Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based DJ Cray is a one-woman show, or so she told me when I interviewed her at a music festival in Atlanta—just us, no publicist, no manager. That’s very rare in the music world from what I’ve encountered, but it fits right in with Cray’s laid-back, completely unpretentious vibe. “I’m kind of get in, get out,” she explains. “I’m pretty independent. I’m a one-woman show!”
Speaking of, being a woman in show business was a huge topic of conversation. I didn’t mince any words; I just jumped straight into it and asked how she dealt with working in a historically sexist industry. “I think there’s a ton of judgment against women,” she admits. When they see a woman in music, people question, “if she’s doing what she is doing for real, if she’s too pretty,” and on and on. (Not that it matters, but Cray is gorgeous and looks like an e-girl-meets-Instagram model.) I express incredulity that people would actually count attractiveness against a woman (because who among us has not been called an ugly bitch who isn’t talented by our haters). Then again, how could I ever underestimate the hypocrisy of men? Cray assures me that, yes, it happens. “I get a lot of like, you’re too pretty to make music,” she confesses. But she questions, “Like, if I was ugly, would it be chill?”
She continues, “You would never tell a man, ‘oh you’re too hot to be doing what you’re doing’… but I’m being told those comments.” And while it seems like a no-brainer to say, it’s apparently not: she asserts, “I’d rather you look at my talent and not my face.” But think about it: has anybody ever said Justin Bieber was too attractive to sing? Or, if you think that’s a more objective skill than being able to produce music and DJ: have you ever taken a look at Calvin Harris, or Martin Garrix, and thought they were unqualified? I’ll wait. “If someone’s making art, and giving art to you, it’s a pretty vulnerable thing,” she asserts. “So just respect their art. If you don’t like it, don’t listen—you don’t need to make mean comments or judgmental things like that.”
But the music industry isn’t the only space where Cray is on the receiving end of sexist comments and doubt. She’s also a big gamer with over 40,000 followers and 500,000 streams on Twitch. Anyone who paid attention to #gamergate in 2014 knows the gaming world as a whole is not exactly welcoming to women (understatement of the decade). I pose this question to Cray, and she seems like she’s thought about this a lot. “So I’m basically in the middle of two industries that have issues with equality of women,” she says without missing a beat. While she admits, “music and gaming are very different,” she finds, “the issues they have are the same.” She again cites the skepticism she has encountered that women are gaming “for the right reasons” (right, because women only pursue hobbies for the approval of men) and, again, the doubts about her sincerity and skill because of her looks. And yet I hate to think of the types of vitriol Cray might get if she weren’t conventionally beautiful. It’s a lose-lose.
It wasn’t always this way—getting metaphorically beaten down for being too pretty. “In high school I was so insecure, and thought I was so ugly all the time,” she admits. You’d never know it by looking at her Instagram, where practically every photo she posts is envy-inducing. It looks effortless, but the reality? Far from it. After being frustrated and insecure in high school, she says, “I took a selfie, every frickin’ day for literally ever.” At some point, she recalls, you just start figuring out your angles. “So now,” when she poses, she says, “it’s like clockwork.”
But taking good pictures on Instagram can blur the line of reality, and even though Cray plays into this to an extent, she also acknowledges the danger. “What happens when you see someone in real life?” she asks rhetorically. “The more we edit and the more we try to post those unrealistic expectations, the sh*ttier we feel inside.” She admits, “I see some photos and I’m like, ‘oh my god why can’t I have that body?’ And I go to the gym and I’m like, can I have this body? And like, ‘that’s not f*cking real’. So it’s unrealistic and makes you feel like sh*t.”
And she insists that the camera-ready version you see of her on Instagram is not her reality. “I have so many days like that where I’m like, I can’t even fake it,” she confesses. On those days, it can be hard to show your face to over 190,000 followers, but she does it even if it’s uncomfortable. “I make sure to show people me with no makeup, no editing,” she assures me. “I want to make sure that young women who follow me don’t see it as an unrealistic beauty expectation. I want people to realize we all have insecurities. I want people to understand that even the most beautiful people have insecurities, it’s just something we live with as people.”
So even though she’s still being discredited because of her looks, and even though the music industry is far from equal, Cray admits there are “strides being taken.” She recalls, “I started in this industry 5 years ago when I couldn’t even tell you how many women were on the lineup—maybe two or three—so now the fact that we have more is great, but still have a long way to go.” On the one hand, she acknowledges that “women treated equally is hard in a male-dominated industry, and it’s hard to change something that’s always been the same, it’s kind of hard to go against the grain.” But she does give props to a number of women in the industry who are uplifting each other, like Anna Lunoe, Whipped Cream, and Kitten. “All these women are just fucking killing it, and we all respect each other, and I wish that respect was everywhere,” she says wistfully.
Obviously, the problems facing women in the music industry were not created by women, though, and it’s not solely on their shoulders to fix it. It’s on everybody. When I ask what we can all do to make the music industry better for female artists, she rattles off a laundry list of solutions: “Just honestly more men becoming allies, more fans understanding equality on how to treat women in the industry, more agents and managers picking up female clients, more people just honestly researching too.” To that last point, she elaborates, “there are so many women out there making such amazing music, and if you just take the time to check it out, it’s out there.”
Being modest, she doesn’t explicitly include herself in that list, but she should not be counted out. This October, she dropped her newest EP, seasons change and so do i, via Ultra Records. “The debut single, “idontwannatalkaboutlove,” has a total dark-pop vibe and exudes themes of female empowerment and authenticity. “This EP is my heart on my sleeve,” she admits. “It’s honest and real and I just want to connect with people.” And even though she admits that the EP is very vulnerable and there’s apprehension in that, she says ultimately, “I’m excited to show that side of me to the world, and finally put it live for everyone to see.” Because with her music, as with her Instagram, interviews, etc., she wants to get across to people that, “we all go through changes and heartbreaks. You aren’t alone.”
Images: Ashley Osborn
Galantis is probably one of those names you’re seeing everywhere nowadays. Between 150 live shows a year, numerous festival appearances, and two new hits, to say they have a lot going on is an understatement. Thankfully, they made the time to sit down with us at Shaky Beats festival in Atlanta over the weekend to talk about what it’s like touring together, how the duo Galantis formed, and a few of their new songs. Check out the interview below.
What did you guys do yesterday?
Show, at Syracuse.
What did you think?
It was a good show! Really good energy.
How are college crowds versus music festival crowds?
I didn’t know it was going to be such a great crowd. We actually talked about that, we should do it more. 100% of the crowd went haywire. They were happy we were there.
So you guys tour together a lot.
150 shows a year.
How do you keep up the energy to do that many shows?
It’s like, you press a button, you know, you’ve got to reset. And then you have to be as off as you can between the shows, but once you go onstage it’s like a switch in your head, and it just goes.
What was the moment that you were like, ‘I’m going to link up with this guy and we’re going to make music, and we’re going to do this?’
I actually know where I was in Stockholm when I called you that time. It was Old Town. Just so you know… I remember I was walking from a lunch or something and I had the idea. I started to think of names for the band before I actually joined.
What were some of the other names?
Well, we had some of the worst names ever. I’m not gonna say them, but it took a very long time to find the right name, actually. And when we found it, someone else gave it to us.
What is the significance of it to you?
The name now? I don’t know. Then it was the perfect mirror for the music we did, but now it’s life, you know? And now we figure it’s too late to change it.
You recently came out with “Emoji”. What was the idea behind the song?
I think a lot of people didn’t realize that there are a lot of deep, serious thoughts behind it, and thought it was kind of lightweight but it’s not. It’s kind of like, sad in one way, that you do start to only communicate through emojis, but also something beautiful with it, depends on what it is. Like, we’re away from family all the time, and you don’t even have words anymore sometimes, you just send a heart, you know, and that’s useful. I think we all know those words, but you sending that emoji means something either way.
And that kind of started the thought, how something simple like an emoji can change how people have a conversation. Because putting an emoji, words, it’s not the same thing. It actually added to the way you can communicate. So that’s where it came from, the idea.
Do you guys have a favorite emoji?
I like the crying laughing one.
That’s very good actually! You can’t put that into words either!
How did your new song “Bones” with One Republic happen?
It’s kind of a long and wacky story. There was like a seed of this original that came across us, and then we wanted to work on it, and then it was already taken by OneRepublic. And I kinda knew Ryan Tedder from the past, so I found out where he lives and I went to his place. And said, “you don’t have the correct idea, I have it.” No, I didn’t say that, but I did say I think we can do an amazing version together, how about that. And I think he liked the way we came really strong, and said that we could take this song somewhere great for both. And I think, yeah, it was such an easy quick thing after that. We were thinking the same thing about the song, and they already started a lot of cool stuff on it, so we took it from there and made it what it is today. But I think they’re great, I think Ryan Tedder is one of the best songwriters, I think his vocals are amazing, unbelievable.
So, what do you guys have in the works music-wise? You just released a new song, are we getting a new album?
We got a lot of music really close to coming out. It’s kind of a race which one will come out first.
Images: Jimmy Fontaine
If you know me, you know that there are a few things I like in this world above all else: contemporary R&B, cheese, and partying. One of my favorite pastimes lately is day drinking. Does that sound concerning when I type it out? Yes, moderately. Cool, charging onward. I also love going to music festivals—I typically go to three or more a year. I know, I’m insane. How do I do it? No idea. I think it’s a lethal combo of loving live music and hating myself, in order to willingly spend my money and PTO days getting f*cked up in a field, standing so close to speakers that the bass makes my insides vibrate. Hey, everybody’s got their idea of a good time.
So I was surprised as anyone to find myself, at 10pm on Friday night at Shaky Beats festival in Atlanta, as Rüfüs Du Sol closed out day one, dead-ass sober.
*Record scratch* Yeah, that’s me. I bet you’re wondering how I found myself in this position. I’m about to tell you.
I guess, in order to really get the full picture, I have to back up a bit. The year was 2018. The weekend was Labor Day. The festival was Electric Zoo, one of my favorite festivals that I have been going to for the past three or four years. (I have lost count at this point.) Every year, I tell myself that I’m not going to do too many interviews and I’m just going to enjoy the festival, and every year, all three days, I get sucked into doing an interview at like, 7pm, which is prime festival time. Seriously, all the best acts start playing right at 7pm! Don’t get me wrong, doing interviews is great; I get to meet and talk to artists like Alesso, Alan Walker, and Troyboi. But it also takes what should be a fun and relatively relaxing experience (going to a festival and writing about it after the fact) and makes it stressful: coordinating interviews, plus making it to the acts I want to see, plus simply giving myself enough time to maneuver through the crowds and make it to my interview slot in time.
And when you factor drinking into all of that, what should be a simple activity gains so many moving parts that it becomes like solving the Da Vinci code. Because I can’t be drunk during my interview, but ideally I’d like to be a little lubricated so I’m not super self-conscious and awkward, but I can’t pregame too hard, but drinks at the festival are absurdly expensive, and you can’t pay for anything in cash, because the festival is cashless, so now I gotta make sure I have enough money on my wristband for a drink, and if I don’t have enough I need to go to another kiosk to add money to my wristband, and…
You see what I mean? After everything was said and done, of course I had a great time at the festival, but I spent so much time running around, getting to my interviews, figuring out if I was too sober or too drunk, waiting on line to get a drink, etc. etc. etc-f*cking cetera, that I forgot to actually appreciate the fact that I was at Ezoo. It’s funny, many people will regret how much they drank during the weekend (which I have done in the past and will likely continue to do in life, don’t get me wrong), but after that weekend, I regretted how much mental energy I spent worrying about how much I was drinking and when I’d have another drink and from where I would procure said drink. To this day, I feel dumb and a little ashamed about it.
So when I found myself back at Shaky Beats, another one of my favorite festivals, in Atlanta this year, I didn’t want that sh*t to happen again. I’ve become a little tired of drinking in general—the taste of most types of alcohol, the way beer makes my nose stuffy (which I suspect is some sort of allergy or intolerance but I’m too afraid of the consequences to get it checked out by a doctor), the way it zaps me of all productivity and energy the next day.
