It was in 2010, but he digresses.
“Munchi hit me up on Soundcloud like 'yo, I remixed the same song as you, but I turned it in too late, blah blah, but check out mine.' We started talking on Soundcloud, and when I listened to his remix I was like 'man, your remix should have been on the package, because it is so much better than mine.' I started going through a bunch of his music, and I saw this label 'moombahton.'”
The sound shocked him. What were these tempos? He didn't know what to make of it, and when he realized it was reggaeton slowed down and mixed with punchy Dutch house, his head exploded.
“I never really could get into reggaeton that much,” he says. “This really bridges the gap for a lot of white people, and I think there's a lot of people even in Latin America that hate reggaeton. I remember meeting a lot of people at SXSW, and I was talking to some girl that I think was from Spain or something, and she was like 'I fucking hate reggaeton.' Reggaeton has a lot of love/hate.”
That uncomfortable mix of love and hate is the wind in Francis' turbine. In a world of giant egos, prima donnas, and would-be political posturers, Francis is a tornado of fresh air. In a lineup of dark, moody press photos, he is a pie to each brooding kisser. Sometimes, he's digitizing DJ Snake and Martin Garrix' face onto a mid-fellatio porn star for all of a festival main stage to see. Other times, he's calling Tiesto “dad” and comparing Kourtney Kardashian to a piñata. He's polarizing, even when he doesn't mean to be.
“I think David Guetta still hates me,” he laughs. “He posted this video of himself standing in Tokyo one time, and it looked like he wanted it to be a time lapse, but it wasn't a time lapse.” This was in January of 2017. Guetta posted a video of himself standing still as a picture in a busy Tokyo crossway, looking off to the right of the frame. He stands there for a solid 37 seconds, then he walks toward the camera. There's no explanation.
“I reposted the video to Instagram, and I wrote this huge, long thing trying to understand it,” Francis remembers. “He got really mad. It started a whole EDM apocalypse. All these DJs were defending each other and getting mad at me – or getting mad at someone else that was in the comments. It was very interesting, but it was funny! I saw him recently, and I said 'hey, it was just a joke,' and he was like 'yeah, I don't have the same sense of humor as you.'”
A lot of people do get it though, including Diplo, one of the most influential artists in dance and pop today. He's the one who gave Francis his big break, back in those early moombahton days.
“The first record I released was the West Side EP on (Diplo's label) Mad Decent,” Francis says. “It had a record on there called 'Que Que' with Maluca, and it was in Spanglish. I'm at a level now where I can work with other artists and seek them out, and (my long-term friend) Toy Selectah has been A&Ring the whole (new) record for me. Since November, we've been getting vocals in Spanish, and he's been helping me translate the stuff. It's been a labor of love, but it works perfectly because of (my early work) making moombahton. It's kind of an homage going back to it.”
Francis has been semi-stealthy about the whole thing. He's been on and off planes, making his way through the Caribbean and Central America. He's been hooking up and writing with Spanish-language artists, including Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Arcangel, Mexican singer-songwriter and actress Ximena Sariñana, Dominicano rapper Fuego, and Dominicano via South Florida producer Happy Colors.
“'Say Less' was actually supposed to be a Spanish record,” he says of his recent, totally English-language single, “but I went and sought out G-Eazy, and it was just way easier for me to get the vocals. A couple months ago, I traveled to the Dominican Republic, because it's so hard to get vocals from a lot of the people there. You have to be in the place to get them into the studio, you gotta go there, and you have to have it ready – then they'll come in and do it, but if you don't have that, they're like 'nah.'”
“Say Less” did get a Spanish-language remix, gracias a Mexican rapper Serko Fu. Francis does a lot of things, but he doesn't give up.
He does, however, freak out. You wouldn't know it, because, as he admits himself, “Instagram is basically a highlight reel. He recently deleted everything from his Twitter, partly as clever promotion of “Say Less,” but also in large part because he realized so many of his early Tweets were stupid complaints and inane updates like “I'm eating salad.” His is a genuine, albeit carefully-curated brand of pubescent humor and positivity – but even court jesters have bad days.
“Any person in the arts, I think that's their greatest fear,” he says, “that something can happen and your career can just stop, because you put put two shitty songs and people are like 'alright, cool, this guy sucks now.'
“There will be some songs where it will just be a piece of shit,” he continues. “You know that there's something there, but it's a piece of shit. If you showed anybody, they would be like, 'I have no idea what your vision is right now, and you should stop.' Most of it happens like that for eight days, and you're angry, and you hate everything, and you think that you can't write songs anymore. Then, all of a sudden, it changes in one second. One drum sounds correct, and it does a domino effect where everything in the song starts to melt together, and you're like 'oh, it makes sense now.'”
That's how it was when he wrote his seminal anthem “I.D.G.A.F.O.S.” (That stands for “I don't give a fuck or shit,” in case you didn't know.) That was in 2011, and it was the breakthrough that spawned a hashtag, a million merchandising opportunities, and in a lot of ways, the phase of his career that allows Francis to now travel the world, demanding fickle Spanish-language artists get in a damn booth.
“I started making the melody for it, and I was jumping around my room because I was so happy,” he remembers. “I think that's why making music is so much fun, becausee you get that really low low, and then once you fix it, you get a really, really high high.”
Right now, Francis is high. He just remixed J. Balvin and Willy William's “Mi Gente,” another Spanish-language tune that topped the Latin Billboard chart and reached no 21 on the Hot 100. He's got another tune coming out, an English one, with Huntington Beach, Ca., rapper Young Pinch.
He just merked his role as Jasper, Diplo's middle school best friend who follows him everywhere and acts kind of exactly like Dillon Francis does on Snapchat, on Viceland's firs scripted television show What Would Diplo Do? He's traveling the world on a break-neck festival tour, making a stop in his hometown of LA for Insomniac's Nocturnal Wonderland this weekend, Friday and Saturday (Sept. 15-16). Plus, this album coming out before the end of the year.
“This is way more a cohesive project, because that's where I think the fault lies in my last album (Money Sucks, Friends Rule). Listening back to it, it's really all over the place, and this one, from each song, and it all sounds together. It's a super cohesive concept.”
Yup. Dillon Francis' Spanish album might just be his favorite, and that's on some real shit. No troll.