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  • Skrillex @ SXSW 2012
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Skrillex @ SXSW 2012

I saw a lot of great things at SXSW this year. Fiona Apple contorting her way through a raw and wracked and ultimately triumphant solo set, her first in years, proving on a grand stage that she’s still the mesmeric talent we remembered. Girls, buoyed by a trio of ebullient backup singers, beefing up the soul quotient from their excellent last album and finding new depths for their emotive psychedelia. Ceremony and Narrows and All Pigs Must Die and especially Trash Talk, all proving that old hardcore forms, done right, can be as immediate and as physically cathartic as ever. Rick Ross, bellowing his way through an absolutely bulletproof set of bangers in front of a rapturous Fader Fort crowd. Screaming Females and Free Energy and Cloud Nothings and Kendrick Lamar and Titus Andronicus and Action Bronson and Black Tusk and Killer Mike and Zola Jesus, all slaying. But none of these was my favorite act at the festival. The one I liked best was a tiny pale guy with a goofy name and a goofier haircut, crouching behind a couple of laptops. You can probably see where I’m going with this.

Around certain corners of the internet, the comments section of this site often included, Skrillex is an instant punchline. I’m not altogether certain why, though I have my theories. When James Blake derided the new wave of American dubstep producers for “macho-ism” and for not appealing to women, it’s a foregone conclusion that he mostly meant Skrillex, though Skrillex now has more female fans than James Blake will ever have. (Ask the girl who literally begged Corban for $25 to get into the warehouse where he was playing.) Skrillex does have a goofy name and a goofy haircut, but it’s not like pop music doesn’t have a grand history of both of those things. (Imagine clowning David Bowie for the Ziggy Stardust rooster mullet, or for calling himself “Ziggy Stardust.” Also, Skrillex’s haircut works as a nice live prop; he whips it around a lot.) A lot of people seem to think Skrillex is an emo guy, but the band that Sonny Moore used to lead was From First To Last, a screamy metalcore band who I first read about in underground-metal Bible Decibel; I once watched Moore climb a festival-stage scaffold with his mic chord between his teeth when he was singing for them. From First To Last weren’t an especially good band or anything, but they weren’t emo. They were way more badass than that.

The most common knock on Skrillex, though, is his reliance on the simple, serrated bass drop — the idea that his music is just WUB WUB WUB and nothing else. I’m way late in looking into this guy, and I went into the warehouse where he played essentially on curiosity alone; I certainly expected the WUB WUB WUB/nothing else thing. But what I found was one of the more dynamic sets I heard during all of SXSW. Skrillex, see, knows what he’s doing. He does what great DJs do: He layers sounds and ideas on top of each other, building tension and releasing it, moving fluidly from one thing to the next. Parts sounded like the sort of early-’90s hardcore techno that was popular with people who wore lots and lots of smiley faces. Other parts sounded like the sort of dark, broody late-’90s breakbeat techno that was popular with scary white guys with dreads. There was also a lot of robotic one-drop reggae in there. Early on, Skrillex played a big chunk of Damian Marley’s “Welcome To Jamrock” unmolested. Later, he dug out Ini Kamoze’s “World-A-Music,” the song that Marley sampled on “Jamrock.” All of it fit in seamlessly. None of it was built around bass-drops. Those bass-drops, though…

I have a theory about Skrillex’s bass-drops. As previously mentioned, the man spent his late teens singing for a popular metalcore band. By and large, the best part of any metalcore song is the breakdown, the part where the song slows down and the riffs suddenly turn dark and martial. That’s the part where the pit suddenly fills with guys doing that inexplicable gymnastic fist-swinging spin-kicking dance that they do. Even if you think metalcore is dumb and formulaic music — and most of it absolutely is — it’s still a deeply impressive sight when the judder-riff starts and the floor suddenly fills with berserk ninjas. As a metalcore veteran, maybe Skrillex sees the bass-drop the way he once saw the breakdown — as a crude but ultimately effective-as-fuck maneuver that it’s worth building an entire track around because of the things it can do to a live crowd. Because when you’re in a sticky and sweltering warehouse full of deliriously excited kids and that bass-drop kicks in, it’s just a fucking incredible feeling. That bass gets so huge and so tangible that you can practically open your mouth and eat it. It rearranges your entire body-chemistry, and it affects everyone the same way. To be in a crowd of people losing your mind to this is to feel an intense feeling of self-erasure. You give yourself over to it. So does everyone around you. And then it ends, and Skrillex goes back to building up his next buildup, and you just sort of look around yourself and grin. It feels good.

I went to a few raves back in the day. These weren’t those late-’80s/early-’90s raves, the ones that writers like Simon Reynolds sermonize about, where revelers treated their Ecstasy experiments like religious sacraments. These were the sketchy, gross late-’90s/early-’00s versions, the ones where a bunch of tweaked-out kids would take over a concrete-bunker club or a dusty open field and party until the sun came up or until enough kids passed out that somebody had to shut it down. At those things, the entire point was to get fucked up, zone out on the lights, sweat a bunch, and walk out more destroyed than you came in. Those parties were fun, but they weren’t transformative; they didn’t make me feel the way punk shows felt. At those parties, journeyman DJs like Bad Boy Bill or Dieselboy would follow a rote but powerful blueprints, where tension in tracks would build to the part where the beat kicks in and the siren noises blare and everyone goes nuts.

This wasn’t that. For one thing, the only light show came from the few kids who were waving around glowsticks. (Not liquid-dancing with them, either; just waving them.) For another, Skrillex plays around with that old build-and-release dynamic, but he’s built his own dialect of it. When the bass-drop kicks in, the track usually slows down and stretches out. Sometimes, it comes with very little warning. Others, the buildup lasts so long that you almost think the drop is never going to come. And not all bass-drops are the same. Some are strobing machine-gun bursts; others sound like when that kid at your lunch table would burp for like a minute straight. The only constant: They move.

