Would dubstep as we know it even exist?
The problem we're now facing in a TV-saturated world, is that society's ability to generate music documentary vastly outstrips the capacity of society to produce more musical history. After your first ten years of music documentary-watching, the whole thing essentially boils down to the same two dozen witnesses being milked for the same two dozen anecdotes by the same two dozen TV producers, in a never-ending, ever-diminishing content-incest circle-jerk.
After all, music isn't always changed by the big obvious shit like a great band releasing a great record or someone getting to number one with 'Are 'Friends' Electric'. Sometimes it's a terrible band releasing a terrible record. Sometimes it's some cokebag in the Atlantic HQ putting a D-notice on signing any more electro because he shared a line with some wanker in a pub who seemed hip and told him it was on the way out. It is to these equally valid but less Maconie-tastic moments that changed the course of music history that this column is dedicated.
2003. A breach in the thermal protection of the Space Shuttle Columbia causes it to crash on re-entry, instantly evaporating all seven crew somewhere in the troposphere. By March, the world is already watching ordinary Iraqis beat their shoes against torn-down statues of Saddam Hussein. By August US soldier Lynndie England is photographed grinning as she walks an ordinary Iraqi around Abu Graib prison on a leash. By October, Steve Jobs launches the first iTunes Store with a big-swinging-dick presentation that includes drop-ins from Dr Dre, Bono and Mick Jagger. The world spins ever-faster, while ever-more we are becoming divorced from ourselves as technology throws up a double-blind of abstraction shielding us from our essential humanity, allowing a new and ever-more banal strand of evil to reach out into the world with its poisonous tentacles.
Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, dubstep is about to get its Elvis, thanks to the bad parenting of a Mr and Mrs Moore.
An insurance claims investigator and a housewife, Skrillex's mum and dad had raised their son in an environment of love. Deep, deep love. Too deep, some might say. An example of holistic parenting that went above and beyond the call of common Californian wankiness, they'd spent most of his previous fifteen years giving their son Sonny everything his little heart desired.
Discipline? What the fuck was that? Cultivation of self-denial as canny practice for entry into a bruising, cruel adult world? Uh, no. What Sonny wanted, Sonny got. His room was full of pricey toys. His belly was full of sugary cola. It'd made him sensitive, certainly. He had a sort of kindness, a gentleness to his personality that was a heartening validation of the Moores' most benevolent instincts. But by god, it had also made him emo.
Here was a kid who was smoking at school by the time he was 14. Then one day a teacher told him he couldn't smoke at school. Because that is what teachers do. They enforce the basic laws of the land, and generally try and provide mild social guidance for the youths in their care.
Well not for Mr & Mrs Moore's poor little lamb. He basically told the guy to go fuck himself. Walked out of the school, never came back. “I stood up and said: ‘I smoke. So I’ll go somewhere else.’” Skrillex later recollected from tranquility, “I walked out that day. I don’t think anyone should tell anyone what to do.”
What did Mr and Mrs Moore have to say about this brattishness? Was it: “Hand me my birch rod, for I am about to split this young fool's soul from his body, and teach him once and for all that the ears of a boy are surely only upon his backside.”? No. It wasn't. They said: “That's fine, dear. We'll home school you from now on. Of course we've no problem with paying for a full-time tutor. Smoke on, bro.” And so it was that Skrillex managed to avoid high school. Whereas, in a world that obeyed the laws of social gravity, he would've been stuffed in lockers 24/7, rapidly becoming the pudgy plaything of the sort of jocks who would later become the global keg party's biggest advocates of his music, instead, he was allowed to sidestep all that, and take yet another turn inwards.
“My mom was so loving, but annoyingly overhospitable.” Skrillex later explained. “I’ll have already eaten, like, 10 things, and my mom would be like: ‘You want something else?’ No, thanks. ‘Do you want this?’ No, I don’t want anything else. ‘OK, do you want this other thing, then?’ No, no, I’m full. ‘Do you want me to go to the store to get this one thing you like?’ No, no more anything!”
