Interview: Major Lazer's Switch on Working With Diplo, Recording in Jamaica, and Sponge Laser Beams
"We actually wanted to bring Skerrit Bwoy [on the road], but he's kind of involved in this whole daggering movement that our sponsors didn't feel was very suitable for our tour."
When Diplo and Switch, two of dance music's most recognizable names, joined forces as Major Lazer, they knew they could do whatever they wanted. As the respective heads of Mad Decent and Dubsided Records, they had no trouble convincing friends and associates--legendary toasters, shit-hot rappers, and fast-rising dance music producers--to work with them. Downtown Records CEO Josh Deutsch agreed to distribute the record before they'd even recorded a note. And the public? Even the most jaded hack blogger wouldn't delete a press release bearing both their names--and a couple of them most definitely wet their pants.
But when Diplo and Switch arrived in Jamaica to record their Major Lazer debut, the kooky, dancehall-oriented Guns Don't Kill People...Lazers Do, something was off. "Nobody knew who we were," Dave Taylor a/k/a Switch, says, laughing. Though this relative anonymity had its advantages--nobody saw the point in leaking their album early, for example--it also helped to ground one of the strangest, most anticipated dance albums of the year. Major Lazer plays S.O.B.'s this Saturday night (doors at midnight), so we recently got "producer-slash-DJ" Switch on the phone from Los Angeles to discuss his love for dancehall, musical colonialism, and Andy Milonakis.
I had no idea you were into dancehall.
I've been listening to it since I was 10 or 11. The last three or four years, people like Steve McGregor, all these people that are doing beats that stand up in the hip-hop world, d'you know what I mean? The new stuff that is coming out of Jamaica, the stuff that's getting played in the clubs and at the raves, that's what inspired me and Wes [Pentz a/k/a Diplo] to really make this record, for this new generation of people who are doing dancehall, but with newer technology out in Jamaica. That was kind of the concept of the album: go and kind soak up all the newer, crazier styles of dancehall, the stuff that these new, punked out kids are listening to in clubs. That's what we're looking forward to developing a little more, as time goes on. But yeah, the record is not: "Okay, we're done!" The next thing is, we want to develop it. We want to showcase Jamaican music, give it some exposure. It influences a lot of western music, without people knowing it.
Originally you two wanted to make a double album, one CD of straight-up dancehall and the other being more like what Guns Don't Kill People wound up being--a dancehall-inflected Diplo and Switch pop album. Did you actually wind up making the first CD? Is it just sitting on a hard drive somewhere?
It developed more into an amalgamation of both. Once we got into mixing and actually doing the final production, the songs developed a lot from where they were when we recorded them in Jamaica. But the idea of the second CD and the first CD just molded into one thing, which makes the album a bit more palatable.