I’ve spent the morning listening to Skrillex’s three EPs, and they’re fun, but they’re not really any indication of what this guy does. Maybe he’ll make a great record some day, and his tracks certainly bring the hooks, and sometimes they sound the way people wish that last Justice album sounded. But at this point, listening to Skrillex at home is almost like listening to Gwar at home. The live experience is the thing. In the middle of SXSW, when I was tired and depleted as fuck from dragging my carcass around to god knows how many shows, that live experience made a believer out of me. And I didn’t have anything more than a couple of beers in my system. If I’d been on the right drugs, whatever those right drugs even are, I can’t even imagine what it would’ve done to me.

Comments (286)
  1. Party on, Wayne

  2. inb4ashitstorm

  3. No, no, no, no, no. I’m not even going to bother reading this. Between you guys and Pitchfork, it seems after SXSW, everyone suddenly jumped on the Skrillex bandwagon for some ridiculous reason. That’s fine, but no. And there’s a big difference between having fun and listening to music that’s good. Just no. If this is the direction we’re heading, I’m leaving Stereogum’s comment parties.

    • I agree with you. For me, dubstep isn’t music, but just another reason to get really fucked up. Kind of like St. Patrick’s Day, or Super Smash Brothers. When I’m talking to someone about music and they mention Skrillex (or any dubstep, really), I cringe. I can see the appeal of dubstep when you’re a part of a sweaty, spazzing mass of people higher than God, but you’re goddamn insane if you listen to dubstep in your car, or walking down the street, or in any situation in which you aren’t covered in neon paint.

      • Maybe the question you should be asking yourselves is why aren’t you constantly part of a sweaty spazzing mass of higher than god people? That sounds pretty great. Like the end of Matrix 2, the best movie of the trilogy. God, I need to stop doing so many drugs.

        • What troubles me the most is that in one, long lengthy pro-Skrillex post, Tom has cancelled out all the good work he did for Ceremony. In fact, there’s probably more words here in support of Skrillex than there are in every Ceremony-related post combined since January.

          I’m taking my ball and going home, and I’m not sure if I’m ever going to come back to play. This is almost as bad as finding out that my best bud who moved to NYC with musical aspirations now dedicates his all time to an improv group.

          • Wellll, we need that ball to play. We can’t play without the ball.

          • We don’t really need that ball, anyway. We need the regulation one, not the half-sized, rubber one from Savers that someone wrote “Bandwagon” and “Ceremony” all over in all caps with a purple Sharpie.

            The least you could have done is left unCeremoniously with your tiny low-five ball.

        • Christ, The Matrix Reloaded is such a great movie.

      • I cringed everytime you referred to Brostep as Dubstep.

      • Wesley Morgan Paraham, meet Burial

      • Skrillex has nothing on Young Link’s down sword though.

      • Thank you for putting into words, what I have been trying to communicate to my friends about how I feel in regards to dubstep.

      • This is so fucked up, dubstep and neon paint DO NOT GO. The music all you people are talking about IS NOT DUBSTEP.

        I am not hating on skrillex or anything, but what he makes isn’t dubstep and shouldn’t be called dubstep, it’s something new and different. I mean heck, there are so many sub genres in dance music as it is, why have they not diverged from dubstep. it should be called ravestep or something, i dunno

        this sort of music is like steroid fuelled hyper kinetic ravey pop stuff, dubstep is sparse, stark and eerie and was made to reflect the isolation and social disconnect of council estate london. sorry to get nit picky, but this just isn’t dubstep.

      • Dubstep Isn’t Music. That’s a good one. And completely incorrect. Maybe you’re in some other genre of music say, rock n roll or maybe opera. In the Live in Pompeii DVD, Pink Floyd admitted they had no idea what they were doing with the technology when they had it, they were just using it to make the sounds and using the sounds to make the music…(paraphrased)and they are one of the greatest bands of all time (IMHO) that affected an entire generation, and their musical effect still ripples outward TO THIS DAY.
        So to sit there and say that dubstep isn’t music is to erase almost all of EDM off the map of creative, expressive output of sound, simply because it was created electronically? (see above paraphrase of PINK FLOYD ktnx). If this were the case, EDM wouldn’t exist: dubstep, drumstep, neurofunk, liquid, breaks, dnb, etc etc, –they wouldn’t exist at ALL were it not for the technology that allows the artists to push their feelings into this wonky bunch of circuitry we call a laptop or ipad or whatever..out through the magnetic pressure & sound wave machines called SPEAKERS which then hit the External Auditory Canal and… (ffs you don’t need an ear anatomy lesson).
        EDM producers are basically composers yes as in Bach, Beethoven ETC. COMPOSERS of music! Am I saying they are anywhere near as skilled as the Classical Masters? Well, that is arguable and a comment debate for another time!
        DJS are skilled turntablists that use their own or other people’s music to create “new” music through their mixes–and not 100 minute long mixes or CD releases, I’m talking about the several seconds where two pieces of music/tunes collide (hopefully not shoes in a dryer trainwreck style) to create a new sound. To tease the audience or to build up and DROP THE BASS!

        As far as SXSW being when everyone jumped on the Skrillex Boat, I will use my googling skill and call you both out, Wesly and Michael.. it was after his signing to mau5trap recordings (Deadmau5′s label)–probably most logically having his tunes dropped by deadmau5 himself — to his gigantic fan base and in 2010 when his first production album Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (that he just won a friggin grammy for) that we hardcore EDM lovers/Underground EDM music lovers, producers and djs started taking notice…at least those with their ears to the ground.
        so, yes this article is behind on the times but better late than never I suppose.
        Dubstep, I might add is an off shoot of DNB which came from HOUSE & TECHNO & developed originally in the UK. It is a genre still in its infancy and Skrillex has definitely made his mark.

