Datsik: Bringing Firepower To EDM

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The Canadian import has caused quite a stir in the dupstep world, blowing up dancefloors worldwide with his heavy baselines and signature deep “whompy” beats. With roots in hip-hop culture, Datsik (Troy Beetles) has been able to successfully fuse his first love of hip-hop with robotic, futuristic tech bangers that have helped the talented Datsik rise to become one of EDM’s heavy hitters despite being relatively new to the scene (he’s only been DJing for the past five years, with the past two really seeing him shine).

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But in his short tenure in the EDM scene, Datsik has already achieved more than veterans of eras past. He had seven No. 1 releases on Beatport back in 2009 and has done amazing remixes for huge names like The Crystal Method, Bassnectar, Diplo and more. He’s toured the world, played at some of the biggest EDM festivals to date and recently dropped his debut album, Vitamin D, on Dim Mak Records back in April, which feature collaborations from Z-Trip, Infected Mushroom and even Korn’s Jonathan Davis. As he gears up for a massive festival-heavy touring schedule this summer, Datsik’s also busy gearing up to released his upcoming EP on his own Firepower record label, in addition to handling all the responsibilities of a label CEO. As the future of EDM shines brighter and brighter with each rising producer/DJ, Datsik’s definitely paving the way for the genre’s next generation of talented artists as he continues to come into his own as a very versatile and skilled EDM artist.

How does your musical story start?

Well, I’ve always really been into music since a young age. My dad was a huge audiophile and used to own expensive audio equipment. For my sixth birthday, he gave me a surround sound system and told me if I could set it all up then it was mine. After a lot of trail and error, I was able to do it that’s where it all started. I also had older brothers who were really into hip-hop. From there it evolved from listening to music to making it when I was 12. It wasn’t until was about 16 that I really started to pick up on the whole DJ scene. I actually learned on my own, scratching and just playing around with hip-hop beats. I then discovered dance music. It was first house music then drum & bass. When I finally heard dupstep, it just blew my mind.

How did you go about perfecting your turntablist skills?

Well I had my own turntables, but that didn’t last long. So I really learned after I started booking shows. That’s when I started to really learn how to DJ. It was a huge learning curve, too, going from hip-hop to EDM stuff. I’d only really practice when I was playing shows. I’d go into them feeling really nervous and would have to put together a group of songs on the fly, which is basically what DJing is, but I had to make the best of it and try not to f*ck up that much. When I was in audio school, I also got the chance to practice on my friend’s CDJs, which helped me out a lot. But I’m happy it all happened the way it did because here I am now!

As first a hip-hop DJ then an EDM one, how does hip-hop influence your DJing style?

I was always into the darker side of hip-hop like anything from the Wu-Tang Clan. Their beats were so industrial and Shaolin cool. Then I was also into the West Coast stuff from rappers like Snoop and Dre—really early ’90s type stuff. I did this one track called “Firepower” and I used a lot of samples from Big L with some crazy Compton-like stuff over the bridge. My approach to my music is that I try to bring some hip-hop elements into it. I’m also big on the robotic style of EDM, but no matter what, I always try to make it funky enough that people really want to groove to it.

Was a DJ career premeditated or not?

It was actually a fluke. Even when I first started with electronic music, I didn’t really know what I was aiming for. I never wanted to be a DJ and it was something that just gradually happened. I was all about production at first, but once I figured out how the scene worked and that you have to do both, it started to make sense to me. After I started DJing, I would get a couple of shows here and there and then that grew into me having a show every weekend. I was blown away at that point that I could make a career from it and be able to pay my rent from just doing music. Once I found out that I wanted to make dubstep music, I realized that I wanted to make a different kind of dupstep since it had all the elements that I felt hip-hop was messing.

Then when everything started to take off, I didn’t know it could get any better than that, but is has in so many ways. I’ve met so many people and been so many places thanks to my career in the last three years, that I never imagined any of this when I first became interested in DJing. I’ve only really been playing for about five years and everything has happened in that short amount of time. Everything really took off about two years into my career.

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How did you come up with your DJ name?

It’s actually a really geeky story. I used to play a lot of video games when I was younger, while I was making hip-hop beats. So when my friends would come over, I’d play them my beats and they’d always tell me, “That’s sick!” So I actually combined them and used it as my gamer tag for a while. When it was time to come up with a DJ name I went with that. After a year of DJing, I thought about changing my name, but decided to just roll with it.

How would you describe your DJ style/skills?

It’s changed dramatically over the past six months actually. It used to just be all dubstep-inspired, but I’ve been going back to my roots and mashing up a lot of hip-hop into my sets with these super whompy sounds. I’m playing on a new platform called Ableton and it’s allowed me to expand my horizons in terms of experimenting with new genres into one sound. I think that’s the way forward. People need to stop looking at music as if they’re confined genres and loot at it as a whole. I think about it this way: do you want to eat the same thing everyday or do you want to try and taste new things? That’s the way I see my DJ sets. I’ll play electro, hip-hop, dupstep and more and mash it up so that it stays interesting for me and the listener.

Who are your musical inspirations?

I’ve always been inspired by Bassnectar. He’s a huge role model for me and it was a big thing for me to meet him. He’s the nicest guy around. I also looked up to Rusko and BAR9 when if first started out. Then for hip-hop, there’s Snoop, Dre and the Wu-Tang Clan.

Do you have one musical element that is a signature Datsik sound?

