Diplo: Don’t Drink and Sample

By • Sep 1st, 2007 • Category: Interviews

When Chicago Innerview finally tracked down the elusive Diplo on a recent Wednesday morning, he was fast asleep. Everyone needs their rest, that’s for sure. But who’d have thought that locating the taste-making, jet-setting and world class DJ (a.k.a. Wes Pentz) would be as easy as dropping his Philadelphia residence a wake-up call?

His exhaustion was understandable. Having worked in what seems like every country on the globe over the past few years, as well as well-documented collaborations with artists such as M.I.A., it’s no surprise that he might need to hold up shop at his pad to regroup, even for just a few days. Especially on this Wednesday in late August, having just the night before caught a red-eye flight from Jamaica after finishing up work on his upcoming solo LP.

Having released an iTunes-only EP in July with another in the works, his side projects keep him almost as busy as his full-time job touring the world’s best clubs. Such projects include his Mad Decent record label and the Heaps Decent project, an experiment which offers underprivileged youth in Australia and Brazil a chance to make music. Luckily, after rousing him from dreams of mixers and mash-ups, he was kind enough to share some of his time to talk about what he’s been up to and where he’s headed…

Chicago Innerview: Do you want to do an entire interview and not talk about M.I.A.?
Diplo: I don’t mind talking about her. It’s a busy time for her.

Chicago Innerview: It’s equally busy for you.
Diplo: Yeah, I’ve got a solo album and a new EP on iTunes. I do a lot of shit for them because they help me out with Heaps Decent, giving me computers for the kids. That last EP was just something I threw together in a weekend because we have like a partnership and I owed them.

CI: So they give you the means to teach kids how to download music? That’s a sweet deal for them.
Diplo: It’s really just teaching kids to be more savvy. They have computers in the schools there, but even the teachers don’t know how to use them. I want to teach the kids how to make the music they hear, whether it’s instrumentals or beats, or open space with cheap mics, a capella…anything really.

CI: But you’re such a fan of vinyl. Isn’t this putting another nail in that coffin?
Diplo: Vinyl only means your music is tangible, that it exists, and not just floating around as bits and numbers of zeros and ones. Downloading makes the music accessible wherever the kids are, even out in the woods in Australia. Music is free again to the kids this way. I still love vinyl, but you have to move with technology.

CI: You sample hundreds of artists. What happens when the day comes that you hear someone sampling you?
Diplo: Hopefully I’d be getting paid. I sample loads of shit, but I have to pay for it, even if I chop it up, blow it out and rework it. I exist on two different fronts because I do a ton of bootlegs and just dumb shit to amuse myself, and I do serious production. A lot of what I do in my sets is just dumb shit that I do to get off for free, not to make any sales. But when I do real production, that I pay for. I don’t make any money off of sales anyway, so most of what I get paid is from doing live [shows].

CI: What if someone that you’ve remixed — Cat Power, Pixies — asks you personally not to use their stuff? Would you stop as a favor?
Diplo: When I play out, 80 percent of what I do is my own edits. That’s what a DJ is supposed to do, change things. For example, when I sample The Clash and chopped up ‘Straight to Hell’ it means something more. A DJ’s job is to make something that means one thing to somebody mean something totally different to somebody else. To me, sampling other people’s music is the coolest thing that’s ever been invented in music. But if you jack somebody’s shit, you have a certain responsibility.

CI: Like what?
Diplo: I dunno, don’t drink and sample, I guess. That’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever said. Fuck, I dunno. You have a responsibility if you’re making money to pay them or to try to do things well.

CI: So if another musician, not a lawyer or label, asks you to stop sampling them live, but you thought you were being responsible, you’d keep doing it?
Diplo: Did they threaten to sue me? Worse case scenario is that I sample somebody’s work, and I have a huge hit, and the record label or artist demands to get paid. They can really fuck me over. But I started with nothing, so any money that I make DJing is a bonus. Really, I’d lose nothing. My job is to make an artist cooler, to give them some underground edge that they might not have. Like Gwen Stefani, I reach street kids and she just sticks to pop radio crowds. So when I use her music, people might begin to dig her if they like what I do.

Chicago Innerview Magazine, September 2007

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