Interview: Skrillex

We managed to snag an interview with the electronic music idol who generally steers clear of the press - and it was certainly worth the wait until 2 in the morning...
By Marta Salicrú |

It’s the end of February in 2014. BeCool is packed to the rim. Along with San Francisco, New York and Amsterdam, Barcelona is one of the cities Skrillex chose for his takeover tour – a series of back-to-back performances at different clubs throughout the city (though he’s not coming to Istanbul as part of this tour). And this club on the avenue Diagonal is among the smallest venues where Sonny Moore is set to play.

Eight months ago, tens of thousands of souls – and sweaty bodies – witnessed Skrillex’s first performance at Sónar 2013. It’s a big deal to see the superstar of EDM (which stands for Electronic Dance Music, a term that emerged from the United States to describe a massive scope of electronic music) playing in a room with a 350-person capacity – although the visual effect and number of attendees doesn’t seem to reflect this fact: the room is so full that instead of saying we’re here to see Skrillex, it would be more accurate to say we feel his presence, long asymmetrical hair and all.

“I like to do that in certain cities,” Moore says of his “takeover” tour, a year after his performance in Barcelona and two weeks prior to his appearance at Sónar 2015. In LA, where the artist is based and where he established his label OWSLA, it’s not even 5pm, but in Barcelona it’s almost 2 o’clock in the morning – a situation you may have to deal with if you want to talk to an international star who grants few interviews but doesn’t hesitate to give his personal mobile number when the transatlantic phone connection through intermediaries fails. “Sometimes when you get to tour, you don’t get to spend a lot of time in a city. And if you’re coming for one day, it’s hard to play a small club because there are so many fans and you want to play to as many fans as possible, but the ‘takeover’ tour was a way to experience that. I just like doing it because that’s what I started out doing… Why would I ever stop?” Of course, this doesn’t mean that Moore dislikes the larger venues. “Even if we play a big club, I want to always play something that people like going to,” he says. “I won’t play in a big show with no vibe, and I like to bring a good, simple production. I always try to do what’s best for the situation.”

Moore has been touring for 11 years, starting with the days he sang for the screamo band From First to Last prior to changing his name, switching to electronic music and releasing My Name is Skrillex (2010). He hasn’t stopped since then, but he isn’t tired. “I take care of my body, I don’t party hard,” he says. “People drive every day to work, right? I still have to travel, but it’s different. If I weren’t making music professionally, I’d still be traveling around, making music. I’ve always been kind of a nomad.” He then reminisces about the time he went traveling around Europe in 2008 (when he was still just Sonny Moore), “just living around, with my computer, making music with random people.”

In early 2015, Skrillex released the album Jack Ü, a project on which he collaborated with fellow American DJ and producer Diplo. The two have been working together for a decade and are practically inseparable. “The idea behind Jack Ü was to break all the rules of pop music and make it somehow rebellious,” Moore says, “to take Justin Bieber and put him on old school dubstep beat. It sounds like the worst thing you could ever think of, the most blasphemous thing, the unpurest thing…” Still, it seems the blasphemy paid off, given the success of their single “Where Are Ü Now.”

Fans have noted that the Skrillex we hear on Jack Ü is vastly different from his earlier work. “I’m always evolving,” he admits. “From my old band to my second band, to old Skrillex, to middle Skrillex, to now Skrillex, to Jack Ü – I don’t have any rules, and I’m not afraid to fail. Every time I try something really new, it always gets a lot of criticism, but then over time people realize what it is.” To illustrate his point, Moore points to his collaboration with A$AP Rocky on the “Wild for the Night” single off his debut album, Long.Live.A$AP. (2013). “It didn’t sound like anything else. It was like trap before the trap movement became so huge, but that record did so well that now it’s become normal to hear hip hop with bass music or EDM.” He then adds, “Knock on wood, I haven’t failed in my head, but that’s the approach I take when I’m making music. You can’t ever be afraid to fail as an artist.”

From the other side of the phone, Moore’s voice is clear and friendly, and you only get a hint of arrogance when he responds to his critics who claimed Jack Ü was too short to be called an album. “What are you gonna call it, then?” he sneers. “We weren’t trying to make an album, we weren’t even trying to make an EP, we just put out the songs we had. But I like that because it’s changing the way people are allowed to put out music.” At the end of the day, he says, “music is just fun, and people just need to remember that we sit in our bedrooms and hang out and make songs ’cause it’s fun.”

After releasing material in single and EP format, Skrillex went on to put out his first solo LP Recess (2014) as a surprise gift hidden inside a video game app, a process he says was “very fun.” When the app countdown reached zero, fans got to hear 11 new Skrillex tracks. “I never want to overhype my stuff,” Moore says, an attitude that’s also evident in his position in favor of streaming music via outlets like SoundCloud and YouTube. He even says he’s not against illegal downloading. “I’m not trying to fight against anything,” he says passionately, then adds, “People waste their whole lives fighting against shit when you can just walk away from the fight and make your own world. That’s so much easier. I’ll stand up for what I believe in if I think something’s wrong, but at the same time, you’re never ever going to stop piracy, never. That’s done. And kids are growing up with the culture that it’s not really stealing, and I get that. It’s a different culture. You’re not going to fight and win against the nature of how culture’s going, you know? So you’d better evolve. That’s why I don’t even care about that stuff. Kids that are torrenting music will never buy albums, so you can’t force them to buy music. There’s a whole other market for that. And you’ve got to keep that open ’cause once you shut that door down, they’re not going to find your music ’cause they don’t buy it. There are thousands and thousands of kids that are downloading music that will never buy it. So once you take your shit off, you just cut off your outlet to thousands of people. You’ve just got to be there for everyone.” And Skrillex will be there for everyone, even for fans who sneak backstage.