Wednesday, May 13, 2009
these days it's difficult to not expect the monotonous dj/producer protocol from most people: make some music, play songs that we all like, do some remixes, get them up on blogs, etc. it's easy for them to be perceived as one-dimensional, but a little digging sometimes reveals a lot of substance. i think that diplo is a prime example of this phenomenon. keep reading to find out why.
major lazer - lazer boom 1 (album mix by diplo)
major lazer - hold the line (edu k remix)
miss toats (discodust): ok, so the main reason that i wanted to do this interview is because i think you're widely misinterpreted. i think a large amount of the blog-reading and club-going population think that you're a feel good, party dj. they probably know that you previously worked with m.i.a and have the mad decent label, but i'm not sure if people realize that you just finished a documentary, you started a charitable foundation in australia and you're a musical ambassador of sorts.
diplo: well, maybe the young kids have that impression, but i know the journalists are aware of what i do. it was their criticism that drove me to start these projects. people were so critical of me bringing more ethnic sounds and music into my style. there's actually a funny story about a journalist in baltimore that hated me. he wrote for pitchfork for a while and dissed everyone in our whole crew from me to spank rock to amanda blank. he dissed this party that my friend colin threw because he booked blaqstarr for this big white-kid rave party. he said all these things about how those artists should 'stick to their own party' and how the white kids should only listen to these other kinds of music and the barriers shouldn't be broken. so it's partially the journalists' fault for trying to create controversy and segregation. but thanks to artists like m.i.a and santigold there's a new scene developing, so maybe those younger kids don't know my history.
well, i know you've gotten a lot of flak for being the white boy going to brazil and jamaica and bringing back the music from the favelas. i even read somewhere write that you were 'raping the indigenous music of the country'. what do you think the difference is between stealing and exposing different music? or sampling and claiming?
it's definitely give and take. i started doing music through learning how to make hip hop. i couldn't play guitar or be in a band, but i could find old records in the garage and splice them together. and hip-hop is an amalgamation of everything. the kids that i work with in brazil and africa are sampling stuff that i grew up in florida listening to; old hip-hop or cheesy techno records. those guys are my peers. and the fact remains that i keep going back to those places. i don't take their music and run, i keep coming back and i have a relationship with these people. the reggae scene is so exclusive in jamaica that they have to trust you and know that you're helping them as much as helping yourself in order to let you in. the bottom line is that everyone just wants to get paid and we're very diligent in giving everyone due credit.
i also think it's important to represent scenes that don't have good representation. before i went to brazil i couldn't find any track names or artist names to music that i had heard. now there are baile funk scenes popping up all over the country so it seems to be gaining a little speed now. our goal with mad decent is to put this kind of music and these kinds of underexposed artists and give them access to the entire industry. when i was young, the only music education i had were my parents records in the garage and a few bootleg mixtapes, so i'm hoping that mad decent radio can be a similar exposure tool for young kids out there now.
that kind of leads into my next question about your thoughts on why people hate on mainstream success?
well, we haven't reached mainstream success just yet. we (diplo and switch) did get nominated for a grammy which is about as mainstream as it can get, but 'paper planes' is about the weirdest song you can put on mainstream radio. we are just wrapping up a reggae album and to attempt that in 2009 is far from striving for mainstream success. if we get any sort of notoriety, i think it's because we've earned it for doing something against the grain and different. i'm doing some mainstream productions right now, but it's hit-or-miss. rappers do not want to take chances and labels don't want to spend money unless they know it's going to be a hit. so they go to doctor luke instead of diplo. big labels used to have huge urban artist rosters, but the scene is changing and so they scaled back to only beyoncé who pays all the bills. lil jon came straight to me because he's as crazy as i am when it comes to making music. you don't get signed to make a hit anymore, you have to make it yourself and hope that it becomes something.
so do you think there's not as many opportunities like that for you now?
