Disclaimer: we\’re not actually teaching you how to be a ninja.
We caught up with long-time bass heavyweight Datsik on his latest tour. The Ninja Nation Tour had 2 very promising, back-to-back stops in Chicago, with a second night being added to make up for last year\’s early termination.
Datsik\’s new tour is based off of his latest work, an EP entitled Down 4 My Ninjas. This 5-track compilation was made possible by a release on his proper Firepower Records label. It features some huge collaborations and sharing of the spotlight with rising stars like label-mate Twine. It also has a cleverly integrated hashtag: #D4MN.
An introduction is not really needed; if you\’ve extensively listened to dubstep before, you\’ve must of come across this Canadian producer\’s name. Coming from the British Columbia city of Kelowna, already known to be the stomping grounds of Excision and other bass ambassadors, Datsik differentiates himself from the rest with a relentless style that\’s uneasy to forget. Taking the heaviness hip-hop has to offer and blending it with grimy, wobbly dubstep basslines is a formula Datsik has used since the start.
Datsik had requested that Fox Stevenson, a young and striving producer on his label, would join us on this short chat. Fox had just finished performing and was a great contribution to the interview. We also have a cameo appearance from another performer on the tour.
Without further interruption, I proudly present to you my interview with Datsik and Fox Stevenson!
EDM Chicago (EDMC): First of all, I’d like to thank you for giving us some of your time for this interview! Seeing you perform here last year, I could not have imagined we’d be sitting here today. So, we know the name “Datsik” came from an old Xbox gamertag; what games did you play on Xbox and how do they reflect your current musical style?
Datsik (D): The reason why I named myself Datsik was because I would murk everyone at Halo. I used to have 16 people at my house after school every day; we’d have 4 Xbox consoles set up in different rooms and would play. This was around the same time I was starting to make music and I didn’t know what else to call myself. For a while, I was thinking about changing it but all of my friends were like “no, don’t change it!”
D: So, I’m also here with my boy, Fox Stevenson. Say what’s up, Fox!
Fox Stevenson (FS): How’s it going! So, I got my name from one of my friends who called me fox because my beard’s a little gingery. I used to also have this orange towel that used to be my fox tail.
EDMC: Sweet. How was your set just now, Fox?
FS: Pretty good, man!
EDMC: So, Datsik, your music takes the aggression of hip-hop and blends it with dubstep. What are some artists you grew up listening to and how have they influenced your work? I know you’re a big Wu-Tang fan!
D: Yeah, I am. I grew up on all of the West Coast shit like Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Xzibit, Tha Alkaholiks, and more.
EDMC: It must have been fun working with DJ Paul K.O.M. from the Three 6 Mafia. How does it feel to work with rappers you may have listened to in the past?
D: For me, I always wanted to make West Coast sounding stuff so it’s pretty cool working with people I’ve looked up to. I’ve got a huge, HUGE collaboration coming out soon that I can’t say anything about just yet! It perfectly dials into my past.
FS: It’s good; I’ve heard it!
EDMC: Can’t wait to hear it. So, I have to ask you this being a Basshead and all. How was it like working with the legendary Bassnectar? As a rising producer at the time, was it a dream learning experience for you?
D: Well, let me give you a little bit of insight into what kind of a person Bassnectar is. So, he had a show in my hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia. I was pretty young at the time, maybe 20 or 21. He’s like “what’s your address? I want to send something over.” I’m like yeah, sure, whatever! I give him my address and he shows up to my front door the day he was in Kelowna. My jaw was on the floor; I could not fucking believe it! He came into my house, met my mom, and chatted with her for like an hour. My mom’s an African lady and they just had the most vibe-y conversation ever. So then I’m like “do you want to work on music or something?” He’s like “fuck yeah, that’s what I’m here for.” We go into my bedroom and there are two chairs set up by my computer and M-Audio BX8 speakers. We sat there and worked for a few hours, which is where we wrote the song Yes.
EDMC: So, you literally wrote that track in your bedroom? That’s one of my favorites to hear at his live shows!
D: Bassnectar is one of the most humble, down-to-earth people I’ve ever met in the industry. He’s always been one of my biggest inspirations.
Trolley Snatcha walks into the room shortly after performing his set.
Trolley Snatcha: I’m more humble and down-to-earth. Sorry to interrupt!
He and Datsik then did this long and captivating handshake I could not describe, but I could tell you that it finished with a Mortal Kombat “fatality!”
D: It’s all good! Anyways, it was really inspiring being able to work with him. I remember losing my mind during his set at Shambhala and thinking “this is exactly what I want to do.” It hit me right in the feels, you know? I’m a raver at heart, man. I like to party, I like to have fun and check out shows. I also like being in the crowd and experiencing the bass. That’s what makes performing so fun for me; I know exactly what it’s like to be standing there.
