Sunday, 20 November 2011


GQ interviews Diplo
The noisemaking producer-DJ-remixer Diplo talks about his insane touring schedule, the night he was arrested and blew off a Beyoncé recording session, and why the critics have got him all wrong.

"People don't know exactly what I do, they just know I'm 'cool.'" That's Diplo, a.k.a. Wes Pentz, the producer-DJ-remixer, on his peculiar version of fame. Primarily, he's creating music. Though being cool is probably just as important. And this year—after nearly a decade of mining (some have said exploiting) far-off dance music like Brazil's baile funk, London's dubstep, and New Orleans's bounce—he's finally having a pop moment. The laconic 32-year-old Floridian is experiencing a rare level of exposure for someone who doesn't sing, rap, or dance, thanks to brain-bending bangers for Chris Brown, a reunited No Doubt, and Beyoncé, not to mention the torso-throttling success of Major Lazer, his cyborg dancehall group. "My whole crew has been the catalyst of a lot of things, but we don't capitalize on that stuff," Diplo says. "We're happy to be on the underground, making influential records." Whether that's modesty or a persecution complex at work, he is capitalizing. Though he's a self-saboteur, too. Like this spring, when he missed a session with Beyoncé thanks to a bar fight that landed him in jail. "I had to go to anger-management courses in Compton with teenage gangsters that beat their cousins," he says. "That was pretty grounding." Still, that persecution thing doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. "I never planned to be the face of the ghetto," he says. "I'm a fucking white dude from Florida. But as long as people pay attention, like, Fuck this guy, at least they know who I am now." While he was traveling to the Kanrocksas Music Festival (seriously) to perform on the same bill as Eminem, we talked with Diplo about his insane touring schedule, the night he was arrested and blew off a Beyoncé recording session, and why the critics have got him all wrong.

GQ: How many days a year are you booked for shows?
Diplo: Probably like 300. Maybe more.

GQ: Do you feel like you're going to burn out?
Diplo: Nah. This week, I'm having a hard time. I'm having a hard time fuckin' coughin' a lot. I've had like one good night of sleep. I've been fighting a cold for like a month. But, uh, I'll get over it soon. I have a day off tomorrow.

GQ: When someone asks you what you do, what do you tell them?
Diplo: I'd say I'm just a creative person, I like to make stuff. Music, art, film, but the best way to reach people no matter what is doing shows, where there are a thousand kids in a different city every night. I'm a distributor of different things, whether it's the stuff we do on our label or stuff I produce. I'm a cultural distributor, I guess.

GQ: How do you find the time to make music?
Diplo: Today I was trying to sleep, it was a tiny jet that took us from San Francisco to Kansas, but I usually work on the planes. I get rough ideas. With a good Bloody Mary I can watch whatever Miley Cyrus movie is on the plane, work a little, and get inspired that way. I'm home a lot. I spend most time rushing out ideas, like when you put an idea together, it's the tip of the iceberg, the rest of the iceberg is mixing it and delivering it, you know? There are so many iceberg tips, for every ten thousand tips, I have a hundred icebergs. Big, giant icebergs, you know? You gotta weed out what works, what goes which way, and just kinda wrap it up.

GQ: Will you pass them onto somebody?
Diplo: Recently, I've been doing more and more of that, with this guy Derek who programs my computer for me, fixing stuff for me, being there for like five years, he's my right-hand man and I work with him in the studio doing chord progressions. I do a lot of collaborations and productions, whether it's Switch or Steve Aoki or No ID or Will Smith or No Doubt—I always like to collaborate and be a quality control person for the people 'cause I have my own taste in music and bring that to other peoples' brands and help them learn a little bit. I do that a lot these days.

GQ: Is it hard to not be too selfish in that situation? And has it been hard to manage some of those bigger personalities?
Diplo: I don't say no to anybody, really, I'm pretty eclectic. If you're gonna look for me, you gotta know what you're getting into. I'm not a commercial machine, I do a certain type of thing. I usually want to collaborate. No Doubt, I just got lucky, I wanted to do something for them, I'm not telling them what to do, their record speaks for itself, we're just trying to make it the best record. Sometimes, like with Beyoncé, I'm not there to give her a lot of direction or coaching, like, This is what's hot right now or whatever. Sometimes I'm star struck. Working with someone like Sia, a songwriter like her, I let her do whatever she wants. She's weird enough. She has her own thing, and I try to take that and make it something I can use after we write a song. You gotta feel it out, man, you gotta feel how much you can push and pull, you know?