I didn’t set out to be sober the first day of the festival, but found myself that way half on purpose, half by accident. I didn’t pregame, which was by design. Drinking plus Atlanta heat equals total exhaustion, so I didn’t want to drink until the sun went down anyway. Second of all, I told myself going into Shaky Beats that I was going to have a good time, and not worry about getting drunk or anything. I just took a “if it happens, it happens” type of approach towards drinking at the festival (one I should take to my love life as well, instead of this death grip I currently have on trying to control every interaction I have with a member of the opposite sex, but that’s neither here nor there), rather than a “I will be bored if I don’t have a consistent buzz the entire time” approach.
And you know what? At around 8pm, I still hadn’t had a drink, and I really wasn’t missing anything. I was, seriously, totally sober (not even uppers or weed!), and having a great time. Not to mention, I was 100% alert. And, like, why wouldn’t I be having a great time? I genuinely enjoy the music (it’s the whole reason I was at the festival), and could say I saw some of my favorite acts, like Big Gigantic, What So Not, and San Holo—and remembered their entire set. At that point, since the festival ended at 10:30pm (my only gripe with it, tbh), I just didn’t see the point in drinking. Sure, I could have a $11 beer or whatever, but what would it do for me that I wasn’t already currently experiencing? Nothing.
Contrast that to the next day, when I did decide to have a couple of drinks. Why? I don’t know; I felt like it. And honestly? I just felt kind of off. Once the sun went down, I was like, two Mike’s Harders deep and just overall in a weird mood. I can’t describe it. It was maybe a mix of the alcohol and the knowledge that the festival was ending soon and I’d have to get on a plane the next day and go back to work that just had me feeling a little bummed out, in a way I couldn’t put a finger on. Yeah, I still had a great time—I saw Party Favor, hands down my favorite act of the weekend; discovered Clozee, a French DJ who is getting added to my pregame playlist immediately; and got showered by glow sticks and confetti during Martin Garrix’s headlining set—but I left the festival feeling kind of dampened. Drinking wasn’t even really worth it.
Am I going to be sober forever? Probably not—recently, I was on day eight of a ten-day course of antibiotics and itching for a glass of wine at the end of a long day. But, as f*cking dumb and cliche as it sounds, I know for a fact now that I don’t need alcohol to have a good time. Does it help sometimes? Yes, especially if I’m forced into a situation I don’t like (see: birthday parties where I only know the birthday girl or boy). But at a place like Shaky Beats, when I’m with people I like, doing something I genuinely enjoy anyway? Except for the vague sense of ennui, it didn’t add anything to the experience, and knowing that for the future feels kind of empowering.
Images: Katrina Barber
Having withdrawal from Coachella? Want to go to a festival you can actually afford? Same on both accounts. Live music is an expensive habit, and a lot of festivals don’t come cheap. The solution? Instead of going to a big-name festival where tickets will cost you a month’s rent in a Southern U.S. city, set your sights on a lesser-known one. These underground festivals will often pull some big names, and plenty of newcomers just waiting to be discovered. That’s the best part of a festival anyway, right? Discovering new artists because you just happen to walk by their set? That’s how I discovered Flosstradamus, one fateful Bonnaroo night. Anyway, this isn’t about me; it’s about you. Sort of. Check out these underground festivals this summer. For the purposes of this article, I am mostly classifying an underground festival as a newer one, since you probably haven’t heard of something if it’s new. Not so much that they are highlighting underground music, because I don’t know anything about underground music, unless we’re talking about alt. R&B artists I found on Spotify and Soundcloud. Let’s begin!
Shaky Beats Music Festival
Set in Central Park, Atlanta, Georgia (yes, that is a real park, and no, they do not mean Centennial Park), this two-day dance music festival boasts headliners Rüfüs Du Sol and Martin Garrix. Other performers include Big Gigantic and San Holo, plus tons of other names you’ll want to see. While not super duper underground, Shaky Beats is still relatively unknown since it’s only in its third year. That means you can actually see the performers you want. Having been, this is a fun, small, manageable festival where you can’t really lose your friends since the grounds are not that big and you will have service (hallelujah!). Plus, since it’s not on an island, you’re not going to get stranded with no shuttle service (unlike a certain other EDM fest). And if you want to keep partying once the festival is over, there are a few late-night show options. With tickets at $139 for two days, it’s very affordable, considering that is less money per day than I paid for one Khalid show at MSG.
