With bass pioneer Datsik’s 8th bus tour just starting up, and residing only an hour away from what I knew would be a night of absolute insanity, there was no way I was missing out on seeing Datsik’s brand new Ninja Nation Tour. Once I saw that the tour flyer boasted a brand new Shinto-influenced stage design known as the Shogun stage and sound by PK sound system I immediately got myself down to Philly. FOMO was not going to happen tonight.
Upon arrival at Electric Factory, German DJ Virtual Riot kickstarted the night by slaughtering a sea of bassheads with his uniquely high BPM brostep. The Disciple Records prodigy shook the crowd with a multitude of a bangers including his “Nasty” collaboration with Datsik and a variety of other riddim-based tracks from his brand new dubstep trio, Chodegang.
Up next to command the decks was Montreal-based DJ and producer Apashe as the night’s special guest. Unfortunately I missed the majority of Apashe’s set as I had gone to interview Datsik during that time. Upon my arrival back to the crowd after finishing up the interview, nearly everyone was getting down to Apashe’s signature trap set. If there was only one moment for the twerkers to twerk, that moment was now, and twerk they did. The crowd vibe when Apashe was mixing was full of ecstatic trap fans moving to every beat and idle bassheads waiting for their incessant headbanging rituals signalled by their master Datsik to begin.
After Apashe’s time was up, not a minute was wasted. The young master Crizzly began the last set of the night before Datsik’s headlining performance. A deluge of LED-strung visual back panels and sporadically placed lights immediately came into play once Crizzly’s first track was spun. The crowd had immediately lit up to what would be a stellar hybrid trap-infused dubstep set. Attention to Crizzly’s performance had only been bolstered by his outright antics-driven MC that had just begun to hype up the eager bassheads. Crizzly’s MC repeatedly crowd surfed and did whatever it took to activate the utmost enthusiasm from the lot of restless Datsik fans in preparation for the remainder of the night. All of a sudden the MC out of nowhere took to the opposite side of the VIP railing to successfully hype up the crowd below.
After about 10 minutes of stage production set up by team Datsik for the night’s big reveal, the PK sound system had turned and at last the body vibrations had begun. Datsik’s Shogun production was truly unlike anything I have ever seen before. Upon reveal of the stage I became transfixed as if all of a sudden I had gone back in time to the Age of the Samurai. This is what all the OG Datsik fans had been waiting for all this time, even taking the Vortex into account, Datsik’s previous stage design. Now was the time that the bassheads let go of their extraneous garments and revealed their inner ninja.
Datsik as a real life Mortal Kombat character threw down a variety of heavy bassline bangers for a solid hour and half in front of a full on visually tantalizing Shinto shrine all night long. The master did not hold back in the slightest. He dropped everything from the grimy old school to array of his latest bangers from the Sensei EP. The bass-maestro did not shy away from experimenting with tracks such as Big Baby D.R.A.M’s smash hit “Broccoli” and a brand new edit to his song “Smoke Bomb” with Snoop Dogg. The Firepower Records don had perfectly trained his pack of ninjas in the arts of skirshming that night to be ready for any moment’s notice upon the sound of war. When tracks like Zomboy’s “Like a Bitch” and Excision & Space Laces “Throwin’ Elbows” had been let go into the airwaves the loyal squad of ninjas knew that it was the time to reveal unto everyone their latest and greatest ninja skills that they had been honing for years.
With a full on ninja outfit and an LED strung ninja helmet, the synergy between Datsik, the Shogun stage, and the crowd will have planted memories in the minds of warriors to be told by generations of fellow ninjas.Datsik will be playing a total of 47 events over the next 3 months all across the country with his brand new Shogun stage production and PK sound system. Alongside that, the young masters Crizzly and Virtual Riot will be joining Datsik for nearly every stop on the tour with special performances by Doctor P and Dubloadz at various locations. Purchase tickets here before they sell out: datsik.com/events.As mentioned before, I had the pleasure to sit down and talk with Datsik just before his second headlining show. We discussed everything ranging from his favorite producers, how he keeps all the OG Datsik fans happy, his smash hit “Smoke Bomb” with Snoop Dogg, what new-age rappers he would like to work with, the Ephwurd project, the state of the bass album, riddim, N64 competitions with Virtual Riot, his fascination with ninjas, and much more check out the full interview below.
