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New York duo The Chainsmokers have been steadily climbing the Hype Machine charts and infiltrating playlists with indie dance remixes for two years now, but it was their timely hit “#Selfie” that inadvertently skyrocketed them into EDM stardom. A song Alex Pall and Drew Taggart thought was just a catchy tune that tapped into the selfie phenomenon debuted around the same time as Ellen’s famous Oscars selfie. The rest was history. Now, with a constant global touring schedule, two million-dollar major label deals, and a solid place in the pop culture vernacular, how do the two feel about being catapulted into the spotlight? We spoke with Alex Pall to find out.

So, you ready to talk about “#Selfie” for 30 minutes?
Motherfucker. Oh, the connection is going bad. (Laughs)

But seriously, it’s got to be interesting when you have a big back catalog, and all of a sudden one song comes along, and it’s all anyone wants to talk about.
I think there’s definitely some truth to that. “#Selfie” is just so much bigger than everything else we’ve done. We had a decent organic fan base before we put out “#Selfie,” but when you look at size, the amount of people we’ve reached now, versus the amount of people we’ve reached before, it makes sense that the majority of our fans now really only know us for “#Selfie.” Is it a pain, and do I wish they knew us for more than that? Of course, but I don’t blame them. The thing about “#Selfie” is we probably made fans that would have never even listened to a dance music song before, which is cool—but also terrifying at the same time.

Everyone just needs to shut the fuck up and worry about themselves and be proud of the guys like Steve Aoki that pioneered this industry for the rest of us to even exist.

My mom emailed me a photo last week, and the title was: “But first, let me take a selfie.”
I’ve heard of numerous parents emailing kids and saying, “I don’t really like dance music, but this song is cool.” “#Selfie” is still number one on Radio Disney. We’re beating Ariana Grande. They can’t say “The Chainsmokers,” which is really funny, so we’re called “TCS.”

Where did that name come from? Didn’t you ever think there’d be some stigma attached to it?
We don’t really know where it came from; it just kind of stuck with us, and we thought it was cool. We weren’t really concerned about the sponsorship side of things so much. We’re not clean-cut anyways, so the minute you start cursing on Twitter, you’re kind of not going to get the Mr. Clean sponsorship anyway. Either you are buttoned-up Disney or you’re not, and we never were buttoned-up Disney.

You recently scored two separate record deals worth a million dollars each. Will you continue your relationship with Dim Mak?
We’re still going to be very much a part of Dim Mak, and we’re super happy about that ’cause they’re an awesome label, and we still very much want to be a part of the dance music community. I guess it’s more of a Republic ball game now, but Steve and the whole Dim Mak team with Lee and Lorne are super instrumental, and everything is still poppin’ off.

What do you think about the negative things people have said about A-list artists like Aoki as dance music has skyrocketed into the spotlight?
He’s super hard-working—hardest working guy probably in dance music. He does get a lot of negative feedback, but for some reason, dance music has such a negative side to it. Within the community itself, everyone is hating on this, or people are purists and saying we’re ruining that, and it’s like, everyone needs to shut the fuck up. Am I worried about what the fuck they’re doing, you know? There’s so much finger-pointing, and so many basement producers that think they know what is up and what’s ruining this. No one knows how hard it is to make a dollar in the music industry. I thought I knew before “#Selfie.” I had no idea. I was totally wrong. We worked our asses off to get here. Everyone just needs to just shut the fuck up and worry about themselves and be proud of the guys like Steve Aoki that pioneered this industry for the rest of us to even exist.

You can’t have something get so big and beyond your control and not expect it to morph and take on some bad along with the good.
Yeah, exactly. Do I think our stupid American Idol performance was a good representation of dance music? Fuck no! I don’t think it’s a representation of music, period. That was a piece of entertainment for a show. But everyone is like, “Oh, this is everything that’s wrong with dance music.” Are you kidding me? I just reached eight million people that probably would have never heard us before. So to put a negative spin on that, it’s stupid.