        The one thing I DO NOT support is Skrillex becoming a pop culture icon and the face of “Dubstep” when there are multiple genres of dubstep. I am also pissed, yes, that Skrillex is the first and ONLY Producer to be awarded a Grammy. There definitely needs to be a retroactive Grammy award if they are going to start awarding EDM producers, ffs. Of course, I wrote an entire Op-Ed about nearly everything I just touched on at www. genuineindividual .com (sorry don’t want to spam but it is related) As of this comment/post it is currently on the front page. If you are reading this a couple weeks later, just search for Skrillex at the top right of the page.
        Anyway, Skrillex had the right combination to be skyrocketed to Underground fame & now Hollywood: The right sound (I will always assert that Sonny Moore is a creative soul.) The right uh, haircut?! aka the right “look” Kim Kardashian has a big booty, Skrillex has the glasses and probably a painful neck from tilting his head all the time. This combination of signature look & sound made Skrillex an unforgettable artist/producer. No, sorry, i will NOT call him a DJ. I have not once seen him mix in any shape form or fashion either on CDJs or the revered, analog turntables. His sets consist of him putting on a good show: bouncing around, flinging his hair, staying hype on and off the mic appropriately…all the while only pushing buttons to cute ableton live or whatever it is on his laptop.
        In Summary, Calling Dubstep “not music” is like calling any innovators of rock n roll or any, any other genre of music “not artists” or “not composers”. I can’t believe I just came to the “defense of Skrillex” but being in the scene as long as I have, I can’t stand reading people whose closed mindedness & egoes prevents them from experiencing new things. I mean ffs, its not like anyone is asking you to jump out of an airplane. It’s EDM. and NO, you do not have to be on drugs to enjoy the music, you friggin candy kids. If so, I wouldn’t have a job as I listen every single day to the latest & greatest from the hottest producers & labels at work while I design.
        Everyone has their own specific genre, in general, that they enjoy. Dont hate, appreciate. EDM is the evolved music of the century. Producers (and artists of other genres) are the composers of today, shaping, whether or not you like it, our culture, our perceptions, our hearts & minds and our world.
        diatribe over.
        bassgeisha out.

    • Yeah and apparently Skrillex=David Bowie. When he writes a “Life on Mars” get back to me. No offense Tom I usually love your writing.

    • You should read it. It’s easily one of the better written articles on this sucker, especially considering the lack of typos. But ya, no. Dude’s fucking awful. People who listen to this probably smell like taint and Sprite.

      • When this article was first posted, I didn’t read it (because I didn’t have the time to) but I’ve since read it thoroughly and rescind my knee-jerk initial reaction. It’s an interesting read and admittedly it probably won’t make me seek out a Skrillex show, but I’m looking at this piece more now as an objectively-minded look into a pop culture phenomena rather than a shock-and-awe feature that meant to deride readers.

    • I don’t understand comments like this. If the music makes you have a fun time, how is it not good music? Fuck the bullshit politics and self-righteous mentality of musical elitism. Duke Ellington put it best when he said, “if it sounds good, it is good.” People force themselves to listen to hours of horrendous sounds with no sense of musical direction simply because of the message or the idea of supporting indie music. The fact of the matter is this: Skrillex knows music and he damn well knows how to put on a good show.

      If you like Skrillex’ tunes, fine. If you don’t like them, that’s also fine, but without even reading the article you’ve decided to take a shit on the opinions of this author without offering even the slightest bit of critical insight.

  4. Cool story, bro.

  5. The whole bass-drop theory is totally spot on, which would explain why all of the metalcore kids I used to know are WAY into skrillex right now.

    • Am I the only one who thought this was pretty obvious, though?

      • You are not the only one.

        Am I the only one that sandwiched two slices of pizza together and spreads a layer of fishscale cocaine from spanish harlem in the middle?

      • No as a hardcore kid, I knew the first time I heard his “bassdrop” that he saw it as the breakdown. Much of Sonny’s rhythmic structure sounds like it’s derived from hardcore and metalcore rhythms, in fact. When I listen to other artists’ bassdrops their rhythmic vocabulary is not as familiar.

        Coming from a post-hardcore background, Skrillex serves the same purpose for me as heavy music except everybody will goofily dance to it at a party. haha

        +1 on the connection though.

  6. no no no no , wah wah wah, rabble rabble rabble

  7. Skrillex doesn’t need anyone to defend him. He’s doing fine. I’ve seen him live, and while I wasn’t nearly as impressed as tom was, I don’t see any reason to hate on the guy. FFTL was an okay band, too.

    • “If you want to be one of the nonconformist, all you have to do is dress just like us and listen to the same music we do.”

      • You take away the marginalization, you take away part of the draw for a lot of fans, even if they don’t realize it. Anybody can drop the bass, “everybody hates this artist except me and my real friends” is a bonus, a reeeeeeallly adolescent bonus.

      • this statement applies to so much of the hypocritical indie world where the “more open-minded” superficially judge other things that don’t fit into their pre-approved list of cool.

  8. Skrillex needs to make more dubsteb that has some melody (scary monsters n nice sprites). The dubstep there isn’t just WUB it actually has a melody and it builds itself up nicely and when the drop comes in it’s definitely worth the wait. It wouldn’t hurt for him to take a page out of Diplo’s book (“Climax”) and build a drop and not necessarily dropping the bass…but experimenting…I dunno…but Skrillex has potential to be something serious. Too bad people already think he’s the best at what he’s doing…but unfortunately there is so much more left to be desired

  9. Ease up, Michael_. Music doesn’t always have to be what /your/ idea of music is. Skrillex’s ACLfest set last year was my favorite of the weekend.

