Walking into Canadian dubstep producer Datsik’s dressing room at Concord Music Hall in Chicago, I am overwhelmed with how laid-back and tight-knit the Ninja Nation Tour crew is. Mitch, the artist liaison, or “glorified babysitter” as he likes to put it, orders a veggie platter for after the show and cracks jokes with a sound engineer. Videographer, Winter Halter, jokingly asks me for a shout out as he flips through pictures on his camera. Meanwhile opening act, Valentin Brunn, better known by his stage name Virtual Riot, lounges on a couch after just getting out of the shower. He casually sips a mixed drink Mitch made him as he explains to me his embarrassment over his German accent.
When Troy Beetles, aka Datsik, walks into the room after getting sushi for dinner with his girlfriend and Bais Haus, a fellow musician, the mood doesn’t seem to change at all. Rather, I discovered that Beetles is more than just the heavy, chest-resonating dubstep he produces or the man behind the successful label, Firepower Records, but instead a guy with an easygoing sense of humor who simply loves sushi and bus nachos, or bachos as he calls them.
Beetles’s career as Datsik started in 2012 with the release of his first album “Vitamin D.” Fast forward five years, and the artist is not only head of his own record label but also on his eighth bus tour following the release of his latest album “Sensei.” However, his history with music is much more complex than what his five-year track record reveals. Music has always been an influential and driving force in his life. For his seventh birthday, his father gifted him a complex, high-end sound system and told him if he could set it up by himself before the day’s end it was his.
“That was probably the best gift I ever got, besides support from my mom,” Beetles said. “I started stealing my brother’s CDs, like old-school Wu-Tang, Dr. Dre, Snoop, and all of that West Coast stuff. I would play the CDs super loud on the sound system, and that’s what led me to become more interested in music.”
That West Coast influence can still be heard in between sets at his show. While most musicians may choose more modern day tracks to keep the crowd’s musical hunger satiated, Beetles opted to play the artists from his childhood.
As for how he has stayed true to his sound over the past five years, Beetles revealed it’s all about balancing the new with the old.
“By following a trend, you’re not going to be a trendsetter; you’re going to be second best,” Beetles explained. “I think it’s important to always craft your own sound and choose your own path. It doesn’t really matter where you end up as long as it’s your own.”
Even though Beetles has stuck to his roots during his career, he has still evolved as an artist. He cited mix-downs when discussing how his production process has changed over the years. When looking at new artist submissions and demos for Firepower, the first thing he listens for is a high-quality mix-down.
“You could possibly have the most complicated track ever, but if it has a shitty mix-down it’s not going to get played,” Beetles said, “I find that the really small things you pay attention to in the production process translate into something way bigger when you play it on massive sound systems.”
Asked about his biggest musical influences, Beetles surprisingly points to younger up-and-coming producers as opposed to seasoned veterans. Specifically, he praised Virtual Riot.
“He’s an amazing sound designer with wicked mix-downs and original sound ideas,” Beetles said as Brunn sat on a nearby couch. “I think those three things equal a great producer.”
Looking towards the rest of 2017, Beetles plans on expanding Firepower Records as well as Datsik. The record label has tightened up their release schedule and is keeping a close eye on some blossoming artists, including Chicago native 12th Hour and UK resident Chris Jarvis.
“As far as Datsik goes, I’m going to be doing a bunch of festivals this year,” Beetles said, “On top of that I am going to be working on Ephwurd which is my alter alias brand with my buddy Bais Haus. We’ll just be traveling around, doing our thing, smashing sushi in every city.”
Meanwhile, the musician will continue to embark upon his Ninja Nation bus tour, which is playing 45 plus shows over the course of three months. Inspired by ninja culture, Beetles worked to combine compelling visuals with full PK sound. His live set includes remixes of classic old-school jams such as Pump It by the Black Eyed Peas contrasted against unique mash ups like D.R.A.M.’s Broccoli combined with Jack Ü’s Febreze. By incorporating crowd favorites with his head-banging signature sound, Datsik puts on a refreshing and enticing live show you won’t want to miss. Check out if he'll be stopping in a city near you here and listen to “Sensei” below: