Dutch producer Don Diablo is fascinated by time, which is fitting given its importance in his life right now; things are moving much quicker for the emerging Electro House super power, who cracked the DJ Mag Top 100 this year and is growing into one of the hottest commodities in electronic music, and though he's got both feet firmly planted in the present, he is constantly acknowledging his past and he has a watchful eye on the future: He is more cognizant of their intertwined relationship now than ever before.
It's something of an honor, then, that he took some of his time to sit with us and chat ad nauseam about his year in review and what's next. Below he talks openly about a plethora of things including time, "Good House", being experimental, being commercial, his upcoming album (maybe), making his late father proud, and facing the Blog-loving Music Nazis.
EARMILK: So let’s just jump right into it. First of all, thanks for talking with us. Our readers love your music, I love your music, so I appreciate you taking the time. I know you’re a very busy man these days.
Don Diablo: Thank you guys.
EM: So you talked with us about a year ago, and last time you talked a lot about the past – about how you got into music, and going to school for journalism – all the stuff that has happened. I want to talk about new stuff: stuff that has happened since then and what’s happening in the future. I know you just did the BBC Radio One guest mix for Steve Angello yesterday or like two days ago now?
DD: Yesterday, actually.
EM: I listened to the mix – it was brilliant. How did that come about? How was doing it? Just talk me through that.
DD: I’ve always been attracted to Size Records, and I’ve always gotten along really well with Steve. He has a cool vibe and he’s just a really nice guy. We came to "Generations", to release it on Size, and it just all came together. They were doing the last show for BBC Radio One, and he asked me to do a guest mix, and obviously I said yes. I thought it would be a good one to kind of do an overview of this year for me. In the mix basically it’s only Don Diablo tracks or remixes or mashups. So, I just wanted to make an overview of the year for me and for anybody who’s just jumping in right now, I guess, because it feels like with every record getting released more people are jumping on the boat, so to speak.
EM: Yeah, yeah because you did a couple of pretty big remixes just in the last couple of months that are just exploding right now. So, I imagine it’s a pretty fast paced month for you.
DD: Yeah, man. It’s crazy because this year everything that happens in like a single month is what used to happen in a year for me. It’s really like I’ve gotten into a time warp machine and everything has gotten a lot faster. It’s like, especially with remixes right now, I’m getting so many requests a week. I get more requests now in a week than in a full year, a year ago. So, I just try to pick the right ones. I have to hear something that I can turn into something and that I can play in my sets. That’s my criteria.
EM: I know you did the Jessie J one – I know she’s doing a remix EP for “Burning Up”. I know you have that one, and I know you have the Ed Sheeran one. Can you tell me about how both of those came about or either of those?
DD: I mean, the Jessie J one was kind of straightforward: I was asked by the A&R manager of the label if I wanted to do the remix, I said yes, I did it, I got paid. Right? *both laugh* Not really an exciting process.
EM: Always good when it ends with that part at least, though, no?
DD: Yeah! No, no absolutely. I mean, to be honest, money has never been my motivation in anything. I’ve been getting a lot of big names offered to me now, but if I don’t hear anything that I can turn into something that I could play in my sets or just do one of those remixes where it has nothing in there of the original that’s recognizable, for me personally, that defeats the purpose of doing a remix. It’s kind of almost disrespectful to the original artist. So, with like Ed Sheeran– I’ve actually worked in the past, like right before Ed sort of broke through, we worked on a record together that never got released because at the time – and I’m backtracking – I was working on the album for Example. Example, he had somebody opening his shows for him, and that was Ed Sheeran.
So, I got to work with Ed as well, and we never released the track, but I’ve always stayed a fan, and when they came to me for this remix, I know they’re like really picky with remixes – they don’t do a lot – so, I was thinking about it like, jeez, how am I going to– It’s kind of a slow record, almost 35 BPM: It’s not going to work. So, I said, “Just send me the parts and I’ll check it out,” and it kind of just all fell together. It’s weird because this record is like a slow-grower: I’ve got like all of my colleagues emailing me now like, “Send me that record.” “What’s going on with that record?” Even though it’s been out for a few weeks. Actually it’s like just now that it’s starting to climb. It’s actually #14 on Beatport now I saw on the main chart.