  10. Skrillex needs to make more dubsteb that has some melody (scary monsters n nice sprites). The dubstep there isn’t just WUB it actually has a melody and it builds itself up nicely and when the drop comes in it’s definitely worth the wait. It wouldn’t hurt for him to take a page out of Diplo’s book (“Climax”) and build a drop and not necessarily dropping the bass…but experimenting…I dunno…but Skrillex has potential to be something serious. Too bad people already think he’s the best at what he’s doing…but unfortunately there is so much more left to be desired

    • Skrillex needs to chew more Doublemint gum

    • Skrillex needs to focus more on his “people who almost look exactly like Corey Feldman” website while chewing Doublemint, and looking less like a pubescent Phil Collins, and making more dubstep that has a melody and builds itself up nicely and when the drop comes in it’s definitely worth the wait, and taking a page out of Diplo’s book and building a drop but not necessarily the bass.

      He’s going to be unavailable for interviews for awhile. . .

  11. I just want to see that gif of skrillex and the bee again. love that gif.

  12. ” And I didn’t have anything more than a couple of beers in my system.”


  13. This bodes ill for us all…

  14. I like how this article genuinely described the feeling you get when you’re really digging a DJ’s set. That said, it also describes listening to any set of a vast number of DJs who have been at it for years. Skrillex, outside of his pretty large fan base, is in that weird pop limbo where the electronic music scene has pretty much flatly rejected him as a hack while the more traditional (not the best adjective but, I know) music fans don’t care for his brand of music anyway. For many in the latter group, Skrillex sounds like an Autobot turning into a car, so they never bother listening. For many in the former group, it’s just as your said – its all about the drop for him, which is frowned upon because (1) it’s a cheap way to engage the listener, and (2) its pretty much Remedial DJ 101. I think a better discussion regarding Skrillex is the “how” rather than the “why.” How did he manage to get so popular while ostracizing himself at the same time?

    • If you were a horse, wouldn’t you hate the first car you saw? That’s overly simplistic, but Skrillex’s whole kick-your-gut steez flies in the face of a lot of the past decade’s quote-unquote smart dance music, and it’s also the key to his popularity. As a rule, I prefer the kick-your-gut stuff over the smart stuff in just about any genre of music.

      • That’s a really great point. If you think about it, the genre should embrace Skrillex. Regardless of whether the other DJs feel his music is a bastardized version of theirs, he is potentially turning some people onto their stuff. But, for some reason, that scene isn’t very good at embracing successful DJs. They all rip Deadmau5, too (although there’s probably more to it in Deadmau5′s case than just the music, but you get the idea).

      • “As a rule, I prefer the kick-your-gut stuff over the smart stuff in just about any genre of music.”

        This sort of bothers me, for a handful of reasons:

        1) There’s no dichotomy between smart music and “kick-your-gut” music. Granted, a lot of groups may push in one direction or another, but there are plenty of smart groups who also write visceral, direct music: Sonic Youth comes to mind as a band that exists in both arenas.

        2) I think too many “smart” groups are overlooked, either because they are “pretentious,” or because of fears of the listener.

        3) Sometimes you need to spend time with complicated music to really appreciate it. This doesn’t make it better than a three-chord pop song, it simply makes it different.

        I don’t mean to single out Tom, I just want to defend “smart” music, because so many people will never give Henry Cow (as an example) a chance. I think the main point you’re making is give everything a chance and forget the baggage. Well, I agree and I hope that when you brush aside a band as too cerebral or what have you, that you also give it a second chance.

  15. I found out that the internet is full of sexy pics of Sonny, so kewl

  16. Skrillex might fall under that category of musicians that are great to see live, but I have no desire to listen to otherwise. Along with guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, who is possibly the greatest steel string guitarist I have ever seen, will ever see. I watch his shows with my jaw on the floor. But his records bore me.

    • I could not agree more about Tommy Emmanuel. I can certainly imagine Skrillex being the same way.

      I’m imagining an Emmanuel and Skrillex collaboration…I want to die inside.

      • perhaps i should warn that i do not encourage any further Emmanuel/Skrillex comparisons (or collaborations for that matter, that is a dreadful thought).

  17. Since when is it up to top blog sites to report on “fun” live shows? The shittiest of pop music could be fun in the right context (i.e. old shitty cock rock singalongs at your local pub, etc). Why does Skrillex need defending? Travis Stewart was at SXSW, he makes amazing fucking music behind a laptop that you can listen to at home and his shows are way more dynamic, complex, exciting, unpredictable and so much more transformative than any brostep stuff. Let’s write more about compelling electronic acts who can bring it on all fronts.

    • Travis Stewart = hotsauce

    • This is the problem. I had free tickets to see Foreigner/Journey/Night Ranger here (a friend works for live nation) and the Night Ranger/Foreigner part of the evening was EXCEPTIONALLY fun. Night Ranger just ripped solos on matching american flag guitars, and Foreigner is nothing but radio hits. Journey was pathetically sad, but as expected?

      Anyways, the point is, nobody needs to defend those guys. Great free show though. I’m sure Skrillex is a great live act, in fact, if I have the chance, I would probably even consider paying money to see. But absolutely does he need no defense whatsoever, if the rationale is “Fun”. The defense is ‘How is he artistically relevant?’ ‘what is he doing that his peers are not?’

      But if he’s making tons of money while making fun music, I can think of no reason he needs anyone to say “Hey guys wait, but he’s also really really fun. Well lots of cool DJs are. Dan Deacon is pretty fun. What’s the point?

