There must be something in the air in Tupelo Mississippi. It's not only known as the hunka hunka burning love’s birthplace, but also the exact city where Krusty the Clown got his start as a street performer. But it seems there is a new Mississippi star ready to shine. Enter 29-year-old ‘grandpa’ DJ Diplo! Worn down by a hectic schedule that has seen him in more countries in a week than many could ever dream of visiting in a lifetime, the Mad Decent DJ is set to raise the dead at the end of the month at Australia’s dopest music festival, Parklife. We caught up with Diplo in the midst of a four-day bender of flu-inducing travel.
Yo, Diplo. You sound very tired! Been hectic huh?
I’ve just been like deejaying and traveling for what feels like a million years.
That was actually one of my questions. Do you get sick of deejaying and traveling... is it catching up with you?
Haha, well I’m taking it easy, although I have a big tour here to promote the Mad Decent stuff in October in America, and then right after that I’m probably finishing up my album, so then I’ve got to take a break. After that I’ll be working on new stuff with other people.
You never stop. I see your name on remixes everywhere, most notably on many music blogs. Are people easily able to access you for remixes or is it a case of the more notoriety you get, the more you get offered?
I still do remixes for my people that I know, like my friends, I mean I might not be working on Radiohead or other bands that I have always been working with, but I sometimes don’t even know what I’m working on or what offers I get. My manager always helps me pick out the good things that I will work on. I’m just tired because last Saturday I was deejaying in Tel Aviv then I had to go to Ireland on Sunday and then from Ireland to Rio on Monday to work and DJ til Wednesday then Thursday morning I had to fly to New York. So I’m in New York today and I’m really sick. That was like the most hardcore I’ve ever done.,
Holy crap! Well it just means you’re getting more famous and you know people want you! You’re in demand man! It’s funny because when I talk to people that are up and coming in the DJ world, they are like ‘you’re so lucky you have all these gigs!’ but it’s not easy, you’re not just playing records, right?
That’s my feeling too, all the time. But you know sometimes it’s easy, I used to be a little more punk/rock but I’m 29 years old now, so I don’t really try and drink and go crazy all the time but it’s more like just getting the job done, so I can work on my production and stuff. I have a label now…I’m like a grandpa over here! I’m a label head, ya know, with all these kids.
A grandpa at 29? I’m 35! My God, I may as well retire right now!
Wow, I didn’t mean like having a label and having to deal with people, it’s kind of like you have to be….
You’ve got to set an example right?
So how many times have you been to Australia now? It’s been a few times now right?
I think it’s been like 100 times!
You may as well just move!
Hahah, it’s only my fourth time.
And last time you where here, you started doing Heaps Decent with Levins and Nina?
Yeah last time I was there was last February, and that’s when it started.
Yeah, I remember the fundraiser you did at Miss Libertines last tour and there was a ridiculous line around the block, with people dying to get in. It was pumped out! How important is it for you to give back to the community and how did you get involved?
Well Nina and Levins were like my friends. I still talk to them all the time, they are like the coolest people in Australia and they kind of do it all for me. I’m like the face and they administrate it and they do all the business work and I help them raise money for sponsors. I just came up with the idea. I was in Australia the year before, and I felt weird deejaying all these parties, ya know. Australia is a weird country, it’s kind of conservative and a bit straight and I felt weird deejaying all these parties that were really crazy and exciting but then there’s a whole other side to Australia, up in the North East, with the underprivileged people. It makes more sense if I explain to you that with Parklife, if you buy a ticket for it, some of the money is donated to Heaps Decent. So in a way you kids are going in and having a party and a crazy time but I’m going to be working a week before with the kids in Sydney at the studio. So it’s a balance and there should be one, if we are going to throw a party and have music you should have kids that listen that aren’t exposed to it as well. That’s the basic point.
So inevitably it’s you that has worded up the other artists, like M.I.A., when they come over…
Exactly, like Radioclit and Spank Rock. It’s really cool, people come to Australia and they feel like they are making sure they are doing something. It feels good. It’s an interesting project to be part of. With M.I.A., of course she felt like she should have something to do with the project, it's kinda up her alley, and the Spank Rock dudes were having fun, and it’s just crazy.
Are you doing this in other places or is it just Australia?
Definitely. I’m trying to do the same project in Rio with Red Bull helping us, but the structure is really difficult to get around. In Australia, the system is made to help others, it’s a real Westernised country and there is a system there to help people. In America, it’s not as easy to do a non-profit, but we have it started now with our lawyers here. And then Rio where I would do a lot of work, the same thing is happening there. It’s going to be cool.
Music wise now, do you think that B-More is dying down and being taken over by this new genre of a melding of everything. When Pase Rock toured recently, his sets where very house music orientated, very ‘gay clubby’...completely different to what anyone was expecting.