EM: Yeah, it’s been popping up everywhere. It’s kind of funny that you mentioned the tempo of the record because when I first saw the tag– when I first saw it was a remix of Ed Sheeran by Don Diablo I was like, whoa, this is a bit off the wall, but it actually does work; it sounds super organic. It just really flows.
DD: I was surprised as well because sometimes when you have to make such a BPM stretch it’s kind of sonic rape, so to speak. But it really worked out. I tried it out for the first time a couple of months ago, and it worked really well. So, I was really excited about it. Then nothing really happened. It came out and major labels – they’re not the best at marketing mixes, to put it mildly – so it was just there. Over the course of the last couple of weeks it started to lead its own life, and that’s how all of a sudden it’s everywhere. I’m really happy because it’s one of my all-time favorite remixes that I’ve done because it works in my sets and it works on the radio. It works both ways. It’s also sort of honestly original. To me, that’s a successful remix.
In the past I’ve done mixes where it didn’t really make sense. It was just a cool band or a cool artist and I wanted to do the remix, but I was really struggling. The best remixes are the ones you make in a couple of hours. Right now, all the mixes I do, if I don’t crack the code within a couple of hours I let it slide. All of these remixes, like even the Marlon Roudette one – "When The Beat Drops Out– that’s like– I really love that record, the original. I was like literally looking up in the sky like how cool would it be if I could do a remix for this, and they contacted me and I was like, “yes!” This is like everything coming together, and it’s cool I’m getting the same reaction to this remix right now. People just saying, let’s see if we can look at releasing it as a single, you know, as a separate single. So, it’s exciting; I feel like I’ve cracked the code.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBa8dPjf2IY
EM: Do you have any more collabs lined up to close out the year or to start next year? Any names that have jumped out at you?
DD: Honestly, there are a lot of options, especially collabs with fellow producers. I’m kind of doing some stuff left and right, but a couple of years ago I was doing a lot of collabs and features, you know? Things for other names. Even me producing for other people or ghost-producing for other people. Now I just want to do as many Don Diablo solo records as possible. To really define my sound and to really make my own mark. I think the next one I’ll be doing after "Generations" is a track called “Chain Reaction”, which is blowing up right now. That was one of my favorite records of this year. I played it in every set. The lyrics were written in a really cool, short, spontaneous little session. I took the lyrics and I turned it into a record pretty organically, and I signed it a couple of weeks ago. Actually, I just played it once during a recent set that was streamed over the Internet a people just started going ape shit over it. So, I couldn’t really stop that record.
It’s funny to see all the enthusiasm behind all of the records I’m doing right now because I think even a year ago I was doing stuff and it felt like I was screaming in the desert. Even though I was doing stuff for years. But now it’s like I play a new record of mine and it instantly leaks and people are excited. It really makes my job and my life a lot more…enjoyable *laughs*
EM: What is that process like? Having worked as long as you have doing what you’ve been doing and then hitting this sort of breakthrough point?
DD: You know, there were a lot of times where I thought about quitting doing music. I was just going to make the records that were still in me and then close up shop. That’s been something that has been seriously going through my mind for the last couple of years, like several times. I was just thinking to myself like, how many– There were no more roads to travel musically for me. And I don’t know, really what happened is I lost my father and everything kind of fell off my shoulders. My vision became very clear. I was like, man, I just need to really do stuff that comes very organically, and if it doesn’t then– I don’t really have to bleed for my art. That’s what I used to think. My dad, he really raised me on super alternative music like very avant-garde like Captain Beefheart and The Residents, so it felt like music needed to be like science, really pushing the boundaries left and right. It wasn’t just about enjoying and dancing; it was also about really reinventing myself and the music time after time. But after [my father’s passing] I made this song for him called “The Artist Inside”, which was just a very small, singer-songwriter piano ballad, and that really opened all the doors for me. That’s the most personal record I’ve ever made. It’s like a letter to my father.
Everything that came after was just like, damn, I’m just making records to enjoy in the club or on the dance floor, and I really lost that sort of created self-torture approach that I had for many years, and I just really started to enjoy the process. People felt that, and they were able to actually play my music, things started rolling, and I started doing more and more shows around the world. Fees went up and I didn’t have to sit in the back of the plane anymore. It really comes down to the small things like having those little perks on the side that make life a little bit easier, and the fact that you’re not just a support act, but you’re actually headlining now. That’s like…It’s really weird.
