Sonny Moore started off his career in music as singer for the post-hardcore band From First to Last, finding success in the mid-2000s. But feeling unfulfilled creatively, Moore turned to his other musical love – electronica – and began recording his own compositions under the name Skrillex.
Several years and six Grammy Awards later, it’s obvious the dubstep and electro-house producer made the right choice. Skrillex heads for the Winter Music Conference week on the strength of his new album, “Recess,” which dropped March 18 – you can hear him spin at the two-day Good Times party Wednesday and Thursday at Wynwood, at the Red Bull Guest House at the Gale Hotel early Friday evening, and at Mansion later that night.
On Sunday at the Ultra Music Festival, Skrillex unveils the next phase in his artistic development with Jack U, his collaboration with DJ and producer Diplo that makes its worldwide debut live performance on the main stage.
How did you and Diplo get together, and what do you hope to accomplish musically?
Me and Wes just have so much fun – we’ve made so much music together, and just naturally because we’re friends and both from L.A., and even in different parts of the world, we make music together. So I guess the whole purpose is to combine our sounds, which in essence I feel are very similar – maybe sonically they’re different, but we like collaborating with other people and doing stuff that’s unexpected, and continuously pushing sound and bringing sounds together. And I think when we come together, our sounds really lend to each other well. And as far as the live experience, when you see the set, it’s definitely so unique – we’re playing some really good new music.
Is Jack U a lot different from your solo styles?
It’s a perfect blend between the two, and also we’re going into different territories we haven’t even done on personal levels. So yeah, and just like anything I feel like I do or Wes does, we continue to try to push our sound and do new stuff. The thing about Jack U is, we’re not gonna create a new alias and a new profile and a new Twitter and new handle on iTunes – Jack U is more the representation of when we play live. But our plan is to continue to work with each other and release things, like I’m doing some collaborations for the new Major Lazer record, and he’s just did this track, “Dirty Vibe,” with me on my album.
When you perform live, is it like a tag-team, or how does it work?
Exactly – it’s tag-team. We’re just doing a back-to-back set, mixing records together and surprising each other. Every time we play, we don’t know what each other’s gonna play next – it’s always exciting for us and the people, because it’s so spontaneous.
You’re all over the place solo during the week. Will your sets be different from gig to gig?
Yeah, every day. I’m really accustomed to doing multiple sets in a short period of time, so I like to always kind of change up and just sort of vibe with the atmosphere. My friends and I are doing this sort of mini-festival called Good Times, and my set’s a back-to-back set with What So Not and Chance the Rapper, so that’s gonna be a lot different from when I play Mansion. For kids that are going to multiple shows, it’s always exciting to see DJs in different elements, from a daytime outdoor vibe at Good Times, to Jack U at Ultra, and Story – they’ll all be different, really.
Tell us more about Good Times?
The whole idea was to do something different during that week in Miami, because people see action happens in South Beach and Ultra, which is awesome. But I feel like in Miami there’s a lot of kids that can’t afford those festivals or those clubs, so I wanted to do something in the art district in Wynwood where kids can buy $20 or $30 tickets, and enjoy some really dope, up-and-coming stuff.
When you perform at Ultra, do you feel a different energy?
I feel like it all just depends on what’s going on. At Ultra, it’s so much fun to be in front of all those thousands of people, but there’s something about doing those intimate shows that has to be my favorite, you know? Stuff that you don’t really know what you’re walking into, and it’s not really about production – it’s just about the music. And everyone is given the same tools, the same amount of time, and everyone has the freedom to do whatever they want to do, and that’s what really puts people in the spotlight. Maybe that’s what Ultra is, to a degree, because everyone is playing with the same production and the same set, but I think it’s almost more nerve-racking in a good way to be playing smaller stuff, because then it’s really all about the music and not about being tasteful for the environment, I think.
You started out your career singing in From First to Last – what led you to go from that to producing electronic music?
Well, I’ve always made electronic music, ever since I was 14 and 15 – I had Fruity Loops – but at the same time I loved rocking. But I was just getting to the point in my life where I wanted to change, and make music on my own. And I played guitar and some other instruments, but the computer I felt like is a way I could express myself the most. And that’s really what it was – I could get out and complete ideas on my own. Being in a band is different, and I’m not saying it’s better or worse, but I just needed a way to express myself and make stuff, and that’s just how it happened naturally.
Did you go into it with any expectation at all of the kind of success you ended up achieving?
No, not at the beginning at all. But as stuff starts to happen, as little opportunities come, it makes you want to work harder to go to the next level. When deadmau5 first heard my stuff, or Skream & Benga, or 12th Planet, and gave me a lot of love, it made me even more excited to do better. So you kind of see it creep in more and more as it goes as an artist, and I think a lot of artists can relate to that. It inspires you, and I kind of feel like it can never end if you don’t want it to end. Just keep looking forward.
When I first made the “My Name Is Skrillex” EP, I put my heart into that, and it doesn’t sonically sound as good as stuff I’m doing now, but it’s something I love, and something I still am proud of. And I feel like people notice that.
How did you choose the name Skrillex?
It was just like a handle, actually, a screen name on AIM, AOL Instant Messenger back in the day. I just had that since I was 15, and my friends called me that growing up, like “Skrill,” “Skrilly.” Back when Sidekick 2’s were the s---, and everyone had a Sidekick, it was all about AIM. And we all called each other by our screen names.