Full Flex Express: On Board Skrillex's Train Tour
Skrillex, Diplo and other artists will live and record in a custom studio in the train.
Skrillex has just embarked on possibly the most exciting festival tour of 2015, and it’s not happening in the U.S. or in Europe. It's in Canada.
The Full Flex Express, which features Jack Ü — Skrillex’s project with Diplo — and a curated lineup of seven other artists and friends (Zeds Dead, A$AP Ferg, Kiesza, Tycho, Hundred Waters and Mija x Anna Lunoe) took off from Ottawa July 8. They’re traveling across the country, sleeping and recording via a customized train, ending in Pemberton, British Columbia, July 19.
Skrillex got the inspiration from the Festival Express tour in 1970, which featured a lineup of the Grateful Dead, the Band, Janis Joplin and Delaney & Bonnie. While the Festival Express schedule was limited to three shows (two others were canceled) in three cities, the train played host to a near-24-hour party featuring some of the most important artists of the time (or ever). And it still looms large in our imagination, which is exactly why in 2012 Skrillex created his own version, one fitting our modern era.
The first iteration of Full Flex Express brought together Grimes, Pretty Lights, Diplo and others, and carved a path through practically every major Canadian city, traveling exclusively by train.
“It was one of the most fun tours ever,” Skrillex said in a phone interview with RedBull.com. “It’s a festival, it’s a show and it’s intimate. You’re not going to have like 10,000 people. It feels special, you don’t really get that at a tour with a massive lineup.”
Skrillex actually tried to put together another Full Flex Express last summer, but plans fell through. It’s easy to understand why a tour this unique would be hard to coordinate. He’s renewed the tradition this year and made it bigger.
“It’s really crazy to organize,” Skrillex explained. “There’s so much stuff, from chartering a train from the government to just getting the money together. It’s super expensive. And it’s also difficult to get the right lineup down with being on the rails. So all the people we have coming out are our friends.”
That connection is easy to see when you look at the lineup. Obviously, Skrillex and Diplo are prolific collaborators. The duo put out the debut Jack Ü album in February. A couple weeks ago, they dropped one of the most memorable videos of the year for “Where Are Ü Now,” in which they invited hundreds of fans to draw on individual video frames of the song’s vocalist, Justin Bieber, resulting in a surreal, living portrait.
A$AP Ferg joined Skrillex on a number of dates last fall. There’s Zeds Dead, who’ve exchanged many remixes with the man over the years. And of course there’s Hundred Waters, the Gainesville, Florida, electro-acoustic quartet currently signed to OWSLA, Skrillex’s record label.
Hundred Waters don’t exactly make the same sort of speaker-destroying EDM as the icon who signed them, but that doesn’t matter.
“Hundred Waters happened really naturally. It’s not intentional, it wasn’t like we need to find a different band for the tour,” said Skrillex. “OWSLA has a family vibe, we just clicked as people. Hundred Waters are one of the coolest bands out right now. Pitchfork sings their praise. They remind me a lot of myself. They do a tour called FORM in Arizona where they bring out their younger crew of people that look up to them. They’re all about what we’re trying to do at Full Flex.”
Skrillex is known for his brashness, but his taste is far more complex than he’s often given credit for. He’s on record saying his favorite song of all time is a relatively chilled number from the mythic Aphex Twin. Having control of a bill like Full Flex let’s him bring his diverse tastes directly to the fans.
“I’m not picking favorites or anything, but someone who’s playing Full Flex that’s left-of-center for our typical fans is Tycho,” said Skrillex. “People need to see that, it’s unbelievable.”
The Full Flex Express will be equipped with a miniature Red Bull Studio. That means that artists participating will have a constant means to create music and collaborate with each other whenever inspiration strikes. It mirrors the spirit of the original Festival Express and the legendary jams that came with it.
“For me, and most of the artists I know, we go crazy if we don’t have the means to make music,” Skrillex said. “We can get by with laptops and headphones, but it’s good to have something that’s meant for creating.”
Skrillex has an optimism about him that’s rare in the music industry. This shows in the Full Flex Express. He’s constantly looking for new, exciting alternative live music experiences. It’s not a gimmick; he’s passionate about these ideas. This summer it’s a train, but this could only be the tip of the iceberg.
“I’m always interested in doing special shows,” says Skrillex. “We just did in this thing in LA with Notch, who recently sold the game Minecraft. We built this dome that was 360 degrees over the top of your head, and it was a special show just for that. We did this thing where we took a bunch of people in blindfolds to a secret location. That stuffs always fun and you can expect more of it.”
Follow Red Bull Snapchat for a Full Flex Express takeover with Skrillex, Diplo and more July 9-10
Full Flex Express 2015 tour dates
July 8: Ottawa, RBC Bluesfest Ottawa
July 9: Quebec City, Quebec City Summer Festival
July 10: Montreal, Parc Jean Drapeau
July 11: Toronto, Echo Beach
July 14: Winnipeg, Adrenaline Adventures
July 15: Saskatoon, Diefenbaker Park
July 16: Calgary, Prairie Winds Park
July 19: Pemberton, Pemberton Festival
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