Interview: Datsik Speaks on the Future of Dubstep and Trap, Drugs in EDM, and Rap Music

Image via Getty Images/Chelsea Lauren
Image via Getty Images/Chelsea Lauren

Canada’s Troy Beetles, professionally known as Datsik, is no doubt one of the most unique players in the whole dance music game.  Born and bred out in western Canada (Kelowna, BC to be exact), Datsik broke out with the initial North American EDM explosion when he linked up with fellow dubstep and bass music dons like Excision, 12th Planet, and Flux Pavilion, carving out his own take on the bass-laced low end grooves of dubstep.  Since his initial 2009 SMOG Records release, a collaboration with 12th Planet, Datsik has toured the world, headlined festivals, released multiple albums (including his latest Let It Burn and his debut, the Dim Mak-released Vitamin D), and most recently hit 1,000,000 fans on Facebook.  Just a week before Datsik kicks off the fall Firepower Records Most Wanted tour, Datsik took the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.

First off, let me congratulate you on reaching one million fans on Facebook. How does it feel to be a millionaire?
Haha! Well, it’s kind of been a longtime coming, it’s been a push working my ass off. It’s cool, it’s nice to have that many supporters and it’s a blessing. I’m stoked to be where I’m at.

And speaking of where you’re at, you’ve got your new record, Let It Burn.  For fans who haven’t heard it, or just want your perspective, what can fans expect from the project? A mix of styles? Straight up dubstep?
Yeah, I mean the core of the album is dubstep, because that’s what kind of I’m known for, but it jumps around bit. I’ve got some 110, some electro, a little bit of drumstep, and the whole thing kind of has a bit of a hip-hop tilt. But yeah, I’d say most of the tracks are around 140, and it kind mixes styles, where some are more melodic, and others are straight up raw, like the title track “Let It Burn,” which is probably the rawest track on the album. I’d say that’s the basis of the album, and given the response from the previews, I’m excited to see how it goes down!

That’s good to hear, because as a lot of the scene’s top talents like Skream have moved away from dubstep, and I know there’s rumblings that “dubstep is dead”… Even Zomboy told us earlier this year that “I think everyone came to the realization that dubstep was slowly getting a bit boring”…As someone who was instrumental in dubstep’s North American explosion and is currently head of one of the premier bass music labels, what do you make of those comments and rumblings?
Some parts of that are true, at the same time, I feel like the genre isn’t being pushed any further and it’s like a lot of the dubstep producers are thinking “where do we go from here?” At that point, I think the only thing you can do is take a break from it and in doing so open the door for other music and so I think right now trap music is filling that void. I think with the progression of trap, as it gets bigger and it gets better, it’ll start to open up doors for dubstep, because it is still the same tempo. And to say that dubstep is dead? That’s kind of weird because at this point, there are still more people listening to dubstep then ever before. Maybe, it might be dead to a lot the tastemakers, but if you saw this year at EDC, the bass stage was completely full the entire time, and it was probably the second biggest stage after the main stage and it was all dubstep and trap. That kind of showed us, that well maybe the people in the UK have doing it for so long, like ten years now, are obviously sick of it. Like Skream has been in it since the start, so who knows? Maybe he’s just really sick of it like some other guys and they’re looking for some change – and [you] can’t blame [him] for that. At the same time, again more people are listening to it then ever, so who knows; I’m excited to see where it goes!

