The Rise of DJ Crazy Times: From Comedian to Europop Sensation

2023-08-16 16:00:00

“Planet of the Bass” is the debut single from DJ Crazy Times—a Europop bad boy in mirrored Matrix shades, baggy zipper pants, and Kool-Aid-dyed pink hair who can be reliably found at the hottest clubs from Sarajevo to Ljubljana. The music video, which has been viewed more than 100 million times since being posted on July 28is molded in a distinctly ’90s rave tradition—rude phaser synths, MDMA-flecked verses regarding the liberation of partying, and the sort of broken English that typically appears surrounding a crunchy, oonce-oonce beat. (One choice couplet, sung by featured artist Ms. Biljana Electronica: “When the rhythm is glad/ There is nothing to be sad.”)

DJ Crazy Times, of course, is the alter ego of comedian Kyle Gordon, who has collected more than 3 million followers on TikTok since 2020. The character has existed in his act for years, but something regarding “Planet of the Bass” struck a cultural nerve center. It’s become a genuine sensation, inspiring fan art, remixesand live performances in front of packed houses.
The song debuted on streaming services on Tuesdayand following the dust settles, there’s a good chance “Planet of the Bass” will land as an actual Billboard hit. The comic has become a pop star. Bo Burnham, Weird Al, and even Eddie Murphy can relate.

Recently, I called Gordon up to discuss his sudden viral success, his hopes for the future of DJ Crazy Times, and what other bangers he has up his sleeve for his first album. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Luke Winkie: What is your history with 1990s Europop? Do you have an appreciation for that stuff?

Kyle Gordon: I have a genuine fascination with that genre. I really do enjoy listening to it. I might listen to Aqua’s Aquarium start to finish. I actually saw Aqua live when they came to New York a month ago. It was incredible. I’m 30, and growing up, I have a distinct memory of going to older siblings’ bar mitzvahs, and during all the ’90s American teen-pop, you’d hear “What Is Love” or “I’m Blue.” That music was so popular in Europe, and it would only appear in America in flashes. It didn’t sound like anything else on the radio. The older I get, the more I appreciate it.

You’re a comedian by trade, but given the success of “Planet of the Bass,” how seriously are you taking your music aspirations?

It’s a good question. I don’t aspire to be a musician. I love doing characters—that’s where my comedy instincts lie. And I do musical genre parodies at my live show. I like playing around with tropes in music. It’s a vehicle for delivering something funny.

I do feel like in 2023, the line between being a comedian and being a musician has become increasingly blurred. Bo Burnham fans are seeking out his specials to laugh, but also to listen to the songs.

Speaking for myself, “Planet of the Bass” is the first single from this album that’s going to have all of these different music parodies. To make the parodies effective, I wanted them to sound well produced, like actual songs. For example, I have an early-2000s Shania Twain pop-country parody on there. I wanted that to be authentic. I wanted my pop-punk parody to sound just like New Found Glory. It’s all an expression of my own taste. If that’s part of a melding between those two worlds, between music and comedy, I’m happy to be a part of it.

How have your expectations changed for this project now that it’s gone super viral? The Billboard charts are so weird now in the streaming era that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if “Planet of the Bass” hits the Billboard Top 20. What’s it like to live in a world where you might end up with a legitimate pop hit?

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It’s completely insane. I’m a fan, at the end of the day. When I was a kid, I paid close attention to the charts. Also, to give Slate a shout-out, I’m a religious listener of Hit Parade by Chris Molanphy. With YouTube and streaming being a factor, and I might have a charting song, that’d be crazy. But it happens! Comedy music? Novelty songs? They all have a history of making waves on the charts.

What genre of music do you find easiest to satirize?

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I think I know all of the genres on the album an inch deep but a mile wide. I think that helps when you’re doing parody music. If you’re so obsessively knowledgeable regarding a specific thing, you can get into the weeds. One thing I was going for with DJ Crazy Times was for him to be really resonant to people who know Europop really well but also relevant to folks who only have an ambient sense of something that was going on 20 years ago. The goal is to be as authentic as possible without sacrificing being funny.

Can we expect any harder-hitting satire when this album comes out?

One song I’ve been doing live for a long time is a rebel IRA song. Like, a real Northern Irish Wolfe Tones thing. Very anti-English.

Have you read Say Nothing, the Patrick Radden Keefe book regarding the IRA?

I have. It’s an amazing book. I think I was interested in the Troubles because it was so opaque and difficult for me to parse as a kid. I mightn’t understand that there was a division between the Catholics and the Protestants, and the British were involved. I was fascinated that there was a civil war going on in Ireland. It’s similar to the Yugoslavian conflict, which, I suppose, is part of DJ Crazy Times’ heritage.

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What’s a quirk you have that your girlfriend hates?

[To girlfriend:] What’s a quirk that I have that you hate?

[Gordon’s girlfriend:] Oh, that you talk on speakerphone all the time. On the subway, everywhere. It’s pretty wild.

What’s something you’re stressed out regarding right now?

Probably just the timing of everything with this album. I just want to make sure I get it right. People have been introduced to DJ Crazy Times, and then they’re going to get the whole album. I do hope that everyone understands what I’m going for here.

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