Skrillex, The Darling Of Dubstep, Speaks In an extended chat with NPR's Arun Rath, the DJ and producer breaks down his unconventional release strategy, collaboration process and how he turned "brostep" from a dirty word to a badge of honor.

Skrillex, The Darling Of Dubstep, Speaks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


If you're just joining us, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.


RATH: OK, everybody. Buckle your seatbelts. And if you're listening on a stereo with a good subwoofer, make sure you secure the fine china.



RATH: This is Skrillex. He is huge right now. If you don't know him, you're probably not a millennial. Go look at the cover of this month's Rolling Stone. He's the biggest name in a genre called dubstep. He's got six Grammys, over 600 million views on YouTube, and this double platinum single called "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites."

His real name is Sonny Moore, and he's just released a surprise album called "Recess." Yesterday, he stopped by our studio in Southern California to chat with me about it. Now, I know not all of you are millennials, so I wanted to start with the basics of dubstep. So I asked Sonny to explain what's called the drop.

SONNY MOORE: There's always some sort of, you know, build up, you know, and always some sort of, like, moment where even in techno where it's really simple, it will be the same loop over and over again, but the drop comes in, quote, unquote "drop," and that's usually when the kick drum comes in or something.


MOORE: If we listen to funk and disco, drum beat comes in puf-tff-puf, and then also the base line comes in. That's kind of like - it's sort of like that's - it's the same - it's a similar dynamic sort of way of approaching how to write music, but you know, taken in so many different ways.


RATH: So this new album - and for people who don't know much about the history of electronic dance music or EDM - in some ways, it's almost like a primer. There's guys through some of the sounds we've heard from the past. Let's talk about this track "Ragga Bomb."


RATH: What's the style we're hearing there?

MOORE: Well, it's - I guess it's, you know, the Ragga Twins are sort of like really legendary MCs from London that came, you know, came out of, like, the jungle and drum and bass scene. So I feel like there's a lot elements of jungle and drum and bass, but it's got the halftime beat for the most part. So drum and bass and jungle's generally around, you know, 170 to 175 BPMs with...

RATH: Beats per minute.

MOORE: Beats per minute, with, like, a double time snare.


MOORE: Right, and, like, all we did with that is just took the snare and made it half time, so it's (makes clapping sounds.)


MOORE: But that's just kind of like, I just wanted to make one song that was just really noisy, and, like, louder than anything else I've ever made, just for the fun of it.

RATH: That's something.

MOORE: Yeah, I don't know.


RATH: You're somebody that, you know, a lot of people like to talk about, like to define you, right?

MOORE: Right.

RATH: I mean, like to define your music and where you are in the electronic dance music. Is it dance music or isn't?

MOORE: Right, right, right.

RATH: And there's this controversy over you've been called brostep.

MOORE: Yeah.

RATH: And that was originally an insult, right?

MOORE: Yeah. It was originally an insult, and--

RATH: What's it supposed to mean?

MOORE: Well, I guess it was - the whole idea is, like, girls didn't like my music, which was really funny and opposite, because we, you know, I think, and this is no offense to anyone making dubstep because I was going to those shows when there was only 100 dudes at the Echo, but now I feel like, you know, the progression of just electronic music in general, like, a lot more girls listen to bass music now. Like, girls weren't listening to that type of stuff. It was a derogatory term in, like, the forms for all, like, the heads, like the purist dubstep heads that weren't into anything that had a too much mid-range sound in it, you know?

But then also, I feel like it was--it might have been Rolling Stone or Spin who, like, gave "Bangarang" a review, and it was actually a good review. It was a positive review, but they called it brostep. And then from there, some people took it as oh, it's a legit thing. And it's not a negative thing. So it's just a really funny word that has this polar opposite meanings for different types of people.

RATH: Well, you've embraced it in that way.

MOORE: I have.

RATH: You have a track on here called "All is Fair in Love and Brostep."

