Troy Beetles, popularly known as Datsik, feels like a fortunate young man. Since the release of his first tracks in 2009, he’s gradually seen his prominence increase within the dubstep scene and, later, the wider and more lucrative world of EDM. His 2012 debut album, Vitamin D, cemented his standing as “one to watch,” but last year’s Sensei EP clearly displays just how far he has come.
It all seems a long way from Beetles’s beginnings in British Columbia. When he was just seven years old, his audiophile father gave him a high-end sound system for his birthday on the condition that he could put it together himself by the end of the day. Sure enough, through trial and error, the youngster figured it out and, in the process, discovered a new passion.
“After that, I started stealing CDs from my brothers and listening to hip-hop and whatever else,” Beetles says. “That’s what got me into it. I’ve probably been making music since I was about fourteen years old. I was really into Wu-Tang and that sort of stuff; that was the starting point for me. I was delivering pizzas for quite a while while writing music, and I never thought that anything would come of it. Sure enough, through putting my music out online on a dubstep forum, I got hit up by a couple of different promotors, people wanting to book me to play shows. That’s how it started.”
With the support of his naturally concerned mom behind him (“She said that I might want to consider a real job as well”), Datsik was up and running. And while dubstep, very specifically, was the platform that helped him launch, Beetles is pretty much open to any and all new ideas and influences.
“I could be playing my set, playing a bunch of dubstep, and then I could go into trap, and then I could go into drum and bass, and then into a little bit of bass-house or whatever,” he says. “I think all the kids are totally okay with that. If anything, they like it because it adds a little bit of variety. Most of these tracks have similar sounds; they’re just different tempos.”
The biggest changes in Datsik’s sound have in fact been less about crossing genres and more about Beetles's own natural improvement and evolution as a producer. His focus, he says, has been on the mix-downs (the final output of a multi-track recording).
“I can listen to the Vitamin D album and compare it to the stuff I’m doing now, and it almost makes me puke in my mouth,” Beetles says. “It’s crazy how much things can evolve. When I put it out, I thought it sounded pretty good; I’d mixed it solidly. A couple of years goes by, and you compare it with the shit now, and it’s night and day. It’s hard for me to even play those tracks anymore because the mix-downs are just not on par with everything else these days. I’d rather play a track with a really simple composition and insane mix-down versus a really insane composition and a shit mix-down. It’s crazy, because every couple of months, there will be a new sound. If you were to lose your eyes and skip a year in this industry, you would miss out on a lot of shit. It moves really quickly.”
Beetles relocated from British Columbia to Los Angeles four years ago; he was fed up with the traveling and wanted to be surrounded by talented musicians and producers. Now that he’s right in the thick of it, he feels that dubstep and drum-and-bass music are presently in a healthy spot.
“The shows have been steadily getting bigger every tour, and the production level is rising,” Beetles says. “The quality of artists is getting better, as well. Before, it used to be just a dark room with like a big sound system, and there’d be four or five hundred kids coming out. Now, for the same $20 ticket, they can come and see me jump around in my Raiden (from Metal Gear) outfit, with a whole 100,000-watt PK sound system and an insane lighting package, and there’ll be 2,000 kids there instead. You can look at that as being good or bad. I honestly think it’s awesome, because basically we’re able to make a bigger and better show just based on the fact that we’re doing more dates now and we’re bringing in enough money to fund that.”
Datsik performs at 1STBANK Center on February 4, and Beetles is excited: He calls Denver the dubstep capital of North America. To celebrate, he’s bringing Wu-Tang’s GZA with him.
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“We wanted to do something super-special for Denver because Denver’s always had a special place in my heart,” Beetles says. “So we’re bringing out GZA. That’ll be awesome. I’ve brought him up one time before, in New York, and he was amazing. His live band is awesome — super-cool to kick it with. I think it’ll add a wicked piece of magic for this show.”
After that, it’s more touring for Datsik, and then, later in the year, festivals. You’ll never hear Beetles complain about working hard, though. The onetime pizza boy is just delighted to be making a living through his art.
“I’m very humbled and very blessed to be doing this for a living,” he says. “I feel like not everyone gets the chance to do this kind of thing — to do what they love for a living. I’m just stoked that I’m able to do that — pay bills and get by with music. For me, that’s the most important thing.”
Datsik plays with GZA, Crizzly, Protohype, Party Thieves, and Virtual Riot at 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 4, at the 1STBANK Center; 11450 Broomfield Lane, Broomfield, 303-410-0700.