In 2007 Radiohead made headlines by offering a download of its then-new album “In Rainbows” for free — or any amount a fan wanted to pay for it.
Electronic artist Datsik identifies with Radiohead’s thinking. He’s giving away his latest CD, “Let It Burn,” through his website with no strings attached. To Datsik, the economics of today’s music business, in which illegal downloading has gutted album sales, has made albums more of a promotional tool than a source of revenue.
“I’d rather just give it out, and because I feel it’s my best work, I think it’s important that more people hear it,” Datsik said in a recent phone interview. “So I’m basically offering it up for free and saying if they give me a tweet or whatever, that’s great, and just basically trying to get it out there. I’m not really too concerned about selling the album all that much, as long as people have it and come to the shows. I think that’s kind of the future of where music is headed. It’s kind of like charging people for water. It should be given out for free and shared among friends and enjoyed. If you really like the artist, then go to the shows. That’s kind of the philosophy I took on this release.”
Clearly in the world of Datsik, one of electronic music’s best known names, the priority is on touring. And after touring behind “Let It Burn” last fall into winter, Datsik is back on the road for some summer shows.
He’s bringing a big show, featuring the latest edition of his Vortex stage set.
“We’ve amped it up,” Datsik said. “Basically there’s a whole Vortex concept behind it. (It’s like) if you picture a funnel, but tilted toward the crowd with the big end facing the crowd, and we have a projector in the front projecting images all around and beside me. Then we have a projector behind the Vortex that’s shining through a thin piece of lycra, which is like this see-through white material, so it looks seamless. It looks like I’m standing in this tunnel of light, and the light is actually hitting me because of the way we designed it. So it’s really trippy. It’s a really interesting experience.”
Aside from his own records and tours, Datsik has also been busy building his label, Firepower Records. Since being founded in January 2012, the label has grown rapidly, and Datsik feels it’s now a force in bringing electronic music (with an emphasis on dubstep) to the public.
Datsik (real name Troy Beetles) has good reason to feel pretty special about his own career, too. A native of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, he debuted in 2009, and before the year was over, he had notched several number one tracks on Beatport, the leading online electronic music store.
He continued to build his catalog of singles and remixes from there before releasing his first full-length album, “Vitamin D,” in April 2012 on Dim Mak Records, the label owned by fellow electronic star Steve Aoki. An EP, “Cold Blooded,” followed in January 2013 on Firepower. Initially “Let It Burn” was meant to be the second in a series of EPs that started with “Cold Blooded.”
“This was supposed to be part two, also with seven tracks,” Datsik said. “But when I was finishing it up, there were gaps that I felt needed to be kind of filled, and I had all of these other tracks laying around. So I went on this crunch of trying to finish all of these tracks. In doing so, they kind of seemed to all fit together. So that’s kind of why it turned into an LP (with 10 tracks) instead of an EP.”
From the outset of his career, Datsik has been known for dubstep, which has become the most popular style of electronic dance music. And “Let It Burn” features many of the trademarks Datsik has brought to his music. Tracks like “Scum,” “Athena” and the title song are populated by typically icy synthesizers, dark atmospherics and danceable rhythms. But “Let It Burn” is far from a one-dimensional package. Datsik also throws a little reggae into “East Side Swing,” adds some hip-hop to the lilting “Glock Burst,” puts a disco pulse to “Buckshot” and slows things way down on “Hold It Down,” a song with a prominent vocal part.
The variety of “Let It Burn” reflects Datsik’s ambitions to avoid getting stuck in the dubstep box.
“As much as people know I make a lot of dubstep, I also kind of lean toward the hip-hop kind of stuff,” said Datsik, who counts Wu-Tang Clan members RZA and Method Man among his influences. “I’m trying to turn myself into, instead of just being a dubstep artist, I want to be just an artist. I want to make it so that when people come see me, they’re not seeing a dubstep show. They’re coming and seeing a Datsik show. With that comes a whole bunch of different styles of music. I think that’s really important to me at this point. I’m trying to branch out.”