Being Diplo-Matic

Rain’s Clash Fridays monthly resident, DJ Diplo, on the fine art of balancing multiple personalities

Some worship the ground the dubstep king DJ Diplo walks on, while others simply know him as that hot guy from the Blackberry commercial. Upon his April 1 return to Clash Fridays at Rain, the Grammy-nominated resident brings his Mad Decent skills to make you pop.

Professionally, you juggle three personas: Wesley, the boy from Florida; DJ Diplo, the laid-back dubstep producer; and Major Lazer, the raw, in-your-face Jamaican dancehall conductor. Who’s who?

Diplo is the base of it all. I started doing stuff—producing records, making art, making movies—and I just developed things like that. Mad Decent, my [record] label just came out of doing that stuff. Major Lazer is about being as wild and crazy as possible. It was sort of an off-project of the label that became really big last year. It was my first project doing a proper album, with the artwork and videos. It was pretty big for us. We toured a whole year, and some of the songs were hits in the clubs. Wes is the guy that’s going to go to sleep after this interview, waking up in a couple of hours to eat.

So what do your friends call you?

Wesley. In Jamaica they all call me Major Lazer. It’s kinda weird.

On Twitter, Major Lazer seems to “speak” with an accent. Jamaican?

That’s not me.

Who is it then?

Major Lazer is a combination of me; Switch, another producer; our artist Ferry Gouw; Skerrit Bwoy, our dancer and spiritual adviser, and this guy Trini Chris who helps with press. He runs Twitter. He’s from Trinidad. People in Jamaica notice that his accent’s a bit weird even on Twitter because it’s a Trinidadian accent, not Jamaican.

Your song “Pon de Floor” has been all over the club circuit. What does that mean?

It’s this girl talking about being on the floor, being on the dresser—kind of a sexual thing. In Jamaica “pon de floor” is what people say for “dance upon the floor,” shortened without the U.

The video is very sexually explicit indeed …

It was really racy. I had this idea for our dancers to be dancing crazy. I got the idea from kids that watch videos and dance in front of their computers; I wanted to make a virtual world about that. It got 800,000 views before they pulled it because there was a nipple slip, which we didn’t even know about. It became a big phenomenon. The project Major Lazer is about being as wild and crazy as possible, so it’s cool.

Have you received criticism for being a white guy emulating a Jamaican character?

There’s always critics, but in Jamaica it never was an issue. Everyone wants to be a part of this new idea about reggae music, but for me it’s just about music. Reggae is for the attitude, but the songs could be played in house clubs as well. I get critics all the time, but everybody does. I have pretty thick skin now.

Do you ever wake up confused in the morning about who you’re supposed to be?

No, at the end of the day I’m Diplo and the vehicle is Mad Decent. I can do whatever I want through the label and crew. I just love that it’s all crazy.