Posted March 30, 2016 by Jeff in Tunes

Dubstep’s Datsik Doesn’t Compromise

Datsik photo by Piper Ferguson
Datsik photo by Piper Ferguson

During the course of a career that stretches back nearly ten years, dubstep producer and DJ Datsik (Troy Beetles) has collaborated with the likes of Excision, Diplo, Infected Mushroom and Korn. He’s remixed songs from Kaskade & Skrillex, MGMT, Linkin Park, M83 and Wu-Tang Clan. In 2012, he released his full-length debut album, Vitamin D. His forthcoming EP, Darkstar, features more of the head-spinning electronic beats for which he’s known. Datsik spoke to us via phone from Los Angeles after a late studio night with his side project Ephwurd. He was trying to “take some time” for himself before the “madness of the tour starts.” “We were writing lyrics and stuff and trying to bang out different hooks over an Ephwurd tape,” he says. “It’s like a ’90s rave meet wobbly house music.”

I think you were first interested in hip-hop and then gravitated to bass music. Talk about what initially made you want to create your own music?
Ever since I was very young, I was always really obsessed with audio and the technical side of it rather than the musicianship side of it. I never played any instruments growing up, but my dad was an audiophile. We had tube amps and high-end audio gear and wicked turntables around and hi-fi speakers. I took an interest in it when I was really young. For one of my birthdays when I was 7 or 8, my dad put a nice sound system in my room. He said, “If you can set this up by the end of the day, you can have it.” Obviously, there was trial and error but I ended up figuring it out and I have been into the technical side of everything ever since. I got myself a copy of [the digital audio workstation] FruityLoops when I was 14 years old and I started playing around. I was into Wu-Tang and old school hip-hop — Dre and Snoop and Xzibit and all that kind of stuff — and it just evolved. I started trying to copy those tunes. Those old Wu-Tang tunes really inspired me and I started throwing my music on the net and it got some traction and I realized there was a whole culture behind dubstep and I had no idea about it. That’s how it started. The DJs started playing my stuff.

Were you familiar with D&B?
Yes. I was just getting into it. My buddy had turntables. He was into breaks and drum and bass. It all sits around 172 to 176 bpm. When I started I was mixing, I started mixing drum and bass and breaks go from 130 to 140. That’s where I started. We would spin for for hours at his house.

How’d you develop a friendship with Excision and why do you think you collaborate so well together?
He was throwing these parties in my hometown of Kelowna. This is when I first started getting into dubstep really heavily. He was acting as a promoter. He had a night called Elevation. Me and my friends would go to it. It was every second Friday. I got so obsessed with it. I would show up early and watch all the DJs until the end of the night. I wanted to play one of those shows. I sent him some tunes. He thought they were whatever. I went back to the drawing board. I really wanted to send him something that he would play. A few weeks later, I sent him some more stuff and he thought it was dope. He wanted me to come over so we could work on some music. When he gave me his address, I realized he was literally my neighbor. It’s kind of crazy how it all came together.

You released your debut, Vitamin D, back in 2012. What was the experience of making that album like?
It was cool. It was the first collection of tunes that I had put together. Before that, I had put out music but not I hadn’t put an album together. I hooked up with Steve Aoki. We become good friends and we did a tour together too. It was really fun. He’s a super cool dude. We got to travel around. We did a lot of interviews. It was the first time I had been in the spotlight. He’s good at handling himself in press situations. He was plugging his album. It was a great experience. I learned from Dim Mak what makes a good record label and that’s when I started Firepower Records. I wanted to do my own thing.

You followed it up with Let It Burn in 2013. Talk about the production on the album and what you were going for in terms of the sound.
It’s weird. I’m known primarily for dubstep. It’s always tricky coming out with a new record because it’s like how many times can you flip a song at 140 bpm and have it still be different? There are tunes that I tracked at 110, which was like a Moombahton thing. I got my girlfriend on the track “Let It Burn” and wanted to experiment and have fun with it. Because I’ve been doing dubstep and bass music for a minute now, it’s spawned this new alias Ephwurd and I can do all house music and write whatever I want with no strings attached. It makes it fun.