GQ: Are you surprised when folks like Beyoncé or No Doubt reach out to you?
Diplo: I was surprised with No Doubt, and Gwen Stefani knew a lot about my personal life because she had M.I.A. on tour with them four, five years ago, and they used to talk about their relationships and stuff. That was definitely pretty weird, that someone like her, knew anything about me. Most of the time people don't know who I am or what I do or what Major Lazer is. It's just a bunch of names or idioms for a lot of people because they're so caught up in their own things. There are so many names and everything nowadays with culture and the Internet, it's hard to figure out who's responsible or the history of things. People don't know exactly what I do, they just know I'm "cool." I did stuff with Shakira and she just learned about the XX and the Pixies for the first time in her career—it's weird to me that people don't know those kind of records. Even with Beyoncé, she's an artist, but she doesn't know a lot of stuff, she knows R&B and pop, but they don't stray from it. They're at the top of the tier within their genre so they don't need to know a lot of stuff. They have cool friends. Major Lazer was just everywhere last year, but not on the radio. Every club played our records. We were the fuckin' retarded stepson, never got on the radio, me and Switch and my whole crew have been the catalyst of a lot of things, but we don't get part of it. We're always inspirational but we don't capitalize on that stuff. We're happy to be on the underground and make influential records. We're breaking through now with some of our influential stuff and writing records that reach more people. We've always been the black sheep, making things that inspire people, to write more records and be out in the open.

GQ: Was the Beyoncé opportunity an awakening?
Diplo: I still haven't really slept since that whole thing started. That week was so crazy. I was working with Roc Nation and they wanted to produce some other stuff—I was there, I did a show, got arrested, had to go to jail, after jail had to fly to Vegas. Every weekend is just getting weirder and weirder. I feel like I'm a snowball, I don't know what is going to happen. I'm not catching up to what is going on in my life. I got in a bar fight and the guy pressed charges. Nobody in Beyoncé's camp knew about it, but I thought it was embarrassing. I had to go to court a bunch of times and had to go to anger management courses. It's the one part of my day or week that's all fucked up—going to some anger management class in Compton every Tuesday with teenage gangsters that beat their cousins and listen to them talk about their lives. It's pretty grounding.

GQ: Do you fit in at your anger management classes?
Diplo: Definitely not. The first thing I said in my anger management class was, "I know everybody's gonna say this, but I definitely don't belong here." The lady was like, "Yeah, whatever. Shut up and read this book." It really is a bunch of teen gang members that beat their moms and stuff. It's depressing. I'm always grounded. I smoked DMT last month and that grounds you really quickly. That's ego. It's all bad things. It's like, every ounce of paranoia you get from smoking weed magnified by a million. You also get like a tripping-out, crazy, intense experience. It's mind-blowing. That's my advice for all celebrities. Go to some anger management classes, smoke DMT once every two or three months, and you'll be good.

GQ: What led you to smoking DMT?
Diplo: I'm not into those kind of drugs, no hard drugs, but that's something that's inspiring, to do other things. It's a catalyst for a lot of ideas. I don't even know how the ideas come anymore; we had Bruno Mars in the studio and were going to make a Bruno Mars record but he ended up rapping on a totally different record that made no sense, and it ended up being a really good record. Nothing ever comes out like how you expect. It's not pop stuff. It was like a joke accident. For [The Major Lazer song] "Hold the Line," it was like, how did it end up like this? We did a record with Vampire Weekend. Everything we do is an accident. Everything that we have, that happens, just happens in a certain way that's inspiring to us. We don't dismiss anything. We take advantage of anything strange that happens. All the underground's how we developed. We're not the best songwriters, we're not good singers, we're not the best looking, we just see the little cracks that need to get filled.

GQ: You're probably one of the most famous people in the industry that doesn't sing or rap.
Diplo: A lot of producers get famous because they decide to be superstars for their own reasons, but I'm inspired by Timbaland and Pharrell and Swizz Beatz 'cause they're doing things that are so different. I like how they're introducing ideas I never would have thought of. The same way I love Radiohead. We're in a different world where we aren't selling as many records as we used to, but everything I do has gotta be a part of the brand, a part of the Internet presence, the art side of things, you work really hard being just everywhere. The new tool is doing everything. Putting out everything you can. What Lil B does, he puts out thousands of songs. It's not about the quality, but it got him famous because you can't get away from him. They were so obsessed with his honesty and his outright craziness, you know? It's not even about quality. You just gotta do everything you can.

(Source -

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