He’s my boy, he’s really cool. He’s a bit older and more adult; I think he just wants to play what he plays. I play like, just nuts. I just did a festival tour with artists that I don’t even fit with. They expect to be going crazy and I’m over here playing a little hip hop, then a crazy punk record, then I’ll play a crazy techno record but my attitude is ‘the songs are bigger than my style’. The idea is that you can mix it altogether but a lot of kids are like ‘huh?’
Well this is the point then, do you play for the crowd or are you playing for yourself to educate the crowd?
Definitely for the crowd as that’s the job of a DJ. I’m there because they want to hear my style; I know what I do, that’s good. I remember my last promo tour I started with a radio record and ended up with hardcore techno. That’s why I started a label called Mad Decent. The idea here is, I’m going to give you a representation of everything we do, a mix of Hollertronix, Heaps Decent, you know, it’s a mash and just fun. You’re going to hear a little bit of everything.
Well that’s probably why there has been such longevity to your career because you’re not stuck to one genre; you can branch out and do other things.
Yeah, well my label’s not the coolest label, we’re just more punk/rock than anything. When we did the M.I.A. mixtape, no one told us what was cool, it was more, ‘this is what we want to do.’ We don’t follow trends. We don’t want to sound loud and noisy, we don’t want to sound minimal and techno. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of that shit and I’ll play it out. The idea is we just do everything; it’s kind of like old school Bambatta style. This tour is going to be filled with a lot of artists including XXXChange, an ex-family member.
There’s a heap of you in this clan and you’re all just taking off at the moment! It’s really blowing up though because it’s seeping into the mainstream now; you’re doing Parklife, you did BDO, you’re doing all these festivals. People are actually now coming to see you, not coming to see the main acts.
I’m like that filler DJ on the festivals, sometimes they put me on a main stage, and I’m like ‘whoah people like it!’. In America it’s more of a big deal because we do all the work here and our style is popular. Like M.I.A. has a top ten hit now with ‘Paper Planes’ and I’m like, 'what the fuck', I don’t know how that happened!
It’s crossed over completely!
Yeah it’s really weird, that’s all the work we’ve done in America for the last three years, but with the rest of the world…well, sometimes it’s cool, like Tel Aviv, we can do a big show but if we go to Belgium or something, people are a little bit confused! In Tokyo they have no idea what the fuck is going on!
But they’re still coming obviously! I mean do you sell out shows? Are you popular overseas?
I haven’t been to Tokyo for like two years. I don’t think they get it, ‘cos it has to be a heavy metal thing or a reggae thing, they don’t really understand all that shit together. They are just like scratching their heads like, ‘I just got into my house dance, now I gotta do a reggae dance?’
I read somewhere that before you started deejaying you were at film school?
Yeah I was a film student and then I was a schoolteacher. I taught film and computer and music to little kids
So this kind of thing with Heaps Decent comes naturally to you then.
Yeah, it’s all from that kind of attitude. The first Hollertronix CD is from the kids we taught at school, so that was like where the attitude came from to do Heaps Decent. They were the ones that influenced my attitude towards music. The younger kids were more open to crazy music because their older brothers would be like ‘I don’t want to listen to down-south music’ but the younger kids were like ‘yeah this is what we like’
Is Hollertronix still going?
Well because Low Budget moved to California and I basically needed him as a DJ, (he was M.I.A.’s DJ this year) we both now do different styles of music anyway. I still do the Hollertonix series. We have Number 9 coming out next week, and then I’m going to do one more, maybe in January, so there will be 10 of them and then I’ll retire. That will make room for the new shit coming up.
Well when are you going to have a break? When you think about the future it’s looking pretty busy yo…do you get a break?
I’ve been trying to get fired as a DJ for the last year, but people keep offering me more money, so I’m like ‘Ok!’. I keep saying, ‘nah you gotta pay me a million dollars’ and they’re like ’fuck it, we’ll pay’. So then I have to go. I’ve been trying to take myself out of the game, but people keep asking me to comeback, so I’m like…whatever! It’s hard because Mad Decent has grown a lot, and people can finally feel like that’s the sound, it’s exciting you know!
So what can people expect from you this time around at Parklife? Do you work out your sets or is it more feeling the crowd.
Um…..I’m definitely going to play….um…..MUSIC!
I can predict there is going to be zombies and lightning is going to happen, and thunder and we’re going to raise the dead. Yes, zombies actually! You know what though, I do have cool t-shirts that are going to be awesome. I just designed them today. It’s Crocodile Dundee but a zombie platypus and a kangaroo are eating him, and it’s really funny. It’s like the coolest shirt ever made! So you gotta go to my tour in Australia to get it! Yo yo! It’s going to be crazy! You’re going to hear Mad Decent stuff, I have a new single coming out next month, you’ll hear like Paper Planes and other stuff I’ve produced, hip hop music that I’ve done and crazy house music from Africa, space music from Mars. Yeah…..space music!
Photos provided by Diplo and his MySpace
Wanna see Diplo at his exclusive side show at Prince Bandroom Oct 3rd? Go in the draw here to win a double pass courtesy of Killer