  18. Everyone I know who despises Skrillex is pretending he isn’t talented for the sake of saying they knew about dubstep before everyone else.

    Everyone I know who is way too in to Skrillex is also really into either remixes or meth.

  19. Seriously diggin’ this, Tom. I don’t think it’s going to change my personal opinion on Skrillex or anything (maybe I need to see him live, like you say), but I appreciate the fact that you aren’t afraid to occasionally buck the groupthink about what’s lame-by-default that many young-ish music fans subscribe to. Besides this, I’m thinking specifically about the Joshua Tree and Use Your Illusion appreciation posts you did recently (U2 and GNR being pretty frequent targets of scorn for many a twentysomething music fan).

  20. Great Article, but…

  21. ha ha ha ha! you had me going there for a minute, tom. you really did.

  22. My roommate’s a dubstep DJ…he’s obviously not Skrillex status, but he’s got a considerable cult following online. He makes lots of different styles (house, electro, drum n bass, dubstep, etc.) and he occasionally dips into brostep with some pretty extreme wob-wob-wobs and the like.

    Not too long ago he gave me a detailed tutorial on how he makes some of his songs. In particular, he showed me how he makes the brostep-type songs (the ones that get him tens of thousands of YouTube hits rather than thousands) and it’s SO goddamn simple…the reason he even showed it to me in the first place is he was making a joke about how people get stupid rich out of making the easiest possible electronic music. Just get a pirated copy of abelton, a couple of triggers, and less than a day’s work.

    I’m sorry, but—especially after seeing that—it’s garbage.

    • Bingo.

      It’s funny, I feel like this point has been rebounding around for weeks now and the response is always “Well if it’s fun and it sounds good, who cares?” but there are a lot of people who care. Like for example people who spent years at a university level, and countless hours practicing their instruments making money off pay-what-you-can shows, while a guy learns how to operate a couple neat plug ins.

      It is totally important that music sounds good, but it’s the same as anything – if it wasn’t that hard to make, then it’s probably not very rewarding for anyone.

      • Yeah, it’s like that bastard neighbor of mine. I’ve been playing the lottery every week for thirty years. I bought strategy books and watched Youtube videos and compiled data spreadsheets. Then he plays once, Once! and hits the jackpot I’ve been working for. Garbage.

        • I don’t think that comparison makes sense?

          • Don’t you? Popularity of any kind is arbitrary. Most of us know people in bands who will never “make” it, but the shite that passes for industry standard is not related to people who “really” know what they’re doing. Look at any number of “popular” bands, musicians, “artists” (whatever) at any level. Are you really going to argue that this is the gold standard? The rewards of popularity and market share are really what we’re talking about here. Folks who struggle in anonymity aren’t necessarily making inferior music. In many cases, they are making superior product. The market dictates itself, and it certainly isn’t dictated by talent, know-how, or hard work.

            While the metaphor isn’t perfect, it kind of does make sense because you boys are belly-aching about Skrillex being popular and garbage. His success hasn’t come from work, but a luck of sorts.

            The larger point is that sites like these are designed to suggest that things that are popular are garbage. As soon as some band you like (or know) get’s popular, you begin with the “I heard ‘em first” mantra, followed quickly by the “they have totally compromised their artistic integrity for cash” mantra. Then you toddle off to find the next in line. Dude, Skrillex is terrible for the same reason that most things in every category are terrible: he is both arbitrary and mediocre. Those on the inside have already begun jumping off the wagon, and those on the outside mistake his hair, or glasses, or spastic movements, or “bass drops” for innovation. And in the popular world, innovation real or imagined trumps hard work any day. Kudos for that Corey Feldman-looking bastard and his popularity.

          • Still doesn’t make sense.

      • sounds to me like you need a new outlook on life, there is beauty in simplicity that can be just as rewarding a something that was worked on for a long time, its all relative, im not saying that simplistic brostep or whatever beautiful im saying in general, you dont have to over do something for it to be rewarding, thats a very narrow minded statement.

        • Generally, from experience, things accomplished easily are not rewarding: what is narrow minded about that opinion? Also name some exceptions if you’re going to tell me to change my outlook in life.

          • Grilled cheese sandwiches.

          • Apparently you’ve never made a grilled cheese sandwich…

          • “Grilled cheese sandwiches” possibly the best argument I’ve ever seen on these boards.

          • Making a good grilled cheese is an art form though. Slapping two pieces of velveeta on white bread, if that’s what you’re doing, is the lowest form of grilled cheese. Bro-cheese. The worst kind of derivative.

          • while kraft singles on wonder bread may be the lowest form of grilled cheese, it’s still fuckin’ delicious.

          • BLASPHEMER

            You need to 1) get some fucking old OLD cheddar on there, pronto and throw your kraft singles in the garbage where they belong, don’t even give em to the needy, it’s a form of abuse, and 2) get some fucking poppy-seed covered Challah bread, slice that shit, and then butter your cast iron pan LIKE A PROFESSIONAL CAST IRON BUTTERER. 3) Did you fry up some goddamned garlic in the pan before dropping the bass bread first? No? FFFFFFfffffffffuuuuuuuuu you done goofed.

          • Look, I would love nothing more than for you to make me one of those poppy-seed challah sharp cheddar dreamboat sandwiches. seriously, please make me one. but all I’m saying is sometimes all you have is white bread and kraft singles, because you’re at your grandparents house, if that’s what you have (and god willing, some tomato soup) than you make that grilled cheese and you enjoy it, it’s the bottom quality, but dammit you eat it and you enjoy it.

          • So, to summarize, white bread Kraft single grilled cheese = Skrillex, and tomato soup = ecstasy.

