Interview: DJ Snake

The high-flying French producer tells us all about rewriting the rules

Born and raised on the streets of Paris, DJ Snake has been holding the blogosphere hostage with a barrage of infectious remixes, crafted in his infectious Southern trap style, as well as lending his signature beats to names like Lady Gaga, T-Pain and Diddy. Then, in 2013, the Chinese calendar’s Year of the Snake, the Grammy-nominated Frenchman flipped the game on its head with a single bird sample. Now, catching up with the man on his first Australian tour, the verified game-changer seems prepped to redefine the rules yet again and leave the competition even further in his wake. DJ Snake isn’t riding the wave of the trap movement – he’s the one making the tsunami.

How’s the Australian tour going? Have we been turning up?

Absolutely! Why wouldn’t you? It’s the hottest thing to hit Australia since sliced bread. No seriously, it’s been one of my goals and dreams to have a full on tour in Australia – a crowning achievement and I’m loving every minute of it.

Have you had any time to chill out between shows?

Yes and no. My team and I have had a few opportunities to go downtown and whatnot, but since we’re always on the grind, it’s been difficult to fully appreciate all the great landmarks and special locations Australia has to offer. Hopefully we’ll have more time as the tour progresses.

2013 has been huge for you. Was there a particular moment this year that stands out?

I’d have to say my first US tour that I completed recently. I was pleasantly surprised by all the love my fans showed me when I performed for them. I’ve been influenced by American culture all my life, so to be accepted and respected by the country you’ve admired for so long is surreal. Just a blessing, man. Can’t wait to go back real soon.

Bird Machine was a massive breakout track. Did you expect it to blow up like it did?

My gut told me it was gonna be a game-changer for my career and also for the scene in general. When I put out a track or produce for another artist, I’m pretty confident it’s gonna do well or at least get people talking. Of course you sometimes work on tracks you feel are gonna be instant hits, but due to whatever reason, they might not perform as you might have wanted them to. But Bird Machine was just one of those tracks that just felt right from the beginning. To be honest, it was one of the smoothest and most organic tracks I’ve ever produced. I just sat down with Alesia and said, “Let’s just have fun and bang this bitch out!” We just zoned out and volià, a smash was born.

You started dabbling in music when you were 17 years old, right? How’d you first get into making music?

I used to work at one of Paris’ most famous record stores. We’d have the most famous DJs and producers pass by every day, so one day I decided to take my chance and I hooked up with one of Europe’s best hip hop DJ who taught me the ins and outs of the music game. That’s basically how it started.

And then you opened for Snoop Dogg’s tour when you were 18? How was that?

Wow. Kind of feels like it was yesterday! It was a surreal experience because I grow up listening to these guys back in the days and then “POOF”, I’m opening for one of my idols and actually getting a chance to have a conversation with him. I’m just a kid from the streets of Paris. This shit’s not supposed to happen to someone like me, you know what I’m saying. I thank God everyday for giving me the opportunity to live out my dreams and to meet interesting and creative people on a daily basis.

How’d you and Lil Jon hook up for Turn Down For What?

Funny story – the original name for Turn Down For What was called Bang The Underground and it featured a Redman audio sample. We tried to get Redman to redo the original audio sample, but unfortunately he wasn’t into being part of the project at that time. I hit my boy Jon up and sent him the track and he instantly loved it. To make a long story short, I didn’t know what he was gonna send me back to be honest, but as soon as I heard his vocals on the track I knew it was a banger.

What was Lil Jon like to work with?

Jon is always cool and professional with whatever he does. It really didn’t feel like business at all – just two creative dudes getting together with the same common passion for music, solely motivated to create ground breaking hit records.

Have you got any more collaborations in the works? Apparently you gave a sneak peek at a new track with Diplo at one of your recent shows.

Man… That track I did with Diplo is a serious problem, man. When it hits, it’s not even gonna be fair to the competition. Trust me people. When Diplo makes a beat, history is made. When Snake makes a beat, history is made. Now imagine Diplo and Snake on the same joint. Get the record books out ‘cause when it drops, the game is changing, believe that!

What’s your production process like when you’re in the studio? Where do you draw inspiration from?

Every time I’m in the studio I have a different method of attacking a beat. One day I might have seen some documentary from Brazil and heard a sound I never heard before and that triggers a primal desire in me to run my ass to the studio ASAP. I probably won’t use that sound, but it inspires me to develop a vision on which to create an amazing track. Then I zone out. Completely zone out. Nothing can distract me in that space. If the phone’s ringing or my manager’s making noise outside, it doesn’t exist when I’m in my creative space. Once I’ve got the lead melody down, I’ll spazz out on the MPC a bit to get the knocking drums people are accustomed to hearing in my tracks. The more mental I go at it, the better the beat comes out, in my opinion.

All the big name producers in the trap movement seem pretty tight. Is there any competition or is it all friendly?

I’m cool with all my label mates. I think they’re incredibly talented and creative. I personally have a great friendship with Dillion Francis. That’s my boy from day one. I’m gonna ride with that white boy from the beginning ‘til the end.

Do you pay a lot of attention to what’s happening and what’s popular on the blogosphere?

I’m always up to date on what’s happening or what’s trending at the moment, but I don’t take it that seriously, you know what I mean? A lot of people get consumed by social media, gossip and shit, but frankly I get my shits and giggles and move right the fuck on to real life. I find people more interesting then computers at the end of the day.

What have you got planned for 2014? What’s next for the movement?

I’ll tell you when I’m ready.

DJ Snake is currently touring the country thanks to Brown Bear Entertainment. You can catch him playing at this year’s inaugural electronic festival The Plot as well as headline shows in all major cities. For more, check out DJ Snake on SoundCloud, Facebook and Twitter.

Aus/NZ tour dates

December 6 – Trinity Bar, Canberra

December 7 – Roxy x Everybody’s, Auckland

December 8 – Sets on the Beach, Perth

December 13 – Oh Hello!, Brisbane

December 14 – The Plot, Sydney

December 15 – The Plot, Melbourne

December 18 – The Argyle House, Newcastle

December 19 – Laundry Bar, Melbourne

December 20 – Rocket Bar & Rooftop, Adelaide

December 21 – Xmas Garden Party, The Ivy, Sydney

December 22 – Sunday Safari, Byron Bay