Skrillex’s Expert Opinion on Grateful Dead, Taylor Swift Songs
We asked the star producer to tell us what he thinks of nine songs, old and new
On July 8th, Skrillex will head out on his second Full Flex Express TourÂ through Canada. The tour, which will travel through eight cities by train, is headlined by Jack Ãœ, his duo with Diplo, with support from A$AP Ferg, Zeds Dead, Kiesza and others. Like the first Full Flex Express Tour in 2012, it’s an EDM tribute of sorts to the original Festival Express train tour, which was headlined by the Grateful Dead, the Band and Janis Joplin back in 1970.
Skrillex called a few weeks before the tour’s kickoff to take part in Rolling Stone‘s Expert Opinion column. Here’s a lightly edited transcript of his thoughts on the nine old and new songs we asked him to check out.
The Grateful Dead, “China Cat Sunflower”
My dad was a big fan of the Grateful Dead, so I used to hear them all the time around the house. This song is so psychedelic and free-flowing and deep. It’s like it’s in 3D. There are so many melodies. I still have no idea what any of the lyrics mean ””Â it’s so Alice in Wonderland.
The Band, “Stage Fright”
It’s a simple story about some kid who wanted to be a singer, then got wrapped up in this whole world and realized that maybe it’s a fake world. It’s almost like selling your soul for fame. There’s definitely stuff in there that I can relate to. Whether you’re a famous musician or just a normal person experiencing what the music industry is like, with people acting fake around you to please you, and you’re just on that stage like, “What the fuck?”
Janis Joplin, “Cry Baby”
This is one of my favorite vocal performances by Janis Joplin. It’s a forgiveness song ””Â there’s so much love and passion in the lyrics. She’s telling this guy she forgives him for leaving and checking out this other girl. All she wants you to do is come back home, because she knows you’re crying and she knows you’re sad. If a girl wrote a song like this about me, I would be so flattered.
Aphex Twin, “Bucephalus Bouncing Ball”
The Come to Daddy EP is one of my top three albums or EPs of all time. This song in particular is like a zeitgeist for how I produce music. It’s such a crazy journey, like five songs in one song. It starts out with these tribal electronic sounds, then the melody comes into an arpeggio that reminds me of Donkey Kong Country 2 or Mario Kart, and the cuteness of it has you like, “What does this song even mean?” Then at the end you have a crazy sound that’s like all these metal balls clicking and clicking faster and off-tempo ””Â and then all of a sudden this crazy drum-and-bass acid beat comes in, and it all makes sense. I’ve memorized every single hit and every single accent and every single solo, because I’ve listened to it so many times.
Radiohead, “I Might Be Wrong”
This is one of the first guitar riffs I ever learned. The whole song is so simple, and such a groove. No bands were doing stuff like that at the time. It’s almost like how hip-hop is produced, with one loop over and over again until it gets stuck in your head and you want to listen to it over and over again. I have memories of being a kid and skateboarding to Amnesiac, the album, and going home and learning this song on guitar.
Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Bad Blood”
I think this is an awesome testament to how artists can evolve. A year ago, you never would have thought that Kendrick Lamar and Taylor Swift would make a song together. I think more things like that are happening, like Jack Ãœ and Justin Bieber. It’s just a fun, catchy song.
A. G. Cook featuring Hannah Diamond, “Drop FM”
I wanted to sign PC Music. I had their demos a year ago, or even more than that. I love their stuff. It’s so fun and cute and crazy and over-the-top. I’m still a teenager at heart, so if I was in high school and I really liked a girl, this is the music I’d probably be listening to get the courage to maybe go talk to her. PC Music is such a youth-culture thing, which I’m really into, and of course with my background of looking at anime and some of those melodies even influencing my records, I really connect with that. I’d love to work with them at some point.
Fetty Wap, “Trap Queen”
This is the anthem of the summer right now. I play this record in almost all of my sets ””Â I have a bunch of bootleg remixes that I’ve done, and weird mashups. When that song comes on and you’re out, you can’t help but sing along.
Jamie xx, “Gosh”
I love the way this song tarts, with that dirty, minimal, monotone bass and kick drum. It’s all about the percussion. It feels like being in a weird underground rave party in the U.K. And then, almost like the Aphex Twin song, all of a sudden there’s this melody that comes in. There’s something vintage about it that I can’t put my finger on, and it’s nostalgic, and it ends with a very beautiful melody that you’d never expect ””Â but it works.