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Be specific: Rusko on working with M.I.A.

ruskoDubstep's breakout star has kind things to say about M.I.A. (Photo courtesy Windish Agency)

By David Malitz

Might dubstep be the electronic music genre that finally hits it big in the U.S.? If the wobbly, bass-heavy style does take hold, Rusko will certainly have a lot to do with it. The 25-year-old producer/DJ is the genre’s breakout star thanks the pop crossover sensibilities of his debut album, “O.M.G.,” a laundry list of superstar collaborations (Gucci Mane, Rihanna, M.I.A., even Britney Spears) and sweat-inducing DJ sets that have made him a dance-floor favorite.

Rusko (aka Christopher Mercer) is scheduled to arrive in D.C. for a Sunday night set at U Street Music Hall. He was profiled in the Weekend section last Friday. Here are some of his thoughts on working with famous names, and, especially his experience with 2010’s musical lightning rod, M.I.A.

You work with a staggering amount of A-list stars -- how do you decide who to work with and who not to work with? Do you ever think it will overshadow your own work?

I don’t really see a project as an opportunity to work with A-list stars. I see it as a chance to create something new and exciting. I don’t really try to plan these things out. When touring, my life is so mapped out, but when I’m in the studio I like to let go and sort of let it come together on its own. When someone approaches me with a tune or remix, I listen to the music and if I like it and get inspired, I’m down to do it. Their profile doesn’t really influence me at all.

I don’t really think producing for other people will overshadow my own work. I separate the two. I have Rusko who makes the dubstep bangers and then I have Christopher Mercer, the musician. I am always up for a challenge and I really don’t feel limited to just making dubstep.

How was working with M.I.A.? Do you think she's getting a bad rap lately?

I had a great time working with Maya. I didn't go into the M.I.A. record trying to bring dubstep to the mainstream. If anything, Maya was really adamant about her album not being a dubstep album. I came in to the project as a musician and producer. Of course it’s going to sound like dubstep, I mean that's my sound. She wanted my style music, but there was never a time where we tried to make it sound more like dubstep. She is a super creative person and I think we just fused our styles and are thankful that it worked.

I think she has been getting a bad rap. I think people thought they understood her as a person and an artist after “Paper Planes” because it was such a success and got so much attention, but I think that might have been a detriment to her because I don’t think that one song sums her up as an artist at all. She is super-talented and loves to push the limits. She is an experimental artist and not everyone who likes “Paper Planes” is going to like her album. She is very loud musically and verbally. She doesn’t sit in a corner and let things happen, she makes them happen. Sometimes she may put her foot in [her mouth], but we all do. That’s just her.

Diplo had some not-too-kind things to say about her recently, which you don't usually hear from a producer. Is there rsome sot of unspoken producer code? You can't always love how everything you work on turns out, but isn't it generally the rule to stay silent?

I can only speak for myself, and I had an amazing time working with her. To be truthful, because she is such a creative type and also a major perfectionist, there were times when I thought a track was finished and the best that it could be but she wasn’t 100 percent sure, so she would pass it off to someone else to tinker with. Sometimes the changes were for the better and sometimes not so much. But as an artist myself, I needed to respect that it was her album and her message.

I did the best that I could do. Regardless, I don’t think it’s really nice to throw people under the bus or try to shift blame. That’s just not who I am. People always crave the juicy dramatic details but I’m not one to put them out there like that.

By David Malitz  | October 21, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Be specific  | Tags:  M.I.A., Rusko  
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Next: Taking sides: Does a performer's personal behavior matter?

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