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Skrillex’s Expert Opinion on Grateful Dead, Taylor Swift Songs

We asked the star producer to tell us what he thinks of nine songs, old and new


MIAMI, FL - MARCH 29: Skrillex performs during the Ultra Music Festival at Bayfront Park Amphitheater on March 29, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

On July 8th, Skrillex will head out on his second Full Flex Express Tour through Canada. The tour, which will travel through eight cities by train, is headlined by Jack Ü, his duo with Diplo, with support from A$AP Ferg, Zeds Dead, Kiesza and others. Like the first Full Flex Express Tour in 2012, it's an EDM tribute of sorts to the original Festival Express train tour, which was headlined by the Grateful Dead, the Band and Janis Joplin back in 1970. 

Skrillex called a few weeks before the tour's kickoff to take part in Rolling Stone's Expert Opinion column. Here's a lightly edited transcript of his thoughts on the nine old and new songs we asked him to check out.

Grateful Dead

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of GRATEFUL DEAD (Photo by Gems/Redferns)


The Grateful Dead, “China Cat Sunflower”

My dad was a big fan of the Grateful Dead, so I used to hear them all the time around the house. This song is so psychedelic and free-flowing and deep. It's like it's in 3D. There are so many melodies. I still have no idea what any of the lyrics mean — it's so Alice in Wonderland.

The Band

(L-R) Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson of The Band pose for a group portrait in London in 1971. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Getty

The Band, “Stage Fright”

It's a simple story about some kid who wanted to be a singer, then got wrapped up in this whole world and realized that maybe it's a fake world. It's almost like selling your soul for fame. There's definitely stuff in there that I can relate to. Whether you're a famous musician or just a normal person experiencing what the music industry is like, with people acting fake around you to please you, and you're just on that stage like, "What the fuck?"

Janis Joplin

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Janis Joplin Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Janis Joplin, “Cry Baby”

This is one of my favorite vocal performances by Janis Joplin. It's a forgiveness song — there's so much love and passion in the lyrics. She's telling this guy she forgives him for leaving and checking out this other girl. All she wants you to do is come back home, because she knows you're crying and she knows you're sad. If a girl wrote a song like this about me, I would be so flattered.

Aphex Twin

INDIO, CA - APRIL 25: Dj Aphex Twin performs during day 1 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 25, 2008 in Indio, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)

Charley Gallay/AMA2014/Getty

Aphex Twin, “Bucephalus Bouncing Ball”

The Come to Daddy EP is one of my top three albums or EPs of all time. This song in particular is like a zeitgeist for how I produce music. It's such a crazy journey, like five songs in one song. It starts out with these tribal electronic sounds, then the melody comes into an arpeggio that reminds me of Donkey Kong Country 2 or Mario Kart, and the cuteness of it has you like, "What does this song even mean?" Then at the end you have a crazy sound that's like all these metal balls clicking and clicking faster and off-tempo — and then all of a sudden this crazy drum-and-bass acid beat comes in, and it all makes sense. I've memorized every single hit and every single accent and every single solo, because I've listened to it so many times.


PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 11: Thom Yorke from Radiohead performs at Palais Omnisports de Bercy on October 11, 2012 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff - Patrick/WireImage)

David Wolff - Patrick/WireImage/Getty

Radiohead, “I Might Be Wrong”

This is one of the first guitar riffs I ever learned. The whole song is so simple, and such a groove. No bands were doing stuff like that at the time. It's almost like how hip-hop is produced, with one loop over and over again until it gets stuck in your head and you want to listen to it over and over again. I have memories of being a kid and skateboarding to Amnesiac, the album, and going home and learning this song on guitar.

Taylor Swift


Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Bad Blood”

I think this is an awesome testament to how artists can evolve. A year ago, you never would have thought that Kendrick Lamar and Taylor Swift would make a song together. I think more things like that are happening, like Jack Ü and Justin Bieber. It's just a fun, catchy song.

A. G. Cook

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 19: A. G. Cook performs onstage at the PC Music showcase during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festivale at Empire Garage on March 19, 2015 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Steve Rogers Photography/Getty Images for SXSW)

Steve Rogers/Getty

A. G. Cook featuring Hannah Diamond, “Drop FM”

I wanted to sign PC Music. I had their demos a year ago, or even more than that. I love their stuff. It's so fun and cute and crazy and over-the-top. I'm still a teenager at heart, so if I was in high school and I really liked a girl, this is the music I'd probably be listening to get the courage to maybe go talk to her. PC Music is such a youth-culture thing, which I'm really into, and of course with my background of looking at anime and some of those melodies even influencing my records, I really connect with that. I'd love to work with them at some point.

Fetty Wap

JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - Emmy Award-nominated "Jimmy Kimmel Live" airs every weeknight (11:35 p.m. - 12:41 a.m., ET), packed with hilarious comedy bits and features a diverse lineup of guests including celebrities, athletes, musicians, comedians and humorous human interest subjects; The guests for TUESDAY, JUNE 9 included actor Chris Pratt ("Jurassic World"), actress Abby Elliot ("Odd Mom Out") and musical guest Fetty Wap. (Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images)

Randy Holmes/Getty

Fetty Wap, “Trap Queen”

This is the anthem of the summer right now. I play this record in almost all of my sets — I have a bunch of bootleg remixes that I've done, and weird mashups. When that song comes on and you're out, you can't help but sing along.

Jamie XX

Josh Brasted/Getty

Jamie xx, “Gosh”

I love the way this song tarts, with that dirty, minimal, monotone bass and kick drum. It's all about the percussion. It feels like being in a weird underground rave party in the U.K. And then, almost like the Aphex Twin song, all of a sudden there's this melody that comes in. There's something vintage about it that I can't put my finger on, and it's nostalgic, and it ends with a very beautiful melody that you'd never expect — but it works.