Fresh off the plane and a performance at this past weekend’s Fuji Rock Festival in Echigo Yuzawa, Japan, DJ Diplo arrived on Oahu just after 9:30am on Monday. Less than an hour later he’s on the phone with me—and, unbeknownst to him, popping my Music Scene interview cherry—ahead of his upcoming gig at Charley’s.
First time aside, the chance to talk story with the acclaimed DJ who produced M.I.A.’s Grammy nominated “Paper Planes”, who is hailed as the “worldwide ambassador of baile funk” and who works with the likes of Santigold, Kanye West and Gwen Stefani would throw anyone’s tummy into turmoil. I’m a touch relieved when our interview is a few minutes delayed, though unfortunately due to Diplo’s loss of luggage, forcing him to circle back to baggage claim in pursuit of a garment bag housing Japanese designer-label suits.
“I have to wear, like, a nice suit now when I perform—with my new band,” he says. “So we all wear nice suits and then I end up losing mine every time I fly.” With the background noise of Honolulu highways coupled with his low timbre it’s a little hard to hear, but Diplo is unmistakably nonchalant about the whole “suit stuff” thing. His manner is more like that of a friend casually recounting a recent, inevitable airport mishap.
I girlishly ask about designers (there are a couple labels he prefers, like Visvim and Comme des Garçons), and express surprise at the boldness of shopping in the country that landed the number one (Tokyo) and two (Osaka) spots on the list of “World’s Most Expensive Cities to Live In,” based on the latest data from consultants Mercer.
“You know what? Some shops are cheaper there,” he replies. “I only spend money on clothes, like, once every two years. I’ll wear it ’til it falls apart.”
Then he adds: “I guess I’m getting old. I like suits now. Is that messed up?”
Messed up? Hardly. A peek at the online coverage of his new band, Major Lazer—Diplo partnering with DJ Switch—reveals a pair of hip, do-it-all artists with a visual style evoking that of Funkadelic’s Hardcore Jollies (1976) meets the cult classic flick Heavy Metal (1981).
“The Major Lazer record is kind of like Kill Bill in a long line of samurai movies. Dancehall is always going back and forth to different places. I’m always interested as a DJ in music that reflects on itself,” Diplo told Canada’s Exclaim! earlier this month.
Major Lazer himself being conceptual—a zombie-battling, Jamaican commando with a laser-arm prosthesis and a badass mug—the Diplo/Switch duo hits the target with laser precision, in what Paste Magazine rightly calls “phenomenal.” According to press releases, Hawaii audiences can expect to see some of this new work making it onto Diplo’s decks this weekend.
What is messed up (and marvelous) is Diplo’s tip that the soon-to-be-released video for Major Lazer’s bouncing track “Pon de Floor”—off their 2009 album Gunz Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do—is being produced by Eric Wareheim of Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Scheduled for posting at maddecent.com (Diplo’s own label) perhaps as soon as next week, fans can already check out still shots of dancers in front of green screens—a taste of what is sure to be Wareheim’s characteristically weird-yet-wonderful style melded with deep Diplo beats.
While DJ Diplo’s laid-back, friendly air was enough to set my newbie nerves to rest, his music is more than enough to make me want to shake my ass. I’ve cleared my calendar for Saturday night (and you should too) for what is sure to be a show you’ll be bummed to miss. Though the man himself may not be wearing his misplaced attire, if you wear a suit to this mad shindig, I’ll give you a high five. MTW