Programmed to party
Dubstep DJ and producer DATSIK rides robo-music to the top
Los Angeles-based electronic musician DATSIK began experimenting with extreme sounds—the glitchy, oscillating electronic squeals and divebombs associated with dubstep today—on his laptop around 2008, which turned out to be precisely the right time to start a career in the production of robotic noises.
Having first gained a foothold in the underground electronic-music scene, dubstep became enormously popular in college circles by the end of the last decade, and has since gone on to become a ubiquitous element in Top 40 radio. Riding that wave, the once completely anonymous laptop jockey became an internationally famous dubstep DJ and producer in a few short years. (His 2009 single “Nuke ’Em” has had more than 10 million views on YouTube.)
While rooted in danceable hip-hop and house techno, DATSIK’s music has a distinctly dark undercurrent. As with most dubstep, it offers a somewhat jarring listening experience, a balls-out party with convulsive bleeps and screeches interspersed throughout. With the over-the-top emphasis on electronic sounds in his music, and (judging by his busy tour schedule) his unfathomable ability to party every night, one might suspect that DATSIK is a robot. But, as the CN&R was able to ascertain during a recent phone interview, he’s just a dude.
In fact, he has a musical background most dudes of his generation can identify with. Originally from Kelowna, British Columbia, DATSIK (real name: Troy Beetles) grew up listening to gangster-rap albums he stole from his older brothers. “Old-school Snoop Dogg albums, Wu-Tang Clan, Ice Cube, all that typical ’90s dope hip-hop shit was totally my jam,” he said, adding that he began making music by building hip-hop beats on his laptop.
By his account, his eventual success was a matter of luck. “Honestly, I never really intended on any of this; it kind of just happened,” he said. “When I was younger, I just made music for fun. I started making dubstep, throwing it on the Internet and getting a positive response from it. Before I knew it, people were hitting me up, trying to book me for shows. I was like, ‘Well, I don’t really know what to do [on stage]; I guess I should probably learn how to DJ pretty quick.’
“That’s how a lot of these younger kids enter the scene as well,” he continued. “They start by becoming a good producer; then they start playing shows because people want to see them. These days, anybody can be a DJ because it’s so accessible. But to become a good producer, you have to really work for it, and the payoff is getting to travel around and play your music for people.”
While playing live, DATSIK strives to “take as much control as I possibly can,” using a MIDI controller to manipulate his mixer’s digital soundcard on the fly. “Sometimes I’ll take a hip-hop riff and mash it with a really heavy dubstep riff, and come up with something completely original and fresh,” he said. “With a DJ, you typically don’t get that much creative freedom. With the way I do it, you end up with something unique and crazy each show.”
As for waking up in new cities and summoning the energy to party every night of a tour, he said it’s a matter of falling into a routine in which “you figure out how to balance yourself.
“It’s really easy to get sick on the road with a bunch of other people. If one person gets sick on the bus, other people get sick, too. That really sucks, so you have to be super careful and constantly try to eat healthy.
“It’s tough, though, when you wake up in some city, it’s 3 or 4 p.m. and there’s no food around except McDonald’s.”
DATSIK’s upcoming show in Chico (Thursday, March 6) will feature a mighty fancy stage prop: the Vortex Lumen, a 3-D visualizer shaped like a giant old-timey horn speaker and designed for maximum levels of hypnosis. Having played the Senator Theatre in 2012, he’s anticipating “a super-fun, wicked-crazy crowd. California crowds are always amazing, so I’m really excited to come back.”