In a cluttered home studio in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District, mere blocks from where he wrote “Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites”, the song that sold millions of copies and helped instigate one of the largest shifts in modern American music in recent memory, the galvanizing totem of a youth movement daps at a midi controller, ceaselessly cuing the same snare sound over and over and over and over, for literally hours. Literally. Hours.
Skrillex has a lot of thank yous. At around the one-minute mark of his first Grammy acceptance speech in 2012, iPhone in hand, scrolling interminably down a list, it became clear that Skrillex doesn’t feel isolated from his peers. It’s always been a defining trait of his character, this aptitude at building things with others. It’s since gone on to characterize, color, and define his career, too. Whether with his label, OWSLA, his numerous media projects, the NEST online community or the building in downtown LA he’s currently converting into a state-of-the art creative space, Skrillex knows there’s power in numbers. Skrillex quite simply loves to make things.
Across the board, those numbers are significant- when a person with one of the largest social media followings in the world decides to engage his community, they engage back. Within a year of forming the label, OWSLA, in 2011, it had launched the careers of some of the most buzzing names in American electronic music, all the while staying true to their connection to the community of artists around them and exploring multiple genres along the way. OWSLA continues to pick up momentum, more heads become aware every day, and they tell their friends.
One year later Skrillex collaborated with friend/cult filmmaker Harmony Korine by scoring his critically acclaimed Spring Breakers movie and also composed an original track for Pixar’s Wreck It Ralph while simultaneously penning one of the biggest club hits of the year with A$AP Rocky (Wild For The Night). He then dropped his first fashion collaboration with G-Star around the same time (it sold out globally in a matter of days). Three consecutive homeruns across a broad appeal spectrum, but it’s easy to identify commonalities among these seemingly disparate projects when they’re examined in this uniquely Skrillex context – awesomeness prevails, always. And it’s always a team effort.
And every team needs a dugout. So when Sonny returned to Los Angeles to rally the troops, plucking talent from France, Spain, Chicago, Florida, and Tennessee this last spring he purchased an 11,000 square foot compound nestled in the heart of LA. It currently houses his label, management, and publicity staffs as well as a new, futurist venture called NESTHQ.com. The project, which began as a subscription-based sub-label of OWSLA, began to take on new meaning as the team sought to further integrate all of the Skrillex and OWSLA-related media content into one vertical silo. NESTHQ.com was formed as a means of iterating the values and personalities of the dance music community, Skrillex’s community, in one consistently positive voice. The building itself is the physical manifestation of this intent and more plans are underway to construct several high-end recording studios, media production labs, video suites and other creative spaces to further inspire the associated artists under the OWSLA/Skrillex umbrella.
But let’s get back to that snare sound. Sonny John Moore, the man who upended popular music in 2011, knows there’s too much in the balance, and he addresses the seemingly menial with utmost gravity. He invests himself into everything he does. It’s not just a career at stake. Skrillex acknowledges the huge responsibility we all have to bring positivity into the world through art and expression, and that whether its iterated musically or otherwise, getting those ideas out is group therapy at its best. We’re in this together, so let’s get it right.
Finally, despite being one of the biggest names in music, Skrillex hasn’t walked away from the ‘do-it-ourselves’ attitude he’s had since his start. “When you grow you’re going to need more people, more bodies to do stuff,” he said. “It’s all about making true partnerships. I think the less you can take out of something and the more you can do yourself, it’s more equal-interest. So you’re not taking out big bank loans, you’re betting on yourself and you can sustain everything. Maybe it takes a little longer — it’s been since 2004 to get to where I am now, with the same team, the same manager. That’s how we did it. There was no rush ever to get giant checks.” Throughout all of this, he’s decided to keep the music industry at an arm’s length. “I kind of wanted to stay away from Hollywood… I guess my scene and the energy and the core of where I came from is Downtown L.A. and throwing warehouse parties and being inspired by spaces that gushed potential, more than something that was already done.”