Skrillex and his producing partner in Diplo will forever be linked in the memory of 2015, because their Jack Ü project helped jumpstart Justin Bieber’s massive comeback, but that’s not the only thing the two shared last year. The producers both found public redemption in their own ways. In Diplo’s case, he rehabilitated his negative reputation and character, while Skrillex’s diversified work behind the boards allowed him to move further away from being the face of “brostep.” With Skrillex turning 28 today, it’s a good time to recap his turnaround.
Before taking a look at Skrillex’s newly established standing in the music industry and public alike, it’s important to cover exactly how he, probably unfairly, earned the negative perception. It stemmed from Skrillex’s fast rise to the top, which seemingly came out of nowhere and as a result, drew the ire of his contemporaries and skeptical audiences alike.
Before becoming one of the biggest names in EDM, Skrillex performed under his birth name, Sonny Moore, from 2004 to 2007 as the lead singer of the post-hardcore band From First to Last. While Moore fronted the group, they released two relatively successful albums, Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Bodycount and Heroine. However, Moore’s fragile vocal chords and a desire to pursue a solo career led to his departure in 2007.
Contrary to popular belief, Moore’s transition from post-hardcore to EDM didn’t quite happen overnight. Before adopting his current alias, Moore toured as a solo artist throughout 2008 and 2009 while attempting to find his sound. His self-released debut EP, My Name Is Skrillex, wasn’t actually released until June 2010, but signing to Deadmau5’s record label did wonders for his career. It quickly skyrocketed following the October 2010 EP, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, a reference to the late David Bowie’s 1980 album, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).
Skrillex’s meteoric rise (at one point he held 8 out of 10 spots in Beatport’s Top 10) was initially met with open arms. He earned props from the likes of Spin and dubstep luminaries Skream and 12th Planet, the latter of which had this to say about Skrillex’s music: “It’s beautiful, it’s musical, and it’s uplifting, but also face-punching and face-melting at the same time.”
However, the inevitable backlash was right around the corner, with a September 2011 Guardian interview entitled “Is Skrillex the most hated man in dubstep?” leading the charge. Instead of highlighting Skrillex’s enjoyment of the “joys of life” and happiness with his success, the writer seemed to take satisfaction in pointing out detractors and mocking a “naive” desire to connect with crowds. And of course, the profile didn’t pass up an opportunity to mock Skrillex’s appearance: “Anything that can make a superstar of a lank-haired, slighly gauche enthusiast such as Moore has to have some cultural interest.” Skrillex essentially became shorthand for the dismissive wank of millenial culture at large.
Inexplicably, taking criticism in stride and having a good time while performing was portrayed as a bad thing. It’s no small wonder Skrillex later told the same publication that the profile was the very reason why he stopped doing interviews. At this point, Skrillex released a follow-up EP earlier that year, More Monsters and Sprites, and he continued to let his music do the talking by releasing Bangarang EP at the end of 2011.