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Meet the musical dinosaur

Major Lazer’s co-founder, Diplo — short for his favourite extinct animal — says they’re happy to be underground

As an American DJ, music producer, rapper, and songwriter, Diplo wears many hats. The musician, whose mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism with British musician MIA was a major hit five years ago, manages the record label Mad Decent. Born Thomas Wesley Pentz, he took on the stage name Diplo, short for Diplodocus, his favourite dinosaur. As a producer, he’s worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Britney Spears, Beyonce, Snoop Lion and Justin Bieber. His recent work includes the soundtrack titled All my love for the movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. With his fellow producer Switch, he created a Jamaican dancehall band Major Lazer, which will perform in the city this month. Excerpts from an interview:

The band Major Lazer's co-founder and music producer Diplo
The band Major Lazer's co-founder and music producer Diplo

Q. You worked with singer Ariana Grande for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I’s soundtrack, All my love.
A. We are extremely happy that we got to work with Ariana, who is extremely talented. She wanted something different, considering the EDM scene is on the rise.

Q. What has influenced your present style?
A. I grew up in Florida and as a kid, I loved the radio DJs, such as DJ Laz and Jam Pony Express. I was into bass music which includes Miami bass, freestyle, pop music, and Florida breaks. As I got older, I delved into metal and hardcore punk, along with hip-hop, and got interested in production. I was influenced by producers such as The Bomb Squad (Public Enemy), J-Swift (The Pharcyde), Dr Dre, and the Hieroglyphics Crew. In high school, I wanted to make a pop record. Later, when I moved to Philadelphia, I decided to become a DJ, as that was the way to make money. Till date, my DJing is Florida style.

Q. Do you prefer producing your own projects?

A. Yes. Major Lazer is my favourite project. Our crew controls the flow of information and the way it looks and sounds.

Q. Describe your journey from being an unknown DJ, to working with musicians such as Beyonce and Snoop Dog.

A. Most of the time, people don't know who I am or what Major Lazer is. But our band was everywhere last year. Every club played our records but we were never featured on the radio. We’re happy to be underground and make influential records. We're breaking through now and writing records that reach out to more people.

Q. You’re called the ‘godfather of modern dance music’. Did you expect to come so far?
A. Not a clue. But the journey has been amazing!

Q. What can the Indian audience look forward to from Major Lazer’s tour?
A. This is my first trip to India. Watch out for a passionate live set.

Q. You seem to have your hand in every musical pie.
A. If you love what you do, you will manage it all.

Major Lazer will perform on December 12, at Richardson & Cruddas in Byculla from 6.30 pm onward as part of Vh1 Supersonic Arcade.

For passes, log on to www.gosupersonic.in

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