FS: Everyone on this tour truly cares about the music. We were just playing tracks off of each other’s laptops 3 hours ago and talking about it.
EDMC: That’s love. So, what is your DAW of choice? Any go-to plugins you\’d recommend?
D: I personally use Ableton. Before that, I went from Fruity Loops to Pro Tools to Logic. I don’t necessarily think it’s about what you use, but how you use it. Each of them has their own advantages in some way. Massive is obviously a huge plug-in, but one of the newer ones is Serum, which is limitless. You can take any sound and put it into Serum and it’ll break it up into slices; you then essentially sample one of the slices and use that as a wavetable to turn it into something completely different. You could record me farting on the tour bus and put it into the program.
EDMC: I saw you in 2012 when you first premiered the Vortex and once again in 2014 with the Vortex 2.0. What are some of the changes made to the entire production in general?
D: We upgraded the lighting package and got all of this different content for visuals. We have a wizard behind the booth; now, no 2 shows on this tour are the same. Nothing is mapped and I have to trust the VJ to absolutely crush it. When I’m switching songs in my set, he’s trying to play different visual content and mash it up so it looks cool. That team consists of Dara running all of the lights and Morgan doing the visuals.
EDMC: There’s been a lot of recent talk about how dubstep is dying as a genre. What would you say to the haters and how would you back up that dubstep strives just as much as any other genre?
D: I think that’s old fucking news, straight up. They’ve been saying that forever, but look at us now. I’m playing 2 nights in a row here in Chicago!
FS: I think what people mean when they say that is that the current form of dubstep is dead. Dubstep now really isn’t dubstep anymore; it’s bass music.
D: Yeah, it’s bass music and this is the beauty of it: when you go see a “dubstep” DJ, that DJ is probably going to play every tempo. When you see a house DJ, they usually play only house at 128 (beats per minute). That’s why I think bass music is so much fun.
EDMC: After a successful EP release and cross-country bus tour, what comes next?
D: I want to take some time off and write a dope album that’s completely different and experimental as fuck. I’ve also been working on a different alias. Everything is evolving; I felt like Vitamin D was a cool step, but for the next album, I want to put only a few bangers in and have the rest completely different. I really like what Bassnectar and Pretty Lights are doing; I’ve always been a fan and would love to find a balance between them.
EDMC: Downlink once said Chicago has one of the biggest and best bass music scenes in the country. What do you think; how does Chicago stack up to both major and unknown bass-heavy cities?
D: Chicago is one of those big cities and it’s hard to compare it with other cities because of the fact that Chicago has so much culture when it comes to music. I think Chicago has always had an amazing scene and it keeps progressing; we play some of the biggest shows on tour when we come here. We’re doing back-to-back shows this weekend so that’s a perfect example. I just want to say I fucking love Chicago and I’m so excited to be back!!!
EDMC: We’re very, very excited to have you back!
There\’s no doubt that Datsik was excited to be back. Quickly addressing that he was ready to make up for last year\’s fiasco, he kicked off Night 1 by opening with Katana, a huge tune from his new EP featuring Mayor Apeshit on the vocals. It only got filthier from there; he had an appetite for destruction (again) and we were lucky to be witnessing it.
Having been able to check out his previous stage setups over the last couple of tours, the Vortex 3.0 is definitely a smasher. Not only was the production itself upgraded, but some of the new visuals were absolutely insane; I caught myself staring into the Vortex and gazing at the beautifully synced video presentation. Deep inside (literally) all of the mayhem was a prideful performer who threw track after track at us with no signs of halting the energy. It was refreshing to hear some of his old tunes like Nuke Em mixed with some newer bangers like Droid. Though I only got the chance to check out Night 1, I could only imagine how crazy Night 2 was.
So, why is Datsik important? Not only was he a huge contributor to the emerging bass music scene a few years ago, but he has kept his artist integrity consistent through time. His work, which continues to stick with the hip-hop and dubstep hybrid, is a perfect example that fame does not coincide with selling out. It\’s rather inspiring see an artist rise from having his music featured in video game kill montages to playing 2 nights in the Windy City, all without losing his cool. Staying relevant in the music world is tough; rest assured, Datsik has shown us timelessness with numerous classics only a skillful producer can obtain.
I would like to personally thank Datsik and his management for allowing us to chat with him; every interview is a learning experience and you can surely expect more quality artists to be heard from in the future.
Support Datsik\’s Down 4 My Ninjas EP here:
Stream Down 4 My Ninjas below: