“It’s a lie,” he jests. “We’ve been lying to the whole world for the past three months. There’s nothing coming out. There’s no endgame. Everyone’s just sad.”
By now, dance fans know not to take Francis too seriously. Buoyed by comic videos and cat-riddled photos perfectly pitched for the Instagram era, the Los Angeles native’s rise to prominence owes nearly as much to his cheeky sense of humor as his music.
Far from cavalier about his own output, however, Francis is a prolific 27-year-old producer who released his first full-length album, Money Sucks, Friends Rule, on Columbia this week. Boasting collaborations with the likes of Martin Garrix, DJ Snake, Twista and Major Lazer, the 12-track offering veers from crunchy club opener “All That” to trap-inspired tag-team “Get Low,” while melodic big room anthems “When We Were Young” and “Set Me Free” coexist with the squelching moombahton of “I Can’t Take It.”
Despite their stylistic differences, Francis says the collaborations came together surprisingly naturally. He recalls finding instant creative chemistry with Garrix during the two studio sessions that produced “Set Me Free.”
“I went to Martin’s house before he put out ‘Animals,'” he says. “He still had only like 10,000 Twitter followers, and we were just hanging out with his parents. It was awesome because he seemed just like me and he’s an amazing producer.”
Francis also employed long-distance collaboration on the album, exchanging projects by email with artists like the Presets.
“We’d never met until I played Big Day Out in Australia, but we’d been working on the track for six months because there were so many different versions where each of us was like ‘I’m not feeling this,’ and it was totally fine,” he says. “It’s really fun to work with people like that and it’s the whole purpose of my album. It’s called Money Sucks, Friends Rule. It’s very easy to work with friends.”
A self-described studio speed demon, Francis believes his attention-deficit genre approach can also extend to his creative workflow.
“DJ Snake hates getting into the studio with me, because it is very ADD when I listen to sounds or try to find patches I want to use and mess with,” he says. “I like working by myself because I am insane in how I listen to things really fast and work so much faster than a lot of people. If I’m too slow, I’ll second-guess everything. That’s why it was so hard to do the album versus a single where I just finish it and put it out.”
In keeping with this frenetic pace, Francis has hardly taken a post-album break on the production front, working on collaborations with the likes of tropical house upstart Kygo and Mad Decent staple Trippy Turtle.
“I meld really well with Norwegian people, I guess,” he says. “Kygo and I are getting in the studio again to make another song because the first one was so easy. Our styles really meld well together. We both love very happy melodic music, so it works.”
After making his name with blistering moombahton on Diplo‘s Mad Decent imprint, Francis has faced pressure from fans who scorn his new album’s pop-friendly shift. While he promises an all-moombahton EP after the album’s dust settles, he resents those who equate exploring new sounds with selling out.
“I think there’s a misconception that making songs at 128 bpm is selling out because I used to make 110,” he says. “But I made 128 way before that! If you listen to songs like the progressive house ones and ‘IDGAFOS,’ they’re both f—ing pop songs. I’m just trying to do stuff that makes me happy and feel like I’m moving forward, not being stagnant and making the same moombahton songs I did when I was starting out.”
Striking a more serious note, Francis admits that the social-media vitriol spewed his way can take an emotional toll.
“I want to make everyone happy, man. I never want to make anyone sad or pissed off or want me to die,” he says. “I get messages that could be joking, but there are also insane people in this world that might not be joking and that scares me for my life.”
Such fears won’t keep Francis from the public eye, where he has thrived in adopting hilarious alter egos like disaffected German deep house snob DJ Hanzel. Hanzel recently delivered a well-regarded BBC Radio One guest mix for Annie Nightingale, prompting fan speculation about a full-blown side project.
“I love deep house stuff, but I’m ADD so I’m still working on my stuff,” Francis says. “A lot of people ask me to tour as Hanzel, and it’s hard because I don’t have the time. Or he doesn’t have the time. I would probably have to subsidize his tour. And he wouldn’t even be happy about it. He’d call me a piece of shit.”
Asked whether his over-the-top online persona mirrors his actual self, Francis finds no distinction between the two.
“I think the reason why people gravitate towards me, and I have a big fanbase now is because all that stuff is pretty much who I am,” he says. “You can ask her.”
Francis motions to a woman conveniently walking by.
“Who is he?” I play along.
She doesn’t miss a beat.
“He’s Dillon f—ing Francis.”