We asked Skrillex about staying young and why "Strangers" is actually a Christmas song.
Surprise! Skrillex is dropping a new remix and video of "Stranger" from his 2014 album, Recess, as a pyrotechnic-filled Christmas gift the world. Much like his previous Creators Project release, the Fleur and Manu-directed "Doompy Poomp," this video isn't what we've come to expect from Skrillex.
The punk-turned-producer enlisted director Andrew Donoho to shoot the video, in which he and "Stranger" collaborators Tennyson and White Sea explode a bunch of fireworks and light stuff on fire with a group of teens from a local school in Griffen, Georgia. They roam abandoned buildings in a way that immediately reminded me of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys, if they had explosives instead of fairy dust. This, it turns out, was by design. "It's very inspired by movies like Hook and Peter Pan. I thought it was really appropriate for the song."
Rather than a dubstep banger with the texture of a screaming-robot, or his recent groundbreaking dance grooves with Diplo in Jack Ü, this version of "Stranger" is introspective and calm. The character of the track changed in part due to a shock to Skrillex's creative pipeline. "My mom had passed away earlier this year right in the middle of us finishing the edit," he tells The Creators Project. "'Stranger' kind of fell on the backburner for a while, and obviously this song was older so I just felt like I should rework it. This was actually only like a month ago. Why don't I just flip the song into something else so it doesn't feel irrelevant?"
Skrillex is releasing the track and video today—Christmas—as a gift to the fans. He encourages them to pass it on and donate to the Boys and Girls Club, Bridges for Music, or Jhamtse Gatsa Children's Community as part of his label OWSLA's Nestivus campaign. We spoke to Skrillex about why "Stranger" works as a Christmas song, how to act like a kid, and how making the video was a blast.
The Creators Project: This set looks like it was super fun to be on—almost too fun. Did you get any pushback from parents? Honestly I don't even know how my mom would feel if I told her Skrillex and his friends want to film us playing with a bunch of fireworks and light stuff on fire.
Skrillex: Honestly the parents were so rad. We filmed it outside of Atlanta in Griffen, I think people in Georgia are a little more laid back. California can be very strict in that sense, but when you go down to Georgia they know how to handle some fireworks. The set was really fun, none of those kids were actors, everyone was a real kid. We had set shots we wanted to get but the way they were done were so natural and spontaneous. That's how Andrew Donoho, the director, likes to work.
How did you and Donoho talk about the video's meaning, and then explain that to the kids?
The meaning of this video was being in this world where you're a stranger. Everyone's a stranger, and names don't matter, and being a stranger disintegrates walls and you get to have a true human interaction. It's the hardest thing to keep when you get older, that child inside of you that's so free and has no filter. That's what makes it so real. It's very inspired by movies like Hook and Peter Pan. I thought it was really appropriate for the song.
The video does a great job at capturing the energy of youth. How do you maintain that kind of energy in your own music and career?
That's just been me keeping youthful, creative people around. Just like I always have. Curating a lot of younger artists and bringing them into the OWSLA family as well. I think keeping that youthful energy is the number one most important thing to me. Even as I get older that's probably the most important thing to protect as an artist, and also for other artists.
What visual artists have been inspiring you lately? Did any of them inform the "Stranger" video?
Honestly seeing Andrew's work previously was really what it needed. That touch and that style. There are so many different visual styles that inspire me. The Red Lips video couldn't be more different than what Stranger is. Stranger is very human and real, and Red Lips is obviously very surreal and fantasy and science fiction. Right now I'm really into photography and capturing real life, candid moments.
Why was "Stranger" the song that you decided to give your fans for Christmas / Chanukah / whatever?
To be honest, this was an older song and we shot the video a while back. My mom had passed away earlier this year right in the middle of us finishing the edit. A lot of my targets and deadlines went on a halt because I was unable to emotionally finish anything. Stranger kind of fell on the backburner for a while, and obviously this song was older so I just felt like I should rework it, this was actually only like a month ago. Why don't I just flip the song into something else so it doesn't feel irrelevant? And I could release it with more of a purpose than just putting out a song and a video. So it actually turned into something even more special.
The end of the year is a time for reflection. What have you reflected on most about 2015, and what are you looking forward to exploring in 2016?
I think 2015 made me realize I'm really excited about starting new, really starting from a new angle and perspective. Where the music industry is going especially with electronic music, that's going where I'm sort of going, in the sense that every couple of years it's good to break your habits. The world is constantly evolving but if you continue your routines that worked before and you keep doing that, you become irrelevant. It's such an exciting time to rethink things from how you perform, how you release music and what you release. That's what I've been reflecting on mostly, and continuing to grow as a creative director with OWSLA and curate new people. To create something bigger than what is was originally meant to be. It was a record label and now it's much more than that.
Keep up with Skrillex on his website.