In the massive, rabid, and furiously fluid state of electronic dance music, gaining the tag of “tastemaker” is nothing short of a crowning achievement. And from his musical showcase Diplo & Friends on BBC Radio, to his stacked Mad Decent roster (Dillon Francis, Flosstradamus, Trippy Turtle, and Zeds Dead to name a few), it’s become quite evident that Diplo’s tastemaker crown is fitting quite snugly these days. The 36-year-old Jack U of all trades (sorry I had to) took a second from running his Mad Decent empire to chop it up with legendary record producer Rick Rubin and Interview Magazine, discussing the downfall of traditional music gatekeepers, his love for DJing, and his relationship with Skrillex. Here’s some snippets we’ve gathered for you from one of Diplo’s most in-depth interviews to date.
On his future as Diplo:
“Well, I’m trying to actually retire Diplo material at this point. Diplo has a ceiling in Vegas, and I’m doing great there, but I’m so proud of Major Lazer—the way it sounds, the way it’s mixed. I feel like if I devote my time to that, it could grow.”
On staying current and blending genres:
“And I think even today that’s how I’m able to work and move between so many different genres—I want to be part of what’s happening, I want to make new things. I think back in those days, lots of kids got tied down. It’s amazing that, like, a black kid or a Mexican kid in L.A. or whatever, they’re into dance music, goth … When I was in high school, you had to pick if you’re into this or that. Now kids will be listening to emo on their way to a rave, and then they’ll leave and listen to Drake.”
On his Las Vegas residency:
“I took a Monday night at one of the big nightclubs because I had built a little name there. And Monday was the weird night. I was playing hip-hop when everybody else was playing the giant rave music. But my night was so fun that it became one of their most popular parties, and now I’ve become probably one of the top four DJs in Vegas for residencies.
On his Mad Decent Block Parties:
“And the thing about block parties in Philly is that the city will block your street off and the police will come protect it. All you needed to pay then was $10. It’s crazy. All you have to do is have most of the people on your block say that it’s okay to have a party that day. On our street was an abandoned building, so we only had, like, ten people who needed to sign. We had 2,000 kids come the first year.
Everybody on my label played. The next year, we did, like, 4,000, and the police were like, “Look, this is crazy. This only costs $10?” [laughs] And we were like, “We don’t charge anything—it’s free!” We had to move it to another venue, and four years later, we did New York, Philly, and L.A. … All of them had, like, 6,000 people. And then two years ago, we did ten cities. And then last year, we did 23 cities, sold out most of them.”
On his relationship with Skrillex:
“I’m actually fascinated by him. I feel like Skrillex has this sort of Kurt Cobain attitude, where he’s like a spokesman for a lot of kids. And he’s so talented and positive. He could be a sort of star. He’s got nobody guiding him, but his fan base is rabid.
I love the way he hears everything, and he’s one of the best mixers I’ve ever worked with. Nobody’s louder and cleaner than him. So we did this Jack Ü thing to be collaborative. I’d bring songs to him and was like, “You want to help me produce them and make them sound amazing?” Because with him, they sound gigantic.”
On his love for being a DJ:
“I’m only doing the DJ thing because I still love it. I’m still having fun. I know a lot of guys who aren’t. So I’m lucky—I get to go out every day and do new things. When I meet artists who just want to be famous, they don’t still love making music, you know? And that’s the one thing I ask—you’ve got to love to create.”
If you’d like to read the full interview, please visit Interview Magazine.