          • Is this Epic Meal Time?

    • That is one aspect that kind of bugs me: that it seems so easy, but hey, if the guy’s doing it and making money, more power to him. Also, (and this is veering into art vs commerce territory), there’s got to be hundreds of guys doing the same thing he’s doing, but he’s doing in it a way that’s “catchy” or “fun” or whatever, to get that much notice, to become that popular. It could just be knowing how to craft a beat, but he’s doing *something* “right,” that a lot of people aren’t.

      Now, having said that, I know that rationale could easily be applied to, I don’t know, Good Charlotte, or any number of pop-punk bands whose most popular songs suck, but still sound like they came out of pop-punk perfection machines. What I mean is, I don’t much care for pop-punk, but I could hear ten different songs, and say “9 of those are by bands that will never go anywhere, but that tenth one will probably be popular.” Some of that pop-punk (and, coming back around, dubstep), sounds like it was made by a team of highly trained, higly paid professionals, not a bunch of snot-nosed kids. Soulless and artless, yes, but slick; a highly polished turd that’s almost nice enough to sit on your mantle. Or, well,maybe you’d enjoy seeing it on your friend’s mantle, but not your own.

      I guess to break it down more simply, I know potato chips, are crap, and that I shouldnt be eating them, but damn, sometimes a well-made potato chip (which is still crap!) just hits the spot. Same thing with any sort of maligned music genre.

    • As someone who also has a dubstep DJ as a roommate, and who is also fronting a pop/jam band outfit, I have to respectfully disagree, Robert. While its definitely possible to make ‘brostep’ very quickly, the result of that (at least from what I’ve heard) usually sounds worse than you could possibly imagine. Every good dubstep song has almost as much work put into the composition as it does into the sound design. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a blind fan of Skrillex, and there are plenty of brostep-makers that make me want to plug my ears with bees, but I have to say that, as someone in a completely different sphere of music, Skrillex is writing deeper music than you seem to give him credit for.

      • I don’t know…I don’t do it myself, so I can only say so much. But my roommate slapped some stuff together in literally hours, and that shit went bananas on the internet…. Plus he even taught my other roommate how to do it, and just the other day he put together a track that I thought was catchy enough that I’d listen to it regardless of the fact that my friend made it. And he learned abelton like…the day before.

      • No, it’s generally not that hard to achieve the sounds he makes.

        It depends what you do with it. I don’t believe the difficulty factor for doing this stuff live with a laptop isn’t that crazy.

        Anyways, it’s sort of a moot point – we don’t need to defend someone successful, unless we’re making a point counter to a mainstream notion. In this case, the notion is that he is mediocre, and the counter to that must be “What is not mediocre about Skrillex?” and the above defense doesn’t address it. Nor has anyone on this comment board. If the counter is “he’s fun” then that’s not a counter to mediocrity, because lots of mediocre things are fun.

        • There is not a direct relationship between difficulty of creation and value. There are so many other factors involved and the reality is, the primary factor that probably benefits Skrillex here is originality. It may not be an original “sound” now, but there’s somthing to be said for a particular combination off sounds being credited to someone. You can hear a song and say – “oh, that’s got to be Skrillex.” Just because it’s easy to make doesn’t mean the person that thought of it doesn’t deserve credit for its novel traits. Like so many other artists, take Daft Punk for example, the now-associated-with-them formula may have been ripped off by so many others and it’s not hard to make, but they’re the kings of it. I’m not a big fan of Skrillex but anyone’s theory of being able to quantify importance by how hard it is to make is bullshit. Try telling that to John Sousa. I can write a Sousa march in about 3 minutes…but the dude owns that sound.

          Freshie – I usually agree with most of what you say but I noticed you resorted to humor and deflection when LeMonjello fucked you up with his grilled cheese analogy. And Skrillex’s bass shit is quite easy to make and most of his tunes are formulaic but I have a strong suspicion you wouldn’t be able to make a sound-alike if you tried. I think you bit off more than you can chew on this one…pun intended.

        • I’ll clarify that of course, soetimes things that are difficult do present more value because of that…but my point is that it’s not automatic and that simplicity can also produce valuable art.

          All also add that seeing Skrillex use Beats headphones makes me want to piss in his hand then force him to slap himself in the face.

      • If your roommate is a dubstep DJ, you’d better be paying like, $4 a month in rent. Or be in prison.

    • funny you should mention that…Skrillex has been criticized as not even producing his own “bass” wobbles. (since they’re barely even in bass register)

      i was reading on /mu/ awhile back that Skrillex sort of just sat back and let all his buddies on Mau5trap do all his bass wobbles for him when he was still making Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.

      the evidence of this is that when he was making Bangarang, which was his first release OFF of Mau5trap, a lot of the “bass wobbles” just sort of disappeared from his music, and were replaced by a lot less “growly” sounding “bass,” some people might consider that his step “away” (via different effects) from what he was doing prior to, but i think that it sort of shows evidence that now that he’s on his own, he has no idea what the hell he’s doing.

    • If it was so simple to get stupid-rich making brostep, why doesn’t your roommate just make enough money to retire and then make whatever he wants?

  23. The only way you could make Stereogum readers angrier is if you defended AND deconstructed Skrillex.

  24. My biggest issue with Skrillex, and the one that you didn’t effectively cover, is a very simple one: he makes music that’s more about the process of hearing it than it is about the process of really LISTENING to it. Think about it. There’s a big difference. Some people want to hear their music, others want to listen to it. I for one don’t derive any pleasure from simply hearing music unless it challenges me to interact with it on an intellectual level, not just a physical one. And this issue doesn’t separate him from dozens of other DJs (other than that he’s getting really famous for it, so it’s more annoying) and artists from any other genre — except that electronic music has the most. People have all sorts of preferences when it comes to music, but to many of us this kind of music is just, well… dumb, unintelligent, dull-witted, whatever you want to call it.

