Walshy Fire in the mix at Tuxedo Junction in Danbury, Connecticut. (Photo credit: Dan Nilsen)
Leighton Paul Walsh, a.k.a. Walshy Fire, is best known for being a member of Major Lazer. The Jamaican-born MC, selector (DJ), and producer has had a successful career outside of the group, though. In 2004, Walshy joined the Miami Black Chiney sound system. He toured with it for 8 years and also hosted a popular radio show in the city. It wasn’t until 2012 that Walshy joined Major Lazer. Yet, despite the group’s success and busy schedule, he has still found time to continue his solo career. On Wednesday, Walshy dropped a new riddim album called “Chicken and Dumplin” with soca producer Kubiyashi. The project includes songs from heavyweights Beenie Man, Sean Paul, Shaggy, among others. On Friday, Walshy will headline Mad Decent’s takeover of Avalon’s Control party in Los Angeles.
We caught up with Walshy before the show to discuss all things dancehall.
As someone who was born in Jamaica and has been involved with dancehall for their entire career, how do you feel about its current popularity in the mainstream?
It’s great. Dancehall is for everyone, for the masses. Hearing it world wide is a great feeling.
Some pop artists have been criticized for appropriating dancehall culture and not giving credit where credit is due. Do you agree with that criticism?
Credit is really all anyone wants in life. Every genre of music, every artist, every musician. So credit should always be given. Allow people to know where you sampled from.
You once said in an interview that your sole purpose with Major Lazer is to “bring back some glory and international exposure [for] reggae and dancehall.” Do you think you’ve achieved that aim?
I wouldn’t say, but I have a lot more work to do.
Walshy Fire and Kubiyashi’s “Chicken and Dumplin” riddim album. Download select songs on DJcity.
You’ve been credited with coining the term, “future dancehall.” What’s your definition of it?
Future dancehall is dancehall mixed with EDM influences. It stays at the same dancehall tempo (94 to 100 BPM) but has rises and drops. And I don’t want the credit for making that name up. A lot of folks were calling it that before me. I might just be the one who made it popular.
What is your favorite dancehall riddim of all time?
The Answer Riddim.
In your eyes, what are the similarities and differences between Jamaican selectors and American DJs?
For Jamaican DJs, it’s not about the music as it is about the personality of the DJ. You can play an obscure song no one’s heard and with your personality make it big. You can make people laugh and do things they didn’t plan on doing, etc. Also, Jamaican DJs mix very quick. For American DJs, it’s more about shutting the club down with the big songs, scratching, blending, etc.
Your role in Major Lazer is an MC and producer, but you also have a solo career as a DJ and producer. Is your approach different?
Yeah, I bring the Jamaican and Miami style of DJing.
A recap of Major Lazer’s historic concert in Havana, Cuba on March 6, 2016.
How did your experience as a radio host in Miami influence you as an artist?
I miss it a lot. It allowed me to be able to be humble and relate to the average person who just wants to have a good time. It’s not about trying to be this untouchable celebrity DJ. That will never be me.
In 2016, Major Lazer became the first major American artist to perform in Cuba since diplomatic ties were restored. What was that like?
It was the Highlight of my DJ life. Check out the documentary we did on it called Give Me Future.
Are you or Major Lazer working with any Cuban artists?
I work with Yotuel [from Orishas]. He’s a dope dude. I also work with Ari Lopez who now lives in Jamaica.
Who are some newer artists that you’re feeling right now?
Walshy Fire and Sillva’s back-to-back set at the 2017 Rum Set Boat Party in Miami.