25th Anniv. Moment: Skrillex – July, 2011 [Interview]

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Originally published: July 2011

Burbank, Calif.—Just look at him—smoking a cigarette, sporting his massive hipster lenses and goth-kid cargo pants as he steps outside a rented soundstage, where he’s preparing for his Coachella performance in a few days.

Depending on where you lie in the spectrum of opinion surrounding Sonny Moore—aka electro-dubstep kingpin Skrillex—it’s enough to make you pull the trigger or fall down and grovel at his feet. For amongst electronic dance music devotees, his music has inspired both responses.

Moore must be used to it by now. Ever since striking out at age 16 as the lead vocalist and frontman for the screamo/post-hardcore act From First To Last, he’s routinely faced both adulation and scorn, thanks to that group’s emo tendencies. Upon leaving the group in 2007, Moore began working on electronic music in earnest with a series of projects—first the solo LP Bells and then the group, Sonny and The Blood Monkeys, before shifting into dance music in 2009.

But it was only with the release of “My Name Is Skrillex” and his subsequent release on deadmau5’s mau5trap label, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, that Moore hit paydirt, displaying a sure-handed grip on progressive house, electro… and dubstep. And that’s when the dirt started flying.

With his loud, ultra-aggressive appropriation of dubstep’s sub-bass strategies, Skrillex unwittingly thrust himself into a nasty dispute dubstep purists wage against newer and far less subtle “brostep” producers and the fratboy contingent that supposedly comes with them. And his rapid success not only angers, but frightens them. All of the eight tracks from Scary Monsters have charted on Beatport’s Top 10, a career ascent not seen from a single producer on that site since deadmau5. In particular, the title track charted at No. 1, the first dubstep track ever to do so. A string of sold-out live appearances stoked the flames further. Some read an ominous threat to the continued relevancy of dubstep itself into these developments – no, really.

“There’s a difference between perversion and evolution—dubstep is undergoing both processes at once,” Andrew Ryce warned on the tastemaking online dancesite Resident Advisor. “[Skrillex’s] music does a dangerous disservice if it’s perceived as representative of ‘dubstep’ to an audience that has never come upon it before.”

This should all sound familiar by now. Back in 1998, The Prodigy inspired similar fears when they released The Fat Of The Land, an album which Moore credits as introducing him to dance music, and he follows in their footsteps by dragging dancefloor orthodoxy kicking and screaming to its next phase of commercial evolution. DJs like Tiësto and Diplo have rocked Skrillex’s latest remix of Benny Benassi’s “Cinema,” and he’s collaborated with alt-metal touchstones KoRn on the dubstep/alt-metal hybrid “Get Up,” which has roiled purists further.

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