To Sam Barry, everything’s faster in Texas. If you’ve been raving in Los Angeles for the past few years, you recognize LIL TEXAS from his high-energy club anthems from years past. The Dallas-born producer has graced our archives since 2013 with a steady flow of trap hits, Jersey club bouncers, and everything in between. The story’s changed for LIL TEXAS, though, and he’s gravitated toward a sound that’s made for those who like to push themselves to the absolute limit. With his new sound, branded as #TEXCORE, LIL TEXAS has embraced the idea that speed reigns supreme, jacking up his own hard dance flavor to 200 BPM and above.
Once LIL TEXAS made his hard dance debut at Basscon: Wasteland last July, the rise seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. He offered a 30-minute mix titled Summer of Hardcore and unleashed his jaw-breaking single, “I AM EXCITED.” He’s successfully infiltrated the social circle of Los Angeles’ hard dance enthusiasts, even after being met with skepticism and comments expressing hate. To get a better understanding of how and why LIL TEXAS pivoted to the hardest form of electronic dance music, I sat him down to talk about what inspires him in music and beyond, what he loves about the gabber culture, and pieces of his story you didn’t know before.
Two years ago, you made a 30-minute mix for our Interview + MiniMix series. It was packed with some high-energy Jersey club, trap bangers, that sort of thing. Today, we’re losing our shit over your uptempo hardcore madness. What’s the story there? How did you become familiar with the dark side of dance music?
I’ve always been into faster tempos. The European hardcore that was coming out of the Netherlands and Italy always kind of sparked my attention along with old-school gabber culture, like Patrick van Kerckhoven, Paul Elstak — the dons, you know, like Ruffneck and all that shit, Rotterdam. I always had this sort of penchant for that music but I wasn’t going full force with it and over time, my music kept speeding up. My Jersey club went from 140 to 150 to 160.
So naturally, it just kept increasing.
Yeah, it just kept speeding up, and I was like, “Well if I’m here, I might as well make hardcore.” And even then, I didn’t wanna make hardstyle or rawstyle, my ear automatically gravitated towards the 190 to 200 stuff and faster.
How did your management and friends react when you decided to pivot to uptempo hardcore?
My manager Ian Chambers fucking LOVES hardcore. Like, he is so obsessed — I looked over at him during my last show and he was as sweaty as I was. And he was punching himself in the face and losing himself like I do onstage. He had this, like, evil, teeth-clenched demon face, and that shit pumps me up. My other manager, Jordan, believes in my vision and always has and he’s always just been supportive with whatever direction I go in, even if it might be a self-discovery direction. He’s always supported me through everything.
I attended your debut hard dance performance at Basscon: Wasteland last July — I’m sure you were aware, but there was quite a bit of hate directed towards you in some of the online hard dance groups considering they thought you’d be playing trap music. How were you feeling when you took the stage? What was that performance like for you?
Okay, here’s the real story: right before Wasteland, even a month before Wasteland, I was at a point where I was considering taking a different path in life than doing electronic music. But I had that Wasteland booking, somehow. [Laughs] Which is amazing, they took a chance on me and I can’t thank them enough for that. The real story is, I didn’t know they were talking shit about me. I was so oblivious to everything because I just wasn’t in the music mindset, really, at that point. I was making stuff, but not intensely like I am now. Sort of feeling disillusioned, feeling like the saturation had reached a pinnacle in electronic dance music and it was frustrating me. So, I didn’t see it, haha.
So you weren’t more nervous than you normally would be?
No, I was nervous to play! I always get nervous, but I didn’t see any of the shit-talk. Then the minute I walk off the stage, my fucking managers pull me aside and they’re like, “Oh, by the way, on all these forums and boards all over the internet, everyone was talking shit on you, and you just proved all of them wrong.”
Then I looked at it and I was like, oh my god. They hate me.
Well, now they love you. [Laughs] You’ve received support from the likes of Virtual Self and El Hornet of Pendulum, and it’s honestly the first time I’ve seen music like this receive support in the United States at all. How have you reacted to the support?
