Datsik on the differences between U.K. and U.S. crowds and how it has influenced his music
With heavy distortion and intergalactic samples, Datsik fuses the heaviest elements of rap and dubstep to create a sound that's equivalent to standing in the middle of an epic man-versus-machine battlefield. Datsik, known in his native British Columbia as Troy Beetles, followed up on the promise of his first studio release, issued on Steve Aoki's Dim Mak Records, with two new EPs on his own Firepower imprint.
This week, for two nights and one special live-streaming set from Beatport's Denver office, Datsik will spit fire from the speakers onto the raging dubstep fans of Colorado. We recently spoke with Beetles, who recently moved to Los Angeles, about how playing in Europe and the U.K. has influenced his music and what he thinks of the new Daft Punk album.
Westword: How long have you been living in Los Angeles?
Datsik: I think we moved here about three or four months ago. We are just finally getting settled here. I love it. I can't complain. The weather is just wonderful here.
Is this your first relocation stateside from Canada?
Yes! It's actually the first time I've moved out of British Columbia.
Welcome! Who did you move down here with?
I moved down here with my girlfriend.
How did the transfer go with bringing all of your production to California?
It was kind of tough, actually. We moved from Canada, so we had to pack all of our stuff into a semi-truck, which took two weeks to get down here. We didn't have any of our stuff once we got here. I basically had to fly out and play shows while we waited for it all, and then it finally came when we were here. Our friend Belinda helped us out with the unpacking, so that was cool.
In the middle of a move -- I recently moved myself -- have you felt any constraints as an artist with being in a new place? Or is it opening up new avenues of creativity for you?
I think a little of both. My studio room has hardwood floors, which sucks. I put carpet everywhere, and I put up a lot of panels to make it not sound as bad [laughing]. We have this mattress that we were sleeping on when we didn't have any furniture, so instead of giving it back, I just stuck it up on the wall to muffle the sound.
The room is pretty shitty, but I'm working on making it better and better. It will probably take about a month for me to really get used to the room and understand it. When you are working on music, certain parts will be a bit bassy-er, or more treble in some parts, so it takes some getting used to for that. I think finally now I've built the room to where I like it. I'm finally getting the flow again.
How does that translate when you are on tour and notice it from venue to venue? Is it something that can be frustrating during sound checks? I'm guessing you can see, or hear, the imperfections in how your music is played.
When we do the sound check, I use that opportunity a lot to check it all. We usually travel with a K-sound system, so basically when we are at a venue, or on the bus working with artists, we go in the venue during soundcheck and really get the sound right. I love being able to do that. That's one thing I love about making music on tour is doing just that. We can basically hear our productions the second we make it.
I'm curious to know what it's like making music on the road. Is that something you've become accustomed to?
To be perfectly honest, for the longest time, I had so much trouble trying to write music on the road, and it would never happen. Now, you get into the same groove all the time, and you kind of find the inspiration. I don't know. You get to a point where you are working on three tracks, and they might start to sound the same, and you just bring new ideas.
Only recently have I been able to work well while traveling. I was in Europe and the U.K. a couple weeks ago and just traveling around, and it seems like each time we were getting on the train, I was writing a new track. I ended up writing three or four songs in the period of two weeks. It's great to be back, but I got to the studio and wasn't inspired because I'd already written a bunch of stuff while I was out.
It's great being back and being in the studio, and they came out the way the I wanted them to. It's interesting traveling, from everything over in Russia and writing new stuff there. The new stuff all sounds different. That has to be an upside; the upside of tour for the inspiration and writing process.
Seeing all the crowds and being on tour, do you see a significant difference between how your music is received over here versus in Russia and the U.K.? I ask that because a lot of people I've spoke with always comment on the energy levels that are present in the U.S. It's rambunctious and rowdy, and your music is just that.
