Dillon Francis speaks with a tactful crassness. He weaves obscenities in and out of his speech subtlety and effortless in between lucid analyses of his music and where his career has come. It matches his appearance. His newly acquired flashy bleach blond hair offset his subdued look of a T-shirt and jeans, or in some cases a more dapper suit. In a lot of ways these features are emblematic of Francis’ music; on the whole, his songs feature well-constructed melodic pop hooks lined up against aggressive electro drops. It’s that loose formula that’s served the artist well. Between that and being conscious of his various audiences and how to get his music to each one, Francis has been able to meteorically rise up through electro music from making indie-obscure remixes two years ago to becoming Moombahton’s ambassador. Nudges and endorsements from his friends, electro giants Diplo and Skrillex don’t hurt either. Francis still has ways to go before he truly permeates into the mainstream like his aforementioned contemporaries, but he doesn’t seemed to be too concerned with that. With a level head on his shoulders, nothing is stopping him from going for the gusto. We spoke with Dillon Francis after he closed out Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas about trap, Moombahton, and why all of his releases are on different labels. By Ali Breland.
Ali Breland: You've talked about how it's weird that you can get people to react in the same way they do when The Strokes play "Reptilia" on every single drop. Why do you think people react that way to stuff at your shows so much more than at rock concerts?
Dillon Francis: It's just different. With DJing it's always instant gratification because of the songs that are being played. I don't know, it's also the dynamics of the music. At rock concerts the dynamics are very limited because you only have a drum set and guitars and vocals. With electronic music you have everything you could do inside of a computer. You have a broader range of harmonics and dynamics. The amount of bass you can put in a song is so much more than a bass guitar or a bass drum.
You just closed out Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin. Two years ago you said that this was where you wanted to be, playing a lot of festivals and doing bigger things. Do you feel where you are now is the same as the vision of where you thought you would be two years ago?
To be playing after Bun B [at Fun Fun Fun Fest]? [laughs] Yeah, no definitely. I don't really know. It's just also surreal to me that people even enjoy listening to my music as much as they do. It's weird. I'm just kind of going with the flow and just trying to make as much music as possible. I'm glad that people enjoy it and I'm glad I'm able to play festivals and be at Fun Fun Fun Fest, and that they wanted me to play after Bun B, or that was even a consideration.
Do you care to speculate where you think you'll be in two years time?
I have no idea. I don't really think about future stuff. I just kind of live in the moment. All I care about is just staying relevant and not becoming a person where people are just like, "Oh [he] was just a flavor of the week."
How do you do that?
Just staying up with what's happening in music and looking at what trends are happening. I know a lot of people don't like people who trend hop, but the thing is that like I'm an artist and that’s pretty much what you have to do. And also, I like all different types of music. I grew up and I was listening to like pop music before I even got into punk music. Then after listening to punk music, I got into electronic music. I listen to everything, so when new stuff comes out it's inspiring to me and that's why I like to make it. That's how I stay relevant is trying to stay up on new trends. Kind of like what Diplo does. Diplo is like the master of knowing what's happening and listening to great music.
Trend-wise, what do you think is next?
I mean, if I knew what was next I'd be making it, so I have no idea. I don't know what's gonna happen. That's the age-old question.
Why did you go back on Masta Blasta and make "The Rebirth?" What was the rationale behind creating a second version?
The reason I did it is because that song has always had three versions, or now with "The Rebirth" it has three versions. It started off as a track at 130 [BPM] and what happened was Munchi had contacted me on SoundCloud and he was like, "Hey man, I did a remix to this Steve Sark song. You should listen to my remix." I went into his SoundCloud and listened to his remix and it was 10 times better than mine, but his got released for free and I was so confused by that. I started listening to even more of his music and then I heard all the Moombahton stuff that he had and I couldn't pinpoint the BPM of it. I was just like, "What the fuck is going on?" So I loaded the track into Serato and found out that it was 110 [BPM]. I started playing it for one of my friends and he was like, "Wow. This is fucking amazing." He's always been on top of a lot of stuff too. He listened to the Dirty Dutch stuff. This guy's name is DJ Ruckus. He was like in Holland before "Let The Bass Kick" ever came to America. He played it for me and was like, "This is the fucking shit," so I trusted his opinion. I played him [Munchi's Moombahton] and he was like, "Oh, this is awesome!" I slowed down Masta Blasta in my computer and I was like, "Oh, check this other track out." I played it for him and the reaction from him was just fucking crazy and he was like, "Who is that?" and I was like, "That's actually one of my tracks." I just tricked him to see what his actual real reaction would be. I slowed it down and sent it to Diplo. It went from 130 to 110 [BPM] and I just wanted to see if I could make a trap song with one of my old songs [hence The Rebirth].
