Dillon Francis prepares to get NoHo “Wet & Reckless”

By Gabe Scarbrough

Flickr/messycupcakes

Cats. Tacos. Memes. Slicked back hair. Heavy bass drops. If this word association doesn’t make you think of Dillon Francis, then you have not been spending enough time on the Internet.

On Sunday, the 24-year-old electronic dance music producer will bring his eclectic mix of dance tunes to Pearl Street Ballroom in Northampton, and one can only hope that the live experience will be as over the top as his music sounds and his online image portrays.

Francis’ story really could not have happened in any other era. In the course of just two years in the music industry, he has ascended to headline status. Only a few years ago he was learning how to make beats in Ableton Live in his parents’ house with the agreement that if he failed at making it in the music  industry within a year, he would go back to school. Now, he has releases on all of the hippest electronic music labels and his “Wet & Reckless” tour is making its way across the United States.

Refusing to stick to one genre, Francis has made waves in the electronic dance music community by being equally successful at crafting dubstep bangers as he is at churning out main room electro house. He can collaborate with A-Trak on a catchy indie dance track and then turn around and throw out a neck-breaking rap song with Calvin Harris and Dizzee Rascal. For the most part, however, Francis is known as one of the biggest names in moombahton.

Moombahton is a relatively new genre that emerged in 2010 to enormous blog hype. It was created by Dave Nada when he slowed down Afrojack’s remix of the Dutch house song, “Moombah,” to please a high school crowd used to dancing to reggaeton.  Moombahton is based around the same concept as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups’ — it’s two great tastes that taste great together.

Taking the tempo from 128 beats per minute to a much slower 108 and incorporating reggaeton’s signature dembow rhythm, moombahton has a completely different vibe compared to its house ancestors, catering more to grinding and swaying to the beat than fist-bumping and footwork. Francis’ take on the genre adds a further element to this hybrid, throwing into the mix a few abrasive sounds and focusing on the bass drop derived from dubstep.

It was experimentation in this then-fledgling movement that rocketed Francis’ career to stardom. Having previously produced dubstep and electro house, he decided to give moombahton a go when he heard that Diplo, another producer known for covering a wide variety of genres, was beginning to produce moombahton. Taking one of his electro house songs and slowing it down, he created “Masta Blasta,” which his manager then sent to Diplo, leading to tweets back and forth between the two. Soon the pair collaborated on “Que Que” and Francis was signed to Diplo’s label Mad Decent.

Dillon Francis’ career has only gone up from there.  As well as his original tracks, he has released an immense catalog of remixes, and his talent at creating giant sounding songs alongside the type of push that comes from being supported by a major player such as Diplo, has resulted in an extremely quick rise in popularity. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he caught the moombahton train at exactly the right time. His “Something Something Awesome” extended play was the first moombahton release to top the Beatport charts.

Beyond his music, Francis is best known for his “Internet troll” image. His official website is a Tumblr page covered in memes and animated gifs: Cats, pop culture references and pictures of himself are the most common themes. His YouTube channel includes a clip in which he hands out free tacos in Los Angeles to promote “DJ awareness.” He is known to sign “Tiësto” instead of giving actual autographs. His website’s store includes such items as “Dillon Francis Will Sing a Cover and Make a Video of Katy Perry ‘Firework’ Dressed As A Pirate” ($4,000) and “Dillon Francis Will Comb Your Girlfriend’s Hair” (a much more reasonable $50). His tour rider went viral earlier in the year due to the fact that it includes requests for black tar heroin, a gun and an Amish-made electric fireplace, which most venues obviously cannot provide.

Having just released a new single, moombahton headbanger “Bootleg Fireworks,” on Oct. 30, Dillon Francis shows no signs of slowing down. Hopefully this frenetic energy follows him to Northampton.

Gabe Scarbrough can be reached at [email protected]