Metal Meets EDM: 24 of Heavy Metal’s Finest Tell Us Who Their Favorite DJs Are

Some of metal’s best tell us their favorite DJs. And — surprise — several love Aphex Twin.

By Dave Wedge

Metal and dance music may seem like polar opposites but the two genres have more in common than many might think. Dynamic grooves, aggression, experimentation, violent mood swings, rapidly changing time signatures and soaring melodies and harmonies are just some of the similarities.

From Fear Factory to Korn to Asking Alexandria to Skrillex to Bassnectar, there are plenty of examples of metal and electronic artists who boldly blend genres and proudly wear unconventional influences on their sleeves.

With those two seemingly polar-opposite styles in mind, we asked some of the darkest, most angst-fueled musicians in the modern global metal scene to name their favorite DJs or electronic artists.

We cast a wide net around the world and talked to the likes of Godflesh, Darkthrone, Killswitch Engage, Helloween, as well as Ephel Duath and Crossfaith, both bands who themselves mix keyboards and electronics into their metalcore cacophony.

Here’s what these hellions told us:

1. Jon Kunz/Rivers of Nihil
Tanlines: Tanlines are just two dudes from NYC making really catchy, almost minimalistic electronic jams. Their album, Mixed Emotions, gets played a lot in the van while I’m driving. I work for Diesel when I’m not on tour, and it used to play in my store all the time.

2. Dani Löble/Helloween
Justin Timberlake: His music is one of a kind. It’s a continuation of the unforgettable ’80s legacy. He combines hard syncopated grooves, cranky harmonies with trendy arrangements for something really great.

3. Sascha Gerstner/Helloween
Depeche Mode: Definitely the godfathers of industrial-electronic rock. Groovy beats topped with extraordinary synth sounds. I always loved their dark synth sounds, which inspired me to collect old ’80s synthesizers myself.

4. Justin Broadrick/Godflesh and Jesu (ex-Napalm Death)
Aphex Twin: Because he’s capable of conveying such extreme and dynamic moods via electronic music — warped, melancholy, aggressive, beautiful, pretty, horrible, mad, all the way from pure noise to the prettiest of melodies. No barriers, no limitations, no agendas — pure music.

5. Mike IX Williams/Corrections House and Eyehategod
The Australian group SPK (Surgical Penis Klinik): Beautiful old-school sick and disturbed electronics, like the voices I hear in my head.

6. Josh Graham/A Storm of Light
Fever Ray: Nothing sounds like Fever Ray. The percussion programming, lush keyboards, and pitch-shifted vocals create a vibrant sense of drowning… surrounded by some ethereal entity taking you down to the bottom of the sea. I’m surprised how much I listen to her music. It’s strangely cathartic.

7. Clark Webb/Hatchet
Bassnectar: Bassnectar makes amazing electronic music with the same dynamics and emotions you can find in metal. Lorin Ashton of Bassnectar is from the Bay Area in California, and grew up listening to metal bands. I believe a lot of his early years as a metal fan influences his music today, and that is why metal musicians and many others find it so appealing.

8. Mike Meselsohn/Black Water Rising
Skrillex: I don’t know that much about DJs, but I’m familiar with Skrillex. He did some work with Korn, and I’ve heard some of his music on a movie soundtrack. His sound features a lot of bass and is actually really heavy and dark at times. I heard he was in a rock or metal band in the past which would make sense.

9. Jørgen Munkeby/Shining 
Skrillex: I love his energy and aggression, and the pushed and distorted sounds combined with great grooves and synth riffs. I also like the hard, digital and sci-fi visual aesthetics. We’d love to tour with him.

10. Jonas Renkse/Katatonia
Krister Linder: His unique fusion of all electronic, very ambient music and extremely soulful and soaring vocals. A master at what he is doing.

11. Fenriz/Darkthrone (pictured above)
D5: I’ve been listening to all kinds of rhythmic, electronic music, like, three hours daily since 1993… I like late-2000s D5 stuff. Why? Because it’s extra deep and floating without being either dub techno or too sleek or too dirty — yeah, it’s possible. And it’s not riding any direct trend at all, I think.

