I’ll never forget the first time I saw Dillon Francis perform live. It was during the second evening of HARD Summer’s 2013 installment in Los Angeles, and Flosstradamus had just finished their set on the same stage while the sky turned dark. I moved closer into the crowd, positioning myself in the center right between the sound booth and the stage, making the enormous array of screens and lights in front of me perfectly occupy my entire field of vision. The spectacle was immense before the music even began.
When Dillon finally came out, dressed in his signature suit and tie, and started to play the foreboding introduction of Daft Punk’s “Doin’ It Right” over unrelenting cheers from the packed crowd, I had no idea that it would turn out to be one of the best nights of my life. The track quickly switched into the previously unheard “Not Butter” and other Dillon Francis classics, like his “Hulk” remix, “Dill The Noise” and “Que Que,” alongside some of the best moombahton from the era. In the middle of the set, after playing banger after absolute banger and repeating the rebirths for both “Masta Blasta” and “Bootleg Fireworks” two times, the party stopped so that we could all sing Happy Birthday to Kurt from Flosstradamus, who came back on stage for an impromptu 20 minutes of Dillstradamus bliss before Dillon closed with “Stay The Night” for the very first time.
It was a performance that I remember in vivid detail, even years later and with hundreds of shows in between. Never before – or after – had I seen a crowd so invested in each other and in each new song that was played. Even trying to listen to it again while I write this is making me take 10-minute, sweaty dance breaks in between sentences.
The energy, incredible music and completely immersive spectacle from his 2013 show was what truly converted me to the genre in the first place. Ever since that night, I’ve committed myself to EDM and have worked to make it as much a part of my life as I possibly could. This is why I was so thrilled to speak to Dillon Francis last week, and hear his own thoughts about the evolution of the dance music throughout his career.
The rumors swirling around the community regarding a potential new album have made us very curious about its validity, and the consistent outpouring of unreleased collaborations have only added fuel to the excitement. After speaking about the album’s details and learning a great deal about his ideas behind new tracks, we moved to the good old days of moombahton and trap music. Dillon described the changing behavior on the parts of both the industry and listeners, crediting a large portion of the transformation – the good and the bad – to the Internet and streaming services. We ended by discussing Dillon’s future in the acting circuit and his thoughts on the benefits of social media usage, both of which having become significant aspects of his complete presence online.
For a personal and in depth look through all of these topics and more, continue on to our exclusive interview with Dillon Francis below.
There hasn’t been very much hype online surrounding your new album. Does this mean it’s still a long ways away?
“I did the first album and I was super excited, and I was thinking that I wanted to do a second album really fast and have it come out like a year after or something like that. And then, I just felt like I didn’t really know where I wanted the second album to go, so that’s why I just decided to make the EP, This Mixtape Is Fire. The next single that I have coming out is a song called “Anywhere” and it’s featuring Will Heard. If I was to start going towards an album sound, it would be this style because this song is kind of reminiscent of a song that I have with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. I don’t really have in mind if I’m going to do an album right now or keep doing singles. But that’s because I’m having so much fun releasing such weird singles like “Candy” with GTA (which they had to take their name off of, but we’re glad we got it out), and then “Need You” with NGHTMRE. Just been having a lot of fun ‘reinspiring’ myself. And it’s been great that the whole pop, dance hall, moombahton stuff has been happening because I think it’s really good for the genre I love so much.
“But I mean, maybe next year I think I could have something like an album out. Maybe the next single that I have on that, that’s what I’m thinking of. I just haven’t had a lot of time, because I’ve been touring so much. I don’t want it to be like last time. Because now I understand the faults of my last album, where it’s so ADD. Which is my personality though, but I would want to sit down and make something that’s super cohesive and that really you can listen to and be like ‘okay I hear all the soundscapes that are in every single song that the producer used differently, but they’re all intertwined.’”
Do you know specifically which style you’d like to approach it with, if it ever came to fruition?
“So the next single I have coming out, I would want it to be half those type of songs which are very ‘Dillon Francis-y’ summer track with a nice topline vocal on it, and it’s more indie. And then also doing half of stuff like “Que Que” which is stuff I did a long time ago, but I guess it would be with updated production with better chord progressions. But getting more like, Dominican artists or anyone from Mexico, or something like that. That’s what I’ve been trying to research into and Diplo’s been helping me with that. But stuff like that, I think would work perfectly together. And it would be such a fun album.”
How difficult is it to choose the final roster of tracks for an album like this? Do you make a ton of songs and then discard some to fit the final product?
