Mixtape and mash-up culture simply wouldn't be the same without Diplo's discerning ear. As an early proponent of the "dirty south" sound and all its permutations (Miami bass, bounce, crunk, Bay Area hyphy, Baltimore club and more), the Florida-born, Philly-based DJ and producer started out by bucking all the underground club trends with his Hollertronix nights --founded in 2003 with DJ Low Budget and known for their "kitchen sink" approach to after-hours party music.
When he isn't out touring with everyone from RJD2 to Roots Manuva, or busy cutting the latest Brazilian baile funk record with an obscure side by The Cure, Diplo (aka Wesley Pentz) has made a name for himself as a potent remixer, both on the extreme down-low (check his attack on Ray Charles' "I Got A Woman") and in the great wide open (his treatments of Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" and Beck's "Go It Alone" being two of the biggest). Ableton Live figures prominently in his production scheme; not only does he use the software to corral all his beats and breaks, but he'll also rely on Live's sequencing and mixing capabilities to produce a finished track.
In the wake of his own solo work — which includes such albums as Epistemology Suite and the downtempo classic Florida — as well as production and remixes for Sri Lankan rap diva M.I.A. (most notably on the legendary Piracy Funds Terrorismmixtape), Brit grime prince Kano, Le Tigre, DJ Shadow and more, Diplo continues to push the envelope with his Mad Decent label, and shows no signs of letting up any time soon. We recently caught up with him just before his latest jaunt to Japan, where he spins on a fairly regular basis and enjoys feeding his jones — in Osaka, of all places — for the craziest reggaeton dub plates.
What's the main thing you like about Live 6?
It's a real writer's program. One good thing about not reading any manuals or anything is that you've gotta play all day with it. I just like to DJ and scratch shit up. I love making straight-up 8-bit, nasty Nintendo sounds.
Have you used it for any of the mixtape CDs you've been putting out?
I make a lot of club edit things. I make kits in Impulse by taking all the beats out of some of the big club hits. I like how you can route the different Impulse hits to different tracks, and you can just put Beat Repeat on one drum. I'll make weird versions of stuff without the raps sometimes, or I'll just take a song and cut up all the parts I like. I try to make one a day like this, then I send it in to Turntable Lab [www.turntablelab.com] and they press it up for me to spin and give out to people.
What's your basic approach when it comes to setting up your samples?
I lay out all the tracks in Arrangement view, and then just grab the different pieces of a track and make kits. I just chop them up really well to begin with, then I go over and consolidate each hit, make a kit and then add some more hits. That's the best thing for me right now. This really helps me make things I can play live with my keyboard.
Are there any other Live functions you rely on?
Operator's cool because I start with one sound and just start pressing buttons. When I first got Live I thought it was going to be the same old soundtrack spacey stuff, but it's got some cool sounds. Arpeggiator's cool too — I wish you could use it with non-MIDI files.
Has Live come in handy on the road, too?
It's kind of cool that I'm flying so much. I've found when I'm at home I can't work on a laptop, so it's really strange that this is keeping my attention because normally I'm really bored with this shit — I'd rather just walk around my house! So being on airplanes this much helps me work on Ableton Live all day because there's nothing else to do.
For more information, check out www.formdiplo.com.