Don’t look now, but one of electronic dance music’s most fearless pioneers — Skrillex — is finally crossing over. “Where Are U Now,” the Justin Bieber-featuring single from Jack U, Skrillex’s duo with Diplo, has reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, making it the six-time Grammy winner’s biggest hit by far. It’s just one of several milestones of the past year: Skrillex played Madison Square Garden with Jack U and headlined Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, where he brought out Sean “Diddy” Combs, Bieber, Kiesza and others.
But even with these big looks, the 27-year-old, born Sonny Moore in Los Angeles, is keeping EDM’s cutting edge sharp through his influential label OWSLA, which recently signed Carmada and DJ Sliink. Plans to open a studio at the label’s L.A. offices are underway, but the elusive, always-touring Skrillex might not get to see it much: “There’s so much to do,” he says.
What’s your proudest moment of the past year?
I had just come from South America with Diplo, where we had one of the best shows we’ve ever had, at Lollapalooza in Rio de Janeiro. We left to fly to Miami for Ultra. All of a sudden it was me, Diplo, CL, Bieber — the whole crew in this hotel suite overlooking the festival and gearing up to play that headlining show. It was a surprise, and it was a big show, so there were some nerves. None of us were sure how it would all play out. The show ended up having this spontaneous energy, and the crowd embraced it wholeheartedly. I was on the highest platform with the opportunity to do whatever I wanted — but when you decide to just have fun and wing it, it almost always yields the best stuff.
You’ve been hanging with Bieber a lot lately. What’s something the world doesn’t know about him?
Justin is a f—ing virtuoso. He’ll school you at every-thing: Ping-Pong, basketball, freestyle rapping. The kid is so competitive. Whatever he does he’s super good at, so you don’t stand a chance. It’s not even fair.
With Jack U blowing up, you and Diplo have been pretty inseparable too.
I mean, he’ll FaceTime me in the middle of a show. I’ll be sitting in bed, staring into the phone at this crazy crowd losing their minds, and they’ll be looking back at me in bed like, “Hm… OK.”
There are entire Reddit threads dedicated to theories about the meaning behind the name Jack U. What’s the real story?
It’s going to disappoint all of them. Basically, Diplo and I were in a phase where we were obsessed with footwork — a spinoff of Chicago house where the whole jacking scene comes from. Jacking became this word that we used more and more, to the point where we started using it to describe things, like, “Oh, that’s jacking.” It’s just really high-energy music — it jacks you up, you know?
What do you make of the current state of EDM?
No other genre can connect with hundreds of thousands of fans without selling records and yet still pack stadiums. That’s the cult of electronic music. It’s online but it’s also live — it’s a connector.
There have been rumors that you’re working on another solo album. Is that true?
No. I got to squash this right now. I’ve been holding off, but it’s time to set this straight. I have no idea how that rumor started; it’s like people just say whatever they want and it catches on. I’m always working on music, but there are no formal album plans right now.
Do you ever think about taking a break?
I don’t. I’ve got good people around me, and we’re all working toward the same thing — the label, the music and the culture around it. It’s fun, it’s not really work. How could I ever complain?
Listen to music from Skrillex (as well as more from this week’s issue) in the Spotify playlist below:
This story originally appeared in the July 25th issue of Billboard.