on Ultra — he was just going to head home to LA. I was like, “Come do a surprise set.” Within a matter of a few hours we got Justin Bieber, CL, P-Diddy, Kiesza and Sam Dew together.

We had all of these guests that we brought together on one stage in such a short amount of time. We had this penthouse suite overlooking the festival, we rented it out just so we could rehearse. We had a sound system up there and we had all these people coming in and out all day, like, chucking the set together. I only had an hour and fifteen minutes I think; or even an hour to do my set, and then do the last fifteen minutes of Jack Ü, and it came together like magic at the end. We didn’t even know if P-Diddy was going to show up, and I was literally playing him the track edit we did over the phone, over Facetime. He learned it from there – that’s how on it he was – and then he just showed up and got on stage and did it. And the whole thing came together...crazy. That was a big turning point. In that moment I felt like anything could happen. We broke every single rule of what it means to be a DJ, or what EDM is or what’s cool and what’s not cool… We just made a statement that day and it was a really amazing accomplishment. 

ELLE: Can you elaborate on your plans for the India tour?
Skrillex:
 We’re out there for a few days and we get to really hang out and meet people. I want to get into the studio, I want to make some Bollywood music, I want to do a lot of stuff. My plans are just to have a good time. 

An excerpt of this interview appeared in the October edition of ELLE. Skrillex played in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai with Vh1 Supersonic Arcade. Gosupersonic.in

 

ELLE: You’re the hottest ticket in EDM, yet you’ve said you feel like an outsider. Why?
Skrillex: I feel like I’ve always felt like an outsider, in the sense that when you think of EDM music as a whole, it paints a certain picture in people’s heads of what that means. And not that that’s a negative thing, not that I’m saying that EDM is negative, but I’m constantly just pushing music in my own sort of direction and using a computer as my tool. So a lot of times we even get lumped into a certain category. When I first came out everyone just called me a dubstep artist, even though, if you listen to my full releases, it wasn’t just dubstep. People are always going to put you in a certain box because they need to label something on Beatport charts, but for me I’ve always kind of done my own thing.

ELLE: You’ve collaborated with so many artists over the years. What do you look for in a collaborator?
Skrillex:
You know, it’s crazy because everybody works differently and I just like that no matter who you’re collaborating with – this is for me – you always learn something new about yourself and how to approach making music. Obviously, collaborating with Diplo is fun because when we go into a session or whatever, it’s normally never really a session. We’re just kind of hanging out and ideas pop out randomly. Doing the song with The Doors – they were the strongest ones – Robby [Krieger] and Ray [Manzarek] were just jamming together, so I made a drum loop and they were literally jamming, and from there we pieced stuff together. That’s how they like to work. A lot of the collaborations even happen online; it’s kind of the new way of collaborating. 

ELLE: You’re working with MIA on her new album. Can you tell us about how that is coming along?
Skrillex: We were just sitting on our hotel room floor with our laptops and coming up with really organic, fun, fresh ideas. Blaqstarr was in there with us as well who is one of my favourite producers from Baltimore, there’s this kinda crazy mixture of sounds between all of us and it’s really fun. MIA is just so open to try anything. 

ELLE: You let visitors doodle on Justin Bieber’s footage in an LA art gallery before using it in your ‘Where Are Ü Now’ video. Did you filter it much?
Skrillex:
Well, no. The whole idea and concept that we came up with was taking someone like Justin Bieber, who’s such a huge icon, and making him a piece of art and putting him in that sort of light – the fact that, no matter what, he touches so many people whether you love or hate him. If you pause in that video there's a lot of hate, there's a lot of love, there’s everything you could ever imagine. The idea was that no matter who you were you could come in and say what you wanted to say, and it was just a very collaborative collage or curation. That’s kind of what Jack Ü is all about, and kind of where we come from. 

ELLE: Did you ever have a mentor in music?
Skrillex: Absolutely. Mentors are so important. I had two that really come to mind right off the bat. One is Ross Robinson who produced the second From First To Last album, my old band, and he also [worked with] At The Drive-In, The Cure, Korn and Slipknot... a lot of records that I grew up listening to. He was a real mentor to me, he really believed in me and told me to believe in myself. And also a guy named Noah Shane, who I did my solo album with that never came out. He was the first guy to teach me how to drive Pro Tools. I was doing demos myself and he was the first guy to listen to my electronic productions and say, “Yo, these aren’t demos, these are real productions.” He was the first guy to call me a producer and turn that switch in my head.

ELLE: Any young artists you're listening to at the moment?
Skrillex:
 There’s a lot of great stuff. Dej Loaf, her EP is one of my favourite things right now. We've got a lot of cool exciting stuff on my label that I’m really, really passionate about as well. It’s kind of hard to think of anything specific but there’s a lot of good stuff. There’s too much good music right now, which is a good problem to have.

ELLE: If you had to pick three songs to be remembered by which would they be?
Skrillex: Let me think... I really love the song I did on the first Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites EP, ‘With You, Friends (Long Drive)’, and I feel like that’s something that the surface level Skrillex fan wouldn’t really know but it’s something that I’m really proud of.  

‘Cinema’ is a big remix that I did for Benny Benassi a long time ago and that was like such a crossover point for me, to sort of whimsically take a big pop record that I heard Ultra play. Ultra played me a bunch of records like, “Do you want to remix stuff?” I heard the vocal and fell in love with it and flipped it and turned it into something it shouldn’t have been. And that was a big sort of crossover moment for me. 

It’s so hard, because I’m so proud of everything I do, obviously. The Justin Bieber song [‘Where Are Ü Now’] is one of the most incredible songs I got to be a part of and help create.

ELLE: Which has been your most exciting performance yet?
Skrillex: Probably the craziest, most exciting performance ever was closing Ultra this year, 2005.

ELLE: You mean 2015.
Skrillex: Fuckin’ 2015, man… [Laughs] How many hours of sleep did I get? Ultra was crazy because we were getting on the plane from Lollapalooza to Miami, and Diplo wasn’t booked on Ultra — he was just going to head home to LA. I was like, “Come do a surprise set.” Within a matter of a few hours we got Justin Bieber, CL, P-Diddy, Kiesza and Sam Dew together.

We had all of these guests that we brought together on one stage in such a short amount of time. We had this penthouse suite overlooking the festival, we rented it out just so we could rehearse. We had a sound system up there and we had all these people coming in and out all day, like, chucking the set together. I only had an hour and fifteen minutes I think; or even an hour to do my set, and then do the last fifteen minutes of Jack Ü, and it came together like magic at the end. We didn’t even know if P-Diddy was going to show up, and I was literally playing him the track edit we did over the phone, over Facetime. He learned it from there – that’s how on it he was – and then he just showed up and got on stage and did it. And the whole thing came together...crazy. That was a big turning point. In that moment I felt like anything could happen. We broke every single rule of what it means to be a DJ, or what EDM is or what’s cool and what’s not cool… We just made a statement that day and it was a really amazing accomplishment. 

ELLE: Can you elaborate on your plans for the India tour?
Skrillex:
 We’re out there for a few days and we get to really hang out and meet people. I want to get into the studio, I want to make some Bollywood music, I want to do a lot of stuff. My plans are just to have a good time. 

An excerpt of this interview appeared in the October edition of ELLE. Skrillex played in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai with Vh1 Supersonic Arcade. Gosupersonic.in