"Clash magazine hate everything I do!" are some of the first words out of Diplo's mouth when we pay a visit to his hotel bar on Friday morning. "They've battered me... everything." While we mentally note that this is one of the worst possible starts to an interview, and assure him that that's not entirely true, he's already scrolling through his Google Alerts for evidence of the contrary.
Just last night the Major Lazer trio (Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire) followed Kanye's lead and threw an unannounced gig in a 150-capacity pub in Dalston. Those that came along to the steamed-up Victoria got to witness the threesome busting out a healthy run of their own bashment and dancehall refixes alongside Sean Paul, Drake and Migos (with Whitney Houston's 'I Will Always Love You' before the drop, naturally). The next morning the trio are lagging slightly - shades on and slumped on a sofa, reflecting on the night before.
"We hadn't done a show here in a while, so we just wanted to do something to see if people still liked us. It seems that 200 kids still fuck with us, so..." Jillionaire explains. "I just wanted to try and play new records, to see if people were into them" is Diplo's unusually understated reply, from behind his aviators.
It's unlikely that the Phili music mogul has been to sleep yet - and his schedule right now is pretty exhausting to even think about. The Mad Decent label head recently produced Madonna's album, dropped the full-length for his recent Skrillex collab Jack Ü, and embarked on a joint 24-hour DJ set (which ended up lasting 18 after being shut down by the police). He's been recently lambasted for sexism (on an unrelated note he calls us "babygirl" at one point during the interview), bum-critiquing and GIF-stealing. But his focus today is 'Peace Is The Mission'; the third Major Lazer album - and the first of two coming this year.
He points over at the label, Secretly Canadian, who are also in the bar. "I would put it out to-goddamn-morrow if I could. If it leaks I don't care - 'cos at least it's not us trying to trick people into buying a bad album. Which is what people are mostly afraid of when it comes to a leak. Because the songs are great, they're gonna be great."
Scanning through the announced list of guests on the album, it's fair to say it contains more global pop and rap superstars than 2013's 'Free The Universe' - Ellie Goulding, Pusha T, Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande, Gwen Stefani, Travis $cott, and 2 Chainz.
But were they worried about diluting their brand of future reggae, Dutch house and characteristically cartoonish drops through this selection of Top 40 artists? "I think the one song that might be a bit diluted was 'Nightriders', to fit the album," admits Diplo, "but I think it does work as a closer. It's just a good hip-hop song."
They've also drafted in Chronixx, Jamaica's biggest reggae artist right now, and German reggae producer Jr Blender who's on 'Blaze The Fire', a seismic serving of offbeat. Denmark's MØ wrote three songs on the album, including recent reggaeton-informed single 'Lean On' with DJ Snake, where you can hear her idiosyncratic idea of melody.
"She's just cool as hell, we're writing a lot of stuff for her album," confides Diplo. They've just finished shooting a Bollywood-style video in India with her for the track.
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"I've been thinking about the way to explain our record to people and I think the first album was just learning the stereotypes about dancehall and it was funny," he continues. "The second was us aligning ourselves with what's happening in the music scene - but this is definitely our own sound. Our own language. It's easy for us to make drumrolls and - boosh - a drop and a big, fun hook, but we're making songs that'll hopefully stand the test of time." Conceived in Miami, Jamaica and Scandinavia, the sounds encompasses an equally global spectrum of influences. "People expect all kinds of music to come out on the album; to encapsulate what's going on right now."
So what is going on right now; what's been pinging their collective musical radar? "I just listened to Drake's new album," offers Walshy Fire. There's a song that sounds just like [R&B singer-songwriter] Jon B. Which is excellent."
"It's important to check out artists like Drake and Kanye, 'cos they're really innovative to me," adds Diplo. "They're trendsetting, they do a lot of picking out of the underground." Fresh from Yeezy's performance at the BRITs and KOKO, we ask what they think about how he's tied together strands of 140 from the shores of the US to the UK - a global curation akin to what they do.
