Photo by Ethan Saks, Courtesy of Skrillex
It’s not often that a musician sees so much success in two completely different genres of music. Before Skrillex existed, Sonny Moore was the screaming emo rocker “From First to Last” until he discovered a new found interest in the electronic musical arts, a.k.a. Dubstep.
With the recent backing by Deadmau5’s label Mau5trap he has found the confidence to mix sold out club head bangers that pump paradoxes into your ears. The dissonant high pitched interjections drown out the apparent harmony trying to escape from the metallic overlap, which even takes your attention away from the underlying base that’s presumably integral to Dubstep – or so you thought. Music this unpredictable shouldn’t work but it’s on repeat on millions of iPods.
Musebox recently talked to Skrillex about his newest album, “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.” We discussed Dubstepping, “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” what he uses to make his sick beats, social media strategies and getting felt up by the TSA.
Musebox: Why are you on a Blackberry as opposed to an iPhone?
Skrillex: I’ve been on the Blackberry for so long. I love the iPhone for the apps – that’s the biggest reason I’d choose an iPhone if I ever you know thought about making the jump. I like the Blackbery. I’m just so used to it. I have 50 people on BBM all over the world and I like to keep in touch. You know Diplo he’s on all the Blackberry commercials and he’s the DJ.
MB: Do you prefer DJing or singing?
S: It’s all one thing. I mean everything that encompasses Skrillex I prefer more than I’ve done before. I prefer everything else that I’m getting to do now, in general.
MB: How difficult did you find it to break out in your career before From First to Last?
S: I was super young, so there wasn’t a rush to make an album. I was just making music just to do it you know.
MB: What about college?
S: I left school. I didn’t care about that. I went to an artsy school in LA and I left school when I was 16 and pursued music full time.
MB: So what’s with your album’s title, “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites?”
S: I kind of came up with it because the melody and beauty, the darkness of the record kind of encompasses it all, you know?
MB: What are some of the criticisms you’ve faced with the style you work in?
S: You know, I don’t really know. I don’t really take into that. I don’t know what criticism. Actually there wasn’t a criticism, but a rumor that someone ghost produced my record, that Skizm ghost produced my album.
MB: That’s definitely not true right?
S: No it’s definitely not true. Wouldn’t you want to keep the tunes yourself when it’s that successful?
MB: How did you transition from First to Last? How much of the transition was compelled by the surgery that you had on your throat?
S: None of it was because I was singing after I had the surgery plenty of times. The main reason was because I had three records worth of material shelved by Atlantic. They wouldn’t let me release any of my solo stuff.
MB: Why what happened?
S: I dunno, maybe because they have their heads stuck in their asses? I don’t really know. Just because they’re a major label. They doctor everything that goes through the system. So Skrillex is a way for me to do exactly what I wanted, when I want to do it and it happened. Take the record out of the picture I’m still doing what I want to do now.
MB: So you’re independent right now? I thought you were signed to Deadmau5’s label.
S: Independent in the sense that there is no benefit. I did the record myself. There’s no money put into the record, there’s no money put into any marketing from the label. There’s been no money put into the videos or anything at this point. So in that sense, yea there’s been money put into touring, there’s been no money put into the record label at this point for the Skrillex project. So I’m doing everything independently even though being signed to a label.
MB: So that’s why I saw on your Twitter, “You don’t need a big shiny fancy “major” label to make it. Just make awesome music and build your own world around it for people to live in.”
S: Exactly, that’s what Skrillex is. It’s just like great music and just invite people into your world and then back to the social networking and whatever, the best part about that is that before you had to live in a certain area to listen to a certain type of music. And you can find it everywhere and it helps guys like me whoever else. Pretty Lights is a perfect example of a band that does it 100%. And they’re selling out shows all around the U.S. They’re selling out shows for free.
MB: What would your ideal world look like?
S: Record to record. Whatever Scary Monsters, whatever that visually speaks to you however that speaks to you. You know what I mean? And then my next ideal world will be the next record you know? It’s still about incredible sounds, visuals and dark stuff and visual stuff.
