Oh, my, things have changed. It seems like ages ago when Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore) was first making global waves with wobbly, searing bass tracks (an admittedly unfriendly sound with mainstream music), doesn’t it? Now, in 2016, he’s standing next to Justin Bieber at the Grammys accepting numerous awards for infectious crossover pop done in conjunction with Diplo under the Jack Ü umbrella.
Times have changed, and Skrillex, who was once homeless, is now one of the most popular acts on the planet — and one of the most influential. With labels OWSLA and Nest HQ also under his belt, and two side projects (the aforementioned Jack Ü, and Dog Blood with Boys Noize), he has worked with everyone from Bruno Mars to The Doors.
While some of his work as of late does appeal to the mainstream listener, Skrillex has always found success in creating what felt right to him, rather than chasing current trends. His breakout hit ‘Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites’, for example, was an organic success, existing in a niche of its own when audiences were hungry to find something diametric to the popular Avicii/Afrojack sounds at the turn of the decade. And though there might be lighter fare in Jack Ü’s soothing, tropical-inspired and crooning pop, Skrill still finds the time to dip into the sounds that made his fan-base originally fall in love. 2016 saw him collaborate with Rick Ross for ‘Purple Lamborghini’ on the Suicide Squad soundtrack, an intense mix of hip-hop with blasting horns and metallic, womping synths. Skrillex finally has found a way to make the mainstream come to him, instead of the other way around.
2016 also saw great expansion in Skrillex’s labels, showing goals for an empire-building future. July’s OWSLA pop-up shop was a resounding success, and he’s in the middle of constructing a creative hub he calls The Nest. The building, located in downtown Los Angeles, already houses all OWSLA dealings, but is currently expanding to also include a high-end recording studio and various interactive spaces (he recently mused in an LA Times article about a reception area with giant colouring books). It’s a marker for how Skrillex sees his impact beyond his own dealings, and is consistently looking to see how different parts of the industry (and different genres) can co-mingle to make something unexpected.
We saw this with 2014’s SuperJam at Bonnaroo, a performance he co-ordinated that included himself alongside Zedd, Damian Marley, Lauryn Hill, Big Gigantic and members of The Doors and the Grateful Dead. We saw it when he played a random b2b set with the then-unknown Mija at Burning Man and recognized her talent, scouting her for OWSLA. We even recently saw it when he was the only electronic artist to grace the line-up for Chance The Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring Day festival. We see it on a smaller level with his Nest HQ platform, which often takes chances on lesser-known artists and fringe genres (think Ducky, Cosella and Wheez-ie).
At the end of the day, Skrillex is still now what he was when he started, a good dude always with a smile who stops to say “hello” and is ever curious about the “what ifs” of the world. Even with all his current accomplishments, he takes time to pass the torch, or even share it, and recognises that that’s where magic can truly happen. DANI DEAHL