joe zorzi raves on through to the other side with the white-hot EDM mixmaster …
Troy Beetles, better known as Datsik, has been creating a name for himself in the EDM scene the last few years, putting out releases with artists like Excision. The Canadian dubstep DJ just finished up the Dead Meat tour with Steve Aoki, is getting ready to release his debut full-length album this April and is gearing up to head out to Coachella in April and the Identity Festival this summer. Troy took some time to talk with me before one of his shows, where we discussed his love for hip-hop, how he got into the dubstep scene, his new record label and more.
Pop-Break: When and how did you first get involved with music overall, not just dubstep?
Datsik: I’ve been an audiophile since I was really young. My father was like super, super into high-end audio equipment and he was buying and selling really expensive high-end audio. So when I was really young, I think I was like 6 or 7 years old, he basically put a big surround sound system in my room and basically told me if I could set it up I could keep it. So, obviously it was a bunch of trial and error. I figured it out when I was young, and I mean, since then I’ve always really kind of been super stoked on audio and just music in general. That’s kind of how I first got into it. And then like a few years later, I got into hip-hop and stuff through my older brothers, you know. They basically gave me all their CDs so that I could play it really loud in my room. So it ended up being like a lot of Wu-Tang and just like old school west coast shit. It was funny ‘cause my mom obviously was like, you know, kind of hesitant because it’s pretty graphic shit, you know? It’s just pretty funny, I don’t know, that’s kind of how I first got into all this.
PB: And so you always were more electronic-based? It wasn’t like you were a guitar player who switched over one day or anything?
Datsik: No, no. Although I really wish that I had some sort of like, you know, musical background to begin with. I think my life would be a lot easier right now … [laughs] because in terms of like writing insane melodies and this and that, you know? I’ve kind of learned the whole process a little bit backwards from a lot of people. I kind of started making music and making beats and then kind of just noodling around with super simple melodies and this and that. And then, you know, obviously as I got older and I went to school for audio engineering and stuff, I got a lot better with the production end of things and I find myself now kind of stepping back and really focusing in on trying to become musical. Like, kind of write my own crazy scores and my own intricate melodies. But it’s just a lot different way to do things, because I’d always just started with the production and then kind of work towards making a dope melody. But, now I’m trying to implicate them both at the same time, and it’s kind of really changed my production style as well. It’s a lot more fun. At the end of the day, it’s still all music so … the more musical, the better.
PB: So you do write a lot of your own stuff, though? Do you use a lot of samples too?
Datsik: Oh yeah, yeah. That’s where the hip-hop influence comes in. I mean, it’s cool. Like you don’t really see a lot of dubstep or electronic music these days that’s actually based on sampling, you know? Usually you’ll have one key sample right before the drop, and what I’ve been trying to do lately, you know, when I have time, is actually go back and start sampling records and stuff and trying to pull really cool like piano loops or whatever from dope records. It doesn’t really happen within dubstep, you know? I feel like that whole side of things is kind of lost to the synthesizers and whatever.
PB: What first got you into dubstep?
Datsik: Well, it was basically through hip-hop. When I first got into it, I had no idea that there was a huge scene in the U.K. I was just like totally oblivious. Basically I just heard it, and I was like, ‘Holy shit.’ You know, at the time it was very minimal, but it was really dark and I think just the dark side of things was kind of what brought me into dubstep in the first place. ‘Cause I was always such a big fan of the grimy, old school Wu-Tang, RZA beats and stuff like that. So, that’s kind of what drew me towards it. And then once I started making it, I got a couple e-mails being like, ‘Yo, we want to bring you up for a show?’ And then I kind of like looked into it, and I guess that’s when I noticed that the U.K. was doing it big already. They’ve already been doing it for a while, you know what I mean? And all those guys like Mala and Coki and you know, all those guys were already doing it big. I mean, it’s just crazy. Obviously, Excision was big at the same time as well in my hometown. And that’s kind of around the time we linked up, when I discovered dubstep on my own and then we both kind of realized we had a common ground between us, you know what I mean? At the time, he was already doing his thing and he already made his name as a dubstep producer.
PB: It’s crazy how right now it’s pretty much taken over the mainstream. You even hear on a lot of pop records people are doing little dubstep parts and a lot of EDM stuff.
Datsik: Oh yeah, definitely. They’re like testing the waters basically. You can tell on the pop records they’ll just have a good little mini spot where it’s like 27 seconds or even less than that where it goes into dubstep because they’re kind of scared of just blasting full on dubstep because they don’t really know where it stands yet, you know what I mean? And I think the more dubstep explodes, I think the more experimental they’re going to get with radio music.
PB: Yeah, hopefully. I mean it’s crazy to see someone like Skrillex getting Grammys right now for dubstep. He’s bringing it to the limelight.
Datsik: Oh no, it’s phenomenal. I mean, good work deserves fucking good credit so whatever.
PB: There’s a lot of these conservative music people that are like, ‘Oh, it’s not real music because they’re all just making it on computers.’ How do you feel about that?