Your Philadelphia show (this show) comes as the second stop on the Ninja Nation Tour. You will be visiting some 47 total events over the next 3 months all across the country. After touring, what do you think you can do to take the Datsik brand to the next level?
“I feel like every single tour is a representation of where Datsik is heading. I think the the whole ninja brand is fairly strong. There is this cool fanpage called the Datsik ninja squad on Facebook and it’s full of like minded people that are all really into the music and look out for each other. They all ninja around [Yes, Datsik here used ‘ninja’ as a verb] to every single show. I think that alone is the coolest thing ever. I want to bring more people into that because it’s truly like a family. It’s almost like a Bassnectar’s bassheads. If you run into another Bassnectar fan you’re instantly friends for life. So I think the fan pages that are popping up around artists are really cool. I spend the entire year designing a bunch of stuff for Datsik and the touring is the big payoff. That’s when I get to reveal what I have been working on all year.”
Join Datsik’s ninja squad.As a sensei (teacher) and boss of Firepower Records what 3 students (producers) have stood out to you in the past year?
“First of all, I would have to say two of my favorite producers would be Virtual Riot and Zack the Lad. Zack the Lad sent me over a 100 unreleased tunes that are insane. And thirdly my partner Bais Haus. He’s learned so much over the past year and some of the stuff he sends me nowadays is mental. So yea I think this year is going to be a big year for Ephwurd. We are writing a lot of weird pop hybrid type stuff. I actually really enjoy listening to it and I think other people will to. It’s a step in a weird direction but I think it’s cool because when I show people on the bus I’m like ‘yo you want to check out this Ephwurd pop stuff’ and they’re like uhh okay… and then I play it out and they’re like this is sick. So yea we are writing some really weird hybrid style stuff and I think it’s going to shine in 2017 some way or another.”
So you have been in the game of producing bass music for so many years and yet you still have an inherently unique sound to your music the “Datsik sound.” Has it become harder overtime to innovate with the rise of all these upcoming trap and dubstep producers?
“I think the rise of trap is actually a good thing. I think that it is important to have your own sound and to always be learning things when you’re working on music. The more that your learning when producing the better the track is going to sound. In terms of innovating I have never really looked at myself like that. I just do what I think is cool. When you see these trends come up like this speedy style of dubstep with crazy patterns and everything being more and more energetic. It’s almost like how far can that actually go? How much more can you do that hasn’t already been done? With Datsik music I just approach it from however I want to really produce. I find that tracks that I like the most are where I step the furthest outside my comfort zone. I think there has to be a balance between keeping all the OG Datsik fans happy mixed in with exploring new territories and doing things I have never really done before. Once you find that balance as an artist it’s a good place to be at because you’re learning a lot but at the same time your paying homage to the old school fans. That being said whenever I put together an EP I basically would rework a track I put together a year or two ago. So every single EP has an old track on it and that is kind of how I find the balance. I will basically finish up an old song that I haven’t finished yet. For example, Fly Low (feat. Lox Chatterbox) I started when I wrote the Darkstar EP. So that’s how I always try and tie in the old with the new. Sensei was actually supposed to come out with 4 tracks originally but 2 weeks before the EP was due I was like this isn’t enough. So in 2 weeks I banged out 3 new tracks and the track “Sensei” was actually the last track that I finished. I sent the EP around to a couple of people and I was like what do you think I should call the EP? And they were like dude you have to call it the Sensei EP!”
During the creative process what would you say are the hardest barriers to overcome and how do you go about doing this?
“When you hear other artists that are doing really well and they have their own sound, not copying them and not imitating them. It is more important to take inspiration as opposed to trying to sound like that artist. As soon as you try and copy another artist or you think you can make what that artist is making and end up just as popular, it doesn’t work that way. If that artist has their own sound and is doing their own thing, they should be respected. There is two sides to this, imitation is the greatest form of flattery however as a new and upcoming artist I think it’s important for you to find your own sound and whether it’s amazing or not doesn’t matter because it’s you and if all you are is basically another copy of another artist you’re always going to be second best. You’re never going to shine through as number 1.”
As a bass hip-hop producer you worked with Snoop Dogg for the party-oriented crossover hit “Smoke Bomb.” With around 5.5 million streams on Spotify as of right now there’s no doubt it’s doing really well. Do you see yourself working with more rappers in the future?
