From genre labels to working with Skrillex, Trollphace is redefining dubstep

For the last seven years, Damon Orienti has been honing his craft as a dj and producer, forcibly entering the heavy bass scene with his signature "tear-out" style of dubstep and bass-centric drumstep sounds. With over 80 tracks under his belt, Trollphace proves he has a strong knack for pushing the genre boundaries, and recently a number of industry leaders have started to take notice. After receiving a career-changing shoutout from Skrillex earlier this year, Trollphace has been seen everywhere, joining Jack U on the mainstage at Ultra and touring the country on the latest "Electronic Death March" tour.

We got to speak to Damon while he was relaxing in his home in Georgia, where we discussed his crazy ride into the limelight this year. From travelling the country to collaborating with Skrillex on Yogi & Pusha T's "Burial" to working on his new album, Trollphace lays it all out.

EDM: You just wrapped up performing on the Electronic Death March tour, what was the biggest highlight of the tour?

It was awesome to travel with my homies Mantis & Rekoil across the country. I'd say my biggest highlight was when I was vooping* in a bathroom stall and accidently set off the fire alarm. Firefighters came in asking who was burning incense, and I was just standing there with my vape-in-hand. But I also got to play out a bunch of the tracks that I've been working on and see how they perform so I could tweak them on the road.

*For those that are unaware, "vooping" is the combination of vaping and pooping.

What are some of the projects you were you working on while touring?

I just did a remix for Dillon Francis & DJ Snake for "Get Low," which was definitely interesting to create and watch the reactions to it. But I was also working on a track for Never Say Die with Sub-Antix, and was tuning up the collaboration with Skrillex on our Yogi & Pusha T remix. The rest of the time I was pretty burnt out from touring to be honest. We were renting a Yukon, which was dope, but it got to the point where anytime I was trying to produce other people in the car would be like "Your headphones are too loud, can you just not produce right now."

So how did you get linked up with Skrillex for the collaboration?

Skrillex was playing my remix of David Heartbreak's "Rebel" in nearly every single set, and I remember one day he hit me up via e-mail saying, "I'm doing this remix for Pusha T & Yogi, and I want your 'Rebel' vibe on it." So of course I was like, "yeah," so he sent me the track and we started going back and forth. It was probably the easiest collaboration I've ever had, it was just incredibly smooth and we each picked up where the other person left off. 

Do you think producing has gotten easier or harder for you to produce now?

Oh man, so much harder. I write music to express myself; I solely try to do me. But I also have to watch for patterns and reactions in the audience to see what is doing well, and with tracks like "Rebel" getting so much play, I've had people come up to me like "Your sound is getting stale." I'm super responsive to my fans, so I'll go to the studio and try to make all these sounds people want to hear, but then I start losing the vigor of my other productions. It's really important for me to keep evolving my sound, but people have a way of putting you on this pedestal, and it can pull you away from the creative process. To define yourself as an artist in this industry, you really have to make a sound that nobody else can.

Speaking of change, dubstep fans are coining a new style of sound called "riddim" - what's your view on the "underground" genre?

People ask me all the time like "Do you like riddim?" or "Are you going to play riddim tonight?" Well this isn't the first time this has happened to the dubstep scene, because when Skrillex first came out with his unique sound, people started to copy him and push his sound, so it developed it's own genre called "brostep." With riddim, I've heard people use the term to describe my music along with my homies like Megalodon, Getter, and all these other guys in America, but the sounds aren't anything new, and they shouldn't be lumped together like that. People should say "That's Trollphace's sound" or "That's Getter's sound."

I take it you aren't a fan of sub-genres then?

I feel like the whole sub-genre thing creates a divide between the producers, and makes it a competition. I don't listen to any other genres, or really any other music to be honest other than reggae, because when you listen to other people's stuff you're subconsciously influenced by their, and I find that I can create my own unique sounds without the influence of other artists. It creates drama, and even mislabels sounds. People will fill their head with all of these genre labels and just become ignorant of the actual feeling or emotion behind the sound.

What got you into producing in the first place?

I was the guitarist in this metal band in Orange County, but was just a lot more career-oriented than my other bandmates so I ended u leaving and retiring music altogether, becoming a video editor. My friend put me onto dubstep and I said "Wait a second... I can make music with the same kind of energy by myself?"

How did Trollphace come to be?

I was a huge fan of the UK bass scene for a while, with people like 50 Carrot and Subfiltronik producing the really underground sound. They would never promote their work, never share their dubplates, and just horde it to keep it underground. When I was just starting under my first alias Cycero, I started writing robot-kind of sounds like Cyberoptics and D-Jahsta, but I just felt like I could write like all of those guys and still put it out for free. People started to recognize that and I've been aiming to release as much free music as possible.

Jason Becker is also a huge inspiration for me, because he was the guitarist for David Lee Roth and Van Halen, but was diagnosed with ALS at a super young age. He's at the point where he can only communicate with his eyes, but he still composes music with this disability. It really took a toll on me, because I have the ability to do what I love without any barriers, and I feel like a lot of producers just take their careers for granted. So I release everything I can for free.

Where do you think dubstep is going now?

It's all about the sound man. Producers are making sounds that people have never heard before, but taking out all of the musical elements of it. I don't even think they're songs anymore, they're really more "auditory experiences." A lot of the songs that I like to play really revolve around the drop, because the sounds after it are what really drive people crazy. There aren't chord progressions in "riddim," so it really comes down to surprising my fans with sounds that will catch them off guard. My favorite song to play right now is "Hotel Trap" by Downlink, because the sounds he uses really push the boundaries of bass-heavy music.

How how this influenced your upcoming album on OWSLA?

Well to be honest, I'm pretty bored of dubstep right now. I've been trying to figure out how to bridge the music I'm making with what people want to hear. Skrillex has been pushing this "bounce" movement that just fits perfectly with what's popular right now, and I've been pushing my tracks to 145 beats per minute to fit this new movement. With this album, I want to blend hip-hop and trap influences with the "riddim" sound and just maximize my production quality. Ever since I got to stand on stage with Diplo & Skrillex at Ultra, I've had this subconscious notion to create music that I can see 80,000 people dancing to, and it's totally changed the way I'm approaching this album.

What else do you have planned ahead?

I just got on Circle Talent, and being on the road has gotten my inspired to produce and play more gigs, so I've got a lot of shows planned ahead. I'll be in Paris next month, then Montreal afterwards, and I'm excited to be on a big tour in early 2015 with some of my homies that I can't mention quite yet. Once I see how this collaboration with Skrillex goes and my remix of "Get Low," it'll definitely influence the next few months for me

What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your career so far?

I've learned that it's always best to hold onto your production tools as close as you can, stay loyal to your sound, and keep your fans as close as possible. If time is money, you get what you pay for, so make sure that you make the most of what you have, and keep it close. But above everything, always love your mother.

Any last shout-outs?

Shout out to Ma & Pa, Supra, Phase Management, V8pBar, and weed.

Purchase "Burial (Skrillex & Trollphace Remix) by Yogi feat. Pusha T on Beatport here.

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Shane O'Neil Features Editor

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