Diplo on Major Lazer’s Movie Future, 3 Music Artists to Watch and Why Justin Bieber Is an ‘Unsafe’ Collaborator

“I think moving from music to visual stuff like television and film is amazing,” the top music producer and DJ tells TheWrap of his new FXX animated series

(Getty Images and Animation Stills courtesy of FXX/Mad Decent.)

World-renowned music producer and DJ Diplo’s Major Lazer is going from band to brand.

A new animated series of the same name, wherein the electronic dancehall group’s commando superhero mascot fights J.K. Simmons‘ evil president, is already flying on the same trajectory as a “Star Wars” franchise. Like Disney XD’s “Star Wars Rebels,” FXX had already picked up Season 2 of “Major Lazer” before the first episode premiered. “Major Lazer,” which will feature Mr. Eko, Andy Samberg and Aziz Ansari, debuted on FXX’s Animation Domination programming block Thursdays night.

Diplo revealed the news in an interview with TheWrap, reiterating the persistence of his tagline: “Random White Dude Be Everywhere.”

The title of Diplo’s summer 2014 mixtape applies now more than ever as in the 7 days leading up to the series premiere, he has been typically frenetic.

On Thursday, he performed “Bitch, I’m Madonna” with Madonna on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” in New York, started his summer residency at the Wynn on Friday and hit Coachella on Saturday to catch Duke Dumont  — all while his own BBC radio show in England streamed a continent away.

“The Tonight Show” performance started with Madonna crashing in to his dressing room backstage. (Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU)

In a proverbial game of artistic H.O.R.S.E, he is sinking trick shots from all over the media landscape. Major Lazer’s new single with collaborators from France and Denmark “Lean On” is charting in 19 countries. His DJ super group collaboration album with Skrillex hit a Billboard #1 (Dance/Electronic) last month.

He has hit songs out with both Kiesza and Justin Bieber, produced the aforementioned Madonna-Nicki Minaj track, and still has time to steal Wifi from Tumblr’s corporate offices and sit on the hood of an “expensive car I can’t pronounce” in the middle of the night with Skrillex at Jeremy Scott’s exclusive Coachella bash.

Jack U (Diplo and Skrillex) arrive at Jeremy Scott's bash in Bermuda Dunes on Saturday night. (Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)
Jack U (Diplo and Skrillex) arrive at Jeremy Scott’s bash in Bermuda Dunes on Saturday night. (Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

For someone who is constantly everywhere, he is also constantly aware. Diplo, born Thomas Wesley Pentz, knows his rank on the global spotify charts, reads his own reviews and speaks off the cuff about how the aforementioned lead single from Major Lazer’s “Peace is the Mission” album (out June 1) is doing in India. He wants to make a Major Lazer motion picture, but also appreciates the financial realities of feature production:

That would require “real investors,” Diplo told TheWrap.

With insights more CNBC than EDM, he points to the youth boom in India as a ripe and complimentary consumer demographic for Major Lazer’s brand of globally influenced electronica.

“Major Lazer has always been a culture mashup and to us, India feels like some kind of special creature with one foot in history and one firmly in the future,” he told Abby Schreiber at Paper magazine recently.

Diplo, Madonna, and Nas arrive at the Grammys. (Jeff Vespa/Wireimage)
Diplo, Madonna, and Nas arrive at the Grammys. (Jeff Vespa/Wireimage)

As we were about to jump on a phone the morning after two of his recent collaborators (Madonna and Drake) made out with each other on stage at Coachella, he was  busy engaging disappointed fans over social media. One of them was offering up their liver in return for tickets to a stop on his 22-date Mad Decent Block Party tour that had sold out in five minutes earlier in the day.

TheWrap: I know you were watching the (Coachella) headliners, two people that you’ve worked with recently. Any thoughts on what you saw with Drake and Madonna?

Diplo: Wow, this was cool. I had to remember that Madonna found “Human Nature”. I forgot how dope a song that was. That was a west coast kind of production and stuff. So it’s cool.

The Mad Decent Block Party is a 22 city tour showcasing Diplo's Mad Decent label artists, always in non traditional venues that avoids all of the traditional live event power brokers. (Getty Images)
The Mad Decent Block Party is a 22 city tour showcasing Diplo’s Mad Decent label artists, always in non traditional venues and that intentionally avoids all of the traditional live event power brokers. (Getty Images)

TheWrap: As Major Lazer, you guys still play your block parties but yet I can go see you at Encore Beach Club in Vegas playing for 4,000 people on a Thursday night. With the “Major Lazer” animated series and new Major Lazer album coming in June, have you synced up your business so everything is coming at the same time to take Major Lazer as a brand to an inflection point?

Diplo: Well, it’s kind of like a little bit by coincidence. I feel like the album, the timing makes the most sense. The (“Lean On”) single is doing really well now, so the timing of the release, it makes sense. We finished it about January, we wanted to give about four months for everybody to kind of get in the right places.

And then with the cartoon, from inception four years ago when I first had the idea of hooking up with ADHD (Animation Domination HD) and FXX and making something awesome for you guys to see on Thursdays, it took a long time.

I think we’ll watch the cartoon on FXX and then watch it online over the next six months. I think there will be a cult growing around the cartoon. And then while that’s happening, we have all this music from the album, which kind of helped push all that out a little bit too, you know.

TheWrap: Looking back at your animated video for the Major Lazer remix “Percumajor” (a hyper montage of cartoon Michael Jackson, Stephen Hawking, sleeping Labradors, “tax day,” and androgynous pharaohs that also featured the Major Lazer character back in 2010) the trailer for the new series has the same vibe. Fans of that clip back in 2010 will like this.

Major Lazer’s first foray in to animation: 2010’s Percumajor video looks familiar

Diplo: Yeah, I think it’s wild the way that we animated, the way we made it look. And I just wanted to make something hyper creative, hyper aware of itself in 2015.

And also, doing the brand image is important for us because I think the visual element of it is so important. It’s so cool and so different than what you have right now. It gives us a lot of like ammunition to shoot out at people. So I’m excited. It’s so funny too. It’s really well representative of what we wanted it to look like. It took a long time to get that place.

TheWrap: Were you personally going out to J.K. Simmons and Ade (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) yourself? I know you know Ezra (Koenig, from Vampire Weekend). With other voice talents like Aziz Ansari and Andy Samberg, are those guys that you run with?

Diplo: I think Samberg has a relationship with my management and some people that worked with ADHD (Animation Domiantion). Everyone else is kind of like friend of ours that we recorded with or were accessible for us. I think more and more people were excited to do the cartoon once they see, “Oh, wow. This is a real thing. I’m not going to waste my day going and reading this.”

People did it really well and did it really funny. Andy’s on a different level because he’s such a talented improviser with his voice. And Riff Raff as well, he kind of surprised everybody. He had like one of the best characters in the show and was able to make something out of nothing, something really creative.

I think I’m just hyped that all those guys are able to make their time schedule work, and we had so many big voices. Of course J.K. (Simmons) becoming another level of star winning the Golden Globes this year. That’s really cool having him as part of the team.

TheWrap: Now that you’re officially in the TV business, are you considering other ventures as a producer or getting in front of the camera as an actor?

Diplo: No, man. I’m always lending my hand to things I do with sponsors and deals that we do to help reach people with our music, whether it’s shoes or soft drinks or whatever it is. I’m always in and out of that world. But it’s cool to just be able to create. I think that moving from music to visual stuff like television and film is amazing. I mean, we’d love to in the long term make a movie with Major Lazer. If we can get enough people excited about the world we’re creating, that would be a really great thing to do.

TheWrap: Would you do something like IMAX or giant screen?

Diplo: Well, maybe. It takes so long to do that because just animating this, I know this looks so simple, but (it took a long time) getting that accurate, 80s, “Double Dragon” video game kind of vibe to it which we’re trying to create. We were trying to create a whole universe that people can immerse themselves into. It’s so time consuming. But if we could get some real investors and interest, I’m down to do whatever. I just want people to be excited about it. And this is kind of our brain child and the world we made up. So I’m happy people are gravitating towards it and are interested in it.

Duke Dumont played the Sahara Tent on Weekend 1. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Duke Dumont played the Sahara Tent on Weekend 1. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

TheWrap: Is there anyone that you saw at Coachella or elsewhere that you have your eye on musically?

Diplo: I went to Coachella for a second. I really loved Duke Dumont’s live show. I was there for it and saw him play and I love his album. It was a cool change from all the other bands that we have right now. It really felt fully formed. Also if you didn’t see Stromae, he just murdered everybody else. Everybody else’s live show just looked so pathetic compared to what he did – his whole vibe and atmosphere. I’ve been working with him and been a fan of his for a long time. So, if you missed Stromae, you’ve got to see him play. And of course, Mo (Madonna), she’s always awesome. Flosstradamus did a great job on the live stage.

