Q&A with Diplo
In the October 23 issue we posted excerpts of Tom Murphy’s recent conversation with Diplo (aka Wesley Pentz). The quotes used in that piece were taken from the following interview posted after the jump, in which Diplo Mad Decent, his record label and Heaps Decent, a program devoted to underprivileged musicians in Australia, as well as how he views his role as a producer and how it’s evolved and the artists that are joining him on his current tour.
Westword (Tom Murphy): What is it about mashups that inspired you to incorporate that element into some of your own music?
Diplo: I don’t really play mash-ups so much anymore as when we first started doing the party Hollertronix. Back then, we didn’t know what it was; we were just mixing weird stuff together, and it became kind of a catchphrase, and you can capitalize on it now. But these days, I’m only playing mash-up in the sense that the songs that I play sample little bits of weird things. I would consider mash-ups an art form that’s not dead, but we’re past the irony of it. For me, hip-hop was an art form that was able to take little pieces of things… You have someone like 50 Cent, who will sample a weird rock record, or even when I sampled “Paper Planes” — that was bigger than just mash-up. You could consider it the same thing, like rapping over a Clash song, but it’s not for the sake of it being ridiculous; it’s part of the art form I grew up trying to be a part of and learn my craft doing hip-hop. It’s just part of the hip-hop culture that you sample things and take little pieces. It’s bigger than just mash-up.
WW: You’re known for having brought an awareness of Funk Carioca to the USA. Are there any other forms of music that you’ve discovered that have been inspirational to you?
D: We just put out a record on my label Mad Decent by Buraka Som Sistema; they’re these guys from Portugal -- Angolan Portugese -- and it’s like Kuduro, this stuff that comes from Angola, it’s a mix of techno, soca and, I don’t know, weird electronic music. It’s a bit of mixes on that EP. You can find it; DJs are playing it. It’s called “Hollertronix.” It’s number nine.
WW: Is it true that you used to be a teacher in Philadelphia?
D: Yeah, I did that until about three years ago. I just learned that those kids were getting their music straight from the Internet and playing stuff off these weird websites — a lot of homemade local music. I think developing the local scene in Philly is what really defined our movement. We weren’t trying to break the mainstream songs to kids; we were just doing homegrown stuff. That’s what the kids inspired me to do, because they didn’t care that their older brothers were into commercial radio; they just played what they wanted, what made them dance, and all this new kind of eclectic sound that was happening instead of the Baltimore club stuff.
WW: On the Mad Decent Tour, I noticed that you were bringing along bands like Telepathe, Abe Vigoda and Boy 8-Bit. Is there any particular reason you brought these artists on the tour and do you have ties to the DIY community?
D: Most of the tour is in all-ages rock venues because I want those kids to come out and just get mad -- it’s like a party. That’s the idea. That’s kinda where I come from, warehouse parties anyway. I’ve done the club circuit for three years, I’ve played every club, I’ve even played The Church in Denver. I just think it’s time to do more grimier stuff, I wanted to make it a cheap show for kids. Abe Vigoda is a band I really like and Telepathe are just friends of mine that I know from New York and I like their new record.
WW: How do you see your role as a producer and how has it changed or evolved as you’ve gained experience?
D: Learning every day. I became a producer just in the last two years so I’m still honing my craft. I’m still doing lots of experiments in the studio. I’m lucky to have a hit song, so I’m able to take chances now. I’ve sat down engineering stuff, but I’m really bad at that. I’ve sat in the studio with people and written hooks and lyrics. I’ve just given beats to people on the internet, and they come back with full songs. Every time I do it, it’s a different experience.
WW: What has Heaps Decent reached that it hasn’t before?
D: The organization itself is only based in an Australian community. We’ve done it legally there, and it’s a proper organization. We did workshops there two weeks ago with Aboriginal kids in Sydney. We put out a song from those kids last month that Spank Rock worked on when he was in Australia. In Brazil, we have a studio building with Red Bull that’s really exciting. Hopefully moving on to Africa -- just places where there is a community where kids are Diplo fans.
If there is a place where I can go and DJ and a place where around the corner where there are kids that want to learn music, that’s where there should be a Heaps Decent. If there’s a disenfranchised community in a place where I’m being booked, I want to put one. I’ve done shows in South Africa, and I think Cape Town is a really cool place. In cities like Pretoria, where there’s a really crazy music scene, they don’t need much help. I just feel like they’re doing exciting stuff.