Asks the man born Thomas Wesley Pentz; known onstage as Diplo, and offduty as Wes. He’s playing peek-a-pec with the faux fur Balenciaga coat he shrugged on over his bare chest; and is styled with red Givenchy tracksuit pants and rather slender Prada dad sneakers. He doesn’t break gaze with the camera as he works the look—Pentz knows what to do to get the shot. When he strode onto location at The Standard in West Hollywood for this photo shoot, he began with little preamble and immediately stripped down to try on the clothes, flexing in fashions sized for models far less, ahem, ‘swole’ than his own carefully looked-after physique. “That’s why I get less and less work done, because you have to work out more as you get older.”
When said work includes some 300 days a year of being on tour, it’s hard to imagine when and where one would cram in one’s reps. Or when you’d even have time to bathe for that matter. Our interview was supposed to be done after the shoot, but got bumped to the following day at his house due to a last-minute change in schedule. I guess for Diplo, sometimes all you can do is take meetings from your personal hot tub in lieu of having any hope for the time to take a shower.
Aside from the obvious comforts that his kind of success brings (like the outdoor, steep-sided wooden Japanese-style bath he soaks in for this interview), it doesn’t seem that life is all that different compared to what it was 10 years ago. He’s still roaming the globe, making friends, harnessing sounds, producing music and then playing the shit out of it at parties. He admits that life is definitely a lot easier now, at least. It’s been years since he slept in the back of a tiny car on tour, for one. Despite his insane schedule and what I can only imagine as pay cheques to match, he’s well aware that the cost of a flight across the States in a private jet could send one of his two kids to college for a year. And that the price tag on a blingy watch is equivalent to even more than that. He states emphatically and more than once throughout the interview, “I’m old,” as he floats around in his steaming ofuro. “I know not to invest in shit like that. I know to buy property and shit.”
At 40, Diplo is now the veritable dinosaur he named himself after in an industry that today sees 18-year-olds as past their best-before date. The opposite of a relic, Diplo is in high demand for his DJ sets, his production skills and his ability to catapult artists into a different space after they are featured on a Diplo record. Often described as having a ‘preternatural ability’ to forecast the musical climate, the fact of the matter is, his genre-breaking superpowers come from being out in the field, hands literally on deck to gauge what is needed to move dance floors all over the world. That is where big shifts in music have always originated: underground and on the streets. And that’s where you’ll find Diplo. He doesn’t just have his ‘finger on the pulse’. He knows what makes that pulse beat faster because he’s witnessed it the 300 days of the year that he’s on tour, conducting heaving crowds into a frenzy in the depths of Uganda to obscure parts of China, from the streets of Cuba to the hills of Los Angeles. So let’s just address all of those who have pegged his success to being a ‘cultural colonialist’ right here, and argue that perhaps those who do, are projecting their own guilt onto the great white male icon that is Diplo.
“I’m 40 years old. I’ve done a lot of cool things. I’ve been all over the world. But it’s not a very cool [to be a white guy]. It’s not in vogue. My narrative doesn’t fit to talk about different experiences and I have to understand that. I’m a smart guy, I know what I’m doing. I’m not going to try to change that, or take advantage of those things— as a white guy I don’t need them. I’m perfectly fine with who I am. I think that people a lot of times can distort it in a lot of ways. Which doesn’t help or benefit the rest of us.”
In an era where tweets can be deleted and entire Instagram grids can be archived, you’d best believe that someone, somewhere will be sitting on the damn receipts. As the first DJ on Twitter, @diplo used to say a lot of shit. These days, that shit is kept