Datsik: You know what, I think that’s bullshit. I think just because it’s on a computer doesn’t mean it’s not real. It doesn’t mean Sonny’s not sitting there on a fucking keyboard writing a dope melody, you know what I mean? The computer’s just recording it and then using the technical aspects of music. There’s a musical side and then there’s a technical aspect when it comes to like electronic music. So, I mean if you can dial both of those in you’re going to do pretty well for yourself. I find like a lot of the struggling artists are the ones who have a strong grasp of one but not the other. Like, they could be really musical but they suck at producing so it only makes it so far. But if you are extremely musical, you have an ear for what’s hot at the moment, and you know how to produce it well yourself in terms of crazy, top-of-the-line drum and bass style production over dubstep tracks then you’re going to do well.
PB: Very cool, dude I agree with that completely. It’s very interesting though to see the clashing of ideas. Some people are so loving it and some people hate it so much.
Datsik: I think it’s just because … You know, not to hate on anyone, but there’s a lot of like hipsters who kind of jump into it and they treat it like a fad and we’ve been doing it for a while, so it’s like a way of life for a lot of people. Obviously a lot of people just jump in and for them it’s just like, ‘Oh, this is cool for a few months to a year and then okay on to the next thing’. That’s cool that they got into it, it’s just like the true dubstep lovers will dig past just the surface. Obviously if you look on the surface, you see Skrillex and whoever else. But if you dig into it there’s so much good dubstep out there, you just gotta look for it.
PB: And speaking of the guys in the forefront right now, you just finished touring with Steve Aoki whose gigantic in the whole EDM scene. How was it touring with him?
Datsik: Oh dude, well Steve is like the coolest fucking guy ever. The whole time it was mad fun and we all played around with each other. We had such a dope crew. It’s hard to even call this work. The hardest part about traveling as a DJ was just getting to the airport and flying and all that bullshit, which after a while becomes so annoying. I’m super fortunate for what I’ve got, but it gets so tiresome when you’re not sleeping for three days and you’re flying across the country three times in a row. And you mix in drinking with that you just end up being such a mess. So like, being on a big tour bus is awesome, it’s such a privilege. It kind of takes a lot of the work aspect out of it. [It became] like an everyday thing. [laughs] I mean, everyone else got up at like noon, whatever. I got up at like 6pm, make my way to the dressing room, eat some veggies from the veggie tray and then go on stage. That’s kind of the way it was. Steve was like … he wants to live forever so he works out and he gets everyone on the tour working out and I just liked to sleep away. [laughs] It’s kind of funny.
PB: Sounds like an awesome lifestyle. A very cool experience, not a lot of people get to do stuff like that.
Datsik: Oh, I’m so lucky to be doing this right now. This is like the funnest time I’ve ever had in my entire life. End of the day, can’t complain about a thing.
PB: You have any pre-show rituals or anything?
Datsik: Well, I tend to pace a lot. It’s not because I’m nervous or anything, but right before a show I’ll like seriously just start walking everywhere and just walk in circles, just walk around people. [laughs] It’s weird, even talking on the phone I can never sit still. Right now I’m on the tour bus pacing up and down the hallways. If I’m about to go on, I’m just trying to find a way to get myself hyped and just, you know. So that’s kind of my pre-show ritual. Kind of just have a drink and then pace around. [laughs]
PB: You’ve got an album coming out in April, Vitamin D. And that’s going to be on Aoki’s label, Dim Mak. Is it completely finished?
Datsik: Yeah, it’s been done for a while but with an album there’s certain things that, you know … Like, make sure if there’s a music video to be coming out we try to get it in the circuit like on MTV or whatever. And you know, obviously get it to press outlets so they can review the album before it comes out. All those kind of things take time. So you mix that with producing a CD, which you know it takes time to press the CD, get everything mastered and this and that. I’ve had the album done for a while, now it’s like a waiting game. In the meantime, I’m writing new music as well. Everything is like a staggered kind of schedule. I feel like as soon as the album drops I’m gonna be just constantly like barraging the fucking, you know barraging people with as much new music as I can possibly make so. That’s kind of my plan.
PB: How’s the anticipation? It’s your first full-length release.
Datsik: Yeah, this is my first actual album, so it’s a bit different. Like those EPs, we’d just fire them out really quick. You submit your EP, it comes out two or three weeks later. But, yeah I’m really excited too. I also just launched my own label. It’s called Firepower Records. I’m really trying to focus on the young up and coming kids that are just gonna wreck it.
PB: So are you just promoting them or putting out albums for them?
Datsik: Yeah, I’m putting out EPs by them and I’m promoting them and we’re going to be doing like a big Firepower tour in the fall and shit. So, it’s gonna be cool. We’re gonna do it proper. These kids haven’t really been on a full bus tour so I want to give them a chance to do that as well. You know, some of the kids are like 17 others are 19. It’s just cool, I just want to help these kids get up and get started and who knows where it goes from there. Who knows who the next Skrillex is gonna be, you know what I’m saying?