Diplo and The Clash Talk “Paper Planes,” Reggae Music

The Seminal UK Punk Band and the Producer Reason with The Reggae Girl About Town

Combat Rock was the last studio album by seminal UK punk band The Clash. Released in 1982, the disc contained two of the band’s biggest hit, “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go.” But 25 years later another cut from the album—the reggae-tinged cut “Straight To Hell”—would top the charts around the world. M.I.A. and her DJ Diplo sampled The Clash original to make “Paper Planes,” which became the biggest hit in either artists’ career. The track became so popular that Kanye West sampled the M.I.A. record to make another record called “Swagga Like Us,” which he performed on the Grammys with Jay Z, Lil Wayne, T.I., and a very pregnant M.I.A. It was kind of a big deal. Video After The Jump…

Earlier that day, the Converse Tumblr premiered “Hero,” a song produced by Diplo and Paul Simonon and Mick Jones of The Clash with vocals from Frank Ocean as part of Converse’s “Three Artists, One Song” series. Late last week Paul and Mick joined Diplo at Converse’s Rubber Tracks studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to talk about the making of the song, how it was inspired by a Gregory Isaacs track, and which other reggae artists they rate.

RGAT: Let’s take it all the way back to “Straight To Hell.” Where did that song come from?
Paul Simonon: Well it’s all came together, in a way, didn’t it? It was sort of a riff, really. Actually there was a Gregory Isaacs song that I was listening to at the time, and that sort of gave me inspiration when I heard the basic pattern. There’s a song called—I think it’s called [“Slave Master”] and it’s got a certain pattern in it, and usually it’s played on the snare. But what Topper did, he took the snare off, so you just heard the sort of sound that you hear. But that’s all made up in the studio really.

Mick Jones: You know the strings on it? They’re all done on guitar synth—like early guitar synths. You hear what you think is strings, it’s me playing guitar doing that

RGAT: Oh wow.
MJ: Yeah, in between whale noises, uncontrollable whale noises. But I sort of put them down…

And Diplo, you sampled that track. Where did that idea come from?

Diplo: I just love the sound. I actually love that… I knew that was guitar, like a harmonics kinda sound. I really liked the way that that loop sounds. I just had the intro of that song on loop for a while and it never got old for me. That’s when you know it’s a good sample. So I just built a song around that.

And when you guys heard that, what did you think of it?
PS: I though it was fantastic. The attitude, the vocal, everything. I though it was really good. And she’s from South London as well, Southhall—no, West London.

You’re talking about M.I.A? She’s from Acton, right?
She knows Damon, you know? From a long time. She ended up living in West London with Damon’s girlfriend at the time for a while. She’s from everywhere in London. She went to school East—at St. Martin’s. So she’s just a product of London.

So was it the British connect that made you choose that sample?
Diplo: I don’t know if she’d ever heard that Clash song. But she knew who they were 100%, and we actually recorded it in a studio somewhere in Brixton, that song. And yeah, I guess it came back to England. And I think my great great grandfather’s probably English, so it all mixed together…

And you know that song was a huge success, and at one point, you had all the biggest names in hip-hop rhyming over your beat. What did that feel like?
Diplo: Felt good. [Laughter.] There was a lot of funny versions. Rick Ross did one. There was a lot of reggae. It was just cool. It was a really viral song that year, and I think t was fun to be a part of it.

RGAT talks “Paper Planes” with Diplo + Paul Simonon and Mick Jones of The Clash

Sway Intervews Diplo, Paul Simonon & Mick Jones of The Clash Part 1 of 2

Sway Intervews Diplo, Paul Simonon & Mick Jones of The Clash Part 2 of 2

Converse V.P. Geoff Cottrill Talks “Three Artists, One Song”
Converse V.P. Geoff Cottrill Talks “Three Artists, One Song”

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