The British DJ Rusko–an international emissary of ultra-kinetic, pop-aspiring dubstep who now calls Los Angeles home–has the best giggle. A high-pitched, nervy shake, Rusko’s laugh is that of someone who seems to do it often and enjoy it always. Indeed, sitting in the back of his tour bus outside of Philadelphia’s Electric Factory, Rusko laughs a lot about his good fortune in the electronic music world, his massive stage show and the task of trying to burn pre-show downtime in a city he barely knows.
But the video for Rusko’s latest single–the cheery, bass-built monster “Everyday”–isn’t quite as sunny. Filmed on location in California’s comparably apocalyptic Salton Sea, “Everyday” captures visages and environments badly damaged by the spot’s former popularity. That’s the mood only until the stage lights come in, spelling out Rusko’s name with 900 or so bright and synchronized bulbs. As the perfect hook cycles through for one more chance, you can almost hear Rusko’s jubilant giggle overhead. After all, even if it’s tough out there, this is survival music.
“Everyday” is out now on Mad Decent.
How has tour been so far?
We’ve been really, really lucky. We’ve only had one show so far that hasn’t sold out, and that was like 100 tickets from selling out. This time, we brought the whole production. We have the big, nine-foot letters, which are on hydraulics. It’s crazy, really: We had two weeks in a warehouse with a stage in it. We basically built a fake club with the stage set up in LA and rehearsed. It was really weird, because it’s unusual for a DJ to rehearse for two weeks before going out on tour. Normally, it’s just turn up, play some tunes, have some drinks, party and go to bed. That’s the kind of standard DJ tour. For us, for each show, it’s been a bit different. We’ve got a big crew with us on the tour bus who have been rockin’ it just like a rock band would, really.
Why did you need to rehearse? What’s so complicated technically with this tour?
We have giant Rusko letters–an R, U, S K and an O–which are nine feet high and made out of about 150 light bulbs each. They’re on hydraulics, so they’re all moving up and down throughout the show. We also have a floating DJ booth, so you can see the whole of my body moving and dancing and everything. All of the lights and the letters and the whole set moves with the tracks, and we have specific kinds of sequences worked out with tracks in the set. It’s really like a big rock production. The set has tracks I have to play at certain times, and we have the stage choreographed to move with it.
We’ve been really lucky, because we’ve had to play larger venues and theaters and rooms with larger stages because it takes up a lot of room. We have a whole extra truck. We have a tour bus with a crew of seven and a whole extra truck for the set, just because we couldn’t find a trailer big enough to bring it. It’s pretty intense. It started off as an idea that snowballed and got bigger and bigger. Hopefully, we’re going to continue to use it from here on out.
Are those big lights the same ones that form sort of the coda in the “Everyday” video?
Correct! That was a smooth segue. They are the exact same letters. “Everyday” was filmed like two weeks before we came out on tour. That was the next-to-last version of the letters before we got the final tweaks. They’re static. They’re not moving like they are in the video, but they are the same lights. Every single light bulb–and that’s nearly 900 light bulbs–has to be unscrewed and put into a cardboard box and screwed in, every day. You can imagine how long that takes. That’s why I sit outside in the tour bus for hours before the show, because it takes quite a long time to get 900 light bulbs out of 900 boxes.
This video is odd: At times, it feels like it’s a Yelawolf or David Banner production, and at times it feels like some lost sequence of The Stand. Other times it’s just an empty Rusko dance party in the desert. How did it happen?
I really wanted to work with Jason Miller again, because we worked together on the “Hold On” video. We had him follow me around for a whole week around the UK and piece it all together into a three-minute video. I just love the way he put it together and the effects and everything he used.
