Skrillex: Eight Wild Nights and Busy Days With the Superstar

Inside the success, philosophy and love life of electronic music’s current king

By Neil Strauss
March 1, 2012 11:00 AM ET

“Want to go to a party at the drummer from Muse’s house?” Skrillex turns and asks.

“Sure, why not.”

Fifteen minutes later, the car is full and navigating through the Hollywood Hills. Skrillex is in the back seat with his girlfriend, U.K. singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, and the bartender from the hotel we just left. In the front seat is his tour manager, Road Hog, who’s never been in the hills before.

Ratatat’s “Loud Pipes” is blasting through the car. Goulding and Road Hog are celebrating the moment, singing “the Hog is in the hills” to the instrumental track. Skrillex – nee Sonny Moore, known to close friends as Skrilly and drunk friends as the Skrill– is recording the jam on his iPhone. “This is going to be a track,” he says excitedly as we park. Behind us, another carload of Skrillex’s friends and crew unloads, and they all climb the hill, a mobile party. “Every night is like this,” Skrillex says, bounding up to the house. “It’s just totally random.”

To spend a week with Skrillex is to learn to operate with no sleep, no silence and no pause. Even sitting still, he’s moving – bouncing a leg up and down, tapping his fingers, looking around the room to take in everything going on. “He’s inhuman,” says his European booking agent, Simon Clarkson. “We gave him only one night off in Europe, and he calls and tells me he’s putting together a party that night so he can DJ. He doesn’t stop.”

“I book myself tight,” Skrillex confirms. “If I have any time off, I get antsy. I haven’t taken a vacation in, like, eight years.”

It is this tireless, jittery energy that’s propelled Skrillex through an accelerated music career: He joined his first indie and punk bands when he was 12, toured the world fronting the Top 40 screamo band From First to Last at 16, and signed a solo deal with Atlantic Records the year he turned old enough to legally go to the clubs he’d been performing at. Now, at 24, he’s performing 300 shows a year playing the most noncommercial music of his career – his tonally dirty, dynamically aggressive brand of bass-rattling dubstep – and to everyone’s surprise, most of all his own, he has become the most exciting thing happening in popular music this moment. He won three Grammys in February. His Facebook page has been growing by 300,000 new fans a week. And everyone is blowing up his phone, from Dr. Dre to Kanye West, who took Skrillex to Vegas in his private jet, watched him DJ and then invited him to his hotel room to cut some tracks.

“I’m aware of what’s going on, but at the same time there are parts I can’t see with any perspective and don’t know if I should,” he says as we stand in a bedroom with Muse drummer Dominic Howard and four girls who are cavorting around the room, hungry for the pair’s attention. “I mean, it’s surreal when you step back and see everything going on. But when I’m in the moment, I don’t realize it.”

If Skrillex continues to have his way, he will never realize it. “I don’t like being overexposed,” he says. “I don’t like being on covers. And I don’t like people talking about me.”

So in order to get a better understanding of who he is, here are a few scenes culled from eight days spent in a nonstop maelstrom of vodka, bass and late nights with pop’s reluctant phenomenon.