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The Many Lives And Loves Of Jillionaire

Doing it all and having a ball with Major Lazer member, label founder, pizza lover, and recording artist Jillionaire.

by Darren Luk
Nov 18 2014, 5:26pm

Photo: Alexander Kalyk

Jillionaire is the pizza loving guy with the 'fro from Trinidad that makes up one third of Major Lazer. Apart from touring the world hitting out dancehall electronic beats alongside Diplo and Walshy Fire, he's also making a name for himself. He's been busy having some solo action travelling on his own and launching his own record label Feel Up Records. Jillionaire has also released his single "Fresh" with Swedish producer Salvatore Ginaachi, which all you EDM enthusiasts are getting familiar with already no doubt. Maybe you didn't know he's also thought of just chilling out and moving to Sydney to open a roti shop.

On his Australian tour, I caught him whilst he was in Sydney for a chat about upcoming releases, including one with Melbourne local Swick, his favourite producers here, and a Major Lazer TV show coming out. Oh and by the way, if anyone wants to send him some tracks to listen, he's all ears!

You visit Australia quite often, what are your favourite places go to in Sydney?
I go sailing. I have a buddy here who has a boat, so we go sailing on Sydney Harbour, chill out and see the city from a different perspective. Other than that, there's actually tons of stuff I actually want to do that I haven't been able to do yet, like going to the zoo. My favourite is probably walking by the Opera House and catch the sunset over the bridge or doing a walk from Bondi to Coogee. The cool thing about Sydney is that there is so much stuff to do and tons of things to do in the city too.

Who would be some of your favourite musicians here in Australia?
I like Ta-Ku and his whole movement. What So Not, obviously and Harley (Flume). In Sydney, I know a lot of DJs out here like Levins, Barney/Kato, Beni. There's a new kid from Brisbane called UV Boi that I've kind of been following. Other than that, I mean if anybody in Sydney has some songs they want to send me, hit me up, let me know and I'll listen to it.

You are usually touring as a group with Major Lazer, what's it like touring solo?
I think it's a little bit easier when you tour as a group because you have more people you could hang out with. Thankfully the last two weeks have been pretty easy because I was in Melbourne for a week and I have friends there and Sydney for a week and I have a few friends here too. I've had time off in between which takes the edge off. I had a really crazy summer, where I would be playing like Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and have two or three days off and then do the same again. It's been pretty good coming here doing a couple of gigs on the weekends and having the week off to relax, see friends and do stuff.

I was in the studio last week in Melbourne with Swick finishing off a track and not much studio this week but kind of just got time to chill out. I think when we do Major Lazer stuff it's more hectic because we have sideshows during the week and a lot more media and studio stuff to do. It's busier. It's cool though when you have a group of friends when you're travelling. There's pluses and minuses to both.

What's it like releasing your own tracks as opposed to with Major Lazer?
I mean, I think the goal is always to just jam as much content as possible. I released "Fresh" earlier this year and it went really well and probably in Fall or Spring, I'll do another EP. I have three tracks on there [right now]. One, I did with Swick, one I did with Phat Duece, one with Salvatore Ginacci and I'm working on a record with a bunch of guys from Trinidad, so just trying to put together as many tracks as possible and keep putting music out.

So I heard you own or used to own a bar restaurant?
Yeah, I had a bar in Trinidad. I don't have it anymore but it was a lot of fun and I miss it sometimes. Shout out to all the bar crew! That was when I first started to DJ on a regular basis. I mean, I use to DJ just out of high school and college, mostly like a hobby, doing like reggae dancehall type stuff but I kind of picked up DJing again when I had a bar and I've been doing it ever since.

Would you open something like that again?
Um yeah! I've been thinking about just moving to Sydney and opening a roti shop and just hanging out. I would definitely do it again, I miss it. There's a lot of parallels between nightlife and hospitality obviously.

How did you get into music, because I heard you studied IT? Would you say there's any link?
Yeah, though I don't know if there's a relationship. I mean, a lot of producers are like tech nerds, so I guess there's like that bridge. I was doing IT consulting but I was always into music. I just kept collecting music in high school and college, then when Serato came around, I was like, this is crazy! I could just plug this box into my computer and DJ on CDs. Anyways, It was just kind of organic for me.