“Yeah, I literally have an entire Dropbox. Half of them are just little chord progressions and half of them are sort of finished instrumentals and I think I’ve abandoned all of them. I’ll maybe revisit them. But you get into these certain pockets in your life where you’re like, ‘yeah I’ll do this!’ And then you try and find some vocals for it and it doesn’t work out or you get the vocals and they don’t mesh with what you thought the song was going to be like and it all just loses its flavor. And also with how fast the music moves with Internet, it’s just insane. You can make a song that sounds relevant at the time and then it’ll just sound like something that was made in the ‘90s.”
Do you feel we’re in a sort of Golden Era of albums in EDM right now? What do you think the trend says about the evolution of the genre as a whole?
“I think it’s really cool. There was this little moment where people didn’t know if they wanted to go on streaming services or not, or buy albums and they’d just buy singles. And now I think that because of streaming services, I’ll go and listen to the full Flume album. I’ll go and listen to the full Frank Ocean album – I mean of course Frank Ocean, we’ve been waiting for that one – but I do think with the streaming services it helps so much. Because people can be like ‘oh I don’t have to go buy it I can just go preview it and if I like it I can just add it to my playlist.’
“You know, at a certain point I just thought that albums might be dead because everyone was just like single, single, single, single. So I do feel like there’s a revitalization of albums right now and it’s good because I feel like it’s a benchmark for artists, when they’re creating something and they have that. Like ‘oh yeah, I put out my album.’ It’s like you’re graduating from high school to college or something because it’s your first album. And then you go on further, post-grad, etc.”
Why have you and Flosstradamus decided to do your co-headlining show now, and why have you chosen Los Angeles?
“We used to tour so much together and we have such a good relationship, and then we were both going to play shows at this time. We have a song together – we don’t even have a name for it yet, but we’re trying to finish it – and I just came up with the idea, and so did Kurt, and we’re just like, ‘we should play a show together and see if it works out and bring back Dillstradamus.’ We have a bunch of really cool stuff planned for it, too. At the end of each of those shows we’re going to do a B2B set for like 30 minutes for Dillstradamus. We had done so many European runs and bus runs here in America, it just seemed like the right idea to get back together and do a fun, blowout show. And it worked out because we both headline HARD, so we felt like it would be such a fun experience. I think the fanbases overlap, so we just wanted to have a fun, amazing, turn-up LA show that really showcases what we’ve all been making.
“I just love them so much, because they were the ones that reinspired me when all that trap music was happening again. I remember when I first heard the remix of “Original Don” and I was like ‘dude, this is exactly what it felt like when I heard moombahton.’ Like it’s so free. No one has any holds on what you have to do for making a song at all, you don’t have any preset instructions. Like with drum and bass, you know, you have to have that snare at whatever Hertz. And if you don’t, some drum and bass people won’t play it. I just love it when music is so free and there’s no like, ‘oh! The snare’s wrong. Can’t play that.’”
Do you ever miss those days back in 2013 when all the amazing, classic trap and moombahton tracks were coming out?
“Absolutely. I think about it all time with playing SXSW and the shows where there was a certain fan base that was that into the music and so excited because it was like the fledgling part where I was playing the Mad Decent showcase, oh man. How the music was. I always go back to prog house, too. Like I just put “Drop The Pressure,” the Jack Beats remix from Project Bassline, back into my sets because that was one of my favorite songs.
“But yeah absolutely. I always miss those days. I feel like back in those days, as if it was so far away, but back in those days people were so excited to hear newer mixes with new music in it. And I think now people aren’t as excited. I remember listening to BBC Radio and being like, ‘oh my god, what is this person going to play?’ You know, the two-hour essential mix. And listening to those and trying to find new music through that. I feel like that’s almost lost now.”
Does it feel to you like sets have gotten a bit more formulaic or ‘safe’ since that time?
“I know exactly what you’re talking about. I had this theory that people don’t really care about IDs anymore. At the beginning, after I put out my album I was thinking about working on weird R&B stuff, kind of like what Tory Lanez was doing and what Kanye did. Now I don’t want to do that because it already happened. But, I was working with PARTYNEXTDOOR, and I had taken a Snapchat of the song we were working on, and when I did he hit me back and was like, ‘yo, that’s a bad idea. You shouldn’t have done that.’ They just really like to keep everything super secretive right up until release, to really have it have this massive impact, which I understand now.
“But coming from where I was with us, where it would always be the surprise of showing stuff on Instagram or playing it at a new show or trying a new remix out, now it’s just a different world. Now I think people want that surprise for releases, which is why I’ve toned back playing a lot of unreleased stuff, unless it’s other DJs. But with just solo stuff I tend to keep it more hidden now. Like no one’s heard my next single, except a couple people I’ve sent it to to see what they think about it.”