“I would love to work with more rappers! I have always been really into hip-hop. It’s kind of tough because sometimes when you present this really weird music concept to some of these hip-hop guys they’re like “well I don’t know… this is like so weird.” But now it seems like there has been more of a crossover. Being able to work with Snoop Dogg was crazy. He’s probably my favorite rapper of all time. I actually sent the track to Snoop’s team and I was basically at Burning Man. We weren’t sure if they were going to hit it or not and they did. I heard it a Burning Man and I was wilding out. I was like yo wtf I can’t believe this is happening right now. So having the opportunity to work with Snoop and go full in on an original piece of work was amazing.”
If you had to work with a current hip-hop artist that has come up within the past 3 years who would it be?
“I would say Kevin Gates. The reason why I like Kevin Gates is because he doesn’t just stick to what’s safe. He sings and gets melodic with his stuff and I think that is something that has been lacking. It’s so easy to have a track on one note and some 808’s and just murmur “mumumumum” but Kevin Gates is all over the place and I think that it’s really cool. He is really interesting because he experiments and explores the different ranges so I think he would be cool to collaborate with.”
This is your 8th bus tour. How has the touring life taken a toll on you and what are some necessary steps that you take to maintain your well being while on the road?
“Tour life consists of a lot of partying and I think it’s all about finding a balance between partying, having fun and making sure everyone is safe. Making sure everyone is having a good time on the bus and making sure everyone has water and having a sober driver of course. It’s very easy to get caught up in it as an artist. Being in a different city every night and meeting all these different random people each night it’s very easy to get caught up with that. So what I’ve done personally is taken upon all these really geeky things like Magic Cards, N64, Xbox, and PlayStation. We all play Smash Bros or play Magic Cards and do things like that. Since there is such intensity with all the shows and all the fans it’s always really important to try and ground yourself before getting swept up in it. When you’re playing 15 shows in a row every night and drinking and having fun with all these people it’s very easy to get absorbed into that type of lifestyle but it’s not actually real life… it’s tour life. Tour life is not real life so it’s one of those things where you have to focus on what’s important to you and what makes you happy. Since there’s such an excursion of energy and excitement you need to balance it with some really geeky stuff. You need to try and ground yourself while touring and bring some of those at home vibes on the road. That being said touring is really fun and I love meeting all the people that come out on tour.”
You produce bass music under Datsik and house music under Ephwurd with your former tour manager Bais Haus. Since you’re on tour right now as Datsik, is there a break with the Ephwurd project or are you still full on producing Ephwurd music while on tour?
“Yea it’s the only way we have enough time to do everything by doing it all, all the time. So with Ephwurd we are writing music all the time basically at every show. We have our monitors in the green room and whatever else. We are actually taking a really unique step with it where we are creating this really unique house-y pop music but with a dark hybrid twist on it and so far it’s been really cool. The people that we have shown the music to have been really stoked on it. I’m always asking for honest opinions and so far the responses have been really dope. I’ve been like yo you wanna hear some pop music and there like ehh I don’t know. Then I’ll play it and they’re like yo this is dope. So we always have to stay busy while on tour.”
Talk to me about the collaborations you have with The Chainsmokers, DVBBS or Oliver Heldens. Are they still in the works and when will they see the light of day?
“Well we had something. We went to New York and we chilled with The Chainsmokers and were in the studio with them for a super long session. We banged out a couple ideas but they have taken this insane path lately and are like one of the biggest in the world now right now. They are massive now and doing absolutely amazing things. The beauty why The Chainsmokers are so successful is that even though all the shit has changed in their life they still are really cool dudes. Whenever I text Drew or Alex they always respond right away. The only people we send music to for the Ephwurd project is The Chainsmokers. They’re really good at helping us and picking apart our music. They know it’s already dope but they are like yo it could be better, you should do this and this. I think it’s cool because getting feedback like that is invaluable and so hard to come by without someone thinking you’re hurting their feelings type of thing but as an artist that’s what you want. Bais Haus and I added up the other day randomly they have like over 3 billion plays on Spotify alone so obviously they’re doing something right. I’m very appreciative of them and their feedback and who they are as people. They are really genuinely good dudes.”
So you released 2 EPs in 2016 rather than an album. How can bass musicians like yourself elevate the bass-oriented album? It seems like most bass acts just put out EP’s and singles rather than albums. Is there a better way to convey a story in bass music through long form albums or do you think the scene will mainly rely on singles and EP’s to build up artists’ careers?
