Deep 10: Skrillex's Bangarang
Depending on which side of the cultural divide you fall, Skrillex's music is either the epitome or the antithesis of dubstep. A radical departure from the more minimalist style of early British dubstep artists, the idiosyncratic artist/producer has forged a stadium-ready sound, characterized by massive "wobble" basslines, squalling synthesizers, maximum distortion, and heavily processed vocals.
Prior to adopting the name Skrillex for his live DJ sets, Highland Park, Calif., native Sonny Moore was the lead vocalist in the post-hardcore band From First To Last. He released four solo EPs prior to 2011's Bangarang, including the GRAMMY-winning Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites. Bangarang was packed with numerous guest artists — including members of the Doors, Ellie Goulding, 12th Planet, Wolfgang Gartner, and Kill The Noise — across its seven tracks, rising to No. 14 on the Billboard 200 and earning two GRAMMY Awards.
Following are 10 lesser-known facts about Bangarang, which firmly established Skrillex as the leader of an ever-shifting musical movement.
1. The title Bangarang is a reference to the Lost Boys' battle cry in the 1991 Peter Pan-inspired, Steven Spielberg-directed film, Hook.
That's why guest rapper Sirah sends repeated shout-outs to all her "lost boys" on the title track. Pop culture fanatics may also pick up on the closing Willy Wonka candy reference: "Yo," reveals Sirah, "I'm eatin' Fun Dip right now."
2. Sirah recorded her vocals for "Bangarang" aided by a laptop and birds.
Befitting of 21st-century technology, Sirah literally knocked out her vocals in her bedroom (while eating Fun Dip), utilizing her laptop. "You can actually hear the birds chirping in the background," Sirah said. "It's somewhat mortifying to me." (Bonus fact: Skrillex and Sirah originally met via Myspace.)
3. Reviewers fretted over Bangarang's potential side-effects.
The EP was variously described as "more headache-inducing than thrilling" (AllMusic); "music that makes a disco sugar high feel downright pornographic" (Rolling Stone); and "something Moby might hear in his head during a heart attack" (Spin).
4. The EP helped Skrillex earn his second consecutive GRAMMY trifecta.
The L.A.-based musician took home three statues at the 55th GRAMMY Awards: Best Dance Recording for "Bangarang", Best Dance/Electronica Album for Bangarang, and Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for "Promises (Skrillex And Nero Remix)," a collaboration with British dubstep trio Nero. He swept the same three categories at the 54th GRAMMY Awards.
5. In April 2013, two months following his Bangarang GRAMMY wins, Skrillex's YouTube channel surpassed 1 billion views.
Benefiting from the GRAMMY Effect, Skrillex joined rarified company, just short of Taylor Swift's then-1.3 billion total YouTube channel views and Katy Perry's 1.4 billion. The official video for Bangarang's title track has now been viewed nearly 500 million times.
6. "Breakn' A Sweat" was touted as the "first new Doors track of the 21st century."
At least it was by the late Ray Manzarek, who collaborated on the track with his surviving bandmates Robbie Krieger and John Densmore as part of Hyundai's Re:Generation documentary. The song also includes an excerpt from a 1969 Jim Morrison interview, in which the late Doors frontman envisioned music being made by "one person with a lot of machines."
7. Skrillex initially released Bangarang via electronic music site Beatport with a "happy holidays" announcement on his Facebook page.
"That was old school," he said of the 2011 Christmas-week release in an interview with British magazine Dazed. "Nobody else does that. Zero marketing, zero anything."
8. "Bangarang" has proved to be a media placement goldmine.
The title track has appeared in promos for the 2013 X Games, a 2016 German Audi commercial, the trailer for the 2012 film The Watch, and the video games "Sonic Boom," "Gangstar Vegas" and "Guitar Hero Live."
9. Bangarang is not brostep.
In fact, Skrillex told NPR Music that the EP is "probably the furthest thing from brostep, because the tempos aren't even dubstep tempos." So stop calling it that.
10. Skrillex called more than a dozen collaborators onstage during his Best Dance/Electronica Album acceptance speech, inciting a Bangarang party.
"But seriously, these are my family," he enthused. "We make music because we love to make music."
(Bill Forman is a writer and music editor for the Colorado Springs Independent and the former publications director for The Recording Academy.)