He made white kids twerk before Miley, his label spawned 'Harlem Shake' and soon, the ubiquitous DJ-producer will debut music with Madonna, Usher and Lorde. With his 'F-uck it, let's try it attitude' (so says Skrillex), Diplo is reinventing how a modern smash gets made.
Diplo photographed by Ramona Rosales on August 14, 2014 at Bootsy Bellows in West Hollywood, California.
“I’ve probably got the most eclectic social media there is because it literally goes from hanging out with my son at a park to like Madonna’s house to a rave in Africa,” Diplo (born Wesley Pentz). “I don’t think I’ll even realize how crazy it is until five years from now when I’m not doing anything fun anymore. Or maybe 20 years from now, and I’m looking back at how the fun just never ended.”
Snaking down the inside of his right forearm is one of his nine tattoos, a simple line drawing of a Brontosaurus-ish dinosaur (it’s a Diplodocus, a childhood favorite and the source of his DJ name) that he got a decade ago as a source of motivation: "It was like, if I ever have to quit making music and get a real job, I’ll have to look at this every day and know I failed," he says.
Despite spending a lot of this year DJ’ing monster EDM events like Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Fest, he doesn’t really see himself as a part of rave culture, which he dismisses as overly reliant on drugs and formulaic sounds. “They don’t even care about the music anymore,” he says. “It’s about the experience and hearing things that are really familiar and comfortable over and over again.”
Diplo is equally baffled by many of his DJ peers’ lack of familiarity with records that don’t fall squarely into the serotonin-surge formula of contemporary dance music. “All the DJs were at my Vegas night one night -- I’m not going to name names, but all the big EDM guys — and I played a Juicy J record,” he says, shaking his head. “They’re like, ‘Where do you get these records?’ I’m like, ‘They’re on the radio! You can buy them off iTunes!’ They really have no idea. They live in these bubbles. I’m like, ‘Damn, dudes, use your imagination a little bit.’ ”
Diplo and frequent collaborator Ariel Rechtshaid, himself a high-end producer-songwriter, have been in the studio with Madonna, and are clearly psyched about how the tracks are coming along. “I think three are just like amazing, smashes,” says Diplo. “One is super weird. Late one night in the studio we got a little bit drunk and she improvised a little hook and we made a song out of it. I think it’s going to be a breakthrough if she can manage to get everything together and get it out properly,” he says.
For a superstar DJ and hitmaking producer, Diplo lives a surprisingly stripped-down life. He claims to take a smaller-than-you’d-think salary, socking the rest away or investing it back into Mad Decent. He’s about to get a Tesla, but it’s the first car he has had in years. “I don’t even have a house,” he says. “A lot of DJs don’t realize they’re here today and gone tomorrow. They’re literally taking jets to every show. It’s crazy how much money they’re spending.”