Way back in 2002, the Artist Then Known as P. Diddy released the ridiculously titled We Invented the Remix. Even when taking into account the Bad Boy Records mogul’s reputation for unbelievable claims, this one was outrageous and absurd.
Diddy, nor anyone he likely ever met, did not by any stretch of the imagination invent the remix. Skrillex did. Before your head explodes, let’s redefine the word “remix” for contemporary use and how it applies to the post-dubstep EDM DJ: These days, everything is a brand. You are a brand. So for the former Sonny Moore—the once upon a time 15-year old frontman for class-of-2004 screamo band Every Time I Die (whose debut album Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Body Count is the most perfectly titled of its genre)—”remix” is the reinvention of the self, not a record.
When recurring throat problems threatened his future as a singer in 2007, Moore jumped ship from the Warped Tour circuit, reprioritizing his homemade electronic recordings into the main focus of his career and christened himself Skrillex, after a childhood nickname and, tellingly, his social media handle. He’s frequently said in interviews that he discovered electronic music after hearing a member of Korn namecheck Aphex Twin on MTV’s Total Request Live, which says so much more than he could have ever intended: Not only is it a neat summarization of the Skrillex sound, it’s a distillation of the odd and by-chance trajectory that has followed him his entire public life.
Finding his signature sound—which has been proven to be very divisive among audiences—was mostly “trial and error,” he told several publications, including Alternative Press. Taking the basic elements of Britain’s post-grime 2-step style, also known as dubstep—bottomless, reverberating bass frequencies; arrhythmic, skittering drum programs; and, most infamously, the squelching synthesizer noises that many have insultingly compared to a dying goat screaming—Skrillex refigured and expanded these characteristics to super-sized American extremes that made sense as an electronic variation of screamo’s bipolar tendencies.
Skrillex quickly began a meteoric rise in popularity on the live DJ circuit, which led to his first commercial breakthrough, a remix of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” at the height of her short-lived superstardom in 2009. Similarly, the debut 2010 EP “My Name is Skrillex” was rapidly reissued by fellow EDM traveller Deadmau5’s label Mau5trap after Skrillex uploaded it onto MySpace.
By this point, his reputation as the most guilty offender and purveyor of dumb-downed “brostep” beloved by turnt up frat boys and sorority girls was already congealing among electronic music purists, and not unrelated, his in-demand status as a producer, remixer and DJ was ascending at a startlingly rapid pace. 2010 saw the release of the second Skrillex EP, “Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites,” which sold quite respectfully; over the next two years he’d record an even bigger hit EP, “Bangarang,” and collaborate with both Korn and the Doors, which showed how widespread his influence was growing. By 2012, Forbes reported that Skrillex was making 15 million dollars a year, positing this young man, barely old enough to drink legally, in the ranks of the world’s highest paid entertainers. It seemed like everybody had an opinion of Skrillex, and those most willing to speak up were steadfast in their disgust for his music—all before he’d even released a proper debut album.
That would come earlier this year, with the Top Ten full length hit, Recess. While the album was markedly more varied, artfully constructed and nuanced than his previous efforts, it did little to silence his detractors. To Skrillex’s credit, he seems to be taking the criticism in stride, as evidenced by the record’s opening track, “All’s Fair in Love and Brostep,” but the question remains, who exactly is the silent majority who pays Sonny Moore extravagant sums of money to entertain them and—in a particularly transitional state for the music business and fans’ loyalty to artists—why?
Skrillex is scheduled to play AVA with DJ Mustard, Branchez and David Heartbreak Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $42 for general admission, $62 for VIP.