Don Diablo (38) has released his second album after ten years: Future. He is one of the eleven most popular DJs in the world, has sold out venues everywhere, but he hardly gets any recognition for his music in the Netherlands. “And that’s weird,” he says.
Published in Playboy The Netherlands, april 2018. Automatically translated with Google Translate.
1. Why did it take almost ten years for you to release a second album?
That had several reasons. One was that I was looking for a new sound, which I eventually found with future house. Another was that I wanted to create more support for my music. My music is not played very much on the radio. So I had to provide a larger fan base. The remixes I made for Madonna, Rihanna and Ed Sheeran, among others, made my international breakthrough. Five years ago I still had 20,000 fans on Facebook, now I have three million. That makes it a lot easier to sell an album with sixteen songs.
2. You are at the basis of the future house. Can you explain what that is exactly?
That actually started five years ago, the moment I lost my father. Just before that I had a conversation with him. It suddenly became clear to me how precious time is, how special it is that you have a future at all. I thought: from now on I will live in the future. If I didn’t make it, then I have already seen the future. You see it reflected in my socials, in my clothing line, in my radio show that is being hosted by a robot – everything takes place in the future. But of course I never expected that it would become a wave movement that has traveled the world.
3. You have reinvented yourself before. As a teenager you were a nerd, complete with ponytail, silly clothes and slightly autistic traits, to speak with your own words. How bad was it?
I was always that boy who had no friends, who could never have a girlfriend, who was always chosen last in gym. At the age of 15 I thought: fuck it, I don’t have to be that person. I started calling myself Don Diablo, making Don Pepijn Schipper from Coevorden actually a kind of Clark Kent, who went to school during the day and spent the night brewing in his laboratory on all sorts of ideas to escape everyday reality. I still feel that way: before I step on stage I put on my superhero outfit and become Don Diablo.
4. Does Don Pepijn Schipper actually still exist?
At one point Don Pepijn Schipper and Don Diablo became one and the same person. I can’t tell you where the difference is. I am still that uncertain boy who wonders what his role is on this globe. The only thing I can do to suppress those inner voices is to work seventeen hours a day, seven days a week. And to try to create something that goes beyond myself. A kind of movement. With everything I do, I want to create something that the outcast feels comfortable with. Because there is no such thing as an outsider.
5. What are you most uncertain about at the moment?
Literally about everything. As soon as I leave the stage, after I have performed for 10,000 outrageous people, I immediately lock up and start doubting everything. After such a show, I should just go into a much too expensive hotel room with a bottle of champagne in the hot tub, but all I do is meditate and think: I should do this better next time. That uncertainty just remains.
6. Do you find yourself attractive?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I think that in essence everyone is attractive, provided you have the right light and the right angle. And being attractive is something other than being handsome. You have very superficial attractiveness, for example when you think that someone has a nice jaw line, but on the other hand it is also very attractive if someone is passionate about something. Appearance then has not much to do with it.
7. Does that also apply to women?
Yes! When I look at the women I have been in love with … Blond, red and black, big buttocks and thin buttocks, big and small breasts … I really am such a sucker who doesn’t fall for looks but for personality. I am always very attracted to women who have a dream and also do everything in their power to realize that dream. A relationship must be, above all, that you trust and love each other, that you stimulate each other in the pursuit of dreams. It can be very attractive if someone understands that.
8. Has your work ever stood in the way of a relationship?
Of course I am away from home a lot. My ex-girlfriend said: you are never at home, and when you are at home I only see your back, because then I was in the studio. She accepted that for a very long time and supported me in it for a long time, until she realized that this would never change.
9. Would you like to change that?
If you are so close to something big, as is now the case with me, then it is not the time to run slower. I have had so many people who have thwarted me, so many people who did not see anything in me and did not allow me success … Quitting was not an option. If I had done that I would have gone crazy for the rest of my life. I had to prove to myself that I was worth something. I used to look in the mirror and then I was just shocked. I was literally too uncertain to look at myself. Since I call myself Don Diablo that is over.
10. Are you currently in a relationship?
No. Of course I would like to have a nice girlfriend, but now it is also convenient that I am single. Since it went out with my girlfriend, I notice that something has fallen from me. I can now do my own thing full blazing up to four in the morning without having to account for it.