A quick flip through The Oxford Pop-Up Book Of Pop Psychology tells us that this was an elementary sign of guilt on the part of Mrs Moore. That she had filled her boy with cake and home schooling in order to soften the crushing sorrow she felt, the weight of the world that rested upon her for her inability to tell him about his true origins.
In truth, Skrillex had not come from her womb. She had not "spent 12 hours in labour and the pain was like nothing I'd ever felt but oh my god when they put him on my chest I just thought he was the most perfect thing I'd ever seen". That had in fact happened to another woman – a 'family friend', already known to Sonny. Instead, this other woman had "spent 12 hours in labour and the pain was so much but oh my god when they put him on my chest I thought maybe I'm not ready for a baby after all and I should put him up for adoption". The childless Moores had agreed. A deal was done. And, though done, occasionally, she'd still come round, as "a friend", and inspect their child-raising handiwork, while noticing her dad's cheekbones or the same way her mom furrowed her brow in Sonny's doughy features.
If they'd told no-one, maybe they'd have been better off. But he was 16 now. And the knowledge pool had continued to seep outwards, slowly but surely. At first it'd just been them. Now, everyone knew. His parents' colleagues. His teachers. Even his own friends. As Skrillex's world came ever-more to resemble The Truman Show, Mrs Moore no doubt bought him yet more Transformers merchandise and searched ever-harder for the one confectionary that would evaoprate all her guilt.
Then, the inevitable happened. When he was out one day, Sonny ran into a family friend. “I saw your mother the other day,” said this family friend. “Huh?” said Skrills. The guy named the woman. “Uh... no.” Skrillex continued. “That's not my mother. That's just a family friend.”
They parted. But suddenly the clues were there once you looked for them. That afternoon a thousand far-off bells jingled in the back of his head. He ignored them until he couldn't any more. He went to his parents. Confronted them. They sat him down. Then they told him.
If you calculate how badly Sonny reacted to being told he couldn't, as a 14 year old, smoke cigarettes on the property of a caring-sharing private performing arts school, and multiply it by "my entire life is effectively a shallow sham perpertrated upon me by those I loved the most", it's safe to assume he turned puce, then magenta, then black, then spent about 72 hours rocking back and forth violently like an oil derrick of uncoiling anger. This was a brain coming off its moorings. This was exactly the sort of life moment that called for the most radical gesture he could muster, short of a school shooting rampage.
So, in true rock-n-roll fashion, Sonny ran away. He skipped over the back fence armed only with a suitcase, a dream, and an economy pack of eyeliner. He went to Georgia. He'd been corresponding online with a small emo band out there, From First To Last. They'd suggested he could play guitar if he tried out in person. Travelling 2000 miles on a whim had seemed impractical, but... fuck it, now he would. After all, what exactly did he have to lose? In Georgia, they liked this odd milky youth so much that they made him singer. In return, as a recently-orphaned furnace of cold fury, he worked them so hard that they got into the charts, sold over 200 000 records and got picked up by a major label.
Two years later, From First To Last had split after Moore developed polyps on his vocal cords. The emo dream was dead, but it had left him a fanbase, and a very real MySpace platform from which he could launch his part-time dabblings in dance music to the thousands of emo kids who were already following him: an instant crossover appeal payload.
Within months of launching My Name Is Skrillex EP, it was apparent that American dubstep had found its chosen one. Within a year, all over the frat world he would be toasted in Hooters for developing a style of music that could be danced to simply by keeping the back straight and pivoting the body forward from the waist. Freed from the need to move expressively, jocks could now get laid with a disarming fresh ease. STD rates skyrocketed. Overnight, dubstep had quantum-leapt into the extremely profitable asshole community. Suddenly, all over the US, a little beaky man from south London called Skream became venerated as a sort of sky god, while a grimy hole in the wall called FWD became a sort of Ayers Rock to their ancestor-worship. America was going woooo-wub-wub-wub-wub-wuuuuuuub-w-o-o-o-o-o-o-wub while wearing pink lumo hotpants, and it was all thanks to a spot of well-intentioned bad parenting.
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