"Is grime still happening in England?" Diplo asks. (We say yes, it is). "We always have a relationship with Boy Better Know, because they beat us in a soundclash once and we always talk sh*t to each other. When I was first coming out [to London] I was so excited - one of my favourite songs ever was [Wiley's] 'Ice Rink' riddim and every edit of that - Wiley, Kano, Dizzee, this guy named Sharky [Major], this little tiny kid who did a verse."
"What are the songs about? There was one good song about riding around in a Ferrari and working out," laughs Diplo. So Lethal Bizzle's 'Rari Workout' has reached them, but perhaps not so much some of the scene's more underground output.
"There's no context for grime in America, because the music in America evolved out of hip hop, which was a whole different tempo and a whole different type of message," Walshy elaborates. "Where grime evolved out of dub, reggae, dancehall, drum 'n' bass, garage. So it's taken a whole different path from the way black music has evolved in America, to now where we have Migos, Gucci Mane, Young Thug, Rae Sremmurd."
"When I first started coming to England I was really good friends with Jammer," adds Diplo. "He brought me to my first Skream gig, he took me to see him when 'Midnight Request Line' came out."
He's spent time with the Godfather of Grime, too. "Wiley did a Major Lazer song last album that never came out called 'Last Call', 'cos he was in Jamaica. He's out there a lot, we used to hang out. Everyone says he's a weird person but he used to get my number and just hit me up and we would hang out. He's so mellow - I know he's crazy, insane, on the Internet, but I know him as a real person and he's super down to earth."
"I haven't really been blown away by a producer, but some I do get," he goes on. "Mumdance is our homie, we've been putting out his records on Mad Decent - his first songs. I can't play the music in my sets though."
Walshy and Jillionaire nod in appreciation. "He used to open for Major Lazer back in Bristol and sh*t. He lost his shoes, man! That one time he stagedived. He got punched in the nose and lost his shoes at one show. I have nothing but love for him."
But ultimately it's a different UK sound that grabs them. "Grime's for young kids or it's a joke", Diplo concludes. "I'm more into the African music that comes out in England. We love that kinda stuff - Fuse ODG, Nigerian artists like Davido. I was really influenced when we were touring in South Africa and Kenya, and it's a hybrid in England."
Along with dating famous females, one of the things that Diplo's known for is his alarming prolific-ness (supposedly around 5,000 songs exist under his name on iTunes), and naturally the topic comes round to some of his other projects. Most recently, his Madonna track set the music press ablaze for its unusual assembly of artists - himself, Nicki Minaj and PC Music's SOPHIE.
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"He looks like a motherf**king superstar," reveals Diplo about the bubblegum bass producer. "He's real good looking, wears the craziest clothes... he has all these bad bitches around but you think he's a girl if you don't know him. So I was like, man, do you wanna work on this record, thinking that he's probably too cool to work on a Madonna song with me, you know. But he was like, this is my favourite artist of all time!"
He reveals that they also worked on an Usher track. "[SOPHIE]'s not out there trying to be successful or anything, he just likes stuff and doesn't care what the press says. He just has a little box and Logic... he's really fast. I love someone who has a unique way to make music - and he definitely learnt to make music on his own, like I did as well. That's why he has a style that's his own."
"Maybe when I die there'll be a retrospective of all my records that never got heard. Miley Cyrus, so many weird records I've done that you never hear," Diplo wonders aloud. We wind things down by asking - blue skies here - who the trio would most like to collaborate with. "Boy Better Know," offers Diplo. "Boy George Better Know" corrects Walshy. "Boy George, Boy Better Know and Boyz II Men" grins Diplo.
"We'd call it Boyz II Boyz", Jillionaire adds, before adopting a gruff grime MC voice and rapping "karma karma karma karma karma chameleon". Now there's a show that'd have a roadblock...
Words: Felicity Martin
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Major Lazer's new album 'Peace Is The Mission' is due to be released this summer.