If you’ve ever been to a Major Lazer show, you already know the vibe: endless high energy, the ability to completely let loose, an assortment of genres, and a whole lot of dancing.
The DJ trio, currently composed of Diplo, Walshy Fire, and Ape Drums, first came to fruition in 2009, breaking down barriers and blending multiple genres into one melting pot. Each member is a music-lover down to the core, bringing their own flavor that lies somewhere in between dance, hip-hop, R&B, Afrobeat, reggae, and dancehall music.
Insert Walshy Fire, the Florida native who for the past few decades has established himself as a force to be reckoned with. Back in 2004, Walshy — real name Leighton Walsh — joined Black Chiney Sound System, a Miami-based Jamaican DJ crew that was a major inspiration for Major Lazer. The device went on to change the evolution of Major Lazer for the better, allowing them to create standout mashups — all while representing Walshy’s Jamaican roots.
Most recently, Walshy Fire and Major Lazer teamed up with South African amapiano ambassadors Major League Djz to release the joint album, Piano Republik. The project serves as Major Lazer’s first project in three years.
BPM Supreme had the pleasure of speaking with Walshy Fire ahead of Major Lazer and Major League Djz’s pop-up show in Los Angeles at Apt200 on Santa Monica Blvd in March. Read below as we discuss how he preps for shows, their new project, an epic studio sesh with Ty Dolla $ign, his favorite DJs, seeing Rihanna as inspiration, advice, and more!
Yeah man, feel good. Feel glad that the album’s finally out, feel glad that the people are going to be able to experience something with Major Lazer and Major League Djz. Doing something in an African house, Amapiano style. We won’t really divert from that tonight, so it’s gonna be fun.
There’s no preparation. Nah, there’s nothing but preparation. But you think about it, I’m old school. I’m coming from the vinyl days so preparation for me is usually literally going through every record you have, looking at what’s going to work for the night, prioritizing those
in a crate. Then eventually going out into the party, knowing you’ve got the ones that you know will most likely work. Then you’ve got the for-sure-working ones in your back pocket in case.
Preparation is key man, you can’t just pull up. I’ll tell you another thing is you can’t pull up right before your set. It’s the worst thing you can do. As a DJ, you gotta go a couple hours before and hear what other people are playing. Because I’ve seen it too many times man, and I get it. The people at parties now, they don’t care anymore. There’s nobody that’s gonna be like “yo you suck.” No more. Everyone can be a shitty DJ, not give a fuck about the actual craft. Show up, take amazing pictures for Instagram and get all the love in the world.
But if you really love the shit, do not just show up before you set. Go there early, listen to what everybody’s playing. Understand the mood and the temperament of the people, and see that someone else has already played certain songs so you don’t play them. Even if they played the hits, which happens all the time. A DJ will come early and play all the bangers. Now you go ahead and do yourself a favor and either have a remix of the banger, an edit of the banger, or do not play that banger. That was always a code. There’s too much music. So why are we playing the same songs every hour?
I hope a lot of DJs get to hear this since this is a DJ place. Hopefully be aware if they’re that kind of person that feels like “Yeah, I’ma pull up 30 minutes before my set.” Nah, don’t do that, man.
That’s how I grew up.
The crowd would get mad! If the DJ before me played “You can’t break my soul!” [sings Beyoncé], I can no longer play “BREAK MY SOUL.” If the DJ before me played “Before I Let Go,” the crowd is going to remember it. They’re going to be like, “Yo, he just played that!” Now, I don’t think the crowd cares. Therefore, you can go to a party and hear Beyoncé’s version of “Before I Let Go,” three or four times throughout the night.
But I am saying: Guys, don’t be that person. If a person plays a song before you, be there early enough to see it and understand that you will be a better DJ and you will become a more popular DJ if you’re able to maneuver around the music that was played already. And know that there’s so much music out there, and that you can be so creative with music that you can play so many different things. Or fuck what the fuck I’m saying, I can kick rocks. You go ahead and play what the fuck you want to play.
I use Serato still. I use a laptop, Serato, CDJs.
“Original Don” by Major Lazer.
Just to have people hear the music that we’ve been working on for a long time. It’s been a very long journey, I’m very glad to be able to play that stuff for people and have them really enjoy it, so super excited.
I think I’m not the person to answer that. You should ask Major League [Djz], since they’re from South Africa. It’s their culture. But from what I understand, amapiano means with piano, or the stuff that has the piano. The music in its origin had a lot of pianos playing in it, it was freestyling pianos over this beat. Now you hear the pianos, but not as prominent as before. Now, the vocalist and the artists are the bigger thing, but there was a time where you could get an amapiano song and it’d just be somebody playing the piano. It’s very soulful.
Yeah man. You know what? Honestly, we’re fans of so many people, so we reach out. Everyone’s down, so it’s a very fun collaborative process because it’s a mutual excitement.
Yeah, and I was there. That’s crazy, I was there that day. Man, I want to say genius levels. We played the beat, brother sang the song almost immediately. After we said “Yo, that’s it. One take, let’s go into studio. Let’s get it. That was it!” He goes, “Yeah man, that was really good right?” I go “Yo, that’s the one..”