Sometimes I have to really pinch myself still because when you’re at the bottom of the creative industry it’s like people just find reasons to piss over you. *laughs* It’s very hard for people to take you seriously, and everybody’s just doing their own thing. Even my colleagues, even a lot of guys from my own country, they weren’t being very supportive or helpful. You really have to figure everything out by yourself. It’s every man for himself in this scene.
Thank God that there are a couple of guys that I have a really good connection with and they have their heart in the right place, and those are guys that will probably stay at the top for many years.
EM: Do you find that now that you don’t have to sweat the smaller details you’re enjoying the process more? Is it much easier to sit down and say, now I can really judy have fun making records because it isn’t as much of a struggle on the business end?
DD: Oh, absolutely. I mean, being an artist at a certain level is basically living in constant fear: fear of people not hearing a song that you spent a lot of time on that was like a labor of love that you put a lot of time into, but also going into clubs where there was absolutely nobody there because nobody knows who you are. Or just going on social media and basically sharing something that comes from the heart and just getting absolutely no response. It really drains you emotionally. It sounds kind of dramatic, but it’s true because you’re putting yourself out there every time and you’re not getting anything back and you’re just constantly disappointed, not just by other people, but mostly by yourself. That’s a very exhausting process. Once after many years that starts to turn around it almost feels too good to be true. Every day I wake up like, naaaah somebody is just pulling a joke on me. *laughs* It could end tomorrow and it’ll be over, but that’s why I’ve been working relentlessly since I last spoke with you guys. Every day I wake up and work 18 hour days. People keep asking me, “Where is all of this music coming from?” and “Every track you put out has a music video and you’re touring like a mad man as well. What’s going on out there?” They think I’m like three or four guys.
EM: Right, because the "Generations" record [just dropped] and I saw on Facebook that you’ve already shot the music video. That’s been shot already?
DD: Yeah, I shot it this week right before I left for Phoenix. I shot last scenes on Wednesday. And it’s cool, I really consider this the same thing. Video: It’s one of my outlets. I’ve always been fascinated by video. Now that there’s a bigger audience I like to do something that’s just a little bit different than the typical festival video of people fist-pumping, you know? *both laugh*
EM: The ultimate Dance music cliche.
DD: You know what I’m saying? So, really this year I filmed everything around the theme of time, basically. People were asking me why “Knight Time” and “AnyTime” and “Back In Time”; It’s because I really started seeing the value of time, and how precious it is to have. A lot of people don’t. It really opened my eyes, and I wanted to do something around this theme. The videos are– When I did “AnyTime”, that video was basically just edited and directed by myself while I was flying around in planes. It really…it was cool because I want to make a generational video where you have anyone from Dillon Francis to Steve Angello. I thought it’d be a very simple but cool idea. Nobody thought it could be done, and I really thought it could. I was really happy when I made it, and if you really want to get it done you have to do it yourself. That’s the one thing I’ve learned.
After that– It’s the same thing with the “Back In Time” video: Literally I’m going back in time. I don’t generally do these videos of me DJ and partying, but we go back in time two years, around 50 cities, and a shitload of venues in there, so it’s literally like the last two years of my life. After that I did the the live video, which is like me looking back on my life like I’m 86 years old. I’m literally an old man, like, yeah. I like to continue with those themes and for the video of "Generations" I shot a video that made me think about generations of women going back in time as well, going from really young to really old. Like, how much we really owe to women in this world. I really wanted to portray women in a Don Diablo style.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE-_Mv38YKI
You always have these ideas in your head and you always want to work them out to the best of your ability, but sometimes you have a lack of time. But I think most of the videos I’ve done have expressed the message I wanted to send out. The fans really react to it. There’s like a lot of reaction. If you look at my social media, there’s always a lot going on. It’s really two way traffic. It’s really exciting for me to keep that personal bond with the fans.
EM: Do you think having creative control of your own videos has anything to do with the way fans are connecting with your music this year?
