Thomas Pentz has been at the forefront of electronic dance music for years, and will certainly hold a place as a key influencer in its evolution. The producer’s success continues in 2015 with two top 20 singles from Major Lazer’s “Lean On” and the ubiquitous Jack Ü project with Skrillex, in addition to the myriad of headlining performances scheduled for festival season. After frightening the world with talks of retiring the Diplo name, his rambunctious persona couldn’t be in higher demand.
Rolling Stone caught up with the Mad Decent label head to ask a few straightforward questions about the state of EDM, Justin Beiber, and the profitability of being an online prick. Read on below, and scope the full interview here.
EDM’s rise boosted your career, but you also stand apart from it. How do you see that relationship?
“It’s been a slow evolution in America — you still have the biggest, glossiest, most masculine music at EDM raves. But it’s got young people excited about music. Jack Ü is headlining festivals now, and Skrillex and I are up there playing random records, doing what I love, being unpredictable, being trendsetting. Some of the big guys are changing too — David Guetta’s new album, nothing’s really dance on that. And there’s stuff like Disclosure and [French house producer] Tchami that’s not about being the biggest and brightest. Skrillex — there’s no precedent for what he’s doing and what he could do. His persona can be as big as a rock star.”
You’re a thoughtful guy, but your social-media persona is sort of obnoxious. Why?
“If I have a fight with somebody, it makes me look like a prick, but it makes the social-media numbers explode. It’s the Kanye West theory: In 2015, become a prick and just get more popular. I don’t want to be thought of like that, but also I just don’t really care. I’m doing jokes and people take it seriously, like that’s the person I am.”
So is Justin Bieber officially cool now?
“He’d been stuck in a rut where he has to do a certain thing because of his fan base. Guy from Disclosure texted me, “Yo, man, that Bieber record is amazing,” and I’m like, “Man, you would’ve never written that a year ago,” and he’s like, “I know, this is very difficult for me to text right now.” Bieber’s personal life is whatever it is — he’s a rich kid and he’s pretty much gonna have to be a jerk. But he’s respectful to me, and he has that weird gene where he’s good at everything: better at basketball than me, better at drums. For us it’s more like an art project where you utilize his voice.”
You’re 36 — do you worry about aging out of pop yourself?
“There’s not usually the old white dude in the music industry. You either get a job in management or you’re Willie Nelson — the only dude that’s cool and old. But age has nothing to do with it, as long as people are paying attention to me.”