Do you see yourself pursuing more music in the trap direction?
Oh yeah, of course. I was always making dubstep and then I made Moombahton and electro stuff. I made everything so I've always wanted to just keep doing as many different styles of music as possible. I'm always gonna stick to Moombahton, but I always want to try to do different stuff.
There's a new Complex article that talks about how calling EDM trap the same thing as trap kind of disrespects the roots of trap and the culture that it was based in. As a producer that makes trap, how would you respond to that?
Well, I think it's fucking dumb because the only thing that sucks for people in the whole original trap movement which is in Atlanta is that the genre is called trap because it sounds like it. It literally is just a different sound set. If you didn't want to piss them off you could call this minimal dubstep with 808's because that's what it is. It's just putting a buildup to a minimal drop. It's just a minimal dubstep song to me. I don't think anyone should get mad at this whole calling it trap or whatnot. I mean you could say the same thing about Moombahton. It's reggaeton, but it just has a different sound set. If anything it's furthering everything in Atlanta. No one should be mad that whole trap thing came up. Now people are learning about all the stuff that happens in Atlanta with what trap music is and where it came from, who actually does produce it, who are the original guys. I don't think anyone should get mad. It's kind of like the whole thing with Skrillex where everyone got really pissed off about him popularizing dubstep. Skrillex is making careers for people right now.
You release stuff on Skrillex's label OWSLA, and you release stuff on Mad Decent. How does the label system work for you when you put out releases?
No one's signed me, so I've just put out on different labels. I just talked to Skrillex about it one time and I was like, "Hey, can I put out an EP on OWSLA," and he was just like, "Sure, just send me the song," and I sent it to him and that's what happened. Same thing with Mad Decent, I just talked to Diplo about it and I asked him to put out an EP and that's what happened. I'm not gonna go into the secret of why I release on different labels, because that's my little secret of what I'm trying to do. I wanted to keep doing my thing. I'm always gonna go back to Mad Decent and OWSLA and put out some more stuff on their labels. They've helped me out so much.
That's pretty interesting. You kind of piqued my interest when you mentioned it was a secret. Is it more lucrative or just allows for more creative independence
Just creatively independent. I mean, I guess I can tell you. I just feel like there's some music that the different audience at that [particular] label will like. If I put out on Mad Decent again, I want to put out more routine Moombahton stuff, even though my last single, "I Don't Give A Fuck Or Shit," was definitely a very Skrillex type of sounding record. More of the stuff that sounds like "I Don't Give A Fuck Or Shit," I put out on Sonny's label [OWSLA]. More stuff that sounds Moombahton, I would put on Mad Decent and then I just felt like "Fireworks" was perfect for Calvin [Harris'] label, [Fly Eye Records]. He really enjoyed the record, so that's the only reason why I do it. I think it really broadens my audience to different people.
Could you explain about how Moombahton is this genre that was just created on the internet without any geographic point of origin, and do you think trap music falls into that too?
Oh completely. The reason that Moombahton came up so fast was because of the internet and I think that the internet is even more prevalent now with so many people on it, that that's what happened with trap and that's why trap just like exploded so fast – was because of the internet. It was all because of Dave Nada slowing down a house song. The story was that Dave slowed down Moombah, the Afrojack remix. Munchi was on the internet that night when Dave put it out on the internet. He got it, downloaded it, and it was basically what he had been looking for to finally get the formally to how to get reggaeton mixed with Dirty Dutch. [Munchi] sat at home, made a whole EP, and then kids kept listening to that and then it spread even more from [Washington, D.C.] to Wes[ley Pentz, or Diplo]. Once Wes got a hold of it, he was able to popularize it and that's what happened.
Do you think there's any reason that's one of the first genres constructed on the internet, inherent to the sound or anything, or was it by chance that it just ended up that way?
I think it just all fell into place perfectly. Same with what happened with trap with the "Original Don" remix [by Flosstradamus]. Someone found the formula to how to create that. I felt like dubstep was king of trying to be like trap where it could be very mainstream and then Skrillex made it very mainstream by putting pop-melodies in with different sounds and that's what Flosstradamus did with trap, which is basically minimal dubstep which is putting a correct build up on a trap song.