“I feel like singles put more attention on each track that’s released. Albums in my opinion are meant to express all the different types of emotions that an artist can portray. When you’re writing an album it can’t just be one style. I feel like it has to encapsulate the entirety of an artist’s musical expression. So when you’re trying to get music out and you’re trying to make bangers, EP’s are the way to go. The scene also moves so quickly now. If you’re spending so much time on an album now everything could sound old once your done. I mean if you have a story that you’re trying to tell that’s when an album comes into play because you have this idea you want to project. If you’re an original enough artist it’s one of those things where you’re going to explore whatever you want. If you’re completely original the timing doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter if you’re releasing a good enough album with a bunch of original good music. Also with albums I feel like it should be timeless music. Whereas singles you’re just trying capitalize on what’s hot and top the charts.”
About the ninja thing how did you get into that?
“Damn, I’ve been into ninjas since day 1. Fresh out the womb I was a ninja.”
You mention how there is a mainstream and underground scene within bass music and better yet music overall. Do you think riddim will ever rise to the forefront of dance music again?
“Being in the scene for a long time and seeing genres come and go I will say this, riddim is dubstep. Riddim is what dubstep started as. Whatever it’s transformed into is still dubstep. Riddim is what the dudes like Skream, Benga, Caspa & Rusko were making a long time ago where it was just like two bar loops repeated that is riddim but that is also dubstep. Taking simple ideas and taking it to the next level is awesome. Virtual Riot is really good at doing that kind of stuff same with Dubloadz and Barely Alive that make up Chodegang. Those guys are all our brothers, were all good friends, we hang out all the time. It’s cool you know right now Virtual Riot is on tour with me. Dubloadz is coming in for a couple dates. Barely Alive is on tour with Jeff (Excision) we are all boys. The Disciple gang and Firepower are like brothers. But yea I think riddim is awesome because it’s bringing back the simplicity into dubstep versus going over the top with Skrillex noises.”
When you’re not working on music or touring what do you do in your free time?
“It’s a very limited amount of free time but I spend most of my time hanging out with Bais Haus eating sushi. It’s funny, now that we have this group Ephwurd, we basically have this Ephwurd card that we just use sometimes for $500 sushi dinners. We do it so that we can have freedom right, that’s the best part about DJing. You make money to have the freedom to make more music. I think that’s a huge thing to have the freedom and time to write the music you want to write. If you don’t have that you’re kind of screwed. If you have a day job and have a terrible day and be like oh I need to write this track. It’s not the best environment to get deep into it and produce something that you genuinely love. At the end of the day having the freedom for your own scheduling and all that really helps the creative process.”
Talking about free time who is winning the N64 competitions?
“Haha, Virtual Riot and I are actually tied. I have blisters on my thumb from playing N64. We played 3 matches last night. Valentin won the first one. I won the second two with Bais Haus involved. Then me and Valentin went 1 on 1 and he was up on me by one life and the power to the bus shut off and we were like oh noooo. But just because Virtual Riot is geekier than I does not mean he is better than me. The thing is he only uses Kirby and I can use everyone. Kirby is the most newb character. I use Samus and Link. I’m good with everyone but he only uses 1 guy.”
What stop whether it be because of venue, promoters or location are you most excited for on the tour?
“I’m happy to be in Philly, last night in Detroit was awesome! Denver we have my first ever arena show so I’m really excited for that. So calling all bass heads calling all ninjas come join the ninja group let’s get crazy.”
Craziest thing that’s ever happened on tour?
“I would love to tell you but then I would have to do my ninja work on you. Many crazy things have happened on tour but I don’t think anyone in my corner would like it if I talked about it.”
If you couldn’t produce bass music under Datsik and house music under Ephwurd what other genre would you resort to?
“We are trying to get into straight up pop music but at the end of the day it’s funny what’s considered pop music. A lot of people think there is a certain formula and there’s elements of that but I think at the end of the day it’s really all about standing out, being quirky with your sound design and doing something unique.”
Last question, do you have any message to the fans that are possibly thinking of coming out to see you on the Ninja Nation Tour?
“Totally, the Ninja Nation Tour is all about spreading the love and hanging out with your fellow ninjas. On top of that I’m becoming the Mortal Kombat character that I’ve always wanted to be. You should come check out the Shogun stage because it’s absolutely bonkers. On top of that we roll super deep with PK sound and I feel like it’s the best in the game. When you come to these shows expect quality because we will deliver it!”Stay in touch with Datsik while he’s on tour by following him on all his various social media platforms below.