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By Katie Brinn and Andrew Rothschild
He introduces himself as Sonny Moore, but to his millions of young fans, he’s Skrillex — one of the biggest names in electronic dance music (EDM). Since he first found success as an EDM DJ and producer in 2011, Skrillex has collected six Grammys, 19 million Facebook fans and an estimated $20 million — all while giving away most of his music for free.
And at just 27 years old — an age he characterizes as “not young” — he says he has no plans of slowing down. The EDM prodigy is churning out new collaborations with superstars both inside and outside his genre, testing the limits of his craft — and his fan base — with every new innovation.
One of his boldest, and perhaps most polarizing new partners: pop heartthrob Justin Bieber. Moore and fellow EDM DJ Diplo, under the moniker Jack Ü, teamed up with the Biebs in early 2015 to produce the single “Where Are Ü Now.” The track quickly shot to the top of mainstream charts, drawing the ire of some EDM fans who were vocal with their criticism that Skrillex was “selling out.”
Yahoo global news anchor Katie Couric met up with Moore at his studio in downtown L.A. to give him a chance to respond to the criticism and to take a rare, intimate look into the life and career of one of EDM’s biggest stars.
“He was super-polite,” Moore says of his first encounter with Justin Bieber at a party at New York Fashion Week earlier this year. The rest was history. Teaming up as Jack Ü, Skrillex and Diplo worked on Bieber’s a cappella vocal track to make a hit that few of his fans saw coming.
Sporting a hardcore look from an early age, Moore says he is no stranger to being misunderstood. “You’re always bullied if you’re an emo kid,” he admits. But he says his parents were always supportive of his alternative style and his unconventional ambitions.
The family hit a rough patch when Moore learned at age 16 that his parents had adopted him. He says his music helped him get through that period and has helped as he deals with another trial his family is now facing: the recent death of his mother. He talks about his relationship with her, how his family has come together to mourn and how Scientology has long helped his family cope with hardship.
Of course, it’s impossible to ignore the drug culture that goes hand in hand with EDM’s rave scene, a scene Skrillex has so helped to define. Some critics, in fact, have linked the rise of Molly to Skrillex’s ascent. Though he emphasizes that he would never want to be “telling kids how to run their lives,” Skrillex insists that he never uses drugs. “I wouldn’t be able to do 300 shows a year if I was doing drugs,” he says.
Amid their conversation, Couric and Skrillex take a phone call from a special guest star, Marshmello, a mysterious EDM newcomer whose identity remains top secret. Until now, fans have even been unsure whether the rising star is a man or a woman.
Before wrapping up their chat, Skrillex gets a chance to comment on the origins of his signature haircut and muse about what his life might look like in 10 years.
Not to outdo Justin Bieber, Skrillex and Couric decide there is room for one more unlikely EDM collaboration. Together, they hit the studio to churn out what could be a pretty “sweet” hit. Check out the final product.