Elements Music & Arts Festival
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Today is Earth Day. Earth is one of our five Elements. It’s more than a stage, it’s a testament to our deep love for this planet. At #ElementsFestival, we try our very best to support Mother Earth and everything she provides for us. This year, we are bringing back artists who create in symbiosis with nature, and will be (safely and consciously) building one of our stages around a tree. From picking up trash, to providing plastic-free options onsite, we think #EarthDay is every day. What can you do today to help the planet? ? @olga.klimova.art
If you’ve got eclectic taste in electronic music, you’ll want to check out Elements Music & Arts Festival. Now in its third year, this camping festival in Lakewood, PA has headliners including Disclosure, Big Gigantic, and Sofi Tukker, but the rest of the names are not the types of artists you’re hearing on the radio. Or at least, I’m not. And I thought I was hip! There will be art installations and programming from sex-positive NY-based venue House of Yes. It takes place over Memorial Day weekend, meaning you don’t even have to take a day off work to enjoy this festival. Tickets start at $249 for a three-day pass, which is still way less than renting a house in the Hamptons.
Capitol Hill Block Party
So apparently Capitol Hill Block Party has been around since 1997, but this is the first I’m hearing about it. Then again, I don’t live in Seattle, so what do you expect? Did I totally miss the mark with this pick? Tell me in the comments! Anyway. Taking place from Friday, July 19 through Sunday, July 21, Capitol Hill Block Party has artists from a variety of genres. Headliners are RL Grime, Lizzo, and Phantograms. Other performers include Snakehips, Aminé, Denzel Curry, and others. Sure, the lineup is lighter on indie rock bands and singer-songwriters than Sasquatch!, but since it’s not returning in 2019, what else do you have to do? Tickets start at $160 for a 3-day ticket, which in the festival world, is basically free.
Under The Big Sky Music & Arts Festival
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Let’s ride ? . Kick up those heels this Summer with @nathanielrateliff & The Night Sweats, @bandofhorses, @dwightyoakam, @CodyJinks, @Jennydianelewis, @ElleKing, @JamestownRevival + a hell of a lot more! . Walk the ranch to explore local beers, eats and arts set under the big sky with the sounds of some of the finest Americana, Country, Indie Rock & beyond. . Tickets on sale Tuesday, February 19th at 12 PM MT (Ya’ll don’t forget to set an alarm ⏰) . All Ages // July 13+14 // Local Craft Beer // Arts // Rodeo // Trail Rides // Petting Zoo // #underthebigskyfest
Judging by the bare bones website, lack of pre-2019 Facebook profile picture, and two single Instagram posts to date, I’m guessing this is the inaugural Under The Sky Music & Arts Festival. The Americana, folk, and alt-country fest is taking place at Big Mtn Ranch in Whitefish Montana, which is precisely the setting I would picture for this genre of music festival. Even though this festival is flying under the radar, they’ve booked big name acts like Jenny Lewis, ZZ Ward, Band of Horses, and Nathan Rateliff & The Night Sweats. (Incidentally, The Night Sweats is also what I call my backing band.) Two-day tickets start at $119.
The Greatest Day Ever! Music Festival And Carnival
I attended Greatest Day Ever a few years ago, back when it was on Governors Island in one small tent with MetroBoomin and DJ 4B. It’s come a long way in the six short years since its inception and now boasts performers like Pusha-T, Carnage, and Zeds Dead. While they’ve tried out a few locations, this year the festival and carnival is happening at Ford Amphitheater on Coney Island. There will be carnival rides, meaning you can get that ferris wheel pic, and actually go on the ferris wheel, unlike some other festivals. This one-day-only event (hence the name) will be on July 13, with tickets starting at $65. Again, given I paid way more than that to see one artist, that’s not a bad price.
The Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash
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In 2018, Chicago’s Lyrical Lemonade and Spkrbx Presents joined forces to put on a one-day festival in Douglas Park. Back for its second year, the festival has expanded to two days, bringing performers such as Playboi Carti, Lil Yachty, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and Cam’ron. And that’s just for day one. Day two artists include Juice Wrld, Tyga, and a whole lot more. Damn, that’s a lot of people. And it’s outside, unlike other festivals you might go to that typically pull this kind of lineup but take place inside an arena (*cough* every radio stations’ “summer festival” that’s not even really a festival because it takes place inside, which is way less fun). Tickets start at $150 for a two-day pass.