Definitely well said, and I think a lot of your peers would echo that. Now that we’ve clarified that, dubstep isn’t dead, what’s the future of dubstep like?
Well like I was saying, trap is sort of the new age, bottle service take on dubstep and so I think more and more trap elements that get used at 140 with dubstep, and more minimal elements, will be how dubstep is saved. Honestly, I still love dubstep, will always love dubstep and am a huge huge fan of it and there are A LOT of people who feel the same way. For me, it’s not just a fad. I’ve loved it since the start when I got into it. Personally, I think there is room for improvement – we just haven’t found it yet. It just takes one person to find a new way to almost re-invent the world, because we, dubstep, went through this phase where everyone was just trying to copy Skrillex and do what he’s doing. He was paving the way with his certain sound and carving his own path with dubstep and when other people are copying him and he hasn’t put out any dubstep for a while now, and people don’t know what to do. Now he’s working on Dog Blood and all the imitators are left high and dry. So now it’ll take someone to do something different, push the envelope, do something unique and try to incorporate all those elements that people love, like the deep house or trap elements and make a fusion, hybrid. Doing something like that will open doors for dubstep, bring people back and bring back, evolve, and re-vitalize the genre. One thing I will say though is that normally, dubstep DJs don’t just play dubstep, when a lot of house DJs only play house, or just 128. Dubstep DJs tend to play everything, and that’s why I’d much rather go see a dubstep DJ over a house DJ.

Well that was certainly candid and I appreciate that, and you’ve already answered some of my questions with that! On that note, what’ve been your favorite straight-up dubstep releases this year?
I’ve been following a lot of the deeper UK stuff, and this one guy in particular that I really enjoy BIOME and he’s making a hybrid of really “beats” stuff, but it’s super heavy and it has a ton of weight with big drops and big drums. It sounds like the kind of shit that got me into it, and when I hear the stuff that he’s been putting out, it’s really exciting. Other than that, stuff on the label like Protohype and Getter. Getter is really bringing it back to the old-school shit, like the 2009 shit, and Protohype has the whole melodic side of things down, and really all the kids on the label are, in my opinion, killing it in the dubstep scene. I feel like as a whole, Firepower has it locked down. Obviously the kids I’m signing, I truly believe in and hopefully together we can make a dent in the scene.

Yeah man, I definitely think you guys are on to something. Now you mentioned the 2009 style of dubstep and when it comes to your particular unique brand of dubstep, ever since your earliest releases, you’ve always had a distinct hip-hop influence, a certain swagger to them (no pun intended). You’ve even sampled from the likes of Method Man on “Southpaw.” It’s now 2013 as you said, trap could be the bottle service take on dubstep, and we’ve seen hip-hop and electronic dance music really come together in a way that we’ve never seen before. What does all of this mean for you as a producer? What’s been the most exciting part about that?
Well I really just think that, like I was saying with trap bringing back the minimal stuff, when I go and play a set, obviously the core of my set is dubstep as the kids come to the show and want to hear that and go crazy.  At the same time when you mix trap in, it just makes sets that much more dynamic and gives people a break. It’s a minimal, kind of cool way to get people to freak out. It’s cool, and refreshing, and i’m so stoked that trap has been introduced to the scene, even though it’s been around a long time as the southern rap stuff, but now there’s new EDM trap and it’s crossing over with the normal trap and you have guys like Diplo working with 2 Chainz and crossing the two worlds together, adding EDM trap elements into the normal trap – bridging the gap between the two and I think it’s really cool to see what happen. So personally, I love that trap is in the scene, and the one thing good about trap is that I love that you really can make it at any tempo, like 100 BPM trap with the same hats, or 128 stuff at half-time or the 140, typical dubstep kind of trap or the 165 stuff like Baauer’s “Roll Up” remix; that kind of stuff opens doors and bridges gaps between genres, so having trap become part of the EDM scene, is a good look for us.

I’d definitely agree with that insight, but I have to ask you, speaking of the hip-hop angle as a noted hip-hop fan, and someone who brings up Wu-Tang some in their interviews, who’s your favorite Wu Tang member?
I’d say Method Man, but two weeks ago though, I had a show in D.C. and GZA was on the bill and we swapped info, so hopefully in the future we can do a track together! He was super cool, and all those guys are super chill though, super cool and I’m excited to see if we can make some magic and get on tracks. It’d be sick.

So besides Method Man being your favorite individual and GZA being super cool, what’s your favorite Wu album, solo or group?
I would definitely say 36 Chambers as that’s the first one, and I have that vinyl and every single tune on the album is an absolute hit. That’s the classic right there, and Wu-Tang at it’s finest.

