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Skrillex 101: A Primer on the Dubstep Demon Taking Over S.F. 

Wednesday, Feb 5 2014

That sound you're hearing is not an earthquake. If San Francisco seems a little more cacophonous than usual this week, or if you wake up in the middle of the night hearing what you swear are dinosaur farts, fear not. That's just Skrillex, the 26-year-old dubstep superstar known for hyperactive, bowel-shaking electronic music, who happens to be performing at a different local venue every night this week. All of Skrillex's shows are beyond sold out, but if you wanna know what the racket is about — or why your 22-year-old coworkers have been visibly hungover every morning this week — here's a handy guide to all things Skrillex.

So, Skrillex is a thing, huh?

'Fraid so. His real name is Sonny Moore, and he spent part of his childhood in San Francisco, where he was into skateboarding and hyper-aggressive rock music. Nowadays, like everyone in the music industry, he lives in L.A., and he's incredibly popular with people who walk around shirtless at dance music festivals across the world. (He's also won six Grammys.) Skrillex put on multi-day parties in New York and L.A. two years ago, and this week he's gracing our fine city with a week-long takeover.

Wait, he played rock music?

Yeah. As a teenager, Moore fronted a successful post-hardcore band called From First to Last, which sounded vaguely like what would happen if you put an emo singer at the helm of a metal band. They also had haircuts that involved sharp angles and plenty of black dye. But it was an EP of industrial electronic bangers, posted for free on Myspace, that led to the Skrill we know today.

So now he plays dubstep, or whatever you call it?

Dubstep, or brostep, or dino-fart-wave, or music for people who drink lots of Red Bull — whatever you wanna call it, Moore is at the forefront of a recent sound in dance music that melds huge, farty bass breakdowns with moments of glassy calm, and shoots it all through with laser-like sirens and odd vocal samples, thus ensuring that something new is constantly happening. He's not easy to pigeonhole, though: While his early stuff had a grating, metallic bent, more recent tracks have shown lots of Jamaican dub influence.

Sounds like music for the ADD generation. Is it any good?

It can be. Electronic music purists complain about his lack of fidelity to dubstep's U.K. roots, and the olds may compare a Skrillex track like "Bangarang" to the sound of a malfunctioning trash compactor. But since when do the purists and the olds know anything? Skrillex's tracks supply an irrepressible energy and a constant barrage of new textures over infectious beats. The best of them are crowd-pleasing, impeccably arranged, and utterly futuristic. They are not exactly subtle, but if Voltron ever held a dance party, he'd definitely play "Breakn' a Sweat."

It sounds like you're telling me he's good?

He is very capable at what he does, which is generating hyper-stimulating sounds from a laptop that will make you (or at least some younger, more energetic, more drugged-out version of you) want to dance and basically lose your mind. It's not Leonard Cohen, but it has its time and place.

What's the deal with all his collaborations?

Skrillex, like many artists, gets off on working with other people. He made a hit with rapper A$AP Rocky called "Wild for the Night," has a side partnership with Boys Noize that goes by Dog Blood, and has a new project called Jack U with Diplo that's premiering at Miami's Ultra Music Festival in March. "I love collaborating," he told Rolling Stone late last year. "You discover more things about yourself when you work with other people, and your limits, your boundaries, grow."

So is this guy, with his half-shaven head and his hyperactive music, like, a hedonist par excellence?

Sort of. Profiles of Skrillex describe him as subsisting on a steady flow of Red Bull, vodka, and cigarettes. But one profile noted that he hadn't tried Ecstasy or LSD, and feared the hangover of cocaine. He is often described as a ball of energy and a compulsive performer — the kind of guy, who on his one night off during a packed tour, will put together a last-minute party just so he can DJ.

Okay, now I wanna hear this Skrillex business. What should I listen to?

Put on his 2012 Bangarang EP, turn the volume all the way up, and get someone to turn the lights in the room on and off very quickly. His live show will be like this times 11,376.

About The Author

Ian S. Port


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