Sandjam Music Festival
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The next set of names to take this stage, will soon be posted on this page. They’ll make it here before Santa and if we’re lucky, before it’s time to eat turkey. So, time watching this page will be well spent. Cause in the near future, we’ll start dropping hints. ? @sandjamfest is powered by @pepsi. #rock #alternative #electro #musicfestival #festlife #goodtimes #indiepop #pop #music #beach #saltlife #florida #pepsi #visitpanamacitybeach #letsgo
After its inaugural year in 2018, the self-proclaimed “adult-alternative rock music festival” returns to Panama City Beach, Florida. With a lineup including Kings of Leon, Young the Giant, The Revivalists, and more, it’s sure to be a vastly different experience than the time you went to PCB on college spring break. (Or perhaps that was just me.) The festival takes place literally on the beach, and you can’t beat that setting. Tickets start at $149 for a 3-day pass.
Just Like Heaven Fest
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From what I can tell (i.e. lack of info to the contrary and sparse social media presence), 2019 will be the festival’s first year, so if you’ve heard of it I am extremely impressed. Happening in Queen Mary Park in Long Beach, CA, this two-day festival will have performances by MGMT, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Phoenix, Passion Pit, and many more. The festival is sold out, according to the site, but you can join the waitlist for tickets (or check out the event’s Facebook page, where you might have some luck and get one secondhand from someone trying to offload their pass).
Images: justlikeheavenfest, sandjamfest, thesummersmash, underthebigskyfestival, elementsfestival_ / Instagram; Joshua Lewis; Jerry Chen; Courtesy of aLIVE Coverage (2)
I step into Borgore’s dressing room at Shaky Beats festival in Atlanta, entering a sparsely decorated trailer where Asaf Borger aka Borgore sit on a couch, relaxed and unassuming. When I found out I’d be interviewing the so-called “ruiner of dubstep” and self- proclaimed “daddy,” I expected to volley insults with a seasoned troll. I didn’t get that. And if I’d had any idea that Borgore had been called “EDM’s most despised man” by Buzzfeed, I would have been a lot more nervous. Thankfully, I didn’t need to be—I was treated professionally and respectfully. But what I didn’t know stepping into that dressing room was that back in 2014, the Tel Aviv-born artist came under fire for so-called misogynistic lyrics. Critics have called him a misogynist; fans and the artist himself would argue his persona is at worst, not to be taken seriously, and at best, a performative satire.
Borgore’s been wrestling with this question for about half a decade; maybe that’s why, when I express my surprise at the contrast between his raunchy online persona and the thoughtful, introspective answers he gives, he says with a shrug, “The people portray me how they want to portray me.” He adds, “I think that if you go back on my social media after you met me, you actually see that it makes sense, that everything that I post can actually be viewed in a different way.”
So I go back. Scroll through Borgore’s Twitter and you’ll find tweets like, “When I’m too tired to give her dick so I just give it to her verbally” (I can’t decide if he’s talking about acting like a dick or if this is about seduction), punctuated by pictures of the DJ signing fans’ bare asses. I ask him about it. “If someone came to you and asked you to sign his butt,” he replies plainly, “would you not do it?”
Though he’s developed a penchant lately for ranking dogs on Twitter (more on that in a bit), when it comes to derrieres, there’s no hierarchy. “No butt is embarrassing,” he says, though he does admit to having some difficulties in the past “with a little bit of hairiness.” And if you’re planning on bending over for an autograph, Borgore advises, “If you want your butt signed you need to be pretty dry, cause wet butt is unsignable by the laws of physics—unless you have a really special Sharpie.”
Naturally, it being 2018, a conversational detour about autographic asses quickly veers off into discussing plastic surgery. “In general, I really don’t like plastic surgery,” he states. “If I would have liked to date a mannequin, I would have dated a mannequin. We’re not perfect, but I’d rather take imperfection over something that is not real.” Before I can soak in this moment of profundity, he follows it up with, “It also feels not real, you know?”
I do not know.