DD: I mean, I’d like to think so. I know a lot of successful artists or DJs out there that really don’t focus on video, so you could look at it both ways. You could say you don’t really have to invest a lot of money into videos to be really successful in EDM or in electronic music, but for me personally I feel like I owe it to myself and to the voices in my head to really try to do interesting videos and to really be involved because it’s a part of creativity.
I know a lot of colleagues aren’t really interested, they’ll just outsource it, but for me the records, the marketing around, and the video: it all defines how people look at your record. So, it’s really important for me to be involved. I think one day there will be a day when all the ideas are gone and I’ve run dry creatively and I wouldn’t mind giving it all away for someone else to take complete control, but for now I’m just having a lot of fun doing it. It’s a lot of fun being creative on different levels.
EM: I want to back track. We talked briefly about it, but I want to talk about the single "Generations" itself. Can you tell me a bit about it? Do you think it’s an evolution? Is this a glimpse into your current stylistic direction for 2015 and beyond?
DD: Well I think that in the past my discography has been for electronic music lovers, and I’m not talking about frequent EARMILK readers who really listen to what’s going on on the blogs. They would know me basically from what’s going on from 18 months ago and onwards. In the past, I’ve done a lot of different styles and really just made music and learned what it was like producing a rock band or making a Drum 'n' Bass record or doing an Electro record. It really just didn’t matter to me: I was just making music. Then around three years ago I really felt the need to create something that was more consistent. I was just looking at what were the biggest records that I’ve done, and they were records like “Hooligan” with Example and “Animale” with Dragonette and “Make You Pop” with Diplo. Those were all between 126-128, four-to-the-floor records. So I started to gear my focus towards keeping it in between a certain tempo and a certain vibe and it kind of became that mix between House and Electro.
I went from "Starlight" and those more Electro-style records to a more House-y sound, and it’s ironic because most of these records are based on ideas that I’ve had for a long time, for many years sometimes, ideas that were on my hard drive already but the sound wasn’t really catching on [at the time]. I’ve made a lot of these style records in the past, but there wasn’t really a market for it so they kind of went by silently. And it’s cool for me now because that sound that I’m doing I’ve been doing for years and its really catching on, and other DJs are playing it and radio is playing it and there’s a lot of excitement around it. I’m really happy to be on this path, and I’ll definitely be going down this route for a few more records, really combining that more futuristic House sound with those ‘90s House vibes, but producing it in a way that you can still play it at big festivals.
That’s become my drive: To make those records that have that feeling, that vintage feeling from back-in-the-day, but the production quality and looks of music that would do well on the bigger stages and in the clubs right now.
EM: Is it important to you to maintain a certain level of consistency in terms of what has been considered “Good House” in the past and what is considered mainstream EDM now and trying to tightrope those two ideas? I know a lot of people are afraid of Dance music going too Pop – I don’t know if that’s a real thing *both laugh* but there seems to be a lot of concern about it on the Internet. Are you at all worried about that?
DD: If there’s one thing I’ve learned, there’s no way you can keep everyone happy. Some people would consider the Top 20 of the DJ Mag Top 100 to be extremely commercial, and then there are the people within the sub, niche genres who think anyone buzzing is commercial. There’s literally no way to satisfy everyone, and I think you should look at music as a open expression, in a way. There’s good music and there’s bad music. There are some great Pop records out there on the radio. I’ll admit there’s also a lot of shit music on the radio *both laugh* but there’s good music out there, and there are big acts making great music.
There will always be a few acts out there that have you wondering how in God’s name are they on these big stages because they’re literally making the same bullshit music that everyone else is making right now, and there are the people who are jump on the boat of some hyped sound a little bit too late, but there will always be criticism. I think the only voice that you can really listen to is yourself when you’re sitting in the studio and just make the music that you would like to make at that exact moment.
It’s a really tough question: What is commercial? It’s really awkward when people stop enjoying music because other people are enjoying that music as well. For me, music consists of a few basic elements and those elements don’t actually include external factors like how many people are buying it or what the state of the sound of the genre its in is right now or what my friends think about it. I just want to sit down, close my eyes, and answer the question: Is this a good record or not? I don’t know. I think as an artist you always have to reinvent yourself. You have to listen to the fans, but you also have to listen to your own creative impulses. You cannot make the same record day after day. You have to really keep yourself interested as well in making music. I’m not just a fan of making music; I’m a fan of listening to music, too. My taste is very broad. I think it’s important to accept that some things that you like right now that are super underground are going to be commercial a few years later. That’s just how it is.
