Dillon Francis, dance music's new genre-dismissing funnyman, is quickly becoming a master of his art

Dillon Francis, dance music's new genre-dismissing funnyman, is quickly becoming a master of his art

MusicDecember 08, 2014

It’s mere hours before one of the first shows of his large North American Friends Rule tour and Dillon Francis is relaxing in a balmy hotel room because it’s “so cold in Asheville right now. I need to get a North Face jacket, so badly.”

He’ll be headlining this night along with many others around the nation including The Fox Theater in Oakland, CA, The House Of Blues in Boston, MA, and our own 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, CO. It’s a strenuous hustle he’s amassed for himself with his rising fame, and it keeps him plenty busy.

“You have to sacrifice a lot of your social life to be a DJ,” says Francis. “You’re gonna constantly be working on music all the time. Music is forever changing … instantly … you always have to be on top of your game.”

Working right now for Francis is a constant. After his current tour ends late in December, he’ll only have a few days off before jumping back into the studio for a month, then it’s off to Europe for the next few weeks, then back again straight into the studio. It’s a work ethic he deems necessary to maintain a steady workload providing his fans with constant entertainment.

It wasn’t always the globetrotting, chart-climbing lifestyle, however. A young Dillon Francis was just like any other aspiring artist. He first dove into the arts with photography, but says he found the industry too saturated and wanted to pursue something not as condensed. It’s an irony that doesn’t escape him.

“I went into DJing because, at the time, it really wasn’t so saturated,” he says. “I think everything, in all fairness, is really saturated, especially now. Back then it was a little bit less.”

Becoming a massive global superstar performing behind the decks was never his intention, he says. In fact, his standards of success were quite low.

“I tried getting booked at a lot of places,” he remembers. “I got booked at Teddy’s and a couple of other Top 40 places, but the main place I wanted to get booked at was Cinespace, which was Steve Aoki’s club.

“They were doing all the mashup stuff. That was it, my main goal, I didn’t have an idea of turning it into a career. It was just my extreme hobby. I thought it was gonna be a little piece of my life that I could reminisce on. That’s turned into a full-fledged career where I get to make music with awesome people and tour around. I never thought that I’d be on a tour bus having a huge stage setup that’s taller than me!”

Most understand that wanting to pursue a career in the arts in a struggling economy is hardly a desirable future for most parents worried about their children. Most of those talks end with “get a real job” demands or “why can’t you be more like your successful siblings” disappointments. For Francis, he says his parents took it well, even though they had understandable doubts.

“They were fifty-fifty about it,” he says. “My mom leaned more toward ‘Let’s let him do it, let’s see what happens.’ I remember I begged them to let me move to Atlanta. At the time I had $500 and I bought a plane ticket. I was like, ‘I’ve got 500 bucks spent on a plane ticket; I’m out!’”

He moved to Atlanta to learn from his mentor and friend Cory Enemy, a producer, DJ and songwriter who has worked with renowned artists including Carly Rae Jepsen, David Guetta, Ellie Goulding and plenty of others.

“In a few months I ran out of money and only had enough to buy a plane ticket back,” he says. “I told (my parents) I learned a lot from Cory and asked them, ‘If I could try for a year to make this into something; and if not I’d go back to school.’”

It’s been a running career path since and one that would eventually hook him up with famed DJ and producer Diplo, who is also the founder of the Mad Decent Record Label. That was the proverbial flake that pushed his snowballing career into effect.

“I was just rolling with it the whole time,” says Francis. “I was like, ‘Awesome, cool, let’s do this and now do that! I never looked back at it. It was all forward … next thing, next remix, what’s the next song we’re gonna do?”

Francis dropped into the industry only a few years back with his popular single “Masta Blasta,” a track that stood out from the others in the industry because when everything else in EDM was amping up BPMs and sonic departures, he was slowing it down. His name and generally playful demeanor became synonymous in the growing moombahton genre, an electronic offshoot known for its gradual builds and steady basslines.

But moombahton isn’t a genre label he’s ever cornered himself with, he says, because being pigeonholed is something he’s not very fond of. He makes the case against the ubiquitous labeling with his new album “Money Sucks, Friends Rule.” It’s a collection of work that grabs artists from every niche of the industry, and sidesteps boundaries with its eclectic BPM structure.

“I understand the use of (genre labels) because it helps in explaining it,” he says. “But it sucks for artists. I genuinely love all types of music. I grew up listening to pop, then listening to metal, then punk and industrial, and speedcore metal, and spazcore … you know all these different, weird genres that are offshoots of metal slash punk. I’ve been into everything. There’s so much stuff.”

He acknowledges that in the courts of public opinion, there can be plenty of fallout from experimenting with different soundscapes as an artist.

“When you put out different types of music people automatically get mad at it,” he says.

They’re like ‘That’s not you man!’ And it’s like, what, OK, I’m an artist and I can’t do different things?

The collaborative efforts on the new release read like a Beatport’s most wanted list. Fellow EDM hitters DJ Snake and Major Lazer lend their hands with the release and he even taps hip-hop legend Twista and rocker Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco. “Money Sucks, Friends Rule” also features the young electronic prodigy Martin Garrix, who DJ Francis reached out to via Twitter after seeing a song of his on MTV.

“The first time we met in person was at Ultra,” he says. “He played me a song he wanted to collaborate on, which was ‘Set Me Free’ — well we turned it into ‘Set Me Free’ later. That night Diplo actually thought he was my camera guy.“

His show this month will be classic Dillon Francis behind “that big huge scary thing” fans saw in Colorado at this past summer’s HARD Red Rocks performance. The crew has added new visual content, however, with plenty more party lights and other “pretty fucking awesome” extras. He also promises to bring the volume of the house up with some new songs from the album along with plenty of new material.

Oh, and large cardboard cutouts of his face. He says he wants everyone to bring a ton of those for ambiance, as always.