Oh, I am excited. Pun intended. It’s been everything I’ve wanted in the past few years of producing. I’ve gone through periods of producing heavy and then I’ve gone through periods of not producing at all, I’ve had ups and downs in my life that have led me to extremely dark places where my life was on the line, no joke. To have my music received in the same way it was received back in, like, 2012, 2013 when I was doing trap and coming up in that realm in the early Jersey stuff is truly a blessing and I’m extremely grateful, that’s really what it is. I’m doing it for the scene. At this point, this is not about me. This is about bringing hardcore to the main stage in North America. That’s my goal.
So, not only have you found your own original sound, but you’ve even branded it! What does #TEXCORE mean to you?
Haha, oh man. Texcore’s a narrative. The story’s just beginning. I can only explain it like this: we’re opening eyes, essentially, it’s like I’m giving out red pills. You guys can take the red pill if you’d like. There’s a whole slew of music that is untapped, and there’s a whole scene of music that’s rooted in a deep tradition of music that was around WAY before EDM, we’re talking about 10,000-people festivals playing all gabber hardcore. You know, this has been around for a long time and I wanna push that.
Texcore is just everything about me all in one. It’s about going fast, it’s about not caring what other people think about you. If you’re ostracized, if you’re fucked with, if you’re the black sheep in the EDM community or your dance friends think you’re weird for liking hardstyle or hardcore, I’m there for you. We’re gonna make people like this, we’re gonna make this thing even cooler than it already it is. That’s my goal. It’s nu-metal, it’s hardcore, it’s whatever you want it to be.
I’m pretty sure you’re the first artist to ever play an Angerfist tune on Diplo & Friends. Did the crew over at the radio station know you’d be going that hard? Hahaha.
No, they had no idea, but they asked me to do the mix the day before they needed it. I churned it out, though, it was cool. They were like, “Can you do it tomorrow?” and I was like, yeah, fuck it. So I sent it over to ’em.
They didn’t have any comments about how hard it was?
No, they were like, “This is cool!” It was pretty well-received. As far as I know.
You’ve recruited graphic designer Alfred English for all of your artwork — it looks incredible! How’d you guys link up?
Alfred and I have known each other on the internet for years through SoundCloud and Twitter. He lived in LA, I met him personally, we had mutual friends and I’ve always thought his art was very, very cool. It had just a flavor of uniqueness that was different than anybody else. I think that he incorporates quite a bit of net stuff, which I love, but also does it in a way that’s not like any other net artist.
So what’s the creative process like for him to translate your vision into the artwork? How do you guys work together?
It’s crazy because I leave so much of it in his court. Like, I literally was telling him last night, he’s like, “What are you thinking for this new project?” and I was like, dude, you’re a genius. Just do it. I literally said that. We have a format, we try to stick to a rave aesthetic: ’90s, happy hardcore, old-school rave fliers mixed with some kind of like hardcore punk, shit like that. Also, nu-metal is a big thing for me, like Korn and Slipknot, so we pull from a lot of different areas. Smileys are big for us. We’re not trying to fuck with the tradition, you know? But we are trying to push it. We’re traditionalists doing something untraditional.
I love that. Well, I have to ask: What does your family think about your sound? I’m sure it was hectic enough years ago, but this is some shit that even the most obsessive dance music lovers despise.
[Laughs] I sent my parents the video I did for my last track “TOTAL KNOCK OUT,” we did a little minute-long promo video of my friend Seth — shoutout NADA5150 — who has a tattoo on the middle of his forehead and a giant spider web on his neck, his head shaved, pretty intense-looking dude. We had him dancing around with some hakken gabber sort of moves, and I sent it to my parents and all they said was, “Who is that?” That was their only comment and I told them and they didn’t respond. I haven’t talked to ’em since [Laughs]. They don’t get it, but they trust that I know what I’m doing and I send them videos and stuff.
My parents don’t get it either, it’s okay. [Laughs] Moving away from the music, I love your look! What inspires you in the fashion world?
