Interview: Major Lazer

We admit to having a big crush on Diplo. The other half of Major Lazer and with 2009’s anthem song ‘Pon De Floor’ still buzzing in the clubs, the DJ-producer-songwriter is the kind of rockstar you’d want to get with. Together with Switch as Major Lazer, Diplo will be busting the decks of Zouk KL this month – yes, there’s gonna be a big hipster invasion, no doubt! JUICE nudges Diplo aka Thomas Wesley Pentz while he’s in Jamaica to find out what he’s been up to and how he managed to break the rules.

Hello, Wes! What did you get up to last night?
Worked on some records for Santigold. Her new album is quite good. Finished a remix for a reggae artist named Gyptian, drank a bottle of rum and watch 90s hip hop videos on YouTube.

Finish this sentence. Waking up to Diplo…
…could be rough like this morning, but I’m in Jamaica so I can’t complain. Every day is a new and strange thing that I make up as I go along.

You’ve had a childhood fascination for dinosaurs and your DJ name is short for diplodocus. Would you have been a palaeontologist if you didn’t become a DJ? And what’s your favourite dinosaur?
I’d probably be an artist painting or doing weird sculptures. Palaeontology just isn’t glam enough for me. I like all dinosaurs. I’ve recently been into pterodactyls. They are just so damn huge! And still fly. How?

Do you still remember your very first DJ gig?
Yes, it was at a hotel in Daytona Beach when I was 17. This old black guy gave me a job as his sub. He was DJing with cassette tapes then. It was a family hotel by the patio. I only had punk rock, Jimmy Hendrix and Beastie Boys, nothing people wanted like ‘Kokomo’ by The Beach Boys. I wasn’t called back.

What is the best thing about your job?
Is it a job?

Good point. What is the worst thing about your job?
It’s still competitive. Always try to stay one step ahead of the rest. That’s kind of difficult, but I’d rather keep pushing and hope for the best.

What would you consider as your proudest achievement?
Not going to jail.

Do you prefer big music festivals or club gigs?
Both. I’ve acclimated to either one. I love to do after-parties and surprises as well, because I play the most random, newest and weirdest records I can find at these places.

Can we expect a new Diplo or Major Lazer album soon?
There’s a bunch for this summer. A new Major Lazer EP out this summer with MIA, Collie Buddz, Thom Yorke and Elephant Man. A couple of singles out. Weird stuff…. Some things for MIA, Robyn, Kelis and a single with Lil Jon. Something with Tiesto. Some new, weird downtempo stuff. Then I’m moving on to making a movie or something.

Wow! Which one do you think matters most: being in style, having a quality or just making it fun?
All of it. I always gotta have fun or I’m just gonna quit. Style is important. Gotta make it count if you’re an artist. Half of it is making the part and your music represents your style too. Art everything. You’ve got to keep it going … (laughs) louder ….

What’s your take on well-known DJs going pop?
As long as you’re proud and you stand behind your music, I don’t care what you do. I just had a year where I produced heavy metal, pop, rap and trance singles, so I don’t really care. All I know is that I wanna be one step ahead of other people, but some DJs are just flat out lame.

How about the hip hop and electronic dance music trend?
Kids wanna dance. I’m not mad at that. Dance or electronic music has more options really. It’s a very bare space to make sh!t happen….

You’re 35 this year. Have you achieved what you want?
Huh? I’m just about to turn 31! Who gave you those facts? (Laughs) You reading MIA’s Wikipedia I think. But yeah, I got a hell of a lot more to do before 35, I promise.

Er, it says on your Wikipedia that you were born in 1975. Anyhoo, how do you unwind if you’re not on tour?
Everything is a tour. Just gotta stay healthy and I only drink when I’m in Jamaica actually, cos it’s hard not to.

What’s the weirdest thing people have said about you?
That I was 35.

Touché! When was the last time you broke the rules?
Today I put jerk sauce on my breakfast and they said that was wrong.

If you had the last 2 minutes of your life to play something, what track would it be?
Massive Attack – ‘Protection’.

What’s on your ringtone?
This one is called ‘Alarm 3’; it’s pretty decent.

What’s in your JUICE?
Man, I have to put water in the cranberry juice here. It’s just too damn strong.

What are your top tips to surviving the industry?
Don’t listen to anybody. Make a plan and stick with it. Also make friends and collaborations with the genuine folks. Don’t try and just get with the big names.

Name 5 essential albums to own.
The Beatles – White Album, Van Morrison – Astral Weeks, Bob Marley – Soul Revolution, A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders, The Cure – Mixed Up.

Diplo and Major Lazer hit Zouk KL for Global on 25 June 2010. Get some jerk sauce at www.majorlazer.com.