Talk about the new EP, Darkstar. When did you start writing the songs for it and what was the recording experience like?
The lead track “Darkstar” was started a year ago. I wanted to write some hip-hop influenced stuff. It’s primarily a hip-hop record at 100 bmp and has tons of swag to it. I was working with Famous Stars and Straps. They sponsored me through Travis Barker. I went to the studio, which was not far from my house, and I met with Travis. He’s a super cool dude. He told me he was really into my stuff and wanted to do a track with me. He’s one of the best drummers in the world.  I showed him “Darkstar” and he loved it and drummed over the whole thing. It goes from 100 bpm to dubstep at the end. It was fun.

I think you can hear him drumming even though the song is so dense.
Because it’s primarily electronic music, there’s got be a balance so it’s as punchy as anything else. Sometimes, you have to mix it perfectly or layer it to give it that depth. You can use the acoustic drums for a little bit of grit and then have the clean processed samples that you use as a layer and make it sound punchy when you mash it together.

I like the opening track, “Tantrum,” which features Trinidad James. How’d you end up collaborating with him?
His manager is a good friend of my manager. He was going to be in town and wanted to link up. I went to his studio. This was before I had my own studio. He met me there and we talked for a few hours. We actually did two or three but this is the one that ended up sticking.

Is he freestyling on the song?
Yeah. It’s really cool.

I also like “Let ‘em Know.” What inspired the lyrics?
Armanni Reign. Whatever you throw at him, he can flip and turn into something amazing. When I was writing the track, I had him in mind. I sent it to him and he thought it was sick. He did a good job with it.

I like the shout-outs to different cities.
I got him to record all these other shout-outs for every major city. When I play a live set, I can loop one of the cities and get everyone pumped up. It’s a super high-energy song.

What kind of visuals have you brought with you on the current tour?
This time around, we have this laser set up. I played this Red Rocks show last year with Krewella. We paid for our own production and we brought these lasers to Red Rocks. They did a 3-D rendition of the rocks and contours that create the natural amphitheater. They can project images with the lasers on the rocks. It was really cool. That’s how it started.  I’ve toured with the Vortex like four times. I wanted to switch it up. I want to keep it different.

And what kind of sound system will you have with you?
We’re still rolling with PK Sound.

It’s going to be heavy as fuck.

Are you always able to use your sound equipment?
We bring our system and if a club has a problem with it I just won’t play. It’s all about the presentation. It’s a body and visual experience as well. Kids go to have their rib cages rattled. That’s what we promote. When I perform, I want to give it my all.

Where do you see your music headed in the future?
I have this Ephwurd thing going on. It’s been a lot of fun. We get to go different cities. It’s led to different stuff I wouldn’t do as Datsik. I have some collaborations in the works with all these house guys that I wouldn’t normally do as Datsik. This has been my favorite year. On Thursday, I can do Datsik and on Friday I can do Ephwurd and on Saturday I can do Datsik and on Sunday I can do Ephwurd. It’s given me that creative release as an artist where I can do whatever I want and not have any strings attached. Kids are going bananas. It’s cool to keep these things separate. It allows me to have ultimate freedom on each side of the EDM spectrum.

Upcoming 2016 Shows















Norfolk, VA – The Norva

Baltimore, MD – Rams Head

New York City, NY – Best Buy

Burlington, VT – Higher Ground

Syracuse, NY – Westcott

Syracuse, NY – Westcott

Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom

Hartford, CT – The Dome

Richmond, VA – The National

Cleveland, OH – House of Blues

Covington, KY – Madison Theater

Chattanooga, TN – Track 29

Indianapolis, IN – Deluxe / Old National Centre

Detroit, MI – Elektricity


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].