Major Lazer shows are unlike anything else you'll see at an EDM fest.
The Diplo-led crew's performances are an enthralling orgy of confetti-spraying machine guns, hyper-sexual dancing, and human-sized hamster balls, all set to a peculiar mixture of dancehall, dubstep, pop, and every other genre the always-restless Diplo feels like throwing in the mix.
Leading this circus when they take the stage at Ultra Music Festival for the second consecutive weekend will be Carol City native Walshy Fire, who replaced diminutive daggering don Skerrit Bwoy as the group's MC last year.
A longtime Miami-area club DJ and radio personality with 96 Mixx FM, Walshy comes to Major Lazer after years revving up crowds with Black Chiney Sound, the local reggae DJ crew known for dusting off sound bwoys worldwide with their wicked selection of dancehall dubplates and hip-hop remixes.
Crossfade spoke with Walshy about his new role in the group, why most EDM shows suck, and which part of Florida Diplo really comes from.
Crossfade: What has the experience been like coming from a sound system like Black Chiney that is doing mostly reggae parties to being in Major Lazer, which is touring rock and EDM festivals?
Walshy Fire: It's just been great education. Where I come from is the Miami bass world and the reggae world, and you travel the world with somebody like Diplo, who's traveled the world like eight times and really grasps what's going on out there, it's the best college you can go to. Right now I'm at the Harvard of music. I know things that no one will ever know just because of being with Major Lazer.
Explain your role in Major Lazer. Today when people hear "MC," they usually think "rapper," but that's not what you do.
Major Lazer is basically a Jamaican sound system in its roots. Everything that we do is always rooted in something dancehall or reggae. On your Jamaican sound systems, you have a selector and you have your MC. Basically, [Diplo] is the selector and I'm the MC. He's the one that picks the records and mixes the records and I'm the one that's out front and presents the records to people, makes speeches that makes the records make sense, and pulls up the records. I give the crowd humor when it's time to give them humor, emotion when it's time to give them emotion, and just keep the whole vibe intense throughout the whole set.
Describe what a Major Lazer live set is like.
If there was a word that was more unique than unique. It really is anything goes, but it's all a familiar language. Just with our interpretation of it. To give people, I think Diplo would agree, what people want, which is something different, man.
I want to really stress, these [EDM] guys aren't DJing. They pre-mix the whole set. This is why there has to be so many lights for so many of these guys. Because they don't have anything unique about them, and they all actually play the same songs, just their remix of it. Some people that's fine for them, they're happy with that. I'm not mad at them. After going to so many of these shows, I see why everybody across the world likes it. It's so basic, you don't have to think hard, and you don't have to know the language. But after a while you kinda go, "So for all you guys who like this but also like other stuff, why don't we do something for you?"
At an EDM festival, I think we're the only group that plays a salsa song... and the place goes crazy. I see other DJs look