You know what's funny? In the last month I've been in Europe twice, and been in the U.K. and all over the map, and one thing that I've really noticed is that you can play a lot of trap in the U.S., and the place will go off, but in the U.K., it is kind of different. Here in America, people hear all the YouTube tracks, and they want hear it live. In the U.K., they want to hear all the shit that no one else has heard before. In Europe, they are huge into drum-and-bass, so I was playing a lot of that, but trap wouldn't really go off as much.
It's interesting, you know? I'd play some dubstep, and they'd get really bored with it really quickly, so I'd play some drum-and-bass. It's really weird how it's like that. But with the energy levels, it's crazy. Going back to Europe was one of my favorite times. It feels like everything has just grown over there. The scene is exploding over there.
In the U.S., it's crazy to see where it's going to right now: Dubstep was popular for a while, and now it's turned into trap and some of the more minimal stuff, so it's the opposite of how the U.K. evolved. They started with the minimalist and went to the heavy stuff, but in the U.S., it's the opposite. It's hard to see where it's going.
How did seeing that play a part in the tracks that you wrote when you overseas? Would that influence bleed into your writing, and is that something you noticed coming back here and listening to what you wrote there versus what you may have written here? Is that something you noticed in your creative process?
One-hundred percent! Actually, when I was over there, I noticed that I was starting to play a lot of dark stuff, and I was dropping really minimal stuff, some proper U.K. dubstep and getting a good reaction. But when I was Europe, they want it hard all the time. That really played into what I was writing when I was over there. One of the tracks that I wrote over there is one of the hardest tracks I've made. When I am here, I am really into the swinging/trembling stuff. I think traveling has really helped for writing music, for me anyways, because it adds diversity.
I feel like it's viewed as the total opposite. People always talk about how dubstep started in the underground scene in foggy clubs in London, and now it's over here and mainstream and it has morphed into this. What's your view on it, and where do you want to take your music as far as that goes?
I feel like the people who stopped listening to dubstep because it's gone mainstream, I think those are the hipsters, and we don't -- whatever, dubstep doesn't need hipsters. For those who are going to drop a genre because it's gone mainstream and not cool anymore: Wherever there is a mainstream, there will always be an underground, ya know?
One thing is basically that people who don't want to hear the mainstream will start something new, and it's going to be unique, and they'll do something innovative, and that will always happen with every style of music until the earth explodes. I mean, whatever. Time is the biggest thing. Where we are going with music, with whoever is that person that goes first, they will be successful, you know what I mean?
Take a look at Daft Punk, for example: They were kind of doing the disco-house thing. I feel like they were kind of the originators of it, and I could be wrong, but when people say "disco-house," I think of Daft Punk. Being able to identify yourself with a specific genre of music means you are going to be pretty well off.
What are your thoughts on Daft Punk's latest release?
I don't know. I honestly thought it was alright. A lot of people thought it was amazing. For me, I thought it was more alright because I wanted to hear one dance track. I can't really see, other than "Get Lucky," but I can't really see any of those being played on the dance floor. Maybe that was what they were going for, but at the same time, I've been a Daft Punk fan for a long time, so I would've loved to hear a track that was like "One More Time," or just something like that. Just one.
I ask only because I felt like there was this monumental build up and expectation of what the album was going to be, and what I picture Daft Punk to be, and then I got the album and thought, "Well, this is really good. Just that. It's a good CD." Not really what I was expecting.
Yes, exactly. Right. No offense to them, obviously, because they are Daft Punk, but they wanted to something different and something new. I think it's the right move. Unless you doing something like that, you can't really evolve, right? Without doing something radical and different, you can't really evolve. Wherever this is going, they definitely achieved, but I would have really liked to hear a Daft Punk track.
Is there anything you see on the horizon that you would like to implement into your music, similar to the way they did -- not anything like a polar switch in your creating, but is there anything out there that you are experimenting with that's a newer sound for you?
I'm actually working right now on something that's actually bringing dubstep and hip-hop together that's sort of drumsteppy. I'm working on another alias now that is some electro bangers; when it's ready I'll let it out, but until I have a sick EP, I'm not going to put it out there.