Anyone Can DJ, Even My Grandma Can DJ... It’s About Being a Musician
Popspoken recently featured an interview with Don Diablo, where he discussed his place in "Future House", ghost production, and why he thinks aspiring producers should focus more on writing music instead of engineering or DJing.
2015 was an impressive year for Don Diablo, becoming a big international star, the #1 selling house artist on Beatport, and the #3 overall selling artist on Beatport.
He did a quick interview from his hotel room before heading to his New Years Eve gig at the Siloso Beach Party in Singapore.
When asked about his placement at #30 on the DJ Mag Top 100, he responded that he was honored and surprised, particularly because he didn't run a campaign to get votes, so he thinks that it was just fans going out of their way to support him. He was also very happy to note that he moved up more than anyone else on the list, reflecting the huge growth of his career in the past year. He described his reaction to the news "I was just smiling all day, like wow... and the first thing I did was call my mom."
On the topic of Future House, and his inclusion in the so-called "Future House Mafia" along with Tchami and Oliver Heldens, he's happy to be a part a part of the movement, but doesn't want to be pigeonholed.
I think any of us would say we just make house music. Because in 2 or 3 years from now, people will be done with Future House, and we don't want to be on the sinking ship. So when you go to Beatport, my music is catagoriezed as house.. It's cool in the sense that it's not pure house, it has a little bit more energy, you can still play it on the main stages, but it still has more groove than all the EDM that's out there right now.
When the question of ghost production comes up, he's obviously got some strong feelings about it, but doesn't want to get too negative.
It's not something that I need. I've been producing music since I was 15, so I've been a studio nerd my whole life. I think its a good thing to have people around you that help you, writing music, writing songs, lyrics, helping you with a creative process, there's no hurt in that. There's a line, when you just buy a song and slap your name on it. For me, that's a little bit unethical... I think the whole ghost producing thing is a hype term, where people get kind of lost in frustration. I come from a happy place. I think there's a lot of guys out there that have made a couple of shortcuts, but I don't get bitter about it. I see it as fair competition, and I find ways to stay ahead of that, and do my own thing... I just want to do my thing, and concentrate on my own music, and do it my way.
His advice to aspiring producers is to be unique, be original, and not get caught up in trends or competition. He emphasizes the importance of making music, rather than just focusing on DJing.
I think the foundation of success has to come from making music. Having the will to be in the studio the whole time and create. I think the DJing is something that comes secondary. Anybody can DJ. My Grandma can DJ, God bless her soul. Really, there's no difficulty in DJing, I think the difficulty lies in creating something new, something that's going to excite people. Every now and then, I get a demo from a completely unknown name... and they blow my mind. It's like 'wow, this is super fresh, super new.' When I was making my sound, I couldn't get my songs released, nobody wanted to put them out. It took me a couple of years to actually get them released. Even the stuff I'm doing now, the records I've been putting out in 2015, some of those records were maybe 3, 4, 5 years old. But they were laying around, and nobody wanted to release them. You have one big record, your foot gets in the door and that song is a hit, and then boom.
He also talks about some of the mistakes he made earlier in his career as a producer, and gives tips for new producers to keep their creativity moving, and not get too caught up in technical details.
A big mistake I used to make, sometimes I'd work maybe 4, 5, 6 months on one song. And I would get frustrated when that song wouldn't get released. And now I've found myself a way, sort of a basic foundation for making a song and I work around that. That works a lot better for me, I generally spend maybe one or two days making the actual song and then start trying it out, and then maybe going back into the studio perfecting it, and maybe another round after that, but then it's done. Boom. You have to keep it spontaneous. I think a lot of young producers out there, they are too focused on the technical part... I think that's really secondary, it's really about making a good song, creating a unique melody... It’s about really about being a musician rather than a technician. I think a lot of kids get lost in that... I don’t think the Rolling Stones or The Beatles were thinking of how a record would sound - they were thinking of how the song would feel. I think that’s the most important thing, also for electronic music.