Initially, Troy Beetles, a Canadian producer and DJ who records as both Datsik and Ephwurd, developed an interest in hip-hop. He then gravitated to bass music and started producing what’s commonly called dubstep.
“Ever since I was very young, I was always really obsessed with audio and the technical side of it rather than the musicianship side of it,” he explains in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where he was still recovering from a late night session with his side project Ephwurd that yielded some tracks he describes as “’90s rave meet wobbly house music.”
During the course of a career that stretches back nearly ten years, Beetles has collaborated with the likes of Excision, Diplo, Infected Mushroom and Korn. A major talent in the EDM world, he’s remixed songs from Kaskade & Skrillex, MGMT, Linkin Park, M83 and Wu-Tang Clan.
He credits his dad with pointing him in the right direction.
“I never played any instruments growing up, but my dad was an audiophile,” he says. “We had tube amps and high-end audio gear and wicked turntables around and hi-fi speakers. I took an interest in it when I was really young. For one of my birthdays when I was 7 or 8, my dad put a nice sound system in my room. He said, ‘If you can set this up by the end of the day, you can have it.’ Obviously, there was trial and error, but I ended up figuring it out and I have been into the technical side of everything ever since.”
He acquired a copy of the digital audio workstation FruityLoops when he was 14 years old and started experimenting with it.
“I was into Wu-Tang and old school hip-hop — Dre and Snoop and Xzibit and all that kind of stuff — and it just evolved,” he says. “I started trying to copy those tunes. Those old Wu-Tang tunes really inspired me, and I started throwing my music on the net and it got some traction, and I realized there was a whole culture behind dubstep, and I had no idea about it.”
Using a friend’s turntables, he started mixing drum and bass and breakbeats and would spin for hours. When Excision, another local dubstep artist based in Kelowna, British Columbia, started throwing parties at Elevation, a popular club night, Beetles sent him tapes in the attempt to get on the bill.
“I got so obsessed with it,” Beetles says. “I would show up early and watch all the DJs until the end of the night. I wanted to play one of those shows. I sent him some tunes. He thought they were whatever. I went back to the drawing board. I really wanted to send him something that he would play. A few weeks later, I sent him some more stuff and he thought it was dope. He wanted me to come over so we could work on some music. When he gave me his address, I realized he was literally my neighbor. It’s kind of crazy how it all came together.”
The two became friends and collaborators, releasing several tracks together on Excision’s Rottun Recordings. Back in 2012, Beetles issued his first studio album, Vitamin D
. It features guests such as the production duo Infected Mushroom and DJ Z-Trip.
“It was the first collection of tunes that I had put together,” says Beetles. “Before that, I had put out music but not I hadn’t put an album together.”
For the subsequent tour, he partnered with veteran DJ Steve Aoki, who showed him the ropes.
“We become good friends,” says Beetles. “It was really fun. He’s a super cool dude. We got to travel around. We did a lot of interviews. It was the first time I had been in the spotlight. He’s good at handling himself in press situations. He was plugging his album. It was a great experience. I learned from [the record label] Dim Mak what makes a good record label, and that’s when I started Firepower Records. I wanted to do my own thing.”
He followed Vitamin D
up with 2013’s Let It Burn
, an album that departs from the tendency to turn up the beats per minute.
“It’s always tricky coming out with a new record because it’s like how many times can you flip a song at 140 bpm and have it still be different?” says Beetles. “There are tunes that I tracked at 110, which was like a Moombahton thing. I got my girlfriend on the track ‘Let It Burn’ and wanted to experiment and have fun with it.”
For his new EP, Darkstar
, Beetles says he sought to embrace hip-hop. The album opens with the punishing “Tantrum,” a song that features booming bass and aggressive vocals courtesy of guest Trinidad James, who freestyles on the track. “Get it moving, moving, moving,” he intones.
“It’s primarily a hip-hop record at 100 bmp and has tons of swag to it,” he says. “I was working with [the clothing and accessory line] Famous Stars and Straps. They sponsored me through [former Blink 182 drummer] Travis Barker. I went to the studio, which was not far from my house, and I met with Travis. He’s a super cool dude. He told me he was really into my stuff and wanted to do a track with me. He’s one of the best drummers in the world. I showed him ‘Darkstar,’ and he loved it and drummed over the whole thing. It goes from 100 bpm to dubstep at the end. It was fun.”
Even though the song features a dense array of electronic beats and crooning vocals courtesy of LIINKS, Barker’s drumming manages to be discernable.
“Because it’s primarily electronic music, there’s got be a balance so it’s as punchy as anything else,” says Beetles when asked about the song. “Sometimes, you have to mix it perfectly or layer it to give it that depth. You can use the acoustic drums for a little bit of grit and then have the clean processed samples that you use as a layer and make it sound punchy when you mash it together.”
“No Mind” features all kinds of headphone candy, including metallic-sounding percussion and woozy, demonic sounding vocals; guest Armanni Reign provides the vocals for “Let ’em Know,” a rousing number that work to rile up any audience at a sporting event.
“Whatever you throw at him, he can flip and turn into something amazing,” Beetles says of Reign. “When I was writing the track, I had him in mind. I sent it to him and he thought it was sick. He did a good job with it. I got him to record all these other shout-outs for every major city. When I play a live set, I can loop one of the cities and get everyone pumped up. It’s a super high-energy song.”
The current tour features a special light show designed to top the extravagant production of previous tours.
“This time around, we have this laser set up,” says Beetles. “I played this Red Rocks show last year with Krewella. We paid for our own production, and we brought these lasers to Red Rocks. They did a 3-D rendition of the rocks and contours that create the natural amphitheater. They can project images with the lasers on the rocks. It was really cool. That’s how it started. I’ve toured with the Vortex [light show] like four times. I wanted to switch it up. I want to keep it different.”
Beetles says the sound system will live up to expectations too.
“It’s going to be heavy as fuck,” he says. “We bring our system and if a club has a problem with it I just won’t play. It’s all about the presentation. It’s a body and visual experience as well. Kids go to have their rib cages rattled. That’s what we promote. When I perform, I want to give it my all.”
Datsik, 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $23, houseofblues.com.