Q&A: Dillon Francis Returns With Mad Decent Block Party in Berkeley

In the hijinks spirit of Diplo’s record label Mad Decent and the accompanying Mad Decent Block party arriving in Berkeley on Sept. 19, LA based producer Dillon Francis is a character of quirk.

Visit the online shop on his website and you can buy: “Dillon Francis sings happy birthday to you underwater” ($1,000), “Dillon Francis will become a vegan for a year” ($40,000), paraphernalia printed with Dillon’s face, and, perhaps soon, his upcoming full-length debut, Money Sucks, Friends Rule.

Party inclined seems to be a good look for the producer, whose early work, “Que Que” (with Diplo) and “Masta Blasta,” helped set alight the juiced sound of Moombahton, a blend of reggaeton and Dutch house. Though it hasn’t been five years since, Dillon’s consistent slather of bass drop surges at HARD and Ultra, along with his general tomfoolery all over the Internet, has landed him high on the shoulder’s of EDM culture as a go-to source for jokes and raunchy jaw clenching.

We caught up with Dillon by phone before he, alongside Cashmere Cat, Diplo, Fatboy Slim, Flosstradamus, and STRFKR, rolls into Berkeley’s Greek Theater to blow it out for Mad Decent Block Party 2014 on September 19.

This is not the first Mad Decent Block Party you’ve played. Have you been on tour since day one? 

No, not since day one. I think they started back in 2004 or something like that. This is my second year playing it, maybe third year.

How has it evolved? 

Now I’m kind of one of the main headliners. In the beginning I was just one of the openers. That’s one of the cool parts to be able to hold Mad Decent up on my back, and then getting to know everybody and just have it feel like a family.

When we were in Calgary last year for the first Block Party we did, everyone was backstage and it was in this grassy area in Canada. It kind of felt like a barbeque. Everyone was like, “Oh cool, I gotta go DJ now!” It was so enjoyable. That’s the thing that’s really cool about it—it always just feels like a block party. It never really feels like a “festival.” It feels really, like, fun and nonchalant.

I saw you play UCLA a few years ago. Now you’re playing Tomorrowland and HARD Fest, traveling the world. That’s a pretty rapid rise.

Well, shout out to Diplo! He’s the one who really helped me get my name out there. It has been pretty crazy. I didn’t really ever think it was going to get this big.

I just wanted to play CineSpace. It’s right on Hollywood and close to Vine in LA. It was the place that really played mash-ups and indie dance music. This was before Steve Aoki was Steve Aoki, and he was just playing mash-up stuff. That’s all I cared about playing. I was just like, “I just want to DJ there ONE time.” That’s it. Maybe a couple times after that, but that was my main goal. I never really expected to have this.

Mad Decent Block Party was one of the first “American made” electronic showcases—versus a traveling European DJ—and every year, the tour is increasingly growing across the nation. You have a heavy American roster and accessible tours, which has played its part in popularizing our electronic music culture.

Well, I kind of feel like Mad Decent is a very American label, and we kind of open the door for a lot of American people and people in the United States to listen to music that’s taken from our influences.

I mean, Moombahton, it started from the Internet, but was taken from reggaeton. The main person that was making it before that was really prolific, was Munchi, and he’s from Rotterdam. So we kind of take our influences from all over the world, I guess put our American twist on it, and are able to get people involved. I feel like we’re a gateway to outside the United States.

Was most of your early exposure to electronic music on the Internet? 

Yep. I never really went to any raves. I don’t think I even went … Yeah, I didn’t go to a rave until I actually played one.

Which rave was that?

It was some weird one in downtown LA. I forget what it was called, but it was right as Skrillex was blowing up, and I remember “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” had just leaked online. Now it’s like the biggest song.

What was your first impression then, suddenly encountering and playing for this massive collection of people?

Um, I was just like, “That was fucking cool. Hope I get to do it again.”

You’re coming out with your first full-length album, Money Sucks, Friends Rule. How was that process for you?

[Laughs] Very time consuming and a massive headache. It’s the first time I’ve ever put together 12 songs that I’m super proud of. The amount of editing that has to go into the song and just redoing them and redoing them and making them perfect is a goddamn headache.

You know, with a single, you’re working on that one song, you finish it, and you’re like, okay cool. Take it, and put it out. … The amount of songs you need to make that are good, and then keep remaking them. It’s just like, holy shit. But now I’m done. I know how to do it a lot better, so the next one will be way easier. But it was definitely a huge, massive process. It’s coming out in the fall. The previews should be up soon.

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