He’s the face—and haircut—of American EDM. Sonny Moore (aka Skrillex) started his musical career as singer of the post-hardcore band From First to Last, abruptly leaving the rock world for his meteoric solo rise within the dubstep genre in 2010. When Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, and its titular single, landed like a depth-charge that year, the ears of dubstep virgins bled under Moore’s pugilistic synthesis of UK bass music and good old American metal. Seemingly overnight, Moore became a festival mega-headliner, with six Grammys to his name and even a cartoon character based on his likeness from the Disney movie Wreck It Ralph.
Despite all this, and because of it, Moore is one of the most divisive figures in contemporary music, having become synonymous with the excess and bombast of the EDM industry and the whippingboy of the genre’s fratty “bro-step” subcurrent. His debut LP, Recess, released in March, leads with the self-depricating “All Is Fair in Love and Brostep,” before pounding and stuttering its way through a buffet of EDM’s umbrella genres with collaborators like Diplo, Chance the Rapper and Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos. The record, like Moore himself, seems to anticipate the criticism it will inevitably receive and shrugs before taking one playful left turn after the last. Four years after his debut—an eternity in this genre—Moore’s taste and range are maturing along with the genre that surrounds him, a product of having perfected the art of recording and collaborating while on perpetual tour.
When Metroland caught up with him earlier this week, he was a couple nights into his Mothership Tour with moombahton icon Dillon Francis and trap star DJ Snake. It was easy to picture him casually fiddling with a new track on his laptop when his publicist handed him the phone.
“It’s not so much a routine,” Moore says, of how Recess took shape while on tour. “In Korea, I just got a call from Diplo saying [Korean rappers] G-Dragon and CL are hanging out and want you to come over to the studio. That was a middle-of-the-night into the morning sort of random session. It’s all kind of like that.” The resulting “Dirty Vibe” is a high-octane banger, more akin to Mad Decent-style moombahton than the build-and-drop dubstep with which Skrillex is synonymous.
“A lot of the weirder songs kind of fell on deaf ears before,” he says of the range in his music he feels listeners are only now picking up on. “When I make songs, the things that I love happen really fast. It’s like writing in a journal, going with the flow and not overthinking it. That’s how [Recess] felt.” Critics shouldn’t take this stuff as a departure in the same way fans shouldn’t worry about being blindsided on the Mothership Tour. “This album is more a reflection of how I DJ than my [EPs] were,” he says. “It’s more a representation of what I like to play out.”
In a recent Reddit Ask Me Anything forum, Moore said that live performance is ultimately his biggest influence in the music he makes. “I like the idea of being able to DJ in any kind of space,” he said, admitting he was as excited to play a smaller room like the Armory on the same tour he’ll host the massive Bonnaroo “superjam.” “A lot of the perception of me in the media is this overlord, mega EDM guy but I’ve always staggered the shows and venues. I like scaling it back and being intimate when it’s time to be intimate and being grand and more about a spaceship when it’s that time as well.” This dynamism, he says, is what makes dance music exciting in the first place.
“Electronic music is more of a platform than a genre,” Moore says, noting how perspectives have begun to change as more bands incorporate electronic tools and the name Skrillex becomes less an outlier than a pioneer in American tastes. “The lines are being blurred more and more,” he says thankfully.
Skrillex will bring his Mothership Tour featuring DJ Snake, Milo and Otis and What So Not, to the Washington Avenue Armory (195 Washington Ave., Albany) on Tuesday (June 3) at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $49.50. Call 512-5203 for more info.