Diplo on Being 'Jealous' of Ex M.I.A.'s Success & Why Justin Bieber Is Controlled By His Fans

Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
DJ Diplo performs at the Rose Bowl on February 21, 2015 in Pasadena, California.

The megawatt DJ-producer doesn’t hold back when it comes to his ex M.I.A., collaborating with Justin Bieber and Drake’s entourage.

Diplo may be dance music’s busiest man.

Fresh off the February release of the self-titled debut from Jack Ü, his super-duo with Skrillex, the DJ-producer, 36, is focusing on Major Lazer, his trio that also includes Jillionaire and Walshy Fire. The group will release two albums this year, including Peace Is the Mission (June 1 on Diplo’s Mad Decent label); on April 16, Major Lazer debuted a self-titled cartoon on FXX.

On top of that, Diplo’s working on the next Justin Bieber LP with Skrillex. Recently, he spoke candidly with Billboard on collaborators both past and present.

Op-Ed: If Skrillex and Diplo Can't Get Us Off Our Phones, Who Can?

What was your approach on the new Major Lazer album?

We wrote like 20 records in two weeks, then remixed them like 20 times to make them sound futuristic. We’re producers at heart, [but] we wanted to write strong records. If people hear a Major Lazer record, right away they're going to think, "It's gotta be something I've never heard before." That's how we always want it to be.

How did Major Lazer get its own cartoon?

It started four years ago. We developed it with another station for about a year; I was back and forth to Atlanta working on it. But we ended up not loving what we were doing. We bought the project back from them, which is hard, and sent it to [animation house] ADHD and FXX. They got our perspective right away. It feels like G.I. Joe meets old-school Ninja Turtles. Everybody’s on there: Andy Samberg, Tiësto, Aziz Ansari, J.K. Simmons.

Justin Bieber to Work with Skrillex & Diplo on Next Album

How is Justin Bieber’s new record coming along?

[Skrillex and I] were in Miami and listened to a bunch of his demos. There’s a couple of good records. We’re hopefully going to have some time with him this summer. We definitely want to return the favor for him, because it was a big deal he gave [Jack U] “Where Are U Now.” It’s one of the strongest records he had on his album, but he had no production for it. We transformed it into something different. It’s crazy because it’s the first radio record he’s had since “Baby.”

And it’s so different from that song.

It’s different, but for me, it feels like he’s always working against himself. He’s a cool guy and into cool music. But I think he’s controlled by the way his fans are. It’s like he has to...

Appeal to them?

He has to, you know? I feel like this song is what he should be. Bieber’s so talented, he needs to just be himself and be by himself and work on his craft. He has a lot of people around; he has to find the right team to help him make something that’s going to stand alone.

Skrillex, Diplo & Justin Bieber's 'Where Are U Now' Dances Up the Charts

What song are you listening to all the time right now?

Drake’s ”Know Yourself.” It’s the biggest song in the club; I’m trying to figure out why. Everyone’s talking about “woes.” I’m trying to figure out what a “woe” is.

Drake said it stands for “working on excellence.”

Oh, so people who are working on excellence? I don’t think a lot of his friends worked on much excellence, because I don’t know, who are those guys? I think they’re working on his excellence. But he’s pretty excellent.

M.I.A. Talks Being Controlled by Diplo, a Bad Episode With Oprah, 'Arular' 10 Years Later

Your ex-girlfriend M.I.A. recently said you were jealous and controlling. What’s your reaction to that?

I met her the next day at a hotel, and she apologized; I hadn’t seen her in five years. Nothing she said is a lie. I was really jealous and sad, and probably mad when she signed to a major label. I had a lot of control when we started, and I was really proud of the music we made. The label promised her all these people to work with, and I was like, “But your thing is this.” I probably made mistakes in our relationship, but we made awesome music. Every time we had a fight, we made good music after. I want to find a new artist I can fight with all the time and make awesome songs with. That’s Skrillex. (Laughs.) We’re thinking about doing something for Major Lazer with her. She’s so awesome still, and her attitude is much better now.  

An edited version of this story will appear in the May 2 issue of Billboard.