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No Diplo-matic immunity

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Mississippi-born Thomas Wesley Pentz has turned his love for spinning records into a full-time gig traveling the world as mash-up master DJ Diplo.

Named Spin Magazine’s "DJ of the Year" in 2005, he’s grabbed his share of the spotlight as half of the DJ duo Hollertronix and through a creative partnership with female Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. Over the last five years, he’s also produced remixes for tracks like Three 6 Mafia’s "Stay Fly," Justin Timberlake’s "My Love," Daft Punk’s "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," Kanye West’s "Flashing Lights" and Britney Spears’ "Circus." He also continues to produce mixtapes, including 2010’s "Diplo Presents: Free Gucci" and "Major Lazer & La Roux Present: Lazerproof."

The Star-Advertiser sent questions last week via e-mail to Diplo, who is on tour in Asia before playing at Chinatown nightspot NextDoor on Wednesday.


Presented by BAMP Project

Where: NextDoor, 43 N. Hotel St.

When: 9 p.m. July 7 (doors open at 8 p.m.)

Cost: $20 general admission; $25 for ages 18 to 20 years old (presale tickets available at Local Motion stores on Oahu)



STAR-ADVERTISER: Your sets can be two hours or more of constant motion, as your music and DJ style involves a lot of intensity. How do you build up the energy?

DIPLO: I channel the energy from mother Earth.

Q: The Major Lazer connection with its frenetic, high-saturation sexiness and global references — hip-hop, dance and pan-African music — seems to have reached critical mass, partly because it is so overtly sexual. (The Major Lazer videos with their "daggering" have become notorious.) Of course, you’ve long emphasized funk and sexy music, as with "Favela on Blast." What about music gets a crowd going, in your opinion? Is it important that music be "hot"?

A: Why do (you) go out? To look sexy, dance sexy, make out maybe (and) hopefully have sex. I mean, I guess this is just gettin’ to the basics.

Q: What parts of the world are you looking to for new music these days? What’s coming out next from you?

A: I just did a show in Cambodia and I loved the culture. I loved the band Dangue Fever and the vocals on their records — it’s already a hybrid of surf/rock and psych and Eastern music from back in the ’60s. Things like that make me keep searching for new music … but yes, right now, just local stuff. L.A. is crazy right now.

Q: You first gained popularity with DJ Low Budget as Hollertronix and reportedly stepped in to work with M.I.A. after you two had a falling out. What is your current relationship? Are you still working together?

A: I never had a falling out with Mike. He just didn’t want to DJ the same (kind of) music. Hollertronix was one thing, Favela on Blast another, Major Lazer another. I do lots of things.

But Mike helped ground me in the early days. I was definitely not experienced enough to develop my own thing in Philly back then, (and) M.I.A. was just someone I was interested in (working) with. She was like the vocal version of what I was doing with the weird mix of music.

Q: In a New York Times article on M.I.A. from May (, there seems to be a lot of conflicting information between M.I.A’s viewpoint and your own quotes. What do you think of the story? Is it an honest portrait of the situation?

A: Maya is complicated. She’s an artist 100 percent. If (you) take the politics too serious, (you) all just lose because it’s much more complicated then just wearin’ a watermelon and bombs on a shirt.

I’m in it for the music, not the politics, and I think it (addressed) that pretty much. But (yeah), that lady made it seem pretty rough. And it’s just gonna make her hype (bigger).

Q: What’s your favorite part about visiting Hawaii?

A: Surfing. Hiking. Corny tourist (stuff), but I love the sun (and) I hate being in the studio.

This is an excerpt from an interview posted online; visit to read the complete Q&A.


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