Dillon Francis does Duke, wears a wig for candid interview, dishes details on upcoming album
Dillon Francis is in Duke University’s Bryan Center, already surrounded by a mob of students asking questions about DJ Rich as Fuck. Hurrying away from a crowd that could only be described as paparazzi-like, he works his way to his green room.
Dillon takes my wig, places it on his head and lets out an “it is so good.” He’d have long, brown hair from now until his show. I didn’t know why Dillon requested I bring a wig to our interview, but I’m glad I did.
In front of me sits a world-famous headlining DJ, bouncing from Ultra to Coachella playing primetime slots. His collaboration with DJ Snake currently ripping through the charts and a studio album on the horizon, his already impressive resume is growing greater and greater. What makes the Dillon Francis brand? From debauchery to artistic inspiration, we dive into the mind of a producer on the brink of electronic immortality, and see what he has in store for the coming months.
“I’m a DJ, still. I know I’m a music producer, but I don’t just want to be the music producer that just wants to play techno and drive that down everybody’s throat.” Dillon says in one long breathe, “we just wanna do cool shit. That’s it. Like, we don’t care about anything else. We just want to have cool music videos, make cool music, hang out with cool people, and not have any drama.” In many ways, the Dillon Francis brand can be defined by this very quote. Dillon, along with the rest of the Mad Decent production team, have a simple mantra: make good music, throw a party, and have a good time.
Money Sucks, Friends Rule, his new album he sets promisingly for “definitely July, I made sure.” Still, no exact date was provided, but he sticks by the notion of it being worth the wait. “I have 18 songs right now, and I have to bring it down to twelve,” he catches himself, “the other six will be on the re-release.”
Before I can finish asking about a tracklist, he stops me. “Martin Garrix, TJR, Twista collaborations: definitely on there.” He deliberates the fate of the track with Major Lazer. He’s less certain about that one. He also taps Brandon Urie, the Presets, and Simon Lord to make appearances on the album. Don’t worry, the “I.D.G.A.F.O.S” superstar will certainly have a good amount of solo work on his album to satisfy the long-time fans. Ranging from 94bpm to a more upbeat feel, Money Sucks, Friends Rule will satisfy a range of fans.
“The album cover will be an exquisite corpse.” I sat stoic. “You know what that is, right?” Dillon asks, sending me a stare down, one to his tour manager, the next to the photographer. Blank stares are being thrown around the room, silence lingers only long enough for my inner thoughts to go from “What’s he talking about?” to “Why hasn’t he taken my wig off?” Dillon hops up, shuffles with a piece of paper, and is drawing a tentative image of his album cover. The art will be interactive, Dillon explains, still drawing. Consumers will be able to mix-and-match the faces of all its featured artists. But in terms of design, this would only be one of his impending innovations.
“The Gary,” he says from beneath a cracked smile. Why the Gary? His newest stage production takes its form from Frank Gehry’s architectural work, and more specifically, the Disney Concert Hall in his hometown. Recently revealed at Coachella, Dillon was certainly appreciative of the support it received. “We all took a gamble, and we were all so happy.”
Dillon swipes faux hair of the wig out of his face, we’re back to speaking on his peers. I’m cut off before I finish asking which artists he’s supporting these days.. “Martin Garrix,” he says with the most serious face he’d put on all day. “I went to his house before ‘Animals’ came out. We were making the song ‘Set Me Free’. He played me ‘Animals’ and I was like, ‘see you later man.’ That kid has the best chord progressions I’ve ever heard, and that’s all him.” He brings light to Must Die’s “Hellcat,” a previously unidentified track that has been played in numerous Mad Decent and OWSLA sets, Whyel, a rising artist on Deorro’s Panda Funk, and DJ Snake.
“There was actually a track that was ID’d wrong in my sets. ‘Lightyears Away’.” Previously thought to belong to Dillon, Oliver, and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, the track turns out to be solely from Oliver, who Dillon has been spending a great deal of time with lately. “We haven’t made anything yet… just like, hanging out, talking about synths,” he says of his studio time with Oliver, “I made Not Butter [a track from the album,] in the studio with [Oliver] actually — not with them, but I was sitting there while Vaughn was working on a song, and I was sitting there making [Not Butter], and I think they even have a remix started of it.” While a collaboration between the artists does not seem likely for the release, the mutual inspiration that will arise from the time the acts have spent together in the studio can already be heard.
The final collaboration he’d spill on? Dillstradamus. “We’re trying to make it the most insane show you could possibly ever see. We want it to be so outlandish — we want to try to outdo Major Lazer in crowd control.” What might show up? The hampster ball is sure to make an appearance. If you don’t happen to make it to Dillon Francis back-to-back with Flosstradamus at Mysteryland this year, the act promises it will be back if successful. And, if not, you’ll never see it again.
Dillon will take on the headlining slot of HARD 2014, Mad Decent Block Parties, and the main support for Skrillex’s upcoming tour — surrounded by crews rowdy enough to get Francis into his usual mindset. “I have a feeling [Emoh from What So Not] and I are going to get in a lot of trouble… with our tour managers. I’m going to be really sad when the tour is done.” Dillon quickly flashes back to Skrillex’s first Mothership tour, when he played support — at the after parties only. He smiles: his success sat in front of his face. “It still felt like family. That’s how it always feels with [Skrillex].”
Dillon gives the few of us in the room a tutorial on what to play in a crisis-set situation (which includes a full Serato crate of Calvin Harris music), and he’s ready to take on Duke’s campus in his new wig, sporting the newly created “Greg” character: recently divorced, fresh out of SLO. The disguise is no use, Duke students do their best to shake his hand while wondering why Dillon Francis is wearing a wig. Nonetheless, the producer lives it up, only introducing himself as Greg before working his way to Duke’s greatest landmark, the Chapel, to take an in-character selfie.
“I have to go prepare something of a set man,” he has the concern of a DJ who’s a few hours away from performing. Little did he know all the factors would play against him: underperforming speakers, completely dead CDJs, and broken booth monitors combined for Dillon to face the most unfortunate of circumstances. Regardless, the DJ put his head down and tested the crowd: trap, big room, moombahton all fell to no avail. The next option in his given circumstances that would have prevented any DJ from mixing skillfully, Francis blended together a series of R&B and hip-hop throwback that eventually caught the crowd. While not the set students may have expected, he did what he aimed to do.
He forced nothing, and took everything from the crowd. With all he has done and all that is coming up, this jokester is doing big things. Get on the bandwagon now, you will G.A.F.O.S. if you don’t down the line.
Photo Credit: Lauren Henschel