Capturing Coachella with Diplo, Skrillex and Major Lazer

A photographer with crazy access shares the best vantage point in DJ culture

When he isn’t chronicling the action of the nightclubs at Las Vegas’ Wynn Resorts — XS, Surrender and Intrigue — photographer Danny Mahoney hits the road regularly with Diplo and the Mad Decent Records posse. Capturing perhaps the most exciting and explosive scene in DJ culture, Mahoney’s adventures have taken him all around the world and back. He just returned from two back-to-back weekends at Coachella, shooting performances from Diplo-attached brands Jack Ü (with Skrillex) and Major Lazer (with Walshy Fire & Jillionaire). Packed with a bevy of surprise guest appearances and many unforgettable moments, the consummate camera hustler talks about some of his favorite shots from out in Indio.

Photographs and Commentary By Danny Mahoney

“That’s part of the new Jack Ü stage production. The DJ booth sits on top of a big old school Mac computer. On the sides of them are stacks of these huge floppy discs and a keyboard on the front of the display. On the keys some of the buttons read ‘Diplo,’ ‘Skrillex,’ ‘Mad Decent,’ and ‘OWSLA,’ instead of the individual letters. While they were running around getting crazy, Diplo just happened to pick up the giant disc.”

“This was when they dropped Gesaffelstein’s ‘Hellifornia,’ which sounds like an old Dr. Dre G-funk song, so Skrillex is throwing up the ‘Westside’ sign. This really begins to give you a sense of the scope and scale of the crowd.”

“This was not even planned. Kanye came out during A$ap Rocky’s performance, which was a set or two before Diplo and Skrillex. He was backstage when Jack Ü went on and when they played his song ‘Power,’ he just came out of nowhere. Diplo had no clue that he was going appear. It was a huge moment.”

“That was during Jack Ü week one. Skrillex actually comes out and sings for the performance of their song ‘Mind.’”

“Earlier this year, there was a mashup of Post Malone’s ‘White Iverson’ over Justin Bieber & Jack Ü’s ‘Where Are Ü Now.’ Once ‘White Iverson’ blew up — along with his new song ‘Too Young’ — people really began to know who he is. Bieber was doing his own Purpose tour during Coachella and wasn’t available to do that type of performance, so Post and Jack Ü performed the ‘White Iverson’ mash-up.”

“This was during RL Grime’s set in the Sahara Tent on Saturday night, week one. He closed down the tent as the last act. The thing is, it was his first major performance on this scale, so they kind of balled out with the stage production. But then half of the production didn’t work, such as the LED walls and panels. And then when he first started the set, the sound on the right side kept going in and out. There were a lot of complications, it didn’t go off properly, the way it was supposed to. But overall, RL’s set and the vibe inside the Sahara Tent was insane. I don’t think the average fan realized that some things didn’t work.”

“These are the Lazer Girls, dancing around Walshy Fire of Major Lazer. They are jumping around him in a cool choreographed part of the show.”

“This was during week one’s performance of Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s ‘Lean On.’ Snake came out, which was pretty cool, because you never really see all of them together at the same time. In the photo, he just turned around and looked at me like a deer in headlights. He’s super chill though.”

“Jillionaire is DJing, while Snake, Walshy and Diplo are standing on the decks doing the ‘Lean On’ dance. That’s pretty much what it has become, because the video has gotten so many YouTube views [1.3 billion]. Eventually everyone starts to catch on to the dance, whether you’ve seen the video or not. It comes on and everyone on the stage is doing it, the manager is doing it, I might be doing it. The whole show leads up to that moment.”

“This is MØ performing ‘Lean On.’ In the U.S., people pronounce her name ‘moe,’ but she is from Denmark, where it is more pronounced like ‘mu.’ The light in the top shot kind of made a halo effect around her. I couldn’t really see that when I was shooting it, it just turned out that way. It wasn’t edited or Photoshopped, it just happened naturally.”

“This was during Jack Ü’s week two performance. It was so windy that they were not able to put up their LED board on stage behind them. It was too dangerous with the wind, so these shots have some great nighttime sky behind them.”

“That’s AlunaGeorge, she came out both weekends and performed her song with them, ‘To Ü.’ She also has a dope new song out called ‘In Control.’ It has a ‘Lean On’ kind of vibe to it.”

“This was backstage. From left to right, that’s MØ, Walshy Fire, Nyla, Fuse ODG, Usher and Diplo. The only person missing from this photo is Jillionaire. I have no idea where he was.

“Major Lazer had different themes throughout the show, with different outfits and things. The first part of the show they came out wearing this old school cricket gear. It was just some off the wall idea that they had.”

“After Major Lazer performed at the main stage of Coachella in week two, they did a surprise set at the Do Lab. It was more like a Major Lazer Sound System show, without the full production. It was more freestyle, with a lot of new Major Lazer songs and unreleased stuff, or older stuff that people don’t really hear anymore. There were a lot of reggae vibes, it was a fun set. They did one of the new songs with MØ, which they’ve never performed before. For her to go out there and just wing it with no practice was incredible. Her voice is just so on point all of the time.”

“There’s Big Sean and Diplo. That was backstage during DJ Mustard, who played on Friday during week two. We were just hanging out and Sean came out and performed ‘IDFWU.’ Diplo, Skrillex and Big Sean have been working in the studio together a lot lately, so I just took the shot when they were talking backstage.”

“That’s Usher performing Prince’s ‘I Would Die 4 U’ with Major Lazer during weekend two. It was a beautiful, last minute tribute to him.”

“At the end of every Major Lazer show, they do a big family crowd shot. That was the grand finale at Coachella’s main stage on the second week.”

Danny Mahoney and Diplo in Amsterdam. Follow Danny on Instagram at @dmahoneyphoto

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