Talking to the Jillionaire about Dans Dakar, Major Lazer, and his TV show
Jilli has the time of his life.
Chris Leacock a.k.a the Jillionaire (or Jilli to some of us) has been a busy, busy man. On top of major commercial success with electronic powerhouse Major Lazer, the Trinidad-born producer recently started his own world domination going solo. After touring around the US, Europe, and Australia, Jilli is heading back to Europe to continue on his success from multiple collaborations to solo shows in plenty of cities anywhere between Portugal and Sweden. I called him up ahead of his upcoming show at the Dans Dakar festival in Stockholm and talked about travels, his new record label, and more.
Noisey: What’s up Jilli? Where are you at the moment?
The Jillionaire: I’m in Toronto, Canada right now.
You’re everywhere. Didn’t you just finish a few dates in New York? Did you have any time to relax?
Yeah but those were smaller things – I just did two or three gigs. I did a rooftop party at the Soho House, then I did a thing Sunday night, and on Monday night I did a party at Montauk. So, technically no. Monday, I was in the studio, Tuesday I had meetings, and Tuesday night I was supposed to come to Toronto but there was bad weather so my flight got cancelled and blah blah blah... I pretty much only had yesterday off I guess and tonight I fly back to Europe. But this is the time of my life so I guess I’ll just sleep on the plane until I can get a couple days off [Laughs].
True. Despite that hectic schedule, what were some highlights from this past year?
There have been so many, man. I definitely enjoyed playing a lot more solo shows but also all the festivals, as well. It’s been a really busy summer; I did a lot of big festivals that included stops in France and Holland. We did two really big Major Lazer shows this year as well – probably the biggest shows of our careers. We closed out the main stage at Roskilde in Denmark to about 100,000 people and we closed out the main stage at Rock Werchter in Belgium to 80,000 people, which is pretty crazy and that was only last week [Laughs]. It’s been a crazy summer. Just really looking forward to a lot more to come.
What more do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I’ll be going back to Burning Man, which was really a highlight of my year last year. We’re going to be doing the Bestival main stage in the UK, which is one of the last festivals of the festival season. I also had a single come out and it’s been doing really well so I’m working on a follow up to that.
Yeah, it’s weird. You don’t think about it until somebody asks you that type of question. You just keep your head down, keep working, keep trying to progress, do as much work as possible, make as much as possible, and play as many shows as possible. So it’s been really fun year and we’re only half way through.
OK, so what can we expect from you at Dans Dakar? What’s different from a Jillionaire solo show than from a Major Lazer show?
This might sound cheesy but I think when I do solo shows there’s a lot more island influence, a lot more reggae, dance hall, and definitely a lot more percussions. At the same time all three of us bring a very high energy and high intensity at our solo shows as well. So expect to have a lot of fun, do a lot of dancing and just have a really good time. And if that doesn’t happen you can feel free to come find me and punch me in the face [laughs].
Ha ha. Major Lazer has played in Stockholm before, but this is the first time you’re playing here on your own, right? Are you excited?
Yeah, we actually played at Dans Dakar a couple years ago, which was the first time I had been to Stockholm. It was a lot of fun. It was raining when we got there but the weather held up during the festival and we had a really good turnout. We also did a concert hall show in Stockholm, which was one of the craziest ones we did for that giant tour. So yeah I’m looking forward to being back.
I remember reading in a recent interview that Stockholm is one of your top five places to visit, right? What do you like about it?
Just the atmosphere I think. I really enjoy it in the summertime because the weather is mild. For me personally, I like cities that are small and easy to get around, walking cities. All in all it makes for a good place to visit with all the bars, restaurants, museums, and galleries. We also went around on a boat one day and I enjoyed how that can just show you a whole other side to the city.
Summertime is a whole lot better than the winter for sure.
Yeah don’t think I’d want to live there in the winter [laughs].
Who are you looking forward to seeing at Dans Dakar this year?