Speaking of controversy within dance music, what are your thoughts on ghost production?
Ghost production is a weird topic within dance music. It goes across all genres. None of these pop artists are writing these big hits. It’s the same. They get the songs and their brands, and they sing ’em, and they get huge, and that’s it. They are produced by someone else and initially sung by someone else. It’s so funny to me how small-minded everyone can be. It’s also not as straightforward as everyone thinks it is. The person who’s playing the keys might be getting a bigger percentage. That person who was sitting in the room with them could have easily given the one piece of information that made the song. People get so riled up about it and crazy, and artists like Calvin Harris are rare breeds. The guy is a one-stop shop: He mixes, masters, writes, sings, produces, releases—but that’s a very rare thing. And to be honest, he’s getting rewarded for that because he makes more money than fucking God.

There is so much more negativity than there is positivity now; at least it seems like that across Facebook and music sites and stuff. I guess it’s because everybody has a voice now and can comment, and everything’s more visible, but it’s definitely been a transition for us. Our page was pretty much a positive place, and then “#Selfie” exponentially grew our channels, and now there’s a lot of negativity. It’s difficult for us to try and ignore it, but we’ve kind of figured out the positive way to deal with it, which is we just block the person, and you’re gone forever.

If you’re screwing the promoter and forcing him to sacrifice things for the show, you’re ultimately hurting dance music, and the people going to the show won’t be as much into it.

So, what’s coming up next for you guys?
We’re actually wrapping up our next single. It’s awesome. We’re really excited about it. The most I can say about it is we have an awesome singer on it, and the song is kind of a perfect balance between the old Chainsmokers sound and the new artists we want to be. We want to make music that is accessible and crosses over to as many people as possible, but we don’t want to be gimmicky in any way. At first, we kind of struggled with what the song would be. We had six that were already done, but they were a bit too far dance, and we didn’t want to alienate all of these new fans that we made. We know we’re not going to please everyone, but we finally came up with this beautiful song that’s super relatable and cool, and I think it’s going to be the perfect follow-up for us. It’s got all the right elements, from dance to trap and hip-hop to indie, and it’s very radio-accessible.

With how busy you’ve been, do you miss home?
We love coming back to New York. We miss it so much. We miss our friends. We’ll joke that the only friend we have right now is each other. We never even see anyone. When we actually come home for the night, we have to do laundry and catch up on stuff and then maybe get a dinner in. We’re not trying to party because we party non-stop. This is the life; this is what we asked for. Every time we catch ourselves complaining, we’re like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.” The only thing that’s difficult is the growing pains of not only traveling a lot, but not having a lot of time to make music. It’s not as luxurious as it seems on paper. We spend 90 percent of our time at airports and getting shaken up in a plane.

Game of Thrones [is] our equilibrium for the week. The whole week could be going to shit, but Game of Thrones happens, and we’re like, “Life is OK.”

Being a full-time touring artist is not as glamorous as most people think it is.
The top-top guys, their management forces them to portray an image that isn’t exactly what they are like. Drew and I were sitting with this promoter in Guatemala, talking about these two DJs that we admire, and they were saying what they demand on the rider—from villas to private jets. We were like, “Holy shit. We must be the easiest-going dudes ever. We just flew coach on a connection and had one hotel room.”

It also makes me interested to see dudes like this who are so out of their minds. They’re pricing themselves out, and that’s the sort of thing that ultimately, in my mind, is going to hurt the scene. The promoter has to help the DJ, and the DJ has to help the promoter. So as a DJ, if you’re screwing the promoter and forcing him to sacrifice things for the show, you’re ultimately hurting dance music, and the people going to the show won’t be as much into it. Some of these guys have to wise up and be careful because they’re pricing themselves out, and soon no one is going to give a shit about them.

So on your days off, what do you guys like to do?
I can speak for both of us because now, we’re literally like the same human being. It’s like girls who all live in dorms get their period at the same time. We just love eating well. I know that’s one of those typical answers, but now that we can, we don’t spend money on really anything other than equipment for the studio and good food. We also love watching Game of Thrones; that’s our equilibrium for the week. The whole week could be going to shit, but Game of Thrones happens, and we’re like, “Life is OK.” What else do we do? We like Bud Light; we’re cheap beer guys. We just like to chill. When you get back from everything, you just want to walk around the city and feel like you have some free time. But honestly, we love making music and DJing, so it’s like this is the dream right now.

All right foodie, what’s your favorite restaurant in New York?
Rubirosa for pizza is just so fucking bomb.

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