Diplo On Major Lazer, Working With Envelope-Pusher Madonna & Gwen Stefani: Idolator Interview

Kathy Iandoli | July 3, 2014 4:15 am

Anyone tuned into Diplo’s Twitter and/or Instagram recently will know that he’s been having an amazing time while globetrotting. Major Lazer was out in Rio de Janeiro during the World Cup festivities (Diplo even released a World Cup mix for the BBC here) with the Budweiser Hotel, performing, partying, the usual business. Their latest EP Apocalypse Soon has been making its rounds, keeping fans sated until the full-length project arrives at the top of next year. Meanwhile in Diplo World, he’s going wherever the creativity takes him.

The new Madonna album will (hopefully) have Blondre3000’s DNA all over it, as Diplo and Madge have spent a good amount of time in the studio making tracks together, which the producer describes as “pushing the envelope.”

There’s much more in the collaborative pipeline, though, for Diplo and he checks in to discuss what he’s got going on, what’s next for Major Lazer, and how the perfect song formula involves proper chemistry.

It’s been a few months since Major Lazer’s Apocalypse Soon dropped. How has the response been? DIPLO: It’s been amazing. In America we’re preparing a new album for Major Lazer. It’s gonna come out early next year, like January or February. There’s a lot of process to make the new Major Lazer as popular as it can go. We have a TV show that’s gonna air on ADHD, which is like a new Fox — Fox has a certain block of time on Saturday nights for cartoons, and we made a cartoon for Major Lazer that starts in September. In Europe, one of our songs reached the charts, the one with Sean Paul (“Come On To Me”). It’s been doing really well. I think it hit the Top 5 in France, Belgium, and Holland. Some of the other songs are big in other places, too.

How do you get into Major Lazer mode, as opposed to producing for other artists? DIPLO: Well Major Lazer is my favorite project to do. It’s super fun, it’s really exciting and it’s my own project. Like our crew controls the whole flow of information and the way it looks and the way it sounds. When I work with another Pop artist, my job is to make their song as big as possible. Major Lazer is my own project. We have our own identity. We control that flow of information to the people. It’s really fun for me.

Have you picked any collaborations for your next album yet? DIPLO: Yeah there’s a lot of stuff in the books. I don’t wanna say too much about who’s featured on it because we have to sign the deal sheets and everything, but there are a lot of big name acts we hope to be featured on the album. I’ve been working with a lot of different people the last couple of years so I’m pulling all the favors for this record for sure.

Do you think that you’ll carry most of the production again for another artist’s album like you did for Snoop Lion’s Reincarnation? DIPLO: I think that was kind of unique, because I don’t think anybody would wanna make a reggae record ever again. That was just like [Snoop] asked to do a reggae record, and we had enough stuff we were producing. And a lot of the reggae music we make as Major Lazer doesn’t really fit on our albums, since it’s not that popularized. But I think with him it really worked. I would love to do another record as Major Lazer for another artist. That would be amazing. I think Snoop’s the kind of guy that could actually do that because he’s kind of a chameleon. He can do whatever he wants to. He’s established in rap, he’s done country. He’s done everything really, and he’s kind of a brand more than an artist. He’s like a Wal-Mart of music. He can do whatever he wants. We just had fun with it, you know? We didn’t take it too seriously. I don’t think a lot of people knew about the album. They might’ve seen the documentary, but I’m really proud of the documentary we made on the process of making the record with him. I think it was really fun.

Speaking of chameleons, you’re working with Madonna who is known for consistently reinventing herself. For you as a producer, is that a good thing because you’re able to do whatever you want or is it a challenge? DIPLO: I think with her I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if we were going to actually make records or not. It was kind of like I’d give her a week to see if the chemistry was there, but she was up for anything. I love when an artist gives a producer the confidence he needs to work with them, and Madonna was very, very open-minded to my ideas. I really love that. A lot of times I’m having to sell my projects and my ideas to them, but she was down from day one. We’ve written about seven songs now, and hopefully maybe four or five will make it to the album. I’ve done about three weeks with her, and we’re gonna do some more projects at the end of July. She’s just really cool. I think as far as artists reinventing themselves, she did it before anybody else. She kind of began that trend of actually coming back with a whole new look and style and sound and winning it and hitting the top of the charts. I don’t think anybody had done it to that level. She works hard. In the studio, I was Googling her while I was working with her, and she’s literally sold like 300 million copies of songs. She’s a force to be reckoned with. We had a lot of fun. Those records are gonna be crazy sounding. We really pushed the envelope with some of the stuff we were doing. The last night we were just having fun, and she was like, “Yo, give me some of the craziest shit you’ve got right now,” and we literally wrote a song that night on the craziest record I had. And it worked. All of the best songs happen on a whim. When I made Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” that record didn’t make the album, he got dropped, and it became a #1 record in America. It was like the biggest Rock record of 2012. We made that high on mushrooms, not even thinking about it making the record. With Usher, we made “Climax” in literally like ten minutes. With M.I.A., I made “Paper Planes” on a roof in the Caribbean. No microphone covers, just recording right there outside. Every time we do something you never can expect when the magical stuff’s gonna happen.

You can go from working with Madonna to working with an artist like Mø. How do you go about who you choose to work with? DIPLO: With Mø, somehow she had gotten my email and she kind of tracked me down. I had no idea who she really was, and we’ve literally done like eight songs with her for Major Lazer and she writes for other people. I like her vibe; I love her voice. Her voice is so good, and I’m lucky she sought me out. Same thing happened with Kimbra. I work really well with female artists, I think. It’s always good chemistry with them. Whoever hits me up, if you’re committed and you come hang out with me, I’ll work with anybody. It depends on how the chemistry is, and with [Mø] it was really good.

Who else are you working with outside of the Major Lazer project? A lot of stuff with Elliphant, another Scandinavian girl who’s pretty awesome. Usher, we did a bunch of new stuff for. Done some stuff for Gwen Stefani for her new record possibly. Rita Ora, Pusha T. Ty Dolla $ign I’ve done a lot of stuff with. I love him. I literally found him and was like, “Yo I love your stuff. I wanna try and progress what you’re doing.” He’s my favorite artist out of LA right now. He’s real dope.

Madonna’s most #UnapologeticBitch moments during interviews:

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