Favorite song on the album?
I’d say probably “Bring The Ruckus,” haha!, It’s so raw and playing it live, people just freak out, so that’s probably it.

Do you drop Wu-Tang in your sets?
I had at one point.  I was playing “Method Man” for a little bit and had a cool mash-up of that and now I usually play some Biggie or some West Coast shit; I just kind of find a few tracks per set and slip them in but I don’t go overboard with it, and enough to give people a break. Works really well!

You’ve also worked with MCs like Messinian, Snak The Ripper and you even recently remixed Talib Kweli on Pretty Lights’ record. How is that different from working on your own instrumental?
Well it’s much easier, a lot easier. It gives me a theme and I feel like I work best with direction right away. If someone is just like “remix this,” I then have to find an avenue in which I want to take it in. I find that when I’m given a bit of direction, I work better so let’s say I want to make a track that incorporates fire trucks, the sound designer in me comes out and it’s a lot easier to just make a track with a specific theme, and I find I work a lot quicker that way. So I have to do it that way now, because I’ve written so many tracks, I have to try to find something new to learn on every track.

You’re talking about writing with themes and concepts, and you said dubstep was the core of Let It Burn, is that what you mean or something more specific?
Dubstep is like the core of the album and with “Let It Burn” I was just thinking fire, dark, machine guns and rain, and stuff like that. So halfway through the song, there’s this breakdown at the half-point in the song, and there’s this car driving and it stops and sees something in the future and then it shoots at it before it blows up and goes into the second drop. I used to have a lot of fun scoring videos and movies, or whatever, so it’s cool to be able to incorporate that into the music and still make it work for a DJ. So just little things like that make it a whole lot more fun.

  • Adam J Christie

    Come back to Chicago so I can see raver babies cry tears of joy to your beautiful music.

  • 29R

    Come to LOS ANGELES !

  • Eric O’Shea

    the best, biome just got a new listener, biscuit factory, genetix, ya can’t go wrong

  • meditateonbassweight

    lol @ Biome not getting a link.

  • WTF?

    Biome makes “beats” ? , lol, no pal… this is straight up dubstep, the way it should sound and feel… before americans made it sounding like a utter shit noise with pop melodies and pop vocals on it…

    • schema

      agreed

  • Schema

    what datsik might not understand is that people are still pushing dubstep to new and different levels. just because he hasn’t heard of those people or their music does not mean that they do not exist.

    • http://www.rockthedub.com/ khal

      i don’t think that’s what he was getting at at all.

      • herplerp

        His words –> “Some parts of that are true, at the same time, I feel like the genre isn’t being pushed any further and it’s like a lot of the dubstep producers are thinking “where do we go from here?”
        Contradiction : Joe Ford, Disprove, Soma and so many more are actually doing something to push the genre further.

        • http://www.rockthedub.com/ khal

          You’re assuming he’s not heard of these guys, and also that he’s in the mind of “where do we go from here.” I don’t think he’s not understanding that there are forward-thinking producers in the scene.

  • yup i said it

    still wondering why you kept referring to brostep as dubstep………………………………………..

    • http://www.rockthedub.com/ khal

      still wondering why you’re clinging to terms like brostep………………………………………..

    • gayfag

      Seriously, are people still using this term? Jesus christ! Grow the fuck up, stupid kids these days

  • Jesus Lordz Dubsteppin

    DATSIK IS A DICKHEAD … HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT IS DUBSTEP YET HE TALKS SHIT ABOUT IT .. AND THAT GOES FOR RAP 2 … HE ISN’T SOMEBODY WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO TALK ABOUT THIS SHIT .. BECAUSE HE AIN’T DONE SHIT FOR ANY OF THESE GENRES …FUCK DATSIK .. FUCK FIREPOWER RECORDS .. FUCK BROSTEP .. FUCK ‘MURICA…

    • Ramrod

      …FUCK YOU…

    • Ramrod

      YOU are the one acting like you know everything there is to know about music. Get real, you hypocritical motherfucker.

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