By Jay Tilles
But the Bieber track isn’t even a single he or his record label is promoting at the moment. DJ Snake, known better to friends as William Sami Etienne Grigahcine, or simply, Will, was in the midst of enjoying the success of the album’s debut single, “Middle,” when his Bieber track took over the airwaves this weekend.
Based on the shear number of big names and catchy tunes on Encore, the album could be delivering singles through Christmas. From club bangers to straight-up hip-hop tracks to radio-friendly smashes, DJ Snake, sorry, Will, better hold on tight because this bucking bronco is about to break free from the stable.
Radio.com caught up with Will during a tour stop in New York.
With electronic songs and Hip Hop tracks, how did the album become so diverse?
I think that’s just who I am. I grew up with hip hop and fell in love with electronic music. We have a big scene in France where I grew up, with Daft Punk, Justice and all these artists so I had to do this. It’s just me—one hundred percent. This is who I am. This is what I’m about. I love to make pop records so I think the balance is about who I am. I’m really happy about the album.
How has the album been received by fans?
It’s only been a few days [since the album’s release] and the fans are going crazy during the shows. I was a little stressed but now I’m the happiest man in the world right now.
How stressed were you just before the record came out?
Oh my God, so bad man. I’ve been working for almost two years on the album and finally it’s out and the reaction, the feedback, is all super positive.
From the meta data on an early copy of the album we could see that some of the songs had gone trough dozens of changes. One track had track noted it was “version 16.4 .” Did the songs really go through that many changes?
Oh yeah, for sure. Having worked on the album for almost two years, you have no idea how many versions I have on my laptop—even with different artists that didn’t make the cut.
How do you choose with version to use?
Sometimes I would decide not to work on the record for a few months. Then I would play it again and if it felt good to me—and fresh—that’s how I know the record is timeless or not. If I get tired of the record in two months it doesn’t make the cut. I want to make timeless music.
Do you have friends or family that you lean on to help you decide songs for the album?
Of course. You always have real friends around you that you really trust and I have a bunch of them and I’m always asking for advice and feedback… you have to.
What’s the story behind the cover art.
It’s a mix of my background—because my parents are African, from North Africa—and the Persian metro train station. It was a mix of the two sides of my life, between Africa and Paris, France.
Is there a story behind the Discovery Space Shuttle audio in the album’s intro?
That was a real song—a long song with vocals. I just felt like the vocal was not good enough—it didn’t match and the piano could stand by itself. It felt very deep and personal. It still gives me goosebumps so I felt it was a good way to start the album.
“Middle” features Bipolar Sunshine on vocals. Is this the first time you’ve worked with him and if so, how did you link up?
It’s kind of a funny story. I was in London and I heard one of his records playing over the speakers in a little shop and I was like, “Who is this?” So, I started Shazamming the song and I found out more about him on Soundcloud. I listened to has much of his music as I could find. I became a fan. So, it turned out that we had a common friend so I asked about his schedule. I was on the road and he was on the road too. He was really hard to catch so I asked him if he had any vocal a capellas that I could work on because I really wanted to make something with him. I told him, “Your voice and my music could make something magic.” So he sent me a bunch of unfinished a capellas, and I just picked this one amazing hook and I made the beat around it and the rest is history. I’m so proud of this record!
So this totally was totally organic? You just found him on your own…
All I care about is making great music no matter who you are. You could be the biggest pop star or a young kid trying to make it. I’m just trying to great music. Bipolar was special. His voice was amazing and I’m so glad I was able to make two songs with him.
Colin Tilley, the director of “Middle” so such a great job with the video.
Yeah, it’s one of my favorites that I’ve ever made.
Were you on set the whole time?
No, I was there for a few hours, vibed with the team and Josh [Hutcherson] and did my little cameo.
On “Sahara,” which parts are yours and which are Skrillex?
Skrillex is one of the best—maybe the best—in this game. He may be the best DJ in the world. He’s a good friend of mine and he’s such a unique person… and he’s a genius. So, to do a song with him was such an honor and I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s one of the DJs that I look up to. You can definitely feel his vibe in the record.
Is that his synthesized voice that we hear in the chorus?
No, that’s mine. [laughs]
How and why did you end up remixing George Maples’ song “Talk?”
When the record came out—she’s a really good friend of mind from Australia—she asked me to do a remix. I wasn’t able to get the remix done on time. I didn’t respect the deadline. So, a few months later I did a version randomly while I was in Miami and it was just too late to put it out because she was already promoting another single. I was in love with my version so I asked her, “What can we do with this version?” And she said, “If you want to use it for your album, I don’t mind.” My version was so different than hers. I think I’ve given a second life to the record.
Young Thug, Jeremih, Swizz Beatz, what an all-star cast on “Half.” What’s the story behind this collaboration?
I wanted to do a fun rap record for the clubs and Young Thug is one of my favorite rap artists right now. Jeremih, one of the dopest R&B singers in the game. Swizz Beatz, iconic legend. I met Swizz four or five years ago in Cannes—before I was poppin’. I was just a random club DJ and he used to come rock with me on the mic. Such a good dude and one of my heroes. When I was younger I was one of the biggest Swizz Beatz fans. His beats for DMX was like the hottest stuff in the streets so to have him on the album is such an honor. And, the kids are responding to the song on social media. You know what, I played it for the first time last night in this random club in New York and it went off.
People are already calling “Let Me Love You” the song of the summer. How did the collaboration come together?
We actually have some common friends who told me “Justin keeps playing your songs, “Middle,” “Talk,” “Lean on Me,” he’s a big fan, loves your stuff,” blah blah blah. So I had this concept for a song, and my friends played it for Justin and they said he really loves it and asked me if I’m down to do it.” And I said yes of course. His last album was one of the best albums of the year. So, yeah, let’s do it. He loves my stuff. I love his. It kinda made sense. I sent it to him. It was really fast. I wasn’t expecting it because Justin’s very busy, always on the road. And he’s super popular right now. And he killed it straight away—sent it back and made it onto the album. And, after only a few hours it’s already No. 1 all around the world! That’s crazy.
Did the song have a title when you sent it to him of did he come up with it?
The name of the instrumental was already named “Let Me Love You.”
Word is that Selena Gomez also did a version of the song. True?
Ahh, I cannot talk about this. Sorry. But something is coming.
Had you worked with Mr. Hudson before recording “Here Comes The Night?”
It’s funny. I was on vacation playing some Kanye West, some Jay-Z, and one song comes up and there was a feature with Mr. Hudson. I was like, “Wow, Hudson has such an amazing voice.” He’s incredible. So I started following him on Twitter and a few days later he started following me back. And, he sent me a direct message saying he loves my stuff and wants to work on something together. Send me some stuff. I did my thing and “Here Comes The Night” is now on the album and I think it’s going to be my closing song for summer… for all my shows.
Would you consider recording or producing a full hip-hop album for someone if asked?
Why not? Of course. It’s a challenge and I like challenges. I’m a hip-hop head so it would be fun. It’s more about the timing. I’m always on the road. I don’t have that much time. That’s why it took me almost two years to finish the album. But I wold definitely be down for it in the future.
Are there any Easter eggs hidden in the album—sound effects that we’d not otherwise know about?
You know, a lot of the sounds that I use for the drops—most of the time—that’s my voice that I pitch. So, I don’t really use synths, I use my voice for the drops and that’s kinda like my style, my signature… my touch. People recognize me because they hear some weird noises in my music and most of the time that’s just my voice.
Your fans would probably love to hear those vocal recordings before you altered them.
[laughs] No, they wouldn’t. Trust me, they sound horrible before I start touching and working on them.