MOORE: Yeah.

RATH: Should we hear a little bit of that?


RATH: It's fun watching you listen to your own music. You can't sit still.

MOORE: Sorry.

RATH: That's all right.

MOORE: I'm just vibing. No, but it's just cool to hear them in these headphones, because they sound really good. I need to get a pair.

RATH: So that's your answer to the brostep.

MOORE: Well, I guess, like, if people are calling it over the top and it's crazy and, like, I guess then all is fair, right, you know, that's the point.


RATH: I'm curious about the collaboration process when you work with other artists, because I have this thing in my mind imagining you working by yourself, like, in a studio with, like, a bank of computer and it's just you doing your thing.

MOORE: Yeah.

RATH: How do you integrate your style and work with other people?

MOORE: Well, the thing is, like, I'm finishing everything and mixing it and mastering myself. So that's when, like, the personal part comes in. I'm - you know, I come from singing and playing guitar and instruments. So I love, you know, collaborating, like, right there in the moment where the magic happens. Some people like to just get a vocal and then do it all in posts, but I'm really involved with the artist.

And, you know, like, for instance, when I did the record with Chance the Rapper, "Coast is Clear."

RATH: Yeah.

MOORE: You know, I recorded his whole band. So it's, like, live horns and keyboard solos and all that stuff were performed. And we did that all in one day. And we just wrote the song, I wrote some chord progressions out, had them replay it, reinterpret it. You know, Chance just started, like, toasting all over it, and just, like, you know, it happened really quickly in the sort of whim of the moment. The group process is, like, half the fun, I think.


CHANCE THE RAPPER: (Rapping) Shhh, I think the coast is clear, let's go. Leave our coats and beers, let's go. Leave your girlfriends here, let's go. Leave your hopes and fears, let's go. What you scared for? Leggo, leggo, leggo, leggo. What's your interest? Who you be with? Can I ask a question? Can you keep a secret? I don't really give a what! What I need to know is do you wanna - do you wanna - do you wanna - do you wanna...

RATH: In your music, you know, there's so much texture, so much fine detail, so many layers. When you're working on this, putting it together in those final stages of the album, do you just agonize over it? How do you know when you're done?

MOORE: See, that's like the one curse I feel like anybody that's just mixing and mastering alone. When I was in a band, it was, like, you write the songs, your producer will record it, and that was it. And it is - it can be agonizing. Like, the thing about when you're mixing, too, and it's all in the box and in the same place where you've made the records, it's easy to start changing stuff last minute, you know?

So it's all about just committing to whatever you have and just - I mean, there are some songs that took me so long to mix, like, over and over again, that, like...

RATH: Which ones?

MOORE: You know, "All is Fair" took me a long time. It's just so loud, but it still has dynamic. But I just want it to be - it needed that sort of energy and power, no pun intended, because those are the lyrics. And the key is low. The key is in E, and that can be difficult with bass in low end. And then something like "Coast is Clear" happened so quickly. "Stranger" happened really fast too.

RATH: Somebody said - I don't remember who it was - somebody once said a work of art is never completed, only abandoned.

MOORE: That's a perfect way. I definitely abandoned this record, man. I was, like - I mean, I remember, like, the turn-in day. Like, I turned it in the hour of, like, the next morning, stayed up all night. I was in New York, like, going right back to the studio after the show. And it did feel like I just abandoned the record. Like, take it. I don't care anymore. Like, I hate this thing. Nah, I wasn't - it wasn't totally like, totally like that, but I totally get that feeling.

RATH: That's Sonny John Moore aka Skrillex. His new album called "Recess" is out now. Thank you so much. It was a blast speaking with you.

MOORE: That was it?

RATH: Yeah.



RATH: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. Check out our weekly podcast. Look for WEEKENDS and ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on iTunes or on the NPR app. And follow us on Twitter @NPRWATC. We're back tomorrow. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night.


Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.