Those in the know had no doubt DJ Puffy is a rare talent in the DJ world. His winning the Red Bull Thre3style World Championship last year merely formally acknowledged that fact. There was absolutely no argument that I had to interview this DJ if the opportunity ever arose.
DJ Puffy, born as Andre Parris is from the Caribbean island of Barbados. It is reported his DJ career began with him covering a carnival party when the scheduled DJ was unable to attend. He was spotted and later signed to Dream Real Projects. Since then, DJ Puffy has forged a remarkable and successful career as a DJ, leading to his reputation proceeding him in the unlikeliest of places internationally. He has hosted parties and produced nightlife events and shared the stage with artists such as Omarion, Rick Ross and Hed Kandi deejays. His audience has included none other than Rihanna and he has requests to play at the parties of celebrities such as Shontelle. He has been part of the inaugural Caribbean DJ Honors in Tobago in 2012. His ‘Prime Time’ mixes are extremely popular and illustrate his artistic flair and ability to blend various genres seamlessly which has gained him a considerable following. However, his winning of the Red Bull Thre3style World Championship last year introduced him to a much greater mainstream audience and gained him further respect of peers worldwide. I had the opportunity to interview DJ Puffy whilst he was in London, UK for the Cirque 3 event.
Where did the name DJ Puffy come from? Long story short? I went to a costume party as Puff Daddy. The costume was lit and the name stuck. It was DJ Puffy from then.
I have read about how you got into DJing, that you covered a party and it the rest is history as they say. If you weren’t DJing what would be your chosen career? I would be in IT or business. I studied computer science and switched my major to International business. Before that, before I went into university I actually got half scholarships, tennis scholarships into all the schools I applied for but my parents couldn’t afford to send me. So, IT or Business. That is probably where I would be.
Knowing typical Caribbean parents, were yours happy you choosing to be a DJ over tennis, IT or business? My mum is a musician, she is an entertainer by profession so she understands. My dad was completely against it. It was difficult. My mum was supportive. My dad was like ‘Oh you’re going to be hot for two years, then you’re going to be a security guard.’
What does he think now? Now he’s like ‘Oh do you know who my son is?’ and he will go in the office and say stuff like ‘I am Puff Daddy you know’.
What makes a good DJ? What identifies the amateur from the professional? The creative? I just think overall a good DJ is someone who can rock the crowd, be creative, be original and just have his own personality. Present music that people know, that people don’t know and allow everyone to forget about their lives for the one, two, three hours that you are playing. You take people on a journey and have a good time. Anyone that can present music in a unique way is a good DJ to me.
What is your signature style? Well obviously, it is Caribbean influenced. It is very energetic and I throw some curve balls out there. So, you would hear some tracks that would make you think ‘WTH is this? Where did he pull that from? Oh, I haven’t heard this in 20 years, why is he playing the sesame street song?’ You know what I mean? And I play new music, I remix music that you might have heard before and make you think ‘Yo I did not see that coming but it’s dope’. The element of surprise is a big part of my performance.
Do you feel more comfortable performing or remixing in the studio? Both. I can’t choose. They go hand in hand.
And if I asked what was your favourite musical genre to mix? Umm I don’t know, I just like to bend all genres into each other. I just feel comfortable playing everything. I don’t like to be stuck into a box, be forced to play one genre.
Do you ever play for the creole side of the Caribbean? Well I play in Martinique and Guadeloupe all the time. It’s vibes, they are lit out there. I rotate some of their songs and I am influenced by their culture as well. You might hear an instrument in one of my productions that will be influenced by the creole culture.
Thinking about the Red Bull Thre3style championship last year, not many people would have tried to get into this competition. What made you decide to do it? Last year Red Bull changed the rules of their entry requirements. Every year there is this thing called a wild card. For the previous years, you had to submit a mix and they would choose. Last year it was a five-minute video. And they opened it to territories that didn’t have a regional or national final. No matter where you were in the world, you could shoot a video, submit it and they would pick three people out of all the submissions to send to the finals. I was a follower of Thre3tyle for a couple of years and I thought I will just try, shoot a video and see what’s going on. I didn’t expect to get in at all. It was just a risk that I took. It’s either a yes or no.
But few people would want to take that risk, they would prefer just to stay in their lane. Are you a risk taker when it comes to music? Djing? Generally, in life, for progression you have to come out of that comfort zone, if you want to get to the next level. You can’t be great without what is needed and that is outside of your comfort zone. Discomfort facilitates that.
Winning the Thre3style last year, I imagine your life has gone from 60mph to 120mph. How do you keep grounded? My mum. My mum is like my best friend. I think you have to be completely logical in the industry 80% of the time. Yes, we are all chasing a dream, we are creating, colourful but you still must look at the black and white of what the industry is and not get caught up in the hype.
Do you face any challenges in the industry? To be honest, I am just motivated to achieve. And whatever I need to do, however many hours I need to put in, I will do it.
I have noticed that you do have a serious work ethic so that if you must work for 8-10 hours straight, you will do so. What keeps you going? Motivated to create more? I just love it so much, I love the culture, you know what I mean? It’s more than just playing for a bunch of pretty girls or making an x amount of money. I genuinely love the DJ culture. I like when I can go and express myself 100% totally behind the decks and on stage. That’s what I did in Thre3style.
Is that when you are most expressive? When you are behind the decks? Umm I can be a very expressive person normally [laughter] but behind the decks is definitely the true me.
