Who: Los Angeles native Dillon Francis, 24, bridges American dubstep’s aggro rumblings and Moombahton’s bright tribalism. And despite indefatigable touring with EDM giants like Nero and Skrillex, he continues to rack up remixes (ranging from Chris Brown to Death Cab for Cutie) and collaborations (A-Trak, Doctor P, Diplo). The son of an entrepreneurial herbalist and Yugoslavian immigrant, Francis attributes his Puritan work ethic to a strict childhood. "I had to watch two hours of Sesame Street and study Hooked on Phonics every day," he says. "I didn’t even know any curse words until I was 15."
Humpty Dance: Francis slows the four-four pulse of house music to a sweaty surge — 112 beats per minute, typically — in an effort to approximate the irresistible bump and grind of reggaeton. Add major-chord synth swells, crystalline effects, bass drops galore, and sudden stabs of robotic cacophony and you’ve got the recipe for his Something, Something, Awesome EP on Skrillex’s OWSLA label. "I think I write happy melodies because pop was all I was allowed to listen to growing up. I was obsessed with the Spice Girls," Francis admits. "My friends and I would hump our pillows to them."
New Annoying Noise: Horny Spice eventually rebelled, finding his way to both a new pastime — writing graffiti under the tag Hymen B. Laster ("I drew dicks all over L.A.") — and new tunes: the Blood Brothers, Metallica, the Descendents. Francis had no interest in electronic music until he heard the Bloody Beetroots in 2008. "It was like listening to really good, new punk," he explains. "I'd been searching. You know, Darby Crash is dead and the Germs suck now. When I heard Rusko, I thought it sounded like thrash metal — like Slayer on crack with computer sounds."
House Rules: After dropping out of community college and spending two months interning for a beat-making friend in Atlanta, Francis struck a deal with his parents: "I'm gonna be a music producer, I swear to God. Let me stay in the back house for a year, and if this doesn’t go anywhere, I’ll return to school." He hunkered down with Ableton Live, clocking ten hours a day, and when his manager sent "Masta Blasta" to Diplo 18 months later, the whirlwind of festivals, features, shows, and after-parties began. "I love what I do, but it’s really made me realize that 24 hours is not enough time in the day," he says. "Not even close."