MB: So you’re sticking to the fact that you’re trying to make people happy right?
S: Absolutely man.
MB: Do you think Myspace is on the decline? I was looking at your profile and you said, “what’s up with Myspace?”
S: Totally, absolutely. It’s just a ghost town now. No one goes there. They just imploded on themselves. It’s all just advertisements. No one gives a shit and it’s so hard to sit through all the craziness when you go on now.
MB: I’m guessing advertisements turn you off?
S: I don’t know if they turn me off. It’s just that I think it was done so distastefully. It’s not prime real estate that’s for sure.
MB: What sites do you use?
MB: Oh yea? Are musicians turning to Facebook?
S: I think it’s naturally definitely occurred. I think it’s just more user friendly. I don’t think there was an exodus or anything for an insane reason. I just don’t think that Myspace is just a great platform anymore.
MB: Can you give me one example of what makes you turn to Facebook?
S: The good thing about Facebook is that they capitalize on the idea of a wall. So you have a newsfeed where you can casually see what’s going on from other people. You can choose whether you like a band or you can see what’s going on in the newsfeed casually than having to sift through information. You can just see it there.
MB: How important is social media today?
S: It’s just protocol. It’s just the way the world is now as much as communication is important because it’s what is used. It’s kind of the norm now. Yea, it’s definitely important in the sense that it’s a very basic tool that everybody uses for all types of… it’s kind of like a watering hole. It’s a standard. So many people are in it all under one roof, you know?
MB: What programs do you use? What’s some of the gear that you use?
S: Ableton Live, and it’s all in the box. I’m not using any outboard gear or any hard synths, soft synths, effects plug-ins. Nothing fancy at all.
MB: How much sleep do you get since you’re constantly touring?
S: I was just talking about this. Before even I went to bed late I would try to wake up early. Now I’m just sleeping in. Touring is hard sometimes because ill have an early flight, I’ll have to either wake up or stay up all night after a show and give TSA hell.
MB: Oh yea, have you gotten patted down yet?
S: Dude, one time they swabbed my hands and quote unquote found explosive material on my hands just because I had matches on me or something. They took me to the backroom and did the full dick touch. Like they didn’t go under my boxers, they went right over my boxers and went everywhere. It was a basic cavity search over my underwear on my pants, on my butt, everywhere in the bathroom. Opened every single nook and cranny of every single pocket of my wallet, backpack, everything. Literally two more minutes and I would have missed my flight.
MB: Did they know who they were touching?
S: No. But once, one guy from TSA recently recognized me like, Skrillex, that’s cool. I had to go through the X-ray scanner.
MB: What other sites do you use aside from Facebook. Do you use Soundcloud?
S: Soundcloud, I haven’t updated it as much as I should but it’s cool though if you wanted to check out different music.
MB: So I guess you’re mostly on Twitter?
S: Yea, it’s easy because it’s on my phone.
MB: Do you have any legal troubles when sampling clips?
S: No, I haven’t sold anything that had samples in it. That’s where you get the legal troubles. Everything in Scary Monsters Nice Sprites aren’t copyrighted samples. They’re all stuff that I’ve created.
MB: So is there anything aside from music that you’d be interested in pursuing in the future?
S: Not that I know of. I’d like to do something and use my music as a platform to do something outside of music that helps people.
I’ve been for the last couple of years casually working with a non-profit called Fallen Whistles and they basically advocate peace in Congo. The whistle represents basically the youngest children in the Congo that are being forced to fight for the militias. The smallest children who are too small to hold a gun carry whistles around their necks and they’re basically human shields and it’s a pretty gnarly story. So Fallen Whistles sells whistles (representative of the ones worn by Congolese children) to expand their non-profit. They’re building schools and educating people and rehabilitating kids in Congo.
MB: What about gigs and financing?
S: There’s no financing in my record. It’s all laptop it’s all my own shit. You can do a record on your own you know? There wasn’t any money. Gigs just happened because there was a demand for you. It’s about playing, getting into good circuits and making good music.