Man, to be honest with you, I haven’t even looked at the line-up yet [laughs]. That’s probably my biggest challenge, just playing all of these festivals and a lot of times I don’t really have time to think "Yo, who should I go see?" until maybe like the day before. I’m sure there’s a few people on there I really want to see. I have friend of mine who’s coming up from Malmö and she said if I come see you at this festival, you have to stay and check out some of these acts with me. So I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot more of the line-up but I definitely have to look to see who else playing.
So you have a few days off after Dans Dakar then?
I have that week off but I’m trying to figure out if I should go back to the States to do some work or stay in Stockholm and finish stuff up. The last single I did was with two guys from Stockholm, Salvatore Ganacci and Sanjin. Salvatore and his production manager have a studio in Stockholm so I might stay there and work with them for a couple days.
Actually the next thing I wanted to bring up was that collaboration with Salvatore Ganacci and how it had a really good reception. How did you both link up?
Through Garmiani actually, who’s a friend of Salvatore and his production partner. Garmiani and I have always stayed in touch via email and Garmiani was the one who had sent the track to me. I checked it out and thought, "yo, this is crazy" so I started working on the track that day. Literally that night we added it to our Major Lazer shows and it got a really strong response. After, we did some back and forth tweaks, add-ons, and fixes so the song didn’t finish for a while and I said eventually that this should probably see a release and it came out this year. Its been doing really well and we’ve had a lot of success with it across Europe. I’m excited to continue to work on new stuff and follow up the success of that release.
Are you going to work with any new artists and do collaborations other than Salvatore Ganacci?
Yeah, right now I actually have a track I’m just finishing up but it’s by myself. I want to do one solo release, and then continue to work with new artists. I just started a new record label called Feel Up Records and basically our purpose is to highlight the artists and shine a light on new talent. We’re going to continue working with new artists and producers like Salvatore. But I’ll have some new work with my buddy Richie Beretta from New York and this other guy, Fellow, in Amsterdam. I’ve been working with them for a couple years now.
Feel up just had it launch this year, right? What else can we anticipate from the label in the near future?
Yeah, we had a release that came out on July 22nd from an artist called Teleseen who’s based in Brazil. It’s called "Animorph". I’m really excited about that because Teleseen is one of my favourite producers and he’s very easy to listen to. He has a tropicalia feel to it with an electronic twist. We’re also working with a band from Brooklyn called Clementine and the Galaxy, so they will probably be the next release. We’re also working with some kids from New York called Boyfriend. I think that’s it for right now. We just want to work with people who obviously want to work with us but also people who have fun doing what they do and make good music. I’m just focusing on finding our label and developing our own sound so when people think of our label they’ll be like, "that’s cool because it’s a sound that I’m familiar with and sound I can get into".
So does that mean that Feel Up is going to be your main focus after this round of touring is done? How are you going to manage your solo career, Major Lazer, and now the record label?
It’s basically a balancing act so I’ll have to manage all at the same time. I never expected to be touring as hard as I have been this year but at the same time I’m really thankful for that. The thing about this industry, especially the music industry, is that you kinda have to get it while it’s hard so it’s really a matter of balance. Touring, making music, focusing on the label, and as well as developing new artists are things I’m up for and up to do. Also, I actually have a couple of young, new artists I’m working with. One is from Trinidad who produces a lot of soca music but then he’s also an awesome producer outside of that genre and then there’s a young kid from LA called Willem Wolfe. He’s more on the house music side. So yeah it’s a crazy balancing act but I mean at the same time it’s still something that I find fun, new, exciting, and I look forward to it.
And what about Major Lazer? Are you guys working on anything new?
We have an album that we’re finishing up that will probably be done by October or November but it won’t be out until next year. We also have a TV show coming out on FOX ADHD that’s going to be premiering in the fall.
TV show? What’s up with that?
I actually saw the first episode recently, it’s really funny and really well written. FOX has a really great team over there. A guy who’s basically the silent member of Major Lazer, which is our artist Ferry, illustrates a lot of it. Ferry did a lot of the animation and art direction of the cartoon and it looks amazing. I think people are going to like it.
Sounds great. See you at Dans Dakar in August!
All right dude, have a good one.
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