    • I mean, I’ve spent the past seven years of my life making my living, and supporting my family, by listening to and thinking about music. And in my experience, physical music — music that obliterates your consciousness in the act of listening — is a whole lot more interesting and rewarding than a lot of the stuff that purports to be smart, that flatters the preferences of people who consider themselves to be smart listeners. That physical thing is valuable, and it’s also what dance music was built on in the first place.

    • If you’re going to make this point, you have to tell us what about Skrillex’s music makes it not worth “listening to,” rather than just “hearing,” to use your terminology. Also, a lot of fantastic music is as physical as it is intellectual, and the assumption that physically-oriented music is somehow less worthwhile is reductive.

      Think about a band like CAN. Everybody I know likes tracks like “Halleluwah” more than they do the drifty, tempo-less pieces CAN albums are occasionally peppered with. The reasons, in my eyes, are physicality, movement, rhythm.

      Serious question: do you like rock and roll?

      • I wonder what would happen if everyone replaced the hate for Skrillex with hate for The Black Keys (Disclaimer: I love the Black Keys). They’re not doing anything new, most of their songs are three chords, neither member is great (maybe not even good) at their instrument, and they are arguably simplifying the same genre that spawned bands like Led Zeppelin. Oh wait…they’re absolutely awesome to dance to…and the music is good enough that you don’t have to think about it before you have the uncontrollable urge to move.

        • Everything you said about the Black Keys is correct. They’ve sucked since Rubber Factory. There’s even an interview where Patrick Carney basically admitted to dumbing down their music for the sake of ad money.

        • Unlike skrillex, in my opinion, the black keys are enjoyable outside of the live experience. People argue that skrillex is gimmicky (relying on the bass drop), i don’t think the same can be said of the black keys, they just write good solid tunes. Although I agree, they may not be innovative or anything, but the song-writing is solid.

          • The Black Keys are derivitive, phony-vintage drivel that delivers nothing unique in sound or lyrical content. Sure, it’s fun to dance to…if you enjoy dancing to shitty music.

            I’m kidding. Well, only a little.

  25. “Skrillex now has more female fans than James Blake will ever have. (Ask the girl who literally begged Corban for $25 to get into the warehouse where he was playing.) ”

    That hardly refutes what James Blake had to say about the macho American take on dubstep. Skrillex gets tons of press and therefore has a lot more fans than James Blake, male or female. Poison probably had more female fans in its heyday than, say, R.E.M. Does that negate any judgment that maybe Poison made kinda dumb, testosterone-fueled music?

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

      • Of course he does!
        My 15-year old niece is into One Direction, but she still has heard of Skrillex. James Blake, though? Not a clue.

        • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

          • wait wait wait…are we implying that Skrillex DOESN’T get more press than James Blake?

          • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

          • You do realize that the guy won THREE grammys, right? Pretty sure the press was on his ass that night, and will continue to keep on his ass for a while.

            Not to mention the fact that a quick Google News search for Skrillex (at this very instant) yields headlining results from Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, USA Today, Village Voice, Us Magazine, LA Times…and that’s within the past few DAYS.

            James Blake, on the other hand, has a little something from Spinner and then a whole lot of casual mentions from small-time pubs or LeBron James results…

          • Skrillex is on all the pop stations now.

            you’d be hard pressed to find James Blake getting any coverage outside the Pitchfork circle.

          • Sure, call it word of mouth. Or Exposure, or airplay, whatever. That wasn’t the main point of my first comment. It was that Skrillex having groupies doesn’t make Blake wrong in his assessment of brostep.
            For example: there are a lot of Juggalettes. Does that mean it would be wrong to think ICP is juvenile macho bullshit?

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  26. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  27. Hearing and LISTENING. Kind of like the distinction between movie and FILM. Got it.

    I’m reading many commenters bemoaning an article like this. Yet so many posts go unchecked and uncommented. Music, I’m assuming, could fit your definition. I hope people are as quick to join those conversations as they are here.

    Maybe the takeaway from this piece is that tom was willing to go outside his musical zone and keep his butt object free in the process. Not a bad way to live life.

  28. Dude, seriously.

  29. when i first started hearing dubstep and seeing its fans, my immdediate thought was “so this is the new mall-goth metalcore”

    and it wasn’t til later that i found out that Skrillex was actually in From First To Last – the definitive myspacecore band – and it all made so much more sense to me.

    so yeah, the ‘bass-drop as breakdown’ theory is totally true. dubstep is basically the electronic equivalent of all those myspace bands who had pretty melodic verses leading into xXxFucKIn_bRUtAlxXx breakdowns. thats the winning formula.

    so, explain to me again, how does that make Skrillex good??

  30. We all have guilty pleasures. I love goofy, awful Dolph Lundgren action movies from the late ’80s/early ’90s. I understand they weren’t being made to win Oscars, but I also understand that they aren’t good in the conventional sense of the word.

    Skrillex will never be viewed as good in the conventional sense, in the same way, because he isn’t. He took a genre of music, dubstep, and simplified it by converting it from the non-danceable freakout paranoid lurches of a Burial or Joker into a very American testosterone-fueled, fist-pumping dance workout. He’s the musical equivalent of Hollywood taking a foreign film and adding in ‘splosions because Americans don’t give a shit about nuance. Skrillex has no nuance. He’s going to hit you with the WUB WUB WUB and continue to hit you with it until he knocks you into submission.

    Whether you can get mileage out of that or not is entirely a personal matter. But I don’t think we need a journalistic piece defending the guy. I’m pretty sure even he realizes he’s not the best at what he does.