At a certain point, you realize it’s not that hard being super artsy. It isn’t really hard making music that sounds like it’s super innovative or experimental. It’s not hard making experimental music. It’s much harder making simple music that actually does well. It’s much harder.
EM: To do that, you have to connect with a lot of different people who themselves are different. It’s hard to find something people across the spectrum can like. Whereas, you can always find a target market for something weird and experimental. You can always find a group of people into weird.
DD: Oh, yeah! When I started making music, every record I made it was like, this is so fucking cool, man. Oh my God, you’re blowing my mind. Just because nobody else liked it. That’s the thing: When something sounds interesting or experimental, there’s a group of people that will get into it just because other people are not into it. It just like those extremely hard to understand art house movies where nobody really knows what they’re about, but everybody loves them because nobody knows what they’re about.
You’ve got to find the fine balance between being experimental and basically making something that appeals to a large amount of people. You can say what you want, but Calvin Harris is doing something right. You don’t see a lot of people doing what he’s doing. A lot of people what to be David Guetta 2.0., but most of those people fail at it.
If you look at that “Dangerous” record that David has out now, in all honesty, when that bass line comes in it’s actually a pretty cool record. It’s actually pretty gutsy, to be very honest.
EM: I think a lot of times, once people know a lot of other people have heard it, they stop really listening to the record. There’s a lot of interesting things happening in a lot of great “mainstream” records, but once they find out everyone is into it, they don’t want to be into it.
DD: And that’s the ultimate struggle as an artist. At one point, you’re cool and people like what you do and you’re the Next Big Thing, and then we you actually do breakthrough you’re actually still a little too experimental for the bigger audiences, but the blog-loving music Nazis– they really don’t accept you anymore. So you get stuck in purgatory. You become like an Azealia Banks, you know what I mean? *laughs*
EM: I think a lot of blogs (us included) have that problem with their readership, actually: once you follow an artist to a certain point, they’re like, “Hey…why are you still posting this…?” Because it’s a good record! Just because X artist is huge now and everybody is listening to it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be listening to it, too.
DD: It’s so weird, right?! Jesus. It’s weird. I don’t know. In a way, when you were listening to the first music you were listening to, you wanted to have that thing that nobody had, you know? You’ve never heard of the SnuggleBoots? Oh my God, man. Forget about you, man. You’re a fucking nobody. At the end of the day, everybody wants to be special. And anything that can make you special. You want to be special through other people specialness. It’s actually quite sad.
EM: It can be very frustrating, on top of that. People will look for any reason to put down something that someone else likes. Just because these other people are enjoying it and you can’t enjoy it by yourself anymore doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing now. It can still be a good thing and just not be your thing.
DD: That’s the thing: What is good, and what is bad, and why the fuck do you need to be so negative? Just shut up. Every day, I see people walking on the street and I think, like, Jesus Christ, this woman is like EXTREMELY ugly, but I’m not going to go up to her and tell her that. She doesn’t need or deserve that and there’s no space in my life for that; I need to be positive. You need to really just embrace everything that’s positive and address that and that’s the way you need to live your life.
The people on the blogs – oh my God – they’re literally out for blood.
EM: That’s a major problem with the Internet in general, though, especially once you remove the consequences. Because if you’re in the street, and you go up to the ugly woman and you tell her she’s ugly, you still have to deal with her potentially being angry with you. But on the computer, you can type all of these hateful things about this music that you don’t like, and you don’t have to deal with the consequences because you can be anonymous. And it gets really ridiculous seeing some of the hateful shit people about music artists – who are human beings – online.
DD: I know, it’s like they get so passionate about it. They react like you’ve raped the family dog. I’m like, what’s going on? I made a record that I felt good about, and all of a sudden I’m in the middle of a verbal war. I’m like, what the hell did I do? It’s just so tricky. I don’t even know anymore. That’s why, at some point, you just have to give up and not read anything anymore.