i've done stuff with three 6 mafia and shakira, so if those opportunities keep presenting themselves, then i'm going to continue to do what i do on those tracks. if i don't get the opportunity to make a full pop album, maybe one of our mad decent artists like rusko, boy 8-bit or popo would be more willing to experiment and i would have complete creative freedom like that. when i first started working with maya she was on some sh*tty uk label. now i get hit up by little teeny-bopper girls on major labels saying that they want to sound like m.i.a. but m.i.a's album wasn't formulaic, it just happened. and the majors have no idea how it turned into such a success, they just want to capitalize on it now.
sure some people still have their formula like rick ross, eminem or 50 cent, but they're not contributing anything new any more. i'm working with this new artist, maluca, and we're playing with almost a meringue sound. maybe that will be big in a year, who knows? but if it's not, at least we're trying something new and having fun while we do it.
let's talk about major lazer. i know that's your new dancehall album with switch and from the songs i've heard so far, it's anything but formulaic. you make music out of crying babies to squeals i've never heard before.
me and switch wanted to make a reggae/dancehall album because all of the club music coming out right now is so serious and heavy. this is kind of a cultivation of the sound we've built over the last two years and is more of a proper, fun dance album.
well, it couldn't have come at a better time with electro music already having peaked and kind of being on the decline. people are searching for what musical trend is next, but no one really knows. a lot of people are focusing on dubstep, but i don't think that it has the mainstream potential to fill the shoes of electro.
ya, we signed rusko because we think he's bigger than dubstep. but i try to pay attention to the trends in all the scenes. i pay attention to the house scene, the electro scene, the dubstep scene, and then just try to make something that hasn't been done before and unpredictable.
do you have any limits around any types of music that you won't mess with?
sure, if i don't like a certain type of music then i probably won't have anything to contribute to it so i tend to leave it alone.
ok, so let's talk about twitter.
ok, i love twitter. i know it's just a trend, but i like writing bullshit really quick that i never have to read again. and i also don't have to read what other people say if i don't want to follow them. i follow my friends, except for ashton kutcher and diddy. i think it's perfect for someone like me or someone who is in the music industry because it's so easy for us all to keep connected all the time when we're traveling. it's better than tv.
speaking of random celebrities, how did you hook up with andy milonakis?
i first spotted andy about six months ago doing youtube videos of his autotuned version of dancehall records. so i really wanted to work with him a bit for major lazer because i loved his comedy, too. so i reached out to him on myspace and he was totally up for it. as far as reggae music goes, he's probably the biggest reggae fan that i've ever met in my life. he's actually a pretty good rapper, too.
i was actually working with this jamaican girl and her crew one night and andy came over to afterparty. i left him alone with all the jamaicans for about twenty minutes and when i came back they were all wide eyed because here was this white, fat guy singing reggae songs. i mean we're two white guys putting out a dancehall album, so it's not a super serious thing. we had to include andy.
i'm not sure if most of this new wave of kids that didn't follow you from the beginning five-ish years ago know about your community program. can you tell me the most recent developments with heaps decent?
this year we are working on building a solid backbone for the future. at this point, all we really have is heaps decent running full time in australia. we've begun the process to open another in brazil (in rio with help from redbull) and hope to plant programs in london and south africa.
i just hope we can continue to make it grow, but we definitely need help. by the year 2010 i want to make it a serious program worldwide. it's easy for a dj like me to give a little bit back here and there, just on a minimal level like bringing in sponsors to donate equipment and computers. but i really want to focus on the outreach and changing kids' lives. that takes a lot of manpower and organization. in australia we've been fortunate to have done some major things with help from m.i.a, spank rock, sammy bananas, radioclit, al haca, boy 8 bit and yelle. they have all volunteered and donated their time there with the kids.
even though he has nothing left to prove, diplo just recently finished his first documentary called 'favela on blast', inspired by his early mixtape and the culture that spawned it. below are some clips and a little behind-the-scenes video about the process and how the project came to be.
Posted by Miss Toats at 1:36 AM