  31. Tom, the reason people make fun of Skrillex isn’t just because of his hair or that he’s a pasty emo-lookin’ white dude, it’s because they hate dubstep. Skrillex is the epitome of dubstep right now, and represents most everything people that hate it see when they hear “dubstep” come out of someone’s sad, sorry, little mouth.

    • I love dubstep and hate Skrillex. The music Skrillex makes =/= dubstep. This is probably the main reason I hate him. Get yourself listening to some Sepalcure or Burial.

    • Those same people also have a very narrow, superficial understanding of what dubstep is. As do most people who claim to dislike entire genres.

  32. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  33. “I have a theory about Skrillex’s bass-drops”

    I have a theory as well: the guy who made the Kony video watched a Skrillex set right before he ran through the streets naked cursing at the devil. Those bass-drops are dangerous.

  34. I think this is an interesting conversation to have, but I just can’t agree. Whether or not his recorded output is the wrong way to experience him, it is how ninety-nine percent of us have encountered his music. My first time was in a car with some guys driving to Bonnaroo; they blasted him the whole way, and my head was hurting an hour in. (Seven hour trip!) It seemed to me that Skrillex filled a hole for these types of guys that five years ago would have been filled by Nickelback. My experience might not be the “true” one, but I have a feeling it’s by far the most common.

  35. I read the headline and thought “now why would you do that?” I read the article and thought the same.

  36. Can we all just talk about the Lil Twist/ Lil Chuckee background ad? -_-

  37. This article is good…but where’s the drop?

  38. this is all i have to say about skrillex, and it has nothing to do with the relative merits of brostep:

    last year, when the sasquatch lineup dropped (up until last year, i was a year-in-year-out attendee), pretty much everyone and their dog who post on the festival’s facebook page and message board simultaneously exclaimed “SKRILLEX, YESSSS!!!”

    this year, there’s tons of people – and many of them are the literally the exact same folks who were super hyped on skrillex in 2011 – who are all saying, “thank god skrillex won’t be there, his fans are so stupid, he’s ruining dubstep, etc.” point being, it feels like a big part of the skrillex backlash is just that it’s cool to hate on him right now. i mean, it’s not like his music has changed at all over the last year.

    on another note, just about all of these skrillex flip-floppers are hugely excited for pretty lights to headline sasquatch this year. my prediction for 2013: “lol, pretty lights is so lame. all of his fans are douchebag teenagers.”

  39. Who cares? I like music. You like music. Sometimes it’s the same, sometimes it’s different. It’s all ok.

  40. In Defense Of Darlene Conner from the sitcom Roseanne.

  41. I’ll be honest in saying that I know very little about dubstep, and have no business judging the artistic merits of Skrillex vs. any other laptop warrior fueling this sort of sweaty, drug-sauna bacchanalia, but two points worth making:

    1) Why is it that people are always “shocked” when someone takes a nuanced genre of music, reduces it to its most obvious, visceral components, and proceeds to make millions selling it to Corona-addled white dudes? Isn’t that typically just refereed to as “pop music”? It’s weird to me that this eternally replicating phenomenon always launches a million think pieces and conflicted hand-wringing from the music intelligentsia, as though it’s not the same basic formula being repeated over and over and over again.

    Music for most people is JUST entertainment. People just want something fun and danceable to soundtrack their parties, or their drive home. I know that’s obvious, and it sounds patronizing in a way to point it out, but it being obvious doesn’t seem to stop the people from always being outraged by it.

    2) With that in mind, there’s really no purpose for these “establishment defense of a cultural pariah” articles. I swear that anti-snobbery is the new snobbery, where having a deep, unironic love of Britney Spears is likely to generate less eye rolls than saying you enjoy Belle & Sebastian.

    Art that’s dumb, obvious and immediate is never going to want for an audience, and to reprimand people who seek something more for daring to have standards or expectations is essentially speaking power to truth. Skrillex, or Rhianna, or Coldplay or whoever don’t need bandwidth wasted in defense of them, because the millions of people who buy their records and/or go to their concerts are already damn effective at giving these artists validation.

  42. Deep breath guys, Tom’s allowed to enjoy a concert

  43. There seems to be a very strange difference between what qualifies as dance music in america and england. Minimal Techno is all the rave in London and the suchlike at the minute while it seems to be “Dubstep” (I am avoiding the whole argument of Brostep and Future Garage and the like) that’s taking a firmer position in American dance culture. Which is a real shame, because there’s some amazing stuff coming from all the Brain-Feeder crew.

  44. Good Christ! Is that Sara Gilbert from Rosanne? When she start dj’ing?

  45. yes, nu-metal/metalcore was fun initally, i think that’s what i personally don’t like about his stuff. digital nu-metal a la limp bizkit. but as insignificant as Brillo is, i don’t see any reason for all the hate. I still love Atari Teenage Riot, it’s not like they were ever good.

  46. Hugely overrated. I don’t begrudge him his success, and I certainly respect that he did his own thing on his own terms. But his music is just not my cup of ELM.

    I’ve been a heavy electronic music listener since late 1990 when I started attending raves in the Bay Area. In 1993 I saw Aphex Twin live and went deep into IDM/Braindance. I’ve been listening to all types of electronic music ever since.

    For all that, I still don’t understand the appeal of this guys music. It all sounds like it’s been mixed wrong, like certain parts were pushed way too far to the front. And a “bass drop” does not make a piece of music great, or even worth listening/dancing to.

    Again, cool for him. Ain’t nothin’ personal. I’m just not feelin’ it, or any of his clones. Dubstep didn’t used to sound anything like that.

  47. when’s Skittles making Lost Boys 4- Return of the Dubpires?


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