Datsik called in from Calgary for this interview literally minutes before he experienced what figured to be one of the most exciting moments in his preparations for this winter’s “Ninja Nation 2017” tour, which is coming to Reno.
“The reason I’m actually in Calgary right now is to go do rehearsals, and I haven’t actually even seen the whole stage finished yet,” Datsik said in early January. “That’s how pushed back we are. We start the tour in a week, and I’m about to see it in, like, half an hour for the first time ever fully assembled.”
Anyone who has seen Datsik in concert knows his stage set and visual production are central parts of the event. For example, his recent tours were centered around a stage set he called the Vortex where Datsik performed inside what looked like a huge funnel, lit with an array of ever-changing animation, colors and shapes.
But Datsik feels his new stage set, dubbed the Shogun, takes the visual impact of his show to another level.
“The Shogun, I would say, is probably the craziest thing I’ve come up with to date,” he said. “It looks like a giant ninja temple using all these different LED panels and LED strips and really cool, different-looking lights that I’ve never used before. And then on top of that, I’m basically embodying what it is to be a rave ninja.
I basically, all I’ll say is I’m wearing something that is really cool, that I designed myself, that like fully ties me into the stage.
So, when you see it and you see me, it will all be one cohesive unit and I think it’s going to look insane. I’m so, so excited to finally reveal it. I’ve been working on it for like, six months now.”
This isn’t the first time Datsik has gone ninja on his fans with his live show. His 2014 EP was called “Down 4 My Ninjas” and in 2015, he did his first edition of the “Ninja Nation” tour. That stage set, though, still featured the Vortex as the central visual element to go with an elaborate range of lasers and lighting effects.
That he now is bringing full-on ninja visual into his show makes sense considering the 28-year-old producer/DJ (real name Troy Beetles) has been fascinated by the ninja world since childhood.
“I guess it’s just ever since I was young, I’ve always had a crazy fascination with ninjas and even the whole Japanese culture,” Datsik said. “Even in school, I took Japanese classes, trying to learn how to speak Japanese. I basically would collect all these different like animes (animated ninja characters) that I watch and basically figurines, toys essentially, that are like really cool, really well done and crafted, cool-looking toys that I have in a display case at home that is crammed full with different ninjas and stuff. And I eat sushi probably every day. ... I just think that there’s nothing cooler than ninjas. Their aesthetic is amazing. They’re respectful, they’re stealth and they look dope. And yeah, I’ve always been into it. I used to love Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat was one of my favorite games growing up. And with this whole new stage that I’m doing, I’m basically embodying a Mortal Kombat character, like turning into kind of a Mortal Kombat character. It’s going to look crazy.”
All about the music
Of course, music will be another central component of the “Ninja Nation 2017” show. And from the sound of things, it might be a good idea to check out Datsik’s new EP, “Sensei,” before the show.
That’s because all seven tracks from the EP figure to pop up in his set in one form or another.
“This is the first time I’ve actually put out a full EP of stuff I’m really happy with,” Datsik said. “Like, I always try to find a compromise, to be like OK, I think people are going to like this (track) and then I really like this one. Then I’ll end up only playing the one that I really like. So, with this EP, I feel like I’m for sure going to be playing every single track from it, which is kind of a change for me because it kind of opens things up. I can take the vocals from one of those tracks and play it over another one of those tracks, take the bass line from another one of those tracks and play it over a different track. So, it’s kind of cool being able to take all of the new stuff that I’ve done that people have been listening to on Spotify or whatever and then, like, mash them up all together into something completely fresh that they’ve never heard before.”
The “Sensei” EP started out with more modest intentions than what it became. Datsik said he originally envisioned it as a four-track release, but about a week before he was due to finish the project, he wrote three additional tracks, including the title song, which suddenly gave the EP a theme and focus that had been missing up to that point.
“The name was the last thing I came up with,” Datsik said. “(Before that) I didn’t really know where I was going with it (the EP). And I kind of figured out the theme and then I bounced it around to a couple of people and I was like ‘What do you think I should call this?’ And they were like ‘Oh dude, you’ve got to lead the EP with ‘Sensei’ for sure.’ I was like ‘OK, the ‘Sensei’ EP it is.’ And it kind of all just tied together.”
The EP finds Datsik continuing to evolve his music. Since coming on the scene in 2009, the native of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, has been known as a pioneer of dubstep, a bass-heavy, hard-hitting and sonically robust style that remains one of the most popular subgenres of electronic music. But over the course of three full-length albums and a trio of EPs, Datsik has blended a variety of other musical styles into his sound.
On “Sensei,” Datsik continues to keep dubstep at the center of his sound, especially on tracks like “Redemption,” “Just Saiyan’” and “Nasty.” But he stretches his sound with the title track (a blend of dubstep and Asian-type tones) and “Gravity” (a mellower, more pop-ish tune with playful vocal effects and a lush melody).
Meanwhile, “Wreckless” mixes in some ambient tones, some hip-hop bounce and raps from guest AD, while “Fly Low” mashes electronic and hip-hop together in almost equal amounts.
Datsik pointed to “Gravity” as an example of how he plans to continue to grow musically on his albums and EPs.
“It’s tracks like ‘Gravity’ that always keep me evolving and keep me moving forward in a direction that I want to be going in because without tracks like that, I feel like I’m redoing the same thing,” he said. “If I deliver an EP in a way where I have a balance of the mellow, cool melodic stuff mixed with the heavy bangers, then that way I’m keeping everyone happy and I’m also keeping myself happy, with writing something new and something that’s out there and something that’s testing my skills as a producer.”