Here in Vancouver, we tend to lose sight of the fact that, yes, there is art and culture—not to mention world-class music—in this province beyond the borders of the Lower Mainland. Take Kelowna; the Okanagan Valley’s biggest population centre not only spawned quality pop-rock acts like the Grapes of Wrath and Yukon Blonde, it’s also a seemingly unlikely incubator of one of the hottest forms of electronic dance music. Three of dubstep’s leading producers—Datsik, Excision, and Downlink—all call Kelowna home.
Reached at a tour stop in Albany, New York, Troy “Datsik” Beetles tells the Straight he had no idea just how close he lived to Excision until he started sharing his own music with the already-established artist (known to his folks as Jeff Abel) in 2008.
“I was always sending him my tracks and being like, ‘Yo, you want to check this out?’” Beetles recalls. “And he was checking them out. And then I sent him ‘Gecko’, and he was like, ‘Holy shit, man, you should come over and let’s just collab on some stuff.’ I was like, ‘Okay’. I actually lived, like, a block away from him. I didn’t even know that until the day I went to his house: ‘Where do you live?’ And he was like, ‘On this road.’ And I literally lived a 30-second walk from his house.”
The newly formed partnership proved fruitful, with Datsik and Excision putting out a steady stream of singles and EPs of their own in addition to their remixes of other acts. With his name on releases by heavy-hitters like the Wu-Tang Clan, MGMT, Diplo, and the Crystal Method, Beetles no doubt had his pick of labels to put out his first full-length album. He went with current touring partner Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak Records, which will release Vitamin D next month.
Beetles has already dropped two singles from the forthcoming LP: “Fully Blown”, featuring Vancouver MC Snak the Ripper, and “Evilution”, a collaboration with Israeli psytrance giant Infected Mushroom and Korn frontman Jonathan Davis. Both tracks bear all of the producer’s signatures, including distorted bass drops and robot-rampage oscillation, layered over beats that arguably owe more to hip-hop, rock, and industrial metal than they do to the roots of dubstep. In other words, Datsik fits squarely into the category of “brostep” along with such other unapologetic populists as Skrillex and 12th Planet.
That’s a good indication that, live, Datsik is a crowd-pleaser. He admits, though, that he can’t compete with Aoki, whose performance style is more akin to a punk-rock frontman than a superstar DJ. “Steve is definitely a showman,” Beetles says. “He puts on a hell of a show for people. People leave being really excited, covered in champagne and cake, and no matter what, he makes sure everyone in the crowd has a good time before they leave.”
As for Datsik, who manipulates tracks on the fly using Ableton Live, he tends to focus more on the task at hand. “I’m definitely more of a behind-the-decks kind of guy rather than running around and jumping into the crowd,” he admits. “I do that from time to time, but for me number one is just playing the best show I possibly can. But I think, that being said, it creates a really good balance between the two, because when me and Steve play together, the audience gets a bit of everything.”
Datsik opens for Steve Aoki at the PNE Forum on Saturday (March 10).