Jack Ü is the new project of American DJs Skrillex and Diplo. Kevin Dickson talks to the duo about pairing up, making new tracks with Madonna, the decline of electronic music and creating a new horizon for EDM.
Diplo and Skrillex are having a moment. The 26-year-old Skrillex (real name: Sonny Moore) and 36-year-old Diplo (Wesley Pentz) are, to be sure, in a bromance. The pair’s current project, Jack Ü, is an irresistibly heady rush of EDM insanity that’s headed to your ears early this year. The hot and heavy duo have been collaborating with each other and guests ranging from stars such as Usher and Justin Bieber to unknowns. It’s an ambitious project by two of electronic music’s biggest names – not that the two seem to be feeling the pressure.
You finish each other’s sentences. How long have you actually known each other?
Diplo: Four years. I met Skrillex at a Matthew Dear show when I moved to Los Angeles, and he was happening.
Skrillex: We met when electronica started becoming what it is now. New York has a lot to do with the scene, but LA just had so many people coming through and debuting new sounds that it created a synergy around artists connecting. Wes and I became friends pretty much as soon as we met.
Explain Jack Ü
Skrillex: Jack Ü is a way for us to showcase different sounds, even outside of records we make. There’s so much underground stuff that’s great. Like C-Set, Half of a Name; artists who are playing to 500 people at their shows. We’re taking them and incorporating them.
Diplo: We met Justin Bieber at a party and got a vocal from him. Everything we’ve done so far has been spontaneous. We’ve played people’s demos to crowds of 60,000. We’re able to give people something brand new, and they’ll listen, and we want to take advantage of that privilege and that opportunity.
Is the goal of the project a proper collection of tracks with an official release? Does that traditional approach even appeal to you?
Diplo: I think we should do six records, take eight songs that aren’t ours and make an awesome mixtape and release it. That’s the idea. We want to get it out fast, because we both have other things in the pipeline. There’s more Skrillex stuff this year, and I have a new Major Lazer record out this year. If people love it, we’re gonna go back and do more. And if people hate it, we’re gonna go back and do more.
How does Jack Ü differ from other EDM acts right now?
Diplo: Our ethos is always to make something nobody’s heard before. We’re not afraid to fail.
Björk makes instruments to create her new sounds. Do you want to create actual new sounds?
Diplo: We know that dance music and hip-hop is our lane, and that’s where we work. With Björk, she’s making music for a new thought process, and art is her main goal. Maybe in ten years we’ll do an installation at MoMA, but right now we want to get people dancing.
Can you talk about your work with Madonna?
Diplo: The single comes out in February. There are two songs [the label] loves as singles; I don’t know which one will come out first. She’s actually kind of hard core. You can’t get away. I’ll be glad when we’re all wrapped up. It’s been a lot of work. I’ve worked harder on these songs than I’ve worked on our songs.
Skrillex: I’ve never seen him more like, I have to go back.
Diplo: If I can go back and wrap this up and make great songs for her…She’s the queen of making music. I remember having songs like “Cherish” and “Vogue” on cassette. I’ve loved her production and I’ve always loved how she’s a forward-thinking beast. She was the first person to really bring in different sounds and co-opt things for her own sound. I’ve always loved her for that.
Electro has become an increasingly moribund, corporate genre. Does it have fans?
Skrillex: The kids know that there’s culture for them. They’re downloading mixtapes. What we do as DJs is the most direct art form, musically, that there is. It’s all about hearing something that you like and reacting to it, whether you know what it is or not.
Diplo: It feels like we are curators of a scene. Not to be offensive, but the EDM scene is dead in a way, and the curators are the festival guys who want to keep it simple for themselves. They’re the corporate sponsor guys who are keeping the stuff that’s easy to sell, and I think it’s our job to curate newer things; new horizons; to give new things to people.
To listen to music by Jack Ü visit www.jackuofficial.com and www.soundcloud.com/jacku