Sonny Moore, better known as Skrillex, took the road pretty much never traveled on his way to becoming a dubstep darling. Only a few years ago, the lip-pierced Los Angeleno was lead screecher in post-hardcore faves From First to Last. "That was fun. I was 17 years old, touring the world," says Moore, sounding like a veteran at 23. "Skrillex is crazy, though, because it's my vision. The more success that comes, the more amped I am to work on music every second I'm home."
Of course, since his Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP (Atlantic/Mau5trap) debuted at No. 1 on iTunes' dance chart in December, he hasn't been home much. Moore toured with his mentor, festival hero Deadmau5 last year, but 2011 finds him bringing his frenetic pileup of crushing sub-bass, thumping electro beats, and neon synth patterns to headlining gigs and festivals. His March tour ends at Miami's Ultra Music Festival; in April he plays Coachella. An as-yet-untitled debut album is slated for the fall. Not bad for a recovering emoholic.
"Being a frontman for someone else's creation isn't my passion," says Moore, who'd originally joined FFTL as a hired guitarist. "I don't love to sing. I always knew I wanted to make music." He wasn't sure of his path when he left the band in late 2006, but he'd grown up admiring the abrasive electronics of Aphex Twin, the frozen soundscapes of Sigur Rós, and the "stuff you could actually dance to" that he heard at L.A.'s electroclash clubs. He then channeled those influences into tracks like "Kill Everybody," a Scary Monsters standout with an ecstatic, celebratory vibe that makes it easy to see why Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas have hired him for remixes.
Still, Atlantic shelved three albums' worth of "Sonny Moore" music over a two-year period. So he gave himself a new handle. "It was one of the most stressful times of my life," says Moore, who sounds as manically energetic as his music. "Skrillex was me saying, 'Fuck this' and doing exactly what I wanted." Moore gave away his first EP, My Name Is Skrillex, via his home page last June, and watched as the download count neared 100,000. Needless to say, the label came around to his vision.
Listen: Skrillex, "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites"