Sonny Moore, the diminutive, long-haired 24-year-old better known as Skrillex, is properly famous. On Facebook he has over three and a half million fans, with roughly 232,000 people “talking about him” right now (more than Jay-Z or Madonna but as yet nowhere near Justin Bieber). Groups called things like “I hate how they compare Skrillex to Jesus. He’s good, but he’s no Skrillex”, and “What starts with ‘S’ and ends with ‘EX’ and involves orgasms? Skrillex”, have over 40,000 members. All this from a man whose last band, the screamo four-piece From First To Last, once released an album titled Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Body Count.
It’s like ‘CRAZY EMO KID TURNED DUBSTEP METAL GUY BLAH BLAH BLAH’... [people] really don’t understand. I’m making all kinds of music, all BPMs. I’m using hip hop and techno and moombahton in my sets
Sonny first used the name Skrillex to make music in 2010. He’d programmed electronics for his previous band and put out his first wholly electronic record, the My Name is Skrillex EP, for free on Myspace. Not long after, Joel Zimmerman, the LED-headed DJ/producer Deadmau5, asked him to join mau5trap records. A second EP, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, was released in October 2010 and, thanks partly to that label’s huge following on download site Beatport, promptly sold over 500,000 copies in the US alone. Although he’s attracted love-him-or-hate-him commentary, Skrillex’s biggest success is in avoiding any one niche.
Known for unusual samples, he splices lines like “rude boy bass mash up the place” with Daft Punk-ish voices chirping, “We’re going to play some rock’n’roll”, and has boldly crossbred glitchy electronica with reggae and moombahton. Even collaborations with Korn and The Doors and remixes for Lady Gaga haven’t dented his following.
When people say I ‘jumped on the dubstep bandwagon’, I just want to say, ‘Whoa, whoa, rewind’ – there was no fucking wagon when I was making dubstep
Dazed spoke to him after his return from playing to 13,000 crazed fans in Puerto Rico, his biggest show yet. “There were a lot of women, so it was super sexy,” he laughs, while embittered bloggers and “true” dubstep heads pen ever angrier online screeds from the loneliness of their bedrooms. Where did it all go so right?
Do you attract a different audience everywhere?
It’s crazy because it really is so different. You’ve got Denver, Colorado, which is super weird – like hippy, really dancey. Then you have places like Madrid where it’s like a Metallica concert, with everyone partying on stage and going crazy in the crowd. In Miami I can play at a pool party where it’s all bikinis and free drinks and y’know… All that stuff. There are so many people listening to it.
What are you into at the moment? You’ve been retweeting things from Rinse FM?
SBTRKT is totally awesome. I’ve played festivals with him, and the coolest thing is that the ones in the US are so diverse. I can share a stage with SBTRKT and people can go just as crazy for both of us.
Skream has said you’re a ‘refreshing break’. Others have been more reserved…
If someone reads something, and it’s like ‘CRAZY EMO KID TURNED DUBSTEP METAL GUY BLAH BLAH BLAH’, then they really don’t understand. I’m making all kinds of music, all BPMs. I’m using hip hop and techno and moombahton in my sets! People that experience it will see that I’m not trying to back any sort of movement other than just making good music and having fun. Stop thinking about it, stop analysing it, just let the music affect you. Just enjoy it and if you don’t, then find something you do.
Skream also said you’ve shaken everything up without knowing it, like Benga and he did to garage.
I’ve been listening to Skream for a long time and he’s a friend of mine. All that Croydon crew. I was talking to Artwork when we did an afterparty at Fabric. I did a b2b DJ set with Caspa and everyone showed up: Pendulum, Magnetic Man, Nero, Sub Focus, Prodigy! Artwork understood where I’m coming from, because when they created dubstep out of garage they got all this criticism. ‘What is this? This isn’t garage!’ There were battles, there was beef between producers. They were the little kids fucking things up, and now they’re doing huge things, bigger than they ever have.
When did you start experimenting with dance music?
I’ve been touring since I was 16. I left home and did this punk band, slept on floors and got paid nothing. When people say I ‘JUMPED ON THE DUBSTEP BANDWAGON’, I just want to say, ‘Whoa, whoa, rewind’ – there was no fucking wagon when I was making dubstep. I was doing patios once a month: a shitty PA and 40 friends playing dubstep and whatever the hell else we wanted. We weren’t making money, except maybe $40 on drink tickets. It’s crazy where these songs have taken us. Anything can happen! There’s no bandwagon any more because nobody is going to places like MTV to find new music. You go to the internet and discover it yourself.
Do things like Grammy nominations mean a lot to you?
Do you know what means a lot to me? It’s that Photek finally got a nomination too! And Diplo!
Do you get young producers looking for advice?
It’s hard to answer every tweet but… I have lots of young fans, super young and then a lot older. Hip hop guys to metal chicks to dance kids to whoever. That’s what I’m most proud of. Not just for me, for the whole community. All boats rise with the water.
What about people mashing your songs with Katy Perry, Adele, Nicki Minaj… some of those tracks have five million views.
That’s totally cool, it’s flattering. Someone took time out of their day to do something creative.
You tour so much. Is it hard to keep going?
Last year we did 320-plus shows. It’s exhausting and not easy. It’s so much work – you’re up all night, you don’t sleep but it’s the most rewarding feeling in the whole world.
Is there one thing you really want to do this year?
I want to go places that are barely safe to go. That would be really fun. Have you seen that documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad? It’s what keeps people alive. It keeps them smiling. People are willing to risk so much to hear heavy metal. It’s the most romantic thing ever… Do you know what would be really cool?
I want to play the Mayan temples on December 21 for the end of the world.
This interview was first published in the March issue of Dazed & Confused and part of the Zero Year article
Photography by Jason Nocito