Every now and then like– Actually, I didn’t hear the live mix that Steve aired, but he actually said some nice things about me, and my girlfriend transcribed it and she sent it to me, and it’s actually really good to hear people say nice things. You’re like, oh my God, I’m not a complete asshole and I’m not a worthless piece of shit. *laughs* For some reason, people just go around thinking that artists – including myself – just go around thinking we’re so cool and dope and amazing, but most artists– we feel like absolute shit. We’re trying to go about expressing ourselves through these songs or sets or videos or whatever. But for some reason people always see it as a threat to themselves, but you’re just trying to get by and hide your insecurities. Yeah, I don’t know why there’s always that anger.
Look at Lana Del Rey. She’s been constantly beaten up verbally. I was in this TV show with her and we were talking backstage and I don’t know what happened but she got this review and she was like slaughtered by it. She was literally depressed about it. She goes, “I don’t even know if I’m going to make another album.” How much can one person take, you know?
But outside of that, it’s good. *laughs* Outside of that, it feels good to have more money than I can spend. *both laugh* It’s nice to have a good solid fan base.
EM: With that said, there’s something else I wanted to ask you about: your next full-length or…first full-length. I remember you speaking about that with us last ti–
DD: I know! That’s like completely gone down the drain. I mean, I was signed to Columbia Records for a couple of years, and I just had big trouble adjusting to major label strategies, I guess. I really wanted to do what I felt was right at that time. I’m not really the type of producer that thinks in a moment: ha ha ha today I’m going to make a huge hit that’s going to be destroying every radio across the world. I would like to, and I can give it a go, but that’s not the way it works. You have to make music that you really think is cool and if it becomes a hit then great. Once you sign to a major label, you’re forced to make music that has to sell a lot because there’s a lot at stake. And you’re focusing on an album when really we’re living in a singles society right now. People just want to listen to cool tracks and when they hear it they want it straight away. They don’t want to wait for it for a month. So, I slowly let go of that concept that I had in my mind of just making that perfect album.
I’d been working on it for years and I’d been throwing away songs and it just became absolutely ridiculous. My friends were like, “Don, you’re not coming out of the house. You’re becoming a hermit.” Just from trying to create the perfect sound, the perfect songs. It was like mental abuse. You kind of realize, okay, maybe I should just let go of it completely, make cool singles and tracks, and maybe one day make that career-defining album. I don’t not. I just never got the feeling people were really waiting on an album, a Don Diablo album. I might’ve been right; I might’ve been wrong. Time will tell. But I really have around 60 records that I worked on with a lot of passion and I just felt it didn’t really fit the direction I wanted to go in for the future. I might just leak a shitload of songs one day. *both laugh*
When I did the mix for Steve’s last Radio One show, I was going through my hard drive and I just found this random album demo that I made that I actually never released, and I was like oh, fuck it because I needed like two extra minutes at the end of the mix. So at the end of the mix there’s just this random album demo, and it’s funny because people are reacting to it and coming up to me like, “Hey, what’s happening with that track?” or “Do you have more music like that?” or…stuff like that. The other week I was actually going through Spotify – which I don’t do every week – but I was looking, and I was actually shocked that my most listened to record with over 1.5 million plays was a record I did called “M1 Stinger”, which is a Drum 'n' Bass style record that no one plays in the clubs, but for some reason it has 1.5 million plays.
Doors are opening for me now. I’ve been talking to labels again. I’ve been getting a lot of offers. My only condition would be: If I’m going to make an album, please let’s not put any pressure on it, and let’s just make a great album, and if that album isn’t the best album ever then let’s make a better album the next time and just keep building from there. But it’s very hard as an artist to put all that pressure on yourself: to want to create an album that becomes a classic album… it’s just a killer. It’s a long answer to a really short question. I really want to do an album before the summer of 2015, but in all honesty I don’t know. Maybe I should do a petition on my Facebook– I mean, if it was up to me, I’d just give away all of my music, honestly. That would be the ideal world to me. It really goes against my nature to sell something. Even, when I get involved with my booking agent, when I see the tickets to my shows are too expensive I get upset. I’m like, “I wouldn’t pay that much to see Don Diablo!” *both laugh* Oh my God, what’s going on here? I know how much people save up their money and I feel really bad having to ask them for X amount of money to listen to my music. I wouldn’t mind giving it away for free, but that’s just not how it works if you want to build a proper career. I’ve [given my music away for many years] but I kind of have to be that guy right now: realistic, and I little bit more serious about it now. But it hurts me every time.