Belgian Stromae sang in French. Lots of people had no idea what he was saying, but still loved the set. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
Belgian Stromae sang in French. Lots of people had no idea what he was saying, but still loved the set. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

TheWrap: Is there anyone you’re not connected to now that has something out that you’re really into?

Diplo: (Pauses) Man, (pause) I don’t know. I haven’t been paying attention. I kind of reach out to everybody I’m excited about and try to say, “Hey, can I help you do something?”

The morning after stealing the closing night headlines at Ultra in Miami last month, Diplo, Bieber, and Skrillex woke up early for a morning radio tour to talk up their collaboration. (Larry Marano/Getty Images)
The morning after stealing the closing night headlines at Ultra in Miami last month, Diplo, Bieber, and Skrillex woke up early for a morning radio tour to talk up their collaboration. (Larry Marano/Getty Images)

TheWrap: You said you sold Scooter Braun at Fashion Week on the Justin Bieber collaboration. I remember you saying on a podcast back in 2012 that you wanted to make a Justin Bieber rap record. The lighting in the room on both of your careers was so different then, and now, here you are.

Diplo: He is somebody who’s iconic. You love him or hate him, but he’s what it is. He’s a fixture in our culture. I love to use someone like him and create something new and create something musical that is unexpected. I think people are like, “What the hell is this?” And then they’re like, “Well, I really like this song. I feel weird about myself. Am I…Am I..is there something wrong with me?”

It’s cool I would do something from him that would just shake people up. What else could we have done as Jack U, with me and Skrillex, than make a Justin Bieber record that people put on the radio? There’s nothing more weird to do. I think we’re always trying to be progressive and really edgy with what we’re doing musically. And you might say, “Oh, Justin Bieber’s safe.” But actually, it’s not. He’s very unsafe to do a song with. So it was cool we were actually able to make something awesome that represents our attitude and our style of our music.

TheWrap: Speaking of Jack U, when you’re with Sonny (Skrillex), and you’re hanging out, what does he call you? Does he call you Thomas? Or does he call you Diplo?

Diplo: He just kind of says…my real name, my friends all call me Wes. But he just says “Dog.” He says “Dog”  Everybody’s “Dog” to him.

TheWrap: Any future for the Mad Decent Block Party in India? Might that happen?

Diplo: Oh, yeah, definitely, we’re going to try to go to India in a bigger capacity. The Major Lazer shows kind of felt like block party. We had a lot of friends playing with us, and we had cool opening acts. And it was like, between four and eight thousand people were at these shows. So it was very awesome to like be part of that.

India is an emerging market for Major Lazer. We shot the (Indian themed/Indian shot “Lean On”) video. The song’s doing well in India too. So it’s very cool to be back there.

TheWrap: Do you generally read your reviews?

Diplo: I always read reviews and see what people want to say. And I take it one way or another, like, “Oh, you’re right.”

I don’t know anything about the animation world outside of this cartoon – what it is currently. I think we made something specifically that we love and what our fans might love in its own world. So everybody at the channel is excited. It’s one of their favorite projects they’re working on. And also, we’re already signed up for a second season, so hopefully, we’re going to improve and build and maybe find out what characters people love and make more with them.

TheWrap: Is there anything you want to say through TheWrap’s community of entertainment professionals about Major Lazer — this show or your brand?

Diplo: I just think in general, Major Lazer, we’re coming out of nowhere. I worked on so many records, and I always felt like moving to L.A., being a producer means getting your foot in the door and doing a Rihanna record or whatever pop song there is, and we finally said, “Let’s spend time and develop something ourselves.”

And with “Lean On” – you haven’t heard it in America yet, but it’s our biggest record to date. It’s like number one in so many countries across Europe. Number two on the Spotify global chart. And I think that when you finally put out what you love and what you believe in, and you own and have control of it like you do with this music, it’s very cool to see that.

You don’t really need to go there and just cater to all the other pop stars who are constantly ripping off underground and cool artists like us. Do it yourself. Make something awesome, yourself.

Set your DVRs for “Animation Domination” (not “Major Lazer”) the show premiered on FXX Thursday night, April 16, at midnight.