11. How much do you earn?
I swear on my mother: I have no idea how much is on my bill. And I don’t want to know either. Because so much goes out, there are so many costs. For example, I have just done a tour through America. All shows were sold out: 4,000 tickets here, 5,000 tickets there, and yet I hardly have anything left at the bottom. You travel with seventeen people, all of whom must have an airline ticket and a hotel room, equipment must be rented. That’s why I always tell my accountant: I don’t want to know how much I earn, I just want to know if I have enough money to pay my people. My goal is not to become the richest man in the cemetery, but to make beautiful things.
12. What do you spend a lot of money on?
I don’t think I’ve been on vacation for ten years, so that’s not it. In fact, I only spend a lot of money on my music. To equipment. I think on the computer next to you there is more than 100,000 euros in plug-ins. But I also spend a lot of money on the creativity around it. For example, I play a video clip for each single. That is actually too expensive, but I do it anyway.
13. You once wanted to go to the film academy. Would you like to make a movie in the future?
Yes. I have even set up a special film division within my company, for which four people have been working full-time for two years now on a futuristic epic that should become the most horrifying feature of all time. I don’t have a deadline for that, but suddenly it will be there once.
14. You have also been working on a documentary about yourself for seven years. Tell me?
Every deejay has its own documentary about itself, but as I watched more documentaries from colleagues, I started to realize how superfluous most documentaries are. I went back to the drawing table and am working on a film that should reflect my reality. It must be a combination between film and documentary. Donnie Darko meets Big Fish. It is not about my story, but about the things we all experience, and I want to show it as honestly as possible. My mother will soon be moving out of my parental home, so closing off your childhood will be an important theme. The deadline has been shifting for three years, but my goal is to finish it early next year.
15. When did you last cry?
That was in New York last week. It was after the last show of an incredibly heavy tour in which everything went wrong that could go wrong. At the end of that last show I played the song that I wrote for my father: The Artist Inside. I projected images of my father, of how he was, how I was, I saw myself as a boy and at the same time him as an old man and I didn’t like it anymore. Afterwards I sobbed into my manager Andrew’s arms. He said, “Your father saw it,” and then began to cry himself.
16. Your father was a big music fan. To what extent have you been influenced by music from your youth?
I think that is why I set the bar very high. I grew up with artists like Freddie Mercury, Prince and David Bowie. These are artists who can be far above my own, who are much more talented than me. I try to measure myself against that, but I shouldn’t do that, because that makes me think: who the fuck am I to make music? While what they do and what I do is of course totally incomparable.
17. Do you think you get enough recognition in the Netherlands?
I am not overloaded with prices in the Netherlands every week. And that is strange, because I am in the top 300 of most listened to artists worldwide on Spotify, which not many Dutch artists can say. I do not know why it is that I apparently do not stand out. I think you need six million streams to get a platinum record. I have fifty million streams on some plates, but not all of them have taken place in the Netherlands, which means I don’t get gold or platinum here. As a result, you just don’t get that Popprijs, just not that Edison, just not the recognition that other artists get here. But I am past the point that I can worry about that. Recognition naturally comes in many forms. I may not have a full prize cabinet, but I can go to world cities like Los Angeles and New York and sell out big concerts there in my own name.
18. Martin Garrix has been crowned the best DJ in the world for two years in a row. Rightly or not?
There is no one who is more popular than he is at the moment. You can tell that from everything: ticket sales, world hits… I could of course look at him with envy, were it not for me to see him as a friend and he is a boy with a golden heart. That makes it all a lot more bearable. And I now also have success. That also helps a lot. I know that many colleagues who did not have that feeling embittered. If you have big dreams and you get stuck in the middle bracket, then that can ultimately be a big nightmare.
19. What is the strangest request you have ever had from a woman?
A woman once asked me if I wanted to put a signature near her vagina. She then had them tattooed. Later she came to a show again, now with her boyfriend. I asked him, “Don’t you think that tattoo is weird on that place?” He answered: “No, I am also a big fan, so it is an honour to watch your autograph when I cum.” That was a rather strange incident.
20. Which song in the background would you like to die with?
Bluejeans & Moonbeams by Captain Beefheart – the stage name of Don Van Vliet, after whom I am named. That number immediately brings me back to my childhood, to my parents and brother. That is the beauty of music, that it goes so much further than just sound. It evokes memories that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. Fuck your money, fuck your fame, in the end you take nothing with you, except a few nice memories.