Whether or not you think that making electronic music is an passionate art, Sonny Moore — the man behind the music of Skrillex — said he’s always been into emotion in music.
“A lot of emotion, a lot of melody, a lot of intensity and a lot of visceral feelings,” Moore listed as part of a recent interview with the Indian Express newspaper. “The way I produce is very intimate. I think this never-ending energy comes from the feeling that you need to constantly evolve, make something better than the last one.
This isn’t just a mere tour show for Skrillex. It’s a benefit for the Space Whale, an art project proposed for Burning Man 2016. Made by the folks who did the famed Embrace and Pier art projects, the Space Whale is a 50-foot stained glass sculpture that also will travel for display around the world to raise awareness about global climate change. Moore supported the Embrace project two years ago, too.
Different venue, different show
When it comes to his live show, no matter the cause or venue, Moore said that they all feel different to him depending on the day.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure, but I’m always pushing myself every day,” Moore told Fact magazine in a recent interview. “It’s always collaborative even when I’m doing it alone, because I have a crew when I do a Skrillex show. We’re always working on the show and making visuals together, pulling YouTube videos offline and cutting them up. ... My spare time is always (used for) creating, so that goes into the show in a whimsical way and is always kind of spur-of-the-moment.”
Moore started recording as Skrillex in 2007. Before that, he was the lead singer in a Southern California punk/metal band called From First To Last, who released two albums in the 2000s and is still continuing without Moore.
His Skrillex recording career began with an EP called “My Name is Skrillex” in 2010, followed closely by another EP called “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.” That last one ended up receiving mainstream attention and sales, and Skrillex earned a Best New Artist nod from the Grammys in 2011. He holds the record for most Grammys for an Electronic Dance Music artist, winning eight so far. His best known songs include “Bangarang,” “Breakn’ a Sweat” and “First of the Year (Equinox).”
More than dubstep
When he did receive more attention, Skrillex was mentioned as the leader in a music movement called dubstep, which featured noise and loud bass as part of the driving beat. Moore doesn’t see himself that way, though.
“A lot of times, we get lumped into a certain category,” Moore told the Indian Express. “When I first came out, everyone just called me a dubstep artiste, though, if you listen to my full releases, it wasn’t just dubstep. People are always going to put you in a certain box.”
Indeed, since his breakthrough, Moore has toured as Skrillex extensively and also collaborated with other artists, including fellow DJ/artist Diplo and rapper The Game. His highest profile work thus far has been with pop singer Justin Bieber, who has five songs co-written and co-produced by Moore on his newest album, “Purpose.” They include the No. 1 hit, “Sorry.”
“His album is so honest to who he is right now,” Moore told the New Musical Express in a recent interview. “He’s still a pop star making pop music, but at the same time, all the stuff I worked on with him had a sense of honesty about it. I’m not saying he wasn’t honest before, but when you listen to his lyrics, you can tell he is becoming an adult, and we definitely had the relationship to discuss that.”
On its way out?
Skrillex’s experiments in pop music are at a time when there have been several stories in hipper magazines or websites saying that EDM is on its way out of the big popularity it’s found in recent years. Moore told the website Pitchfork in a recent interview that he does see it declining, but not completely.
“There are artists that are using computers in all genres — (hip-hop artist) Kendrick Lamar’s music is electronic-made, and (pop/country singer) Taylor Swift is the same thing. There’s a lot of pop music, underground music and music for films made with computers. In that sense, it’s not going to go away.
“But as far as EDM goes — I’m talking about DJs — there’s been a wave right now and you can ride on it. But a platform is really arbitrary when it comes to an artist. An artist creates songs and timeless moments that are reflections that impact culture, and you can do that in any way — with guitars, ukelele, a computer. So, that will never die. It’s always the artist behind the computer, not the computer. There is a lot of music out there that you can play side by side and you can’t hear the personality — that has a timeline on it, for sure.”
Connecting with the music
Moore made clear to Pitchfork that club hits will still be around, but “the copying to make a trend, that will always go in cycles in all kinds of music. If I look at what I play, 99 percent of the sets that I play on aren’t EDM events. I haven’t played (famous EDM festival) Electric Daisy Carnival since 2011. Normally, my sound fits a little bit better in mixed festivals.”
He then gave an interesting example of how he doesn’t always do well in dance music circles: “There’s this famous EDM festival called Tomorrowland in Belgium that has gone on for 10 years. It’s massive, with 100,000 people a day, and that’s the sound of Belgium. When you go into a normal bar, they’re playing big room house (music), and they love that. And I played the main stage, and people don’t get my type of music there. You see what I’m saying? It’s also a cultural thing.
“It goes back to who’s pushing music in whatever genre. It always comes back to the individual and the attention in how you can connect with the music, you know?”