Late last year, Sonny Moore, the sub-bass scientist and superstar dubstep-importer better known as Skrillex, invited Rolling Stone to his Los Angeles studio, where he had a surprise in store: He was putting the finishing touches on a secret album. It would be the EDM titan’s first full-length release, and even some people in Moore’s own circles had no idea it was coming. The album would be called Recess, and Moore’s approach as he worked, he said, was “taking my sound and expanding on it, but being more playful, taking it to different places. I never made pure club music early on. All the first Skrillex releases were hard to mix into, the b.p.m. was changing, there’s no count-ins, things aren’t on 8-bar measures, so like, now I’m back to that point again.”
Recess is out on March 18th, and Rolling Stone will mark the occasion with Skrillex’s first cover story, written by contributing editor Jonah Weiner (on stands Friday). Moore’s sense of musical playfulness carried over to the album’s unlikely rollout strategy. In addition to arriving without warning, the plan was for Recess to first materialize in disguise as a Skrillex-branded smartphone app that appeared to be nothing more than an Asteroid-type video game — except for the presence of an unexplained countdown clock on the screen. “That signals that something’s coming, but no one knows what it is,” said Tim Smith, Skrillex’s longtime manager. When the countdown reached zero, each of Recess‘ songs would be pushed to the phone, in 30-minute installments, until the whole album was out. (Digital and physical releases would follow.)
Year Zero, which involved clues scattered online and thumb-drives left in public spaces. “We were thinking of doing a sort of Easter Egg thing,” said Smith, “but Sonny’s more direct than that.” Moore said: “I didn’t wanna confuse people or put them on a scavenger hunt.” The thinking was that, this way, the arrival of the album — not to mention future Skrillex news and material, which will also push to the app — would feel thrillingly private and participatory. “We’ll probably make less money doing it this way,” Skrillex said. “It’s more about the fans.”
The album features a broad range of cameos, including Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos, drum-and-bass legends the Ragga Twins, K-pop phenomenon G-Dragon and up-and-coming hip-hop oddball Chance the Rapper. Despite the genre-jumbling guest list, Skrillex said he worked hard to make the album cohesive. “I call my songs vibescapes,” he said. “There’s always a foundation under the tracks that you can feel and pick up on. An emotion. There’s a lot of organic samples: wind, breaths, clocks cut into tiny pieces.” If any longtime fans hear that description and start worrying about some abrupt stylistic departure — Skrillex dumps the drop! — they can relax: There is bass galore. “I wanted to make a crazy record,” Moore said, but “I wanted to stay true to who Skrillex is.”
Also in this issue: David Kushner on the mysterious creator of Flappy Bird, Bill Gates’ Rolling Stone Interview, Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein and a Spring Fashion portfolio shot by Theo Wenner.
Look for the issue on stands and in the iTunes App Store this Friday, March 14th.