You just started up Feel Up Records. Why did you start it and what are your hopes for it?
I started it because, when I began touring in 2010, I would meet a lot of kids who were doing stuff in their own neighbourhood. Like, they'd built a scene in Sydney, or Atlanta or Minneapolis or in Warsaw and they would have parties and produce music. Two questions they would always ask me  "How do I get signed to Mad Decent?" and "How do I get more gigs other than my own city?". It's very big to me to help people highlight new music and get their word out there and to use my relationships I've created over the years to assist other people who are way more talented than me, that might not necessarily have the connections to make things happen. So, that's why I started it and it's been going really well. We had our first release from Grand Analog which is a band from Canada. We did a Teleseen release and we're just lining up some releases right now. We're taking it slow, trying to figure ourselves out and do the best job we can and try to represent our artists as best as we can as well.

What are some future trends you see for electronic music?
Man, for electronic music, I have no idea! For music in general, I don't know. Music is constantly changing and the thing is we cannot fight it. We can't be like, what came before is better or, this sucks. You have to just embrace it and contribute whatever you can to the evolution of it.

I heard there's a TV show coming out for Major Lazer?
Yeah yeah! We have a cartoon we've been working on for a while now, that's coming out on FOX ADHD. So watch out for that! It should be coming out in the Fall programming.

Are they characters of you guys and do voice overs?
It's like all over the place. It's not really us. It's kind of like a Major Lazer themed cartoon, so characters from his world, but eventually we would appear in it as well.

Obviously you've been working with Major Lazer for a while now. What unique aspects do you think you guys bring individually?
Just the fact we come from different places you know? Diplo coming from Florida, Walshy coming from Jamaica and myself coming from Trinidad. We bring different elements from those different scenes and kind of put them all together to bridge that gap between what's happening in the dance music world.

How would you describe your relationship with Diplo and Walshy Fire?
They're my brothers, like family.

Do you guys fight or anything like that?
All the time. That's what families do. You fight, you hang out, you do stuff together, you bounce ideas off each other, you figure things out together, you grow together, you support each other in individual endeavorers.

What's the worst fight you guys have gotten into?
We don't really fight like that. We just understand each other. We kind of came from similar backgrounds in terms of coming up as real DJs. Sorry, not to throw words to offend anybody. We all started DJing in clubs on turn tables. We kind of all come from similar places and focus on supporting each other. Whether it is guys doing solo shows, or how to get music to the next level. There's not really too much fighting going on.


Photo: Darren Luk

What's this thing about pizza?
Man, I just really like pizza!

Where's the best pizza you've eaten?
That's always a trick question. Most recently, today just at this Turkish joint. I was suppose to go eat this truffle cheese pizza from a place called Vacanza in Surry Hills, but I haven't got there yet. Maybe tomorrow!

I read one of your current hobbies is jet skiing with dolphins ?
I like to jet ski, yeah. If there's dolphins it's even better. It's a fun thing to do, it's like riding a bike in the ocean, it's magic.

What would you say is the first thing you do when you get to a new city?
Probably figure out where the nearest Footlocker is haha. I mean, the first thing I do is figure out what's good, if I know anybody here, cool places nearby that I need to visit, good restaurants. For people who travel, there are three or four things we want to know- Where's a good place to eat, Where's a good place to go see and take a cool picture and where are some places to do some local shopping and get something you can only get in that one place. For me, a lot of the time, the places I go to I've never been to before or even thought about going to until I actually get there. So, I like to walk around and check it out, regardless of how jet-lagged or tired I might be.

Before we wrap up, I have to say I'm intrigued by your hair.
Not, as intrigued as I am, by yours!

Do you maintain it?
Nah, I just woke up like this, flawless.

Beyonce.
Yeah.

So no product, nothing? Because I do.
Honestly, it's funny this is the best conversation ever. I'm way too much like a little boy to be concerned about taking care of my hair and I travel all the time too. Yeah, so I look this amazing because of hotel shampoos. Write that down. Ladies you can look this good too.

Darren has the full style approval of Jillionaire, and can also be reached for life advice on Twitter here