He’s like, “Alright, y’all leave the studio.” He kicks us out the studio. The studio by the way is in Wes’ [Diplo’s] house. He kicks us out, then he sits there and perfects it. He gets on the microphone, gets into his zone and perfects it. Mind you, what he did originally was great. But now, you walk back in when you’re allowed to, and you can’t believe the level he just took it. Yeah, this guy is that guy. He’s the dude.
Not that long. We were downstairs talking so I wasn’t really clocking it, but half an hour. An hour maybe, but he did two songs.
What kind of question is that? It’s like yo, can you count all the fucking grains of sand…
What are we doing here, DJs? Jazzy Jeff, Biz Markie, Uncle Al, Jam Pony Express, Kid Capri. Skratch Bastid, DJ Starting From Scratch, Chris Goldfinger, DJ Culture, DJ Jade. Man, too many.
You know, I keep tour to the chest. That’s your answer.
It was so good. I made such a great post about it, I love her so much. When I tell you man, can you imagine? I don’t think you really can, but just imagine. Imagine being a child on a little rock in the water, to becoming the biggest star in the world. Come on man. If you ain’t feeling what I’m saying, you’re dead. You can’t imagine that journey, then you don’t have any imagination. Because that’s crazy, and deserves so much applause and so much love. Yo, what a way to show everybody from those places that they can do it too. Salute.
[laughs] That was on my birthday party, Katy Perry’s on the other side.
This was a Rihanna post, okay. If you scroll down on my page, you’ll see the one with both of them. But this was dedicated to Rihanna. I love Katy Perry, though, she’s such an awesome person. It was at 1 OAK in New York City, it was my birthday party. So many people that night, man.
Wes [Diplo] played, Leonardo DiCaprio bought pizza for the whole club that night. After that, I had to do that every year. Every birthday party I had after that, I had to buy pizza for the whole club. Because of him, and there’s a picture of him forcing me to eat pizza. I’m like “damn yo, the cheese don’t really sit well with me.” He’s like, “Eat it. Eat the fucking pizza.”
Rihanna pulled up looking amazing, of course. I want to say her and Katy Perry were good friends, but they hadn’t spoken in a while. I don’t remember what happened, but I remember hearing this rumor that they hadn’t seen each other or spoken in a while. So this was the first time, so there was a lot of love in the air.
I think I have the best answer. I’ll preface it with saying: who am I to give you guys fucking advice? Secondly, my journey was my journey. It’s gonna be really hard for me to look at my journey and think it will apply to you. What I’m about to say could be utter bullshit, and you could tell me to fuck off. But I do believe that what I’m about to say is the right thing, so here we go.
I believe that you should absolutely take 10 years of doing whatever it is that you love. This isn’t for DJs only, this is for anybody. Knowing that, in that 10 years, you’re not going to make any money, no one is going to show you love, and you wake up every single time with a smile on your face and the passion of love and happiness for the craft. And get out there and do it again, and again and again and again.
Every single person that you see that’s big, they had 10 years where they were not. Now I understand we’re in a different age. I can swipe and have sex right now if I wanted to.
That’s not how I grew up. I had to call your house and your dad answered the phone. I had to say, “Hello sir, is your daughter home?” No cell phone, we gotta meet up at the mall, right. And if I’m at the wrong Orange Julius, if I’m in the wrong place, we never see each other.
I understand times have changed, and what I’m saying might not apply anymore. But my advice to every single DJ and to everybody out there is: do what you love to do for 10 years without any need, or want for clout. Do it because you really love doing it. When you fall, because there will be failures, when it gets hard, if you can wake up the next day and not quit and not give up — not say “yo, this shit sucks” — because you love it, you’re in the right place. One day, it will all make sense. Preparation will meet an opportunity, and you will have success.
Major Lazer had a nice meeting today man, I think we’d really love to drop an album next year. We’d really love to control the summer next year, really looking at that. Especially when I see the landscape now and how a lot of the guys that were around when we were doing it are no longer around. Some of them are huge. Some of them are big, big, big artists. But the entire game has changed and we’ve been changing with it. As a group of people who love festivals and love rocking big shows and small shows, like we’re gonna rock a show tonight. This room only holds 100 people.
Those are the real ones, because I get to laugh at everybody and talk shit.
I think that’s the way to do it. I don’t think there’s a way to do it otherwise, right? I gotta go on the microphone and call you out. Like how your hair is wet, I’ll probably stop the music and ask everybody to look. To touch your hair. Walshy Fire is gonna do a Brazilian album. Gonna do a Miami Bass album, then I’ll drop singles in the reggae and dancehall world. That’s the goal.
The nightclubs, I still go hard man. I still DJ a lot. I still do 200 to 250 shows a year, so I’m going hard man, because I definitely want to make an impression while people care. Really set a lot of tones for the people coming after me, so that they can look and see “Nah, that’s how it’s gotta be done.”
Find Major Lazer’s music on BPM Supreme.