Maybe one day, out of nowhere, I’ll be giving away an album.
EM: Just drop it out of the sky.
DD: Just drop it out of the sky… I made like a Hip-Hop oriented album, too, under a different project name. I made 25 songs for it and that never got released, either. The label was afraid people might get too confused about my identity. But there you go. I’m super schizophrenic right now, but I think most people right now know– like, if you listen to the BBC Radio One mix I did: That’s my sound. It works in the club, it works in other people’s sets, it’s my own sound now, and it’s an accumulation of all the experience I’ve had over the last couple of years.
EM: Would you say that you’ve experimented a lot in private just to find that sound?
DD: Oh, absolutely. I’m super jealous of those guys– I have a lot of colleagues who know what they want. They have their sound and they make it. They make another record in their sound and they’re always going in the same direction, which makes them very successful. I see it as a blessing and I curse that I have the need to explore every different creative outburst that I have in my mind. Sometimes, I’m working and my girlfriend comes into the studio and she’s like, “You’ve been working for this beat for five days and you know you’re never going to release it… What are you doing?!” You know? *laughs* I have absolutely no idea, but I really need to perfect this. It’s really an absolute waste of time, but I guess, looking back on it now, I use all of that experience from all of these songs that I never released – all of these small ideas, all of the tricks I’ve learned in production – I’m actually using that now for the music that I’m doing as we speak. So I guess it’s not all lost, but if you look at it objectively I’ve really wasted a lot of time *both laugh* I could’ve made more reasonable decisions and I could’ve been more realistic many years ago– a lot of guys are coming up to me now like, “Don, what the fuck, man? Why wait so long…like, what are you doing?!” They’re all like, Jesus, finally you’ve seen the light, you know? You’re keeping it together and you’re not that guy that’s all over the place. I really look back on it now and I’m like, Jesus. I’m proud of all the records I did; I’m really proud of all of them. But it absolutely makes no sense at all. *laughs*
It’s weird. Some artists are really good at having a helicopter view of themselves and of their career and what they’re doing and for some reason I didn’t have that, and there wasn’t anybody really steering me or helping me or there with me in the studio. I was just like a bullet that was fired into the world and just had no direction. I think that’s the most important thing as an aspiring producer: You need to surround yourself with people that keep you on track.
EM: After the huge year you’ve had, what are your goals headed into 2015?
DD: It’s always tricky to talk about ambitions and dreams, but the only thing I want to do is literally what I said– I said to my mom, “I want to make dad proud,” and my mom took me aside the other day and she was like, “I know your dad would be super proud of you right now.” So, for me, I literally have achieved all of my goals, and everything that happens over the next couple of years is an absolute bonus. I have nothing to lose anymore.
So, what would be my goals? They would be very obvious goals like doing things bigger, bolder, better. I want to do bigger shows. I want to showcase talent that I believe in. I’m working on a full-on live show – a visual live show – that I’ve been developing for the last two years. I really want to bring that on the road. I want to have that album that really kills off all the demons of the past that I can look back on with a certain amount of pride.
And I want to create something where I can really help other people as well – where I can put all the experience, all the money that I’ve made, into helping other people and making a brighter future for them. Because one day I’ll be dead; I’ll be in the ground, and basically everything I’m doing right now doesn’t really matter that much unless you’re really able to inspire other people and help them, and have that ripple effect.
The other day I was watching that documentary, "The Internet’s Own Boy" by Aaron Swartz, and that really blew me away. I was like, my God, everything I’ve done in my life is absolutely insignificant compared to what this guy has done at such a young age. It really blew my mind. I’m thinking about a lot of different things when I’m on the road now – how I need to change things and how I need to put things in perspective. I think as an artist you’re always looking at what you don’t have. You always want more. But when you have someone like Aaron who does nothing out of ego – who does everything for the greater good.
My goal would be to become a little bit more like him.
"Generations" is out now.