From DJ Hanzel to Dillon Francis: ‘I don’t think I’m [a power player]…I’m just the homie’
“I don’t think I’m [a power player], I just think I’m a guy. I have fun making music and I love that people enjoy it. I think people like Diplo and Skrillex are more like that – they’re power players. I’m just the homie.”
We stand in TomorrowWorld’s artist village, which is exactly as it sounds – a more peaceful and upscale area estranged from the festival’s madness and debauchery. Sounds from the volcanic Main Stage are faint at best, allowing artists, managers, publicists, and members of the media an opportunity to escape hundreds of thousands of emphatic fans. The artist village is synonymous to a small community; a soccer goal is situated near the village’s entrance as The Chainsmokers blow off some steam following their performance, while Henry Fong stands adjacent to us at the open bar around the corner. Steve Aoki poses in a nearby pathway for photos, and, just a few feet away, we casually run into Popeska and engage in conversation before he takes off for his set.
And then there’s Dillon Francis.
Dillon is summoned from his room in the artist mansion and seemingly appears out of nowhere, taking a seat atop a white, cushioned chair. He wears a long-sleeve PizzaSlime shirt donning the Target and Chanel logos, representative of the collaborative deal made in late 2013 between Mad Decent and the streetwear line. Despite his outgoing social media personality, Dillon is unusually modest, opting to take the backseat when I compare him to a power player: “I don’t think I’m [a power player], I just think I’m a guy. I have fun making music and I love that people enjoy it. I think people like Diplo and Skrillex are more like that – they’re power players. I’m just the homie.”
The last time we had exchanged words with dance music’s class clown was at Duke University in late April, during which he divulged on his debut studio album, Money Sucks, Friends Rule. Slated to be released via both Mad Decent and Columbia Records — the latter a shocking deal that was inked just days after speaking — Dillon explains the strategic decision to be backed by the Columbia family: “The promotion that I can get from a major label totally overshadows what I could have done with Mad Decent. And, I can still do whatever I want with Columbia. I’m working with this guy Andrew Keller who’s amazing; he does my A&R and is really good friends with our managers. It still feels like nothing has happened, I just feel like there’s more machines behind me.”
This time around, Dillon digs a bit deeper into his forthcoming project and deliberates over his burgeoning musical resume. “[The album] is pretty much the songs that I’d wanted to do with people forever since I started producing. So “We Make It Bounce,” that was originally just with Diplo and then we decided to change it into a Major Lazer song. And I’d always wanted to do another song with Diplo, so we got that done. And then Brendon Urie – I grew up listening to Panic! At the Disco when I was in high school. That was my guilty pleasure, and being able to do a song with him was amazing.”
Like many other electronic music artists, however, Dillon mastered the art of fostering long-distance relationships – a growing necessity in electronic music. “We didn’t get in the studio, I just sent [Brendon] the instrumental and he immediately sent back clips of him singing on headphones – on Apple earbuds – onto the song.” It turns out that working this way was easier for both he and his collaborators, as Francis brazenly admits that he is not the easiest to work with face-to-face. “I love working by myself because I’m able to do whatever the fuck I want and not piss anyone off. Or annoy anybody. Like, Snake and I got into the studio two times to finish “Get Low” and he hated working in the studio with me because I’m so spastic when it comes to listening to sounds.”
Haters will always hate, and there are a handful of pre-album fans who are more than a bit disappointed in Dillon’s new change in direction. For those who argue that his new music diverges from his older work, listen up, as Dillon’s retort is clear. “If you listen to “IDGAFOS,” I use the same lead in “IDGAFOS” on “When We Were Young.” And in most of the other songs that I do. And a lot of it has the same soundscapes. I think a lot of people are angry that I went to 128.” But fear not, his heart is still 100% in moombahton: “it’s not like I’m departing from moombahton, I’m never gonna stop making it, but there’s only so much I can do in that genre until I’m like, “I’ve depleted everything that I can do for originality. I need to explore something else, and then come back to it. And right now I’m actually going back to moombahton and re-finding my passion in it.”
Take, for example, his recent work with Kygo – an announcement that was initially made on Instagram in early September. Artists like Dillon strive to keep the flame alive and to spawn creativity by “doing a really different type of song”; it is working with the more unlikely candidates that he finds to be most inspiring. Francis reveals that he was influenced by “kind of what Porter has been ranting about on Twitter, where he’s been really into beautiful music and making things that are enjoyable to listen to and not just for the club. So that’s what I’ve been doing recently, but also making club songs.”
Although at first glance it may seem as though Dillon and Kygo would find difficulty producing music that is agreeable on both sides, I was surprised to hear that working together was “the easiest studio session I’ve ever had in my life.” “When you meet people that don’t really care about what they’re doing and are willing to explore with you, it’s so easy to get an awesome, fun song done,” Dillon says enthusiastically. “I’ve worked with a lot of people who are very closed-minded and don’t even want to venture out and try something for a second. And then those songs will usually not end up with anything because they’re not interesting.” He quickly adds that the two plan to work on a second song, before moving on to talk about his countless other endeavors – including a collaboration with What So Not possibly due out next year and his remix of Deadmau5’s “Some Chords.” “We’ll see what happens with DJ Hanzel though – maybe by next year I’ll do a tour…or he can do a tour,” he corrects himself.
And that is Dillon Hart Francis – a multifaceted DJ, producer, jokester and a lovable icon who is soaring across the electronic music community. For those wondering exactly where and when his personalities materialize, it is “Usually in the shower. Or just like, sitting down watching TV or looking on Instagram and something will spark it.” Whether he chooses to take on the roles of DJ Hanzel, Treva, Rave Dad or to simply maintain his true persona, we know for certain that Dillon’s future will be anything but mundane.