Diplo punctures any ‘superstar DJ’ preconceptions Diplo, AKA Wesley Pentz, spends his life as an EDM pioneer (‘Electronic Dance Music’ to Americans, rave to us), producing and remixing some of the biggest names in pop (Beyoncé, Usher and, yes, even Bieber) while flying across the globe to peddle his diverse DJ wares.
One such ware is the second album from Major Lazer – his collaboration with fellow-DJ/producer Switch – a Jamaican-infused dancehall frenzy, with guest vocals from Vampire Weekend and Haim. Speaking to us from his Argentine hotel room, he talked us round Philly crime rates (high), dance crazes (upside-down) and his mobile phone choices (fruity).
You went to Jamaica for the new album. Are you keeping the swirly haircut you have in the Watch Out For This (Bumaye) video?
Nah, my hair is so blond it looks really stupid. I looked cool for about a week and a half, but then it grows over the top and I get a bald spot.
You have Ezra from Vampire Weekend and Danielle from Haim guesting. Fancy doing an indie album?
I think I want to do something with everybody on that album. I like Vampire Weekend, and we tried to remix a song from the last album, but we never got to finish it.
You’ve also been working with Azealia Banks. Will her album ever come out?
It will definitely come out. I think she has it in her, she’s still so young.
While promoting your song Express Yourself on Twitter, you asked girls to post pictures of themselves doing the handstand dance in the video. It’s become a craze…
Internet culture is so funny. There are a couple of Playboy girls that did [the dance], and they have about a million followers. There is a new song with a new dance coming out though, too.
Like the Macarena?
Like the Macarena. But just your ass.
You’ve worked with amazing names. Who could you get on the phone right now?
Um, people change their numbers a lot. Macklemore, I’ve got him on my BBM. And I was talking to Cat Power and Ellie Goulding about doing a movie soundtrack together.
You did an ad for BlackBerry. Does that mean you’re not allowed to have an iPhone?
I don’t like iPhones. I use my BlackBerry for emails and my Samsung Galaxy for everything else. I feel bad because I DJed at Wembley Arena with Annie Mac and they put a big dildo over my BlackBerry ad and played it to about 7,000 people, so it ruined it for me.
Do you have a superstar DJ life and a private jet?
Well, right now I’m in my hotel bathroom washing my underwear in my bidet. I still fly cheap airlines like Southwest: $49 a flight. I couldn’t say to my kids that I couldn’t pay for college because I had to buy a private jet.
That’s very responsible.
Yeah, it’s expensive in America. My mum and dad could never afford college, so I was the first one to go. They worked hard for me.
You studied film in Philadelphia, right?
Film is the dumbest major you could do. I love Philly, though. But it got too dangerous, it can be scary sometimes. There were about 500 murders a year. Everybody casually does heroin. It’s very strange.
And yet you’ve spent a lot of time in Rio’s favelas. What was that like?
It’s so real. I was so excited by how great baile funk is. People have said to me that I’m taking advantage of Brazilians. But one of the biggest artists in Brazil is making millions of dollars because he sampled my record. They didn’t pay us for it, so they had the last laugh.
What is the most embarrassing record in your collection?
My first record was Kylie Minogue, The Loco-Motion. I’m a fan. I was nine. I loved it.
What do you make of Twitter accounts such as @DJscomplaining that lampoon moody DJs?
Yeah, I love that one. There is an even better one on Tumblr – DJs Looking Depressed. DJs love to pull intellectual looking poses to make them look deeper, or something.
You’re mates with Snoop Dogg… sorry, Lion. Has he changed now he’s a rasta?
I think he wanted a change in his life. He’s an older man in his forties, he has three grown children. You can’t make him any more gangsta, he’s an adult artist. He’s settled down. He wants people to remember what amazing things he did. That’s why we made a record together.
What will you do when you’re an ‘adult artist’?
I don’t think I’ll ever be an adult artist because I only make fun for people. I don’t represent anything, I’m just trying to make a sound at parties.
You’re working with Justin Bieber at the moment…
Yeah, I worked with Justin Bieber. But then I might work with somebody else in my neighbourhood that’s just got out of jail, or something.
Have you met Bieber’s pet monkey?
He didn’t have one. If he did, he didn’t show it to me.
Have you ever owned a pet?
I had a turtle who I named after my mum, Barbara. But her shell was dirty, and this girl felt bad, so she let him go. He was the only animal that I had.
So he’s gone now?
He’s probably having a better life out in the wild. I still feel bad, though.
Major Lazer’s Free The Universe is out now; the group tour the UK from 1-4 May