12. Kim Benzie/Dead Letter Circus
Massive Attack: Massive Attack create such brooding seething intensity without being aggressive. I’ve listened to their album Mezzanine more than any other album in my life.

13. Chad Nicefield/Wilson 
Aphex Twin: I consider him a pioneer in his field… He is/was able to craft and create layers of sounds using not only computer-based piano synthesizers but also combining real instruments and sound collages that move listeners into a dreamscape.

14. Craig Lociero/SpiralArms
Q-Bert: Q-Bert has been my favorite DJ since I first heard the Dr. Octagon record with Kool Keith. To me, he is the most “out there” expressionist in the game. But then again, I don’t know diddly-poo about DJs.

15. Kristoffer Rygg/Ulver 
Autechre: They were arguably the most interesting and stylish act of the ’90s — a time of renaissance to me in regards to electronic music. I had been listening to Kraftwerk and British new wave when I was a kid of course. But for a dude with a penchant for dark/weird metal music, it was easier for me to get into the so-called IDM of Warp and the cinematic stuff of Ninja Tune rather than Global Underground.

16. Terufumi Tamano/Crossfaith
The Chemical Brothers: Every single song has own story, and it continues through an album. Plus, their live show is pure love.

17. Davide Tiso/Ephel Duath 
Vitalic: I recently saw the trailers of the The Legend of Kaspar Hauser, Davide Manuli’s upcoming movie featuring Vincent Gallo, and I got completely hooked by Vitalic’s moody dance music combined with the absurd, almost nonsensical, quality of the movie’s extracts.

18. Jesse Leach/Killswitch Engage
The Orb: I have been an obsessed fan since I first heard “Blue Room” on a late-night college radio techno program in ’93. The duo are absolute masters of texture and sound. U.F.Orb changed my whole perspective on music. I own every single record and listen to them at least once a week. To this day, when I listen with headphones, I still hear new things going on. To me, they are absolutely brilliant.

19. Monte Pittman/solo artist for Metal Blade Records and guitarist for Madonna
Paul Oakenfold: Paul is one of the pioneers of the DJ/electronic-music scene. He has been the opening act on a couple Madonna tours, and I’ve gotten to know him really well. I’ve played guitar for him at some of his shows, too. That makes him my favorite — not to mention, he plays songs that appeal to the widest audiences.

20. James LaBrie/Dream Theater
Aphex Twin (honorable mentions to BT and David Guetta): Richard David James [Aphex Twin] is a pioneer in this field: melodic, experimental, great sonics and brilliant compositions. The other two who also have the same unique qualities are BT and David Guetta. They have incredible senses of melody, hook and infectious grooves, as well as still being sonically profound.

21. Rani Sharone/Stolen Babies
Richard Blade: He’s on Sirius XM 1st Wave, but he used to play all ’80s music on the KROQ flashback lunch years ago, which turned me on to a lot of great music including Oingo Boingo and Kate Bush.

22. James Monteith/TesseracT
DJ Fresh: He is without a doubt one of the most pioneering electronica artists of all time. He pioneered the era of dark drum ‘n’ bass, creating aggressive synth sounds that had never been heard before. This new, aggressive style of electronica has gone on to influence many modern producers. All around electronic genius.

23. Brant Bjork/Vista Chino
DJ Muggs: His beats and soundscapes were heavy, and they hit hard without being too busy or over-produced.

24. Paul Mahon/The Answer 
Sasha and Digweed: Their Northern Exposure album is, fortunately, the only progressive house-trance record you will ever have to listen to. If Yes and Opeth dropped E and Rachmaninoff piano breakdowns instead of blastbeats and acid, it might sound like this. They have enough technical mixing nuances to keep the guitar geeks happy and the tunes to get the chicks on the dance floor — a rare combination and one we could all learn from.

  • Israel

    Who would have thought that…?