No one embodies the 21st-century dance party like Diplo, whether he's cooking up hits with Skrillex in Jack Ü or making whimsical dancehall with Major Lazer. "People lose their minds," Diplo says of Major Lazer's gigs. "At one show, we had naked girls climbing speaker boxes." This summer, he'll serve as ringleader at his hip-hop/EDM festival, the Mad Decent Block Party, which tours the U.S. through October. Here, he shares his pro tips for setting it off.
Play to Win
When I'm DJ'ing in Vegas, I might be on for four hours, but when Major Lazer play a big festival, we might only get an hour. When we're onstage, it's a competition. If we're not the headliner, we try to beat every band. Our shows are like a Zumba class. We're gonna make you dance and participate.
Always Steal From the Best
We stole all of our original gimmicks from the Flaming Lips, no lie. I used to roll out into the crowd inside a huge empty ball. We stole that from them. Wayne Coyne actually texted me where to buy the ball. It's boring when it's just one guy up there with a thousand video projectors. A rock & roll band has to rehearse. There's so much more care in a show like that.
Keep the Visuals Tasteful
When you're a DJ and you're doing just one thing with your hands, you have to have crazy videos and lights. But make it a little more tasteful. Our lighting programmer takes ideas from Broadway, and I'm also into artists like Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott, where it's almost like clip art that gives the flavor of the songs. Ours is more fast-paced to fit the music.
Only Play the Good Parts
It's a little bit like a jukebox. We pick samples from different pieces of music and do a dance-off section – we have the whole crowd do a line dance back and forth, left and right, jumping up and down. What keeps it fresh is that we always make ourselves supplementary. It's the crowd that wins, not us.
If Possible, Absolutely Hire Dancers
Having choreo is almost as important as the song now. Our dancers come from pop music – they performed with Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj. We're more into freestyle, and it's really fun for them. They can do trendy dances, they can do solos. I think they love it. They're part of the family.
Know Your Audience
Our target audience is kids who want to hear something that's cool, underground and kind of on that tipping point. We started out as a dancehall band and, luckily, right now tropical music is really popular because of Rihanna and Drake. It wasn't like that when I was younger. Now, all of a sudden, pop music is cool.