This song’s super positive–“The sun is shining everyday”–and the idea was that we show something that was almost sort of negative and almost sad, to contrast the overt happiness of the tune. The Salton Sea was the idea that came up between myself and my manager. It’s about an hour from where we live in Los Angeles. It’s right out on the San Andrea Fault in California. My wife’s mom has actually been there a few times. The story behind the place is that it used to be a really nice kind of retirement area. And then, through it being in the desert and pollution and everything, it totally dried up. Now it’s a wasteland. All the people you see in the video are people who actually live there. They live in that polluted wasteland, where nothing grows. It’s kind of a sad story, actually: Through the fact that the sun is shining everyday, it’s caused a real problem. Basically the idea was to contrast the happiness of the song with a sad video.
Essentially, you’re saying that the good begets the bad.
Exactly. You have to have one to have the other. After the last video we did together, which was super jumping around on the stage and crazy and the crowd is cheering, we wanted to do something that was the complete opposite in tone. The people were so cool and willing to work with us. The looks on people’s faces are killer. I could have just three minutes of the old guy. I wish there were more shots of the old guy in there. His face tells a million stories, man. For me, the looks and the expressions and the vibe of the people’s faces is a stark contrast to the stuff we did before. It’s not what people expect for the next video from me. I love the music I make and that the stuff I do is fun and positive. That’s my whole thing, and all my previous videos have reflected that. In a way, I wanted to confound people’s expectations of a sun-is-shining-everyday video. I think they’re expecting a montage of me being an idiot in clubs. But we do still have the flashing lights, of course. It is a dance music video.
How has living in California influenced the music you’ve made?
I’m not sure if I would have made the track, if it would have come out of me, if I hadn’t moved to California. If I still lived in London, the track wouldn’t have been inside of me. I wouldn’t have made the song if I wasn’t influenced by my surroundings, which I am quite a lot, actually. A lot of the music I’ve been making on the tour has been hectic and crazy, which tour has been. A lot of the stuff I make at home in California is similar to “Everyday.” I have been noticing how influenced by my surroundings my music is. The song and video were born out of me living in the U.S. now and not having to see rain every day when I wake up anymore.
What inspired your move to California?
My wife, who I married in the UK and who used to live in London, is Californian. Obviously, I used to go out there, and we have family out there. Also, I wanted to be involved in more pop projects, and I started touring, as opposed to doing shows on weekends. Mostly, DJs play Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and come home for the week. When I started to do tours with a month touring and a month off, I realized that I didn’t have to spent the month off paying crazy prices and looking at the rain. I could spend it in the sunshine. That was an incentive, too.
You mentioned that you wanted this video to stretch expectations of what you were about as an artist. Obviously, this has been a year in which people’s ideas of what dubstep might be have changed, especially with James Blake. How do you see the state of dubstep?
It’s strange that it is such a buzzword. In the general media, it’s not really represented in any way at all, compared to how it is in the UK and Europe. It’s not really fully in the mass media, like on the radio and in TV shows in the States, yet. But it is such a buzzword. The shows are flipping 4,000 kids. It’s nuts. It’s a huge thing, but the mainstream video is not acknowledging it yet over here. I think it still has a way to go before that happens.
But the American media, especially the radio, is 90% commercial. It’s commercial-funded, so they have to sell airtime. They have to play Katy Perry. While the mainstream media is still so commercial, I think dubstep will remain somewhat underground. That will be good. It might not be good for everyone, but I kind of like where it is right now. Maybe I’m just comfortable right now, and I wouldn’t like it go any further, personally. I’m on the bubble–not quite in the mass media, but still a big buzzword. I’m just enjoying where I’m at right now.
A couple of years ago in the UK, it was at a similar place. It wasn’t all over the radio over there like it is now, and it was an exciting time. I think maybe I’m just enjoying being able to have that exciting time again in another country. I think it will inevitably get more on the radio, but I hope it stays like this for a little while longer. It’s exciting.
05.05 Tampa, FL (Amphlitheatre)
05.06 New Orleans, LA (CAC)
05.07 Houston, TX (Warehouse)
05.08 Austin, TX (Stubb’s)
05.09 Dallas, TX (Granada Theatre)
05.11 El Paso, TX (Club 101)
05.13 Las Vegas, NV (Rain)
05.14 Los Angeles, CA (Wiltern)