You’re a very busy man at the moment. What do you do on your down time? Other than sleep? And watch You Tube? Practice? [laughter] That’s it?? Do you have any down time now? Not really. I try to manage my time effectively and efficiently. If I have two hours, I practice for an hour, rest for an hour. And then back at it.
What do you practice? Everything. From sets and sequence, what songs might sound good, juggling songs quickly, to scratching, to beat juggling, to what I might say on the mic before a song.
So, you practice every single set? No I haven’t planned a set for tonight at all. I have no idea what I am going to play. I haven’t planned a thing. I am just going to go on the vibe, listen to what played before and then pull a song and however it goes from there…
You have toured many places around the world. Are there places where you would like to play? Africa. We have an Asia tour in November. We will be in the Philippines. I am also really looking forward to Tokyo, Japan.
Where have you got the most love? I tell people all the time Toronto. Toronto is just a vibe. My last two shows sold out completely and they had to leave 200 people outside. The one before that was in a bigger venue and it was 3000 tickets. And that was sold out in two minutes.
And where has been your most challenging crowd? Barbados [laughter] Like coming up in Barbados? Yo, Bajans are hard people to please [laughter]. If you can play in Barbados, if you can get Bajans to move, you’ll be alright anywhere. Just starting out? I definitely had some hard times.
In the region of the Caribbean, there is so much diversity and talent. Can you see any particular talent coming out of the Caribbean at the moment? There are tons of DJs and artists out there. St. Lucia, I mean you guys have DJ Levi Chin, DJ HP. HP sings as well, Motto. They have huge songs now and with the right collaborations they could definitely make it into other markets. Barbados, we have a ton of DJs; Just Jay with me here. He is very good at what he does. Trinidad? So many… Even listening to artists from places like Belize fam. I remember being in Belize. Oh, Belize is a great place to play to for me. All my shows sell out there. I went to the studio and just listening to all these upcoming artists, I was thinking ‘Fam all you need is one tune you know and you bust, one tune’.
Your fans now are more international and more diverse. Do you change the way you do your mixing depending on the crowd? Yes, if it is like a festival? A bigger show? There is lighting involved and special effects. It is more of a planned show. The set will be planned. It will be coordinated with whoever is operating the boards so they will know when Puffy plays this, when he plays this song, the lights will turn blue, we need pyrotechnics when this drops. And that’s festivals. If it’s club, club is not really planned. Club is club, you just go off the vibe. There is more flow. If I do a club set, it’s like two hours. People are there to dance, songs play a little longer. Some people don’t come to clubs to get drunk but to hear their favourite songs so you have to be mindful of that. If it is a performance like tonight, 45 minutes to an hour, it is more interactive, super energetic, you play songs for shorter, jumping on the DJ table. I don’t think there is room on the DJ table to jump on it tonight though.
Who do want to collaborate with? Do you have a wish list? It’s endless. I can talk until tomorrow. Rihanna, Diplo, Metro Boomin, Voice from Trinidad, everybody from Barbados. There’s a guy called Fuego from Belize, Sean Paul, Popcaan, Konshens and more… a very long list. I will work towards it or work towards putting myself in a position to do these collaborations.
I’ve noticed you’re very active on social media? I love social media. It’s like a hobby for me. But I travel with my photographer James who plays a huge role in my social media. He may take pictures of me, the videos that come out the whole of the aesthetics of it. I had a vision years ago and told him about it. He was like ‘cool, yeah’. He understands me and able to shoot me and produce media or content that is a direct reflection of my personality and who I am.
Is there anything more you want to achieve? I want to produce more. My aim for this year is to have at least two records out. They don’t have to be with major labels but established labels. We’re talking to a label now to get my second release of the year. We have a remix with Lyrical dropping soon. That’s going to be pretty big. We released the Machel remix for carnival and that was fun. We just did a collab with Walshy from Major Lazer and Bad Royale on the Full Extreme Remix and that’s been getting rotation on the EDM circuit. There’s much more to come.
I’ve heard and seen many DJs. And I have observed the ones who are masters of their craft are the ones who are in the crowd, seriously watching the crowd and the response to the music before they play their set. DJ Stephen does it, Private Ryan does it, DJ Lantern does it. And so does DJ Puffy. He was enjoying himself sure but also keenly gauging the vibe of crowd; was the crowd ready to wild out or was this more of a relaxed liming night? What songs and genre brought out the most energy? And when it was his time to perform? Yes, he gauged the crowd’s energy to perfection. He continued initially with the genre played by Just Jay but played different tunes (no repeats) then blended to other genres. He scratched, he was on the mic. He pulled out tunes from his enormous cognitive database and had me thinking, ‘yeah, I haven’t heard this song played in the London fete’s I’ve been to’. There were curve balls in his set. He did play the Sesame Street anthem. And although he had mentioned it in the interview beforehand, I did still think ‘But why are you dropping Sesame Street?’. Here’s the thing, to my untrained layman’s ear? It worked. The crowd was surprised but I saw some singing to it. When he took them to the other direction, they matched his energy and followed. Maestro, creative and Pied Piper. And this is just the beginning for DJ Puffy. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
For more information on DJ Puffy, please visit; Officialpuffy.com, DJ Puffy on Soundcloud and Mixcloud, deejaypuffy on instgram and twitter, DJ Puffy on You Tube and Facebook. Many thanks for Alleynephotography for the interview photos.