“I don’t know if I should say it, but—” he continues, while his publicist tries in vain to protest, “Would you rather have sex with a really big dildo or a human dick that is not as big? I’d rather have smaller tits or butt that feel human than making out with something that feels extremely un-human.”
That’s the Borgore I expected to encounter—candid, not holding back, a little vulgar. And that reputation applies to his music, too. EDM Identity called him a “beloved yet controversial producer” and he’s been said to have “ruined dubstep” so many times, in earnest, that he even released an EP called Borgore Ruined Dubstep. His lyrics often contain profanity and arguably teeter into misogyny—his 2010 song “Nympho”, which currently has over 14 million views on Youtube, contains the lyrics, “This bitch is so used I wouldn’t sell her at the secondhand store.” Then again, that was eight years ago, and society has come a long way since then. So, too, has Borgore’s latest album, Adventures in Time.
Adventure in Time is a jazz album and purely instrumental, which allows it (and Borgore) to evade lyrical criticism. That decision might seem unexpected, but to those familiar with Borgore’s upbringing, it shouldn’t. He studied jazz composition and performance at the Thelma Yellin High School of Arts, so composing a jazz album is not at all uncharted territory. If you look beyond the controversial lyrics and acid-laced Lisa Frank graphics at his live shows, Borgore is a multi-instrumentalist who can play piano, drums, almost everything but the guitar, which he says is “so weird,” and which he cannot wrap his head around.
He explains of his foray into jazz, “Jazz was always a big part of my life, and I was scared that I’m not at the level to release anything that’s me playing jazz. But I practiced a lot. So it was time.” That comment in particular stuck out to me—it’s vulnerable; it’s at odds with the image of an overly braggadocios monster other outlets have pegged him as.
In any case, going from writing your own brand of dubstep to composing jazz is not a switch many artists could authentically make. And though fans and critics might view Adventures in Time as a departure from the music for which he is known, Borgore contends, “It’s parallel. It’s another layer, not necessarily a new dimension.” He continues, “There was jazz and there will always be jazz; there’s dubstep and there will always be dubstep.” Even in all his controversy, it is a disservice to Borgore as a musician to dismiss him as a shallow bro-step DJ who’s all sex and no depth. To even simply call him a DJ is an oversimplification. “I don’t necessarily like DJing,” he admits. “I like writing music. DJing is a funny concept,” he says with a laugh. “Like, 10,000 people just watch you, like, ‘Yo, you know this record! Let me play it to you. You know this record too. Check it out.” He asserts, perhaps a little too humbly, “You guys can do it too, but I’m here.”
The modesty doesn’t seem like an act, for what it’s worth. I ask if he ever watches his sets—the way pro athletes watch their games to look for areas of improvement, even— and he almost scoffs at the idea. “I hate watching myself,” he replies. “I feel very embarrassed. My friends family would always go back like ‘yo, check the crowd, they had so much fun!’” But as for viewing the footage himself? “Don’t show me, I don’t wanna know, I’ll take your word for it. Also it’s very narcissistic to look at yourself.” Borgore even says he hates taking pictures; he’s not one for looking at them, either. And although attractive young women populate his mentions and his Twitter bio reads, “turning next doors to bad bitches,” he insists he’s not the type to get ensnared by thirst traps. “I don’t even pay attention to how people look online,” he tells me. “There’s so much work behind it—Photoshop, right angle, whatever whatever. You should not put social media as your standard.”
As for who else makes up the majority of his mentions? Believe it or not, dogs. Tweet Borgore a picture of your pup, and he’ll rate it, most often a perfect or above perfect score. “They’re all perfect. They’re all so cute,” he says, not just about the dogs that get submitted to him, but all dogs. “The only thing that would love you more than your mom is a dog. And what’s beautiful is the dog would love you if you’re rich or poor, if you have butt implants or don’t have butt implants… the dog will love you for who you are, truly.”
Even if we never figure out who Borgore truly is, he is confident his future holds dogs. Many dogs. “I see myself in 20 years on a ranch with like, 100 dogs,” he says. I ask if that means he sees himself retiring soon. “Nothing is forever,” he says without hesitating. “Nothing is. The universe is not forever. Everything has an end. My career will end at one point. When I’m gonna do my retirement I still don’t know, but there will be dogs involved.”