There were these kids in high school back in 1998 who were really, really into Papa Roach. This was before they became the multi-platinum (true!) selling artists that they are today. This was San Jose in the late ’90s. Papa Roach (or, “P. Roach” to fans) were little more than shining, budding artístes from Vacaville, a couple of hours up the East Bay highways from us, but still close enough to be considered local. Anything seemed possible back in those days. Gas was still $2. Ellen DeGeneres had so recently come out as a lesbian. I was flush with cash from my part-time job at the local Coldstone Creamery. Those were heady times, my friends. Heady fucking times.
One fateful day the guy who had really bad Doritos breath and wore a trenchcoat said to me “You have to give me forty dollars!” and, not knowing what he wanted the money for, I asked.
“Pray tell, good fellow, what the donation is for?” I asked.
“Papa Fucking Roach, dude,” he replied.
“Gadzooks!” I exclaimed, for even then I had a good feeling about this Roach person, whoever he was.
“They’re going to play at our high school if we give them gas money,” he said, his breath fouled with Dorito.
Alas, it was not meant to be. The foul-breathed gentleman was an acquaintance of the band, yet couldn’t round up the necessary gas money for the band to play our school. We were left distraught and intensely emotional for many weeks afterwards.
The point of this story is that people like really, really bad music. Which is why the new Skrillex video for “Bangarang” is totally, totally worth watching – because even if you don’t understand Skrillex or what he represents, you simply have to appreciate him for what he is. On one level, Skrillex is a skilled musician, fully aware of what sound he wants to produce and doing an excellent job in doing so. On another level, it’s a kind of dead-eyed zombie product of the last forty years or so of electronic music: stealing bits and pieces of everything in its wake and that eventually it’s hard to tell the Kraftwerk influence from the Aphex Twin influence from the Korn influence because, let us not forget, before this, the person who became Skrillex was in a piss-poor terrible band called From First To Last.
Is dubstep just nü-metal warmed over, a natural progression from the screamo songs of the mid 2000′s? Or is it something more sinister? In the same way that I couldn’t hear the Black Sabbath influence on Papa Roach, perhaps Skrillex is with the rest of electronic music. Perhaps this is Skrillex’s tipping point, to where he no longer has control over his audience. When an artist complains to his audience to stop asking for “the drop” (i.e – the ubiquitous bass drop in most dubstep songs) like Skrillex did recently, what does this mean for dubstep at large?
Are we (as people old enough to remember liking The Offspring) just too old to appreciate this kind of music? Being the product of mainstream dance music and screamo, is this music entirely not for music critics? Is this sound entirely something we have no business trying to understand? Can Skrillex further his sound and wean his brand of electronic music from the dynamics of the screamo music he’s been performing for so long? Is he something more than the sum of his parts? How long will it take until they start selling Neu! shirts at Hot Topic? At what point will we hear Skrillex on a ‘classic rock’ radio station as we’re driving down Highway 2 on our way to the office? This is clearly the sound of a certain demographic’s coming of age. Yet we have to ask—if this is what the age sounds like, if this is the culture they subscribe to, what the hell age are they coming in to?