Photo: Jason Nocito
Skrillex is nothing if not hard to ignore.
He makes statement music, and the brash, noisy but melodic electronic tunes he has become so notorious for invite a love-it-or-hate-it response with little ground between. For all the kids who view Skrillex as bigger and better than The Beatles are voices deriding him as the worst thing to happen to music in decades.
In less than five years, that signature style has taken him from an underground favorite to a six-time Grammy award-winner and cultural icon skewered by the likes of South Park and Saturday Night Live, a breakneck pace worthy of his now-legendary drops. Skrillex is the first to claim that if he was aiming to please everyone, he’d have absolutely none of it.
“You should be polarizing. It’s a good thing, I think,” said Sonny Moore, the man behind Skrillex. “You can have a piece of art that you don’t even notice or a piece of art that causes you to react. I think it’s cooler that people can passionately notice me, even in a negative way. It shows that I’ve done something that they understand enough to even have that emotion, rather than not noticing at all. It’s not as polarizing as [you’d] think. The real world and Internet are different things entirely, and the festivals I play … the numbers trump a lot of the hate.”
It’s something about the perfect intersections laced across his musical journey — the time spent fronting hardcore band From First to Last, his equal fascination with club music and alt-electronic heroes Daft Punk and Justice — that tapped squarely into the psyche of EDM listeners new and old. Moore hacked into those who had yet to be hacked into, inspiring a movement that has made a distinct imprint on much of the music the decade has given us so far in the process.
His Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites and Bangarang EPs were big successes in their own rights, but the influence carries well beyond the songs found on each.
“I think it was me taking different influences together and finding something there,” Moore said. “It was all about the timing, and me taking a certain route inside a certain scene became a whole new thing entirely.”
That thing is dubstep, or at least what most Americans know as dubstep. The more aggressive, bass-heavy
take — referred to rather derogatorily as “brostep” by EDM purists — has
Skrillex as its poster child, whether he likes it or not. However, his
new album, Recess, shows he has more up his sleeve than his persona might suggest.
Embracing the more subtle nuances of an Aphex Twin or Squarepusher, he brings along an eclectic cast of collaborators — jungle icons The Raga Twins, Chance the Rapper, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos and more — crafting his most ambitious and sprawling work to date.
“A lot of my core fans know that I’m more versatile than I get credit for,” Moore said. “It might seem out of the blue for someone who doesn’t really know more than the word dubstep and a funny haircut, but I think the people that know me in-depth expect that out of me. The way I look at it, all the aggression and melody is there; it’s just adding more to the palate.”
But at the end of the day, Moore is OK with the misconceptions. He’s self-aware enough to title Recess’ opener “All Is Fair in Love and Brostep” and gleefully accepted an invitation to do some sound design work for the upcoming Transformers: Age of Extinction film, content to accept any and all criticism with a smile.
He might be a punch line to some, but it’s hard to hear the laughs over a sea of tens of thousands dancing their hearts out to something he created.
“I’m not trying to get away from anything; I’m just making music,” Moore said. “It’s not something that you need to take so seriously and overanalyze. You put it on, and it does what it does. It’s how it’s always been. It’s supposed to be fun.”