When asked about the origins of 11:11, the name for the much-ballyhooed collaboration between Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Israeli DJ/producer Guy Gerber, the ordinarily loquacious entrepreneur was uncharacteristically reticent.
“Some things are better left a mystery,” he said, though his partner admitted the name comes from “a date when two worlds collide and open a gate to another dimension.”
The occasion was series of one-on-one conversations held in connection with the day long IMS Engage at the W Hotel in Hollywood, crawling with EDM types for the event, a spin-off of the Ibiza International Music Summit. Other pairings included David Lynch and Moby, moderator Pete Tong and Giorgio Moroder, Steve Aoki and YouTube founder Chad Hurley and Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer
Explaining the unlikely partnership between them, the scholarly, bearded Gerber described being summoned to New York “to make music together” by Diddy. “He played me a track from my first album for inspiration,” laughs the 27-year-old founder of pioneering record labels Supplement Facts and Rumours. “And I gave him a big hug.”
Diddy traced his own fascination with this kind of music to a trip to Ibiza’s famed DC10 Club, his own collaborations with Nellee Hooper and Felix da Housecat, and dancing on the dirt floors of to DJ Junior Vasquez at N.Y.C. clubs like the Sound Factory and Paradise Garage.
He went on to contrast his “next level” musical approach to the experience of going to his grandmother’s Baptist church, “where you don’t know what’s going to happen” (“You could get visited by the Holy Ghost,” he joked) to the regimentation of the Catholic Church where he was brought up.
“It’s all about the spiritual aspect of this music,” he says. “Playing from the heart and experiencing true emotions.
“I am always looking for DJ/producers without a set format, who aren’t afraid to clear the dance floor, who are fearless. I thought it would be cool to work with Guy.”
“I want to push people’s buttons, rather than make them love me,” adds Gerber. “I try to give the listener respect. Working with P. Diddy, he understood my music better than I did.”
Diddy claims he has no commercial hopes for the album, which should be out for July, and even intends to give it away.
“The underground is what keeps music alive,” he insists about the record. “We’re not trying to please the masses. Some people will love it and some will hate it. If people like it, you might have a chance to make more money if you don’t ask them to pay for it.”
“With music, you can touch people,” says Gerber, pointing to his head, heart and groin as he continues, “here, here and here.”
Diddy realizes that people might question his motives. “I know that I face the backlash of people’s polarized reactions to me,” he admits.
As for his own top ranking in Forbes with a net worth of $700 million, P. Diddy sheepishly admits he doesn’t have that amount in the bank, and points to DJ stars like Avicii who have their own hotels. “I don’t have the Diddy Hotel,” he jokes. “I’ve never had a ferris wheel at my concerts. You all have the same 24 hours a day I do.”
Gerber, for his part, is glad to see EDM making inroads in America, since he considers cities like Chicago and Detroit the places where it was born. “When things reach this level,” he says, “people begin to look back and discover where it came from.”
Still hedging on an exact release date for the 11:11 project, Guy says, “To create drama, you need anticipation. You want to know the wait was worth it,” before hinting the album will hit around July. “It can’t just be good. It has to be amazing.”
Adds Diddy, to much laughter: “It was made after-hours, with after-hours stuff going on.”
Will they play together live? “Only after-hours and unannounced,” insists Guy.
“People pay a lot of money to be entertained,” says Diddy about the concert experience. “You have to take the audience on a journey. You can’t just push buttons.”
Next up was a dialogue with YouTube founder Chad Hurley and DJ/producer/Dim Mak label owner Steve Aoki, who described his own genesis from playing in punk bands, being a tour manager to recording groups in his living room.
“It’s all about building community,” he says, crediting YouTube, Facebook and Soundcloud for spreading the word.
Referring to his penchant for crowd-surfing and throwing cakes into the crowd, Aoki says, “It’s all about amplifying the environment, making the energy through the roof.”
Hurley compared his own background in design (“I like to create something that doesn’t exist yet”) and start-ups like Pay Pal and YouTube to building a grass-roots audience the same way.
“I was just at the right place at the right time,” he says about YouTube, raising $11.5 million for the company he started in his garage and eventually sold to Google for $1.7 billion in 2006. He has gone on to found MixBit, which takes the YouTube concept into the area of video sharing. “I just wanted to simplify the process of watching videos online.”
The two then discussed the combining of the virtual and physical worlds, with Aoki talking about interviewing futurist Ray Kurziel the day before and being intrigued by his positive Utopian spin on where technology is taking us, including the ability to root out virus and cancer cells.
“DJs and technology are inseparable,” says Aoki. “We live in a YouTube generation. Where I am now is because of YouTube.”
Aoki also indicated his belief in giving away his music, explaining that “circulation” is the most important thing. “The more people hear it, the more come to my shows. Financially, I win as an artist. “
He goes on to explain at Dim Mak, when digital overcame physical in terms of sales, it allowed him to lower his business overhead and invest more into marketing, indicating he is beginning to experiment with a subscription model, including Free Fridays.
Hurley defended the YouTube model by insisting that the company now pays more than $1 billion out to labels, monetizing copyrighted content that was previously pirated. He also insisted that user-generated videos sometimes generate even more income than the original songs.
“You want the world to take a song and make it their own,” he says.