Diplo Talks New M.I.A. Record, Cartoons and Doing It For The Kids

From Producing M.I.A.’s new record to developing travel shows for Current TV, a Major Lazer cartoon for Adult Swim and heading up an international organization that helps underprivileged kids learn about music – Diplo is one busy man. Thankfully the prolific DJ/Producer took some time out to tell Pedestrian why he (jokingly) hates the Japanese, loves Australian animals, digs Swedish music and how a Jamaican commando who lost his arm in a secret zombie war came to exist. What can we say? He’s a man of the World.

P: Hey Wes, how are you today?

D: Good thanks

P: So I hear you’re a big Phillies fan?

D: Not anymore (laughs)

P: How have you handled the World Series loss?

D: Yeah the World Series was bad. Hideki Matsui man, I hate the Japanese. (Background: You’re gonna say that in the interview?) For sure man. You know what I read today? Matsui has like 50,000 porno videos – he loves porno. That was a headline in Sports Illustrated today.

P: Well World Series aside what’s been new in your world lately?

D: I’ve just been working, you know… Working on a new record.

P: Is that for Diplo?

D: No that’s for M.I.A.

P: Oh ok cool. And what’s that sounding like? What’s your involvement?

D: Been in the studio with M.I.A. working on her new record. It’s like Gucci Mane meets Animal Collective. I think there are a couple of people [producing] but we’re going to finish it off, me and Switch. We’ve done like four tracks already.

P: Speaking of Switch, who actually conceived the whole Major Lazer thing? It’s a pretty crazy idea!

D: We just came up with it at a club one night because we were trying to come up with a concept for the album. And because me and Dave didn’t want to put out just a Reggae record we wanted to put something out that fits today’s model for releasing records. Strong image, strong music, strong collaborations… we have a TV show that goes with it, something different, you know?

P: Is the TV show going to be a cartoon series?

D: Yeah it’s going to be on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network in America.

P: Yeah, and you’ve got a film student background is that right?

D: Yeah, that’s right.

P: So is that something you wanted to explore? Like television shows and films…

D: I think today if you’re doing music you need to be involved in television as well. Mix it up you know? You can’t really make money selling records but a really strong brand identity is important and that’s what we’ve been trying to do with Mad Decent so I think we’ll probably be working more with that. I think this year in LA we’ll be doing a lot more television and film stuff.

P: So what other multimedia projects are you working on?

D: Well, there’s the ‘Favela On Blast’ video that comes out in January, a pretty big television show that we’re working with for Current TV in America and then Major Lazer… so that’s 3 big projects.

P: And also on the brand side of things, this past year you’ve release iPhone Apps and you’re pretty vocal on Twitter, is that stuff important to cultivate your image and to stay connected with your fans through the internet?

D: I’d probably do all that stuff anyway if I wasn’t trying to sell records and massive concerts. I definitely feel it’s a good way to reach people, being able to interact and show your material and stuff. Also our label is pretty cutting edge, we’re putting out really fast records, like fast paced following the way the music changes.

P: A lot of people loved your Grammy’s Twitter commentary…

D: (Laughs) I think I’ve got like, 40,000 followers but I need to go to another Grammy or something so I can go back and make fun of the people who are there. We might go to The Grammy’s this year as Major Lazer so that would be cool.

P: You used to work as a teacher – is that what drives you to help the kids out with Heaps Decent and Mad Decent?

D: I feel that project would be important no matter what I was doing. I mean, everything I do is geared towards kids and even when I was 19-20 and I was DJing for high school parties I wish I had people that could have pointed me in the right direction. It’s a useful thing, investing in the scene and contributing to young people’s idea of music.

P: So where are the new emerging dance scenes in the world?

D: Well I really like Australia and I’ve been going there for 3 years now and each time the shows get bigger and bigger, there’s a lot of buzz for Major Lazer. It’s a place that’s close to my heart because it’s warm and crazy and people have better taste in music. And there’s a lot of good producers coming out of LA now and that’s why I like it up here. There’s a lot of good stuff coming out of Sweden. South Africa is really strong at the moment too.

P: You obviously come to Australia a lot, what’s the first thing you do when you get here?

D:Go to the zoo and take pictures of a Koala…Because I adopted a Koala at the zoo, so I pay $10 a month to make sure he eats right, so I like to go back and see that he’s growing up and healthy.

P: How did you hook up with Levins and Nina to create Heaps Decent?

D: Well Levins was a DJ who was playing Mad Decent stuff before anybody else. Like his crew with Jimmy Sing, he was distributing our records when we had no distributor and he’s always been supportive of what we do. So when we launched this project Levins was really into it and even his Mother had connections to help us start it up. And they’ve been keeping it going while I’ve been gone, it’s crazy. It became something bigger than anything I ever envisioned it being, so I’m very proud of it.

P: Do you have any plans to expand that project and that idea to other countries as well?

D: Yeah 2010 we’re taking it to Africa and then to America as well.

P: What’s the most rewarding aspect been so far?

D: Just being able to open people’s minds about music, that’s a big deal. And you can change their minds about what it’s like to be a DJ and play different music. It’s not about being cool, it’s about being good.

P: Cheers for your time Wes and we’ll see you in Australia soon.

D: Thanks mate.

You can check out Major Lazer at the following dates:

Gisborne – Rhythm & Vines 29-Dec-09
Lorne Victoria – Falls Festival 30-Dec-09
Marion Bay Tasmania – Falls Festival 31-Dec-09
Sydney – Field Day 01-Jan-09
Melbourne – Diplo show @ The Corner 07-Jan-09
Gold Coast – Summafieldayze 09-Jan-10
Perth – Southbound 10-Jan-10

Major Lazer – Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do’ is out now on Dowtown/Inertia – it’s here on vinyl too.