Dillon Francis [Interview]

As much as we thought it was going away, moombahton is here to stay and Dillon Francis played a large part in the genre’s longevity. He pioneered the ‘classic’ moombah sound, featuring 108 bpm percussion jams with high pitched lasers to accent. Francis was one of the first to borrow from the emerging American dubstep scene to create a new genre, cementing his place as a standard in any moombah line up. It helps that the guy is really goofy – just check his website.

I was first exposed to your music through the Ultra EP you did.. [Oh wow] Why are you so surprised?

I didn’t think that EP really went anywhere.

 Just because of popularity or you didn’t like the way it sounded?

It sounded good, but I didn’t think that it actually had any big influence in the music I was making. I didn’t think people really started noticing till The West Side EP.

 Those two tracks are still two of my favorite tracks of yours. I have no idea how I found them, but they’re in my iTunes and I still love them. You were talking about how you didn’t think you made a huge splash with them, regardless of that, your sound has shifted a lot. What influences those pivot points?

Just trying new stuff. I try to have something that kind of is a similar thing that’s in my tracks. I usually have a similar drop sound in it so you know it’s mine, or some of the things you’ll recognize as my own, and that’s just to make sure that people are like ‘oh, that sounds like Dillon Francis!’ instead of it being like ‘oh, I dunno, that just sounds like some trap.’ Just trying new things and getting influences from different places like the trap scene. Through the whole trap explosion and that.

 The trap explosion reminds me of the moombah explosion.

Yeah, exactly.

 Many would say that between you and Diplo, you pretty much caused the moombah explosion. That happened around last summer, and trap seems to be not necessarily replacing that genre, but replacing that hype.

I definitely feel that. I’m still gonna be producing the 110 BPM stuff that I do. I mean, I started out doing everything. First I started out doing electro house stuff then I went to dubstep, then when I heard some moombah from Munchi I started doing that, and that’s what I became known for. The thing is I’ve always produced everything, so I always try to find what the next thing is. That’s why I really respect Diplo, he’s so far ahead of everything that’s happening and he’s always trying to find that next sound.

 I did an interview with Diplo about a year, year and a half ago, and he said that he had that ear because he moved around so much as a kid and had this knowledge of self that was developed. I’ve read interviews with you that said you had a pretty sheltered upbringing, but regardless you have a similar ear. How does that affect your music?

I think it was really good because I listened to a lot of pop music when I was growing up, which is why my music is so poppy and has melodies like that. I also learned how to produce with Cory, and he’s like, a fucking genius when it comes to pop music. So that was really good, and then just the fact that when I was listening to different types of music, after I got out of the nest my parents had me in, I listened to punk, weird drum and bass stuff. I remember when I was in 5th grade I remember seeing the video for The Prodigy track…I forget which one…I think it was ‘Smack My Bitch Up’. Oh, actually it was ‘Breathe’; When I was watching it I felt like I was doing something wrong. I thought that if my parents saw me they would get really mad and think I was a bad kid.

 That’s a little ironic seeing the whole connection with trap and hip hop now, seems a little full circle.

Yeah, it does!

 I’ve seen you perform with both Zeds Dead and Adam K, who are very different kinds of DJs. How do you cater your live performance to artists around you if at all?

You saw me with Zeds Dead and who else?

 I saw you with Zeds Dead in Chicago, and do you remember that Rickshaw Stop show that was just so out of control that you showed up the next day at Dolores Park in the city?

Yes, oh my god. I was drinking a lot that night.

 My buddy was the promoter of that show and he was so happy, it was so packed, no one could get in, people were pissed, that was a great time to be throwing a show with you.

Yeah, I mean that was amazing. When I’m DJing I make sure that I’m DJing so the crowd has a good time, but I also make sure that I’m playing stuff they might not like. Just the fact that I’m a DJ and I’m playing music that they maybe should start listening to, maybe give it a chance…

 Creative license.

Yeah exactly. I don’t play for that long, if the crowd isn’t into it I’ll switch it up, but I’ll try to at least play stuff that I’m into as well. And then play ‘Levels.’ [Laughs]

 I’m sure you play Levels twice every set still. I saw Chuckie play Levels like a month ago and was just like, ‘Stop it!’ [Chuckles]. With Flosstrodamus opening tomorrow, I was curious to what you’re going to play? Trap, moombah, dub, a little of all three?

I’m gonna play everything. I start off with all my stuff, then I’ll go into trap. Depends on the crowd, if they’re feelin’ it I’ll go into trap or some dubstep or electro house.

 I wanna step back and talk about Diplo for a second before I forget. I remember when Que Que came out in the very beginning, and I sort of made the metaphor that Diplo is to MIA as you are to Diplo, like there was an established sound that sort of grew into it’s own thing. Can you talk about that, or just the story of how you came together?

How we came together was that my manager sent him Masta Blasta, and when he heard it he was like ‘holy shit this is awesome’, and he send a message to my manager, so I immediately hit Diplo up on Twitter, and he invited me over to the studio so I went over there, we talked about a release.

 Talking about social media, I can’t not ask you about your Tumblr. What’s up with the cats dude?

I don’t know, I like ‘em. Lots of other people do so it works. Yeah, [laughs].

You have a pretty consistent style, you like to be fitted, gel your hair, etc. Is that related to the music or just personal taste?

Just personal taste. I’ve always been really into the 50s style. When I was younger I always told my parents I wanted to work at a job where I’d have to wear a suit, and I ended up becoming a DJ/producer, which doesn’t cater to that. In the end I really just love 50s style, so I make it work.

 Equal to your tumblr, I think your rider is pretty hilarious. How often do you get all those items?

I’ve gotten it a lot. We actually had to change it because when we went through Canada they got my rider and we ended up having to sit for a long time while they searched the bus for heroin and guns.

 Oh wow.

Yeah we definitely changed it now [laughs]

 So I want to talk about playing overseas, didn’t you just do a little U.K tour before you did the big American ones? How does Europe starting your career differ from playing over here?

Well, it’s weird that it happened like that. The first tour I ever did was with Diplo where I played over in the U.K. It’s weird that I’m able to go over there and play, I’m still kind of baffled that my music has reached other places. It’s really cool, it’s different when you play over there because you really have to change your selection. I think the crowds are a little easier to play for over here [Madison] because there’s just less of it. In L.A. and Europe there’s just so much stuff all the time people are a little jaded.

From there, you’ve toured with dubstep artists like Nero, and you’ve also played as a headliner. How does it compare playing before an artist that’s more established in a genre that maybe isn’t your own vs playing your own show?

It’s way better because it’s my headlining tour and people are there to see me and also the openers, but it’s my thing. When I was opening for Nero, people are there to see Nero. I had my fans there, but that’s what they’re there to see. It’s really cool to be able to do a solo thing after touring with those guys.

Interview by Phillip Scott and Benjamin Kimo Twichell