I would say it’s this crazy deep wobble thing I usually put in all my tracks. It’s my signature sound I guess, and a lot of people recognize me for it. If I don’t put it in a track, people always ask about it. I don’t try to pigeonhole myself, but I guess I have in that sense. But I do my best to stay versatile and make all types of music.

What went into making Vitamin D?

I kind of wanted to fuse some hip-hop flavor with EDM production, mostly dubstep actually. I tried to throw as many hip-hop samples in it as I could and you can really feel that in the tracks on the album. I also got DJ Z-Trip on one of my tracks, who is a legend in the hip-hop/mashup DJ culture, so it was an honor to work with him. I also did stuff with Infected Mushroom and Jonathan Davis from Korn. Collaborations are always fun and cool since I get to have other people’s inputs on my tracks and twist in such a way that we’re both happy with the results. You have to really find a great balance, which can result in some cool stuff. Like my collabo with Excision was great. He likes a lot of darker sounds and I like to keep it funky, so when we clashed our sounds together it created a cool hybrid of the two. Collaborating is completely necessary to evolving this crazy EDM world for sure.

What was it like working with Jonathan Davis given he comes from more of a metal background?

It was really cool happened and it happened very naturally. I was on tour with Korn for, like, 14 shows and we shared the same tour bus. I had just finished a track with Infected Mushroom and played it for him. He thought it was sick and so I asked him if he wanted to do vocals for something of mine and he was like, “Hell yeah!” I immediately started writing and busted out his microphone and we went at it that very night. The next day it was all done. The whole experience just blew me away. His creativity and voice is so phenomenal that it was an honor working with such a talented artists. And the fact that he knew so much about electronic music blew my mind. It was as if he knew more than me! We still stay in touch and he’s always down to do more collabos in the future.

Do you like to make music on the fly or do you have a methodical approach to your creativity?

I’m way better when I make music on the fly. I don't’ think about stuff and just sit down and start experimenting with various things. It’s the only way I can work. I can’t picture a song before I do it and it has to be something that just comes to me in the moment. If that moment happens to be when I’m on a plane or on the couch watching TV, I jot my idea down and then really go into depth with it in the studio. In the end I just hope that I come up with a great musical accident that works well on the dance floor.

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Do you prefer production or DJing more?

They know go hand-in-hand for me and I feel at this point, you can’t have one without the other. But personally, I’ve always been partial to production because it’s always been my favorite hobby since I’ve been doing it since I was 14. I’m never going to stop producing even though I might stop DJing.

So what’s been your favorite gig to date?

I played Coachella this year and that was pretty awesome. Man, I’ve had so many good ones so it’s really hard to choose. Any Electric Daisy Carnival festival is amazing, and the huge crowds and their love for the music and DJs always blow me away. I love playing festivals and Insomniac parties are always sick.

What was your first gig like?

I was obviously nervous and wasn’t sure about my abilities. I thought I’d for sure f*ck up within the first few seconds of my set. But after I played a couple of tracks and saw how everyone was having a good time, I started to calm down and really had fun with it. Once you start seeing the crowd enjoying themselves, any self-doubt goes out the window. Now I never get nervous before gigs, which is something I couldn’t have said two years ago. DJing has become second nature to me that once I go on stage, I’m having fun from the first track.

How would you say the electronic scene, particularly dubstep, has changed since you first began to DJ?

It’s weird because I’ve watched dupstep explode in North America from the beginning to where it is now. Funny how everything is changing and becoming one, which is where the future of the genre is headed. It’s always good to keep an open mind and accept other genres for what they are. DJs now are really switching it up and playing everything, which is just so much more entertaining. I did this tour with Steve Aoki recently, and I think if we would have done it a year ago it wouldn’t have worked. At all the stops we were playing both mainstream stuff mixed with underground sounds that we were all over the place. The fans loved it! It’s amazing to see that it’s all boiling into one thing now so instead of al the sub genres of EDM, it’s now all one big genre.

So what’s your biggest accomplishment thus far?

I’m just really happy to be able to support my family with what I’m doing. I’m still amazed that I can do this for a living because not many people get the opportunity to do what they love. I feel like the key in life is doing something that you’re passionate about and I couldn't be happier that I am doing what I love every day.

What are some of your future goals?

I have to work with one or several members of the Wu-Tang Clan and do more stuff with other hip-hop producers. I’d love to release an album that’s this new hip-hop/dupstep hybrid that no one has ever done before. But I’m still making goals as I go along, so we’re see what happens.

Are you already thinking about your next album?

Yeah, I’m constantly making new music and already have my next EP done with practically. It’s going to come out on my record label, Firepower. Besides being a hub for my own music, I’m looking to push out other artists and help them blow up so that they can live out their dream like I’m doing. When I was going to audio school, one of my main goals was to start one, but then I got sidetracked when this whole DJ thing blew up. Now I figured why not start it and create something for the future in case I’m not into DJing anymore. It’s cool because it adds this business element to what I’m doing since I’m running it all. It’s 100% mine, and I don’t have to answer to anyone. I can take the label and its music in any direction I see fit. I’m handling everything right now, but soon I’ll have a whole team helping me out more. I'm actually going through and handpicking all the artists right now. If I like their music and see that it’s something I’d play in my set I’ll sign them. There are a lot of new things in the works and I have some amazing artists dropping stuff soon, so it’s an amazing time for Firepower right now. And it’s only going to get bigger and better!