It was soon thereafter that the Los Angeles-based producer born Sonny Moore released his 2010 breakout EP Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, which would broaden the electronic music genre, help kickstart the EDM era in the United States and turn Skrillex into one of the most popular, and for a time controversial, electronic music producers in the mainstream.
Released via Big Beat and deadmau5’s mau5trap label and named in homage to David Bowie’s 1980 new wave LP Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), the EP’s title track and lead single was an aural sleight of hand, beginning with a pitched-up, serpentine melody and pleasantly fragmented vocal samples. But at the 40 second mark, the song does a whiplash-inducing about-face via a scream of “YES OH MY GOD” (sampled from a video of a girl rapidly stacking plastic cups) and a load of bass bombs sounding like alien invasion.
In fact it kind of was, with the song and the genre it ushered in feeling like a hostile takeover to many dance scene veterans. While the track became a massive hit in the burgeoning EDM scene, many old school scenesters did not take kindly to a sound many considered crass, simple and grossly populist. While Skrillex’s thrill-ride of a sound was widely defined as dubstep, critics argued that his music was vastly different from the U.K.-born genre, with many instead calling his sound “brostep” as a snide homage to the army of young men (and women) showing up en masse to thrash in the pit during shows.
The track’s 14-week ride on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at No. 69, and prominent use in the 2012 film Spring Breakers only confirmed suspicions that dance music was going mainstream, to disastrous results. Resident Advisor’s 2010 review noted the EP’s “one-dimensional aggression and appeal to the lowest common denominator” and its title track’s “headache-inducing layers of abrasive muck.”
“To me, those were haters,” Kallman says of these critics, “because they weren't appreciating the incredible imagination, creativity and skill going into what he was doing.”
What Skrillex was doing, in fact, was changing the DNA of electronic music itself by forging a fresh sound with a rock mentality siphoned from Moore’s previous work as the lead singer of emo band From First to Last. And the scene needed it, as by the late 00’s dance music in the U.S. was in a fallow period, with pop, hip-hop and alternative ruling the charts, the underground rave scene of the ‘90s long waned and international dance acts like Daft Punk getting the most love Stateside. Then along came a pale, emo looking kid with horn-rimmed glasses and a thrillride sound to push things forward with his relentless bass wobbles.