Oh my god. I LOVE clothes. I’m a fucking shopaholic, I can’t stop shopping. Me and my girl, we just go shopping, it’s crazy. We’re so bad for each other when it comes to that. Oh, man. You can ask my managers, every six months I have a new obsession. Right now, I’m trying to be the gabber Bret Michaels. That’s like my LIL TEXAS show look. So there’s show looks, and then there’s lifestyle looks. So for the show, fucking cowboy hats, brother. We’re rocking fuckin’ cowboy hats. We’re rocking Stetsons, we’re rocking the cheap straw ones you get down on Venice, it doesn’t matter, brother. We’re wearing plaid Tripp pants. I love Von Dutch, it’s one of the greatest companies ever made. We combine everything from that to like, Korn, the shit that nu-metal dudes were wearing, so we’re wearing ball chains, anything from that era really entices me.
I also have found an obsession with Nike Air Max as of late due to the gabber culture of the early ’90s. So when I’m chilling, I’m wearing Air Maxes and big T-shirts, windbreaker pants and stuff like that for the comfort. I’m into sub-cultures. I love sub-cultures and I love time periods. Like, I think it’s so wild that in the early 2000s and mid-2000s, Ed Hardy and Von Dutch reigned supreme. Like, people fucked with it HARD, you know what I mean? It’s evolved. So anything that has its own identity, regardless if you think it’s cool or not, I’m interested. Like, dirtbike bros that wear Fox and shit like that, and they’re riding around in Phoenix wearing Monster Energy shirts. That’s so sick. They fuck with it, so I fuck with it.
What do you listen to when you’re alone in your car?
Celine Dion. [Laughs] I have four or five things that I’m stuck on at the moment. I listen to a lot of rap. I love all of the SoundCloud rap culture, there’s so much good rap music out, like Shoreline Mafia is great out of LA, I love Playboi Carti, he’s my favorite. I listen to a ton of bassline, like Flava D. I love what Night Bass does, I love DJ Q, Skepsis, Notion, man, those guys… dude, Holy Goof? Whew. All those guys are so good. And then old-school house, too, Todd Edwards, Logic, anything from that house era. And then hardcore, of course. And then I listen to jazz in the morning, that’s the random fact right there. I like to listen to Blue Note Records jazz music.
Do you have any hidden talents the world isn’t aware of?
Yeah, I can play the upright bass really well. I can improv jazz music very well, I went to Berklee College of Music for that. I also was a state rower in high school, I was on the crew team.
You were on a crew team? I was a coxswain!
No way! [Laughs] I was a bowman. We did two oars, so the rutter was controlled by my foot. I love cooking, I’m pretty good at cooking.
Yes, Chef Texas.
Yeah, I was a cook at a really nice restaurant downtown called Faith & Flower. I worked there so I know how to cook.
That’s quite a few, I’m pretty surprised! [Laughs] I think one of the most impressive things about your career is the fact that you’ve successfully won over the hearts of the people who are most passionate about hard dance. It’s a very closed-off demographic of people, I think, and I know there’s still some trolls here and there. What do you love about this scene and its origins?
It’s just so raw, you know? It’s so raw and for me, it goes back to that tradition that it’s so deeply rooted in a tradition of electronic dance music. When house was coming up, so was this stuff. Gabber existed when techno and house were coming out in New York and Detroit and all that. For me, that’s something so cool. I love knowing why things exist. And I think everybody should do that — the kids these days, they’re not going to, you know what I mean? They’re not going to look up all the 2005, 2006 dubstep records, the original dubstep shit, but that’s okay. I urge them to. But for me, knowing where this music came from is so exciting and along the way, I just think it’s the rawest, most brutal thing. It just reminds me so much of underdog kind of culture, you know, we’re the freaks. The freaks love this shit and that’s so exciting to me.
Finally, you’re gonna have to tell me what’s coming up in your career that you can reveal.
I can tell you I’m working with two really cool record labels on some official Texcore releases. It’s pretty exciting that some of these people have been reaching out to me. We’ve got more videos coming, merch is on the way — and it’s not only merch, this is like a full-on clothing line. It has so much more to do with fashion than Texcore. We’re gonna do another mix before the year is over and official label releases and slew of shows that are gonna happen.
Keep your eyes peeled for more from LIL TEXAS coming soon, and be sure to follow him on Instagram, Twitter, SoundCloud, and Facebook. In the meantime, get violent with his latest single “TOTAL KNOCK OUT” below.