Do you wish you could still just go out and play whatever you want, despite the new trend of secrecy?
“I wish, I wish. Because now there’s so many recordings and live streams happening. That always really affects when you can play other music that isn’t released. Especially from other artists because they might not want their song to be played on a stream yet, because it’s not going to come out for four more months. But I feel like back then, no one really cared. They were like, “yeah play it on stream, it’ll come out in four months and people will still be hyped.’ Which I feel like they were. But now with how fast everyone consumes something on the Internet, you play something that comes out four months later and then you’re going to have a kid on the Internet being like, ‘I f**kin’ heard this during your set and I already have it, I’ve had it for six months before you even put it out or played it because I hacked your Dropbox.’ It’s always a bummer when that happens because you’re just like, ‘c’mon man.’
“I like it when it’s the right timing, but I’ve definitely had stuff where I’ve played it way too early. I mean, I get ‘demo-itis’ for stuff, and I know fans get demo-itis for things, too. Like, I remember I did a rebirth of “Drunk All The Time” a long time ago, and I played it during my Ultra set. And then I totally revamped it because I thought it was way too old, and then I put it out, and I don’t think it was as well-received as it would have been if I had kept the original.”
You recently performed in San Antonio as part of the Bud Light convention tour alongside Wale. How did it feel to be included on a list of such big, noteworthy names from each of their respective genres?
“It was so bizarre and awesome. I was like, wow, if anything it means I’m getting bigger as an artist. Because I mean, Wale is Wale. And comparatively from our Twitters, he has four million, I have three million, 300,000 less? I think that’s the correct math there. But yeah, it was so much fun. And I finally got to meet him too, which was really awesome. We exchanged contact information and I hope we get to make a song. The whole party was really cool, just everyone showing up to have a good time and drink free, awesome beer and dance. It was such a cool party, and I also don’t get to play in San Antonio very often so the fact that it was free made it a crazy night.
“And I always get really scared when I play with an artist that big in his respective scene. I always get really scared, like f**k, I’m going to go up there and people are going to be like, “what is this guy playing? I hate him.’ But it was completely not that, but I always get that feeling. Like oh my god, people are going to think I’m playing robot music to them. Like you know in South Park in that episode where they just hear the sh*t and fart noises? Like I feel like that might happen if I’m playing with another artist that’s that big.
I was worried that people might have had a similar reaction when they heard Skrillex was opening for Guns N’ Roses a little while back.
“That’s what I would think too, because the fan base for them … I don’t really know how much of a crossover that is. But luckily this stuff raises the net for people. Like I’ve met a lot of older men and women that listen to that kind of music that are like, “I don’t really listen to that dance music, but I don’t mind it though.” And it’s because their kids are all listening to it, so now they’re all sensitized towards it. They can actually make sense with it in their heads now and not be so aggressively mad about it, or something. I remember Tom Petty, a long time ago, was aggressively mad about it and I bet his kids have now toned him down. He was talking mad sh*t.”
Fans have been talking a lot about your acting ability on Snapchat and DJ World. Have you ever been approached with a real acting gig?
“I’m trying to work with the agency that I’m with on trying to navigate it correctly, and make sure that I would get the roles that I would want rather than it being like, ‘oh yeah he can play the DJ role, or something like a quick sweep of him playing at a show.’ Because I just want to make sure that it’s right. But yeah, I would love to go into acting. It’s such a fun hobby for me and such a nice stress reliever. That’s why I love doing those Snapchat things, because I laugh at them and hope other people do, too. And luckily they do, but when I’m working on music and just get stumped for a bit I’ll just go like, ‘huh, I’ll see if I can do something on Snapchat.’”
As a master of social media, do you think having a big presence is just an added bonus for fans, or also an essential way for you to maintain interest?
“Yeah I think so. I mean, I never started doing it for that. But I know that the benefit of me doing that is people watching. Like if I don’t have music out I can always make fun skits. And that’s what everyone is starting to do now, that’s what the whole DJ World stuff was. I had finished making a bunch of music that I wanted to make, and kind of didn’t have any idea of what – like, my brain is so weird. I get in super crazy music modes and then super crazy wanting to just do Snapchat stories or do acting stuff, and that’s when I start hitting up my director friends, like Brandon Dermer who I did “Not Butter” with. He was the one who directed the DJ World stuff. But I do think it’s like a second arm that I have, that I think some people don’t have, that keeps people engaged with what I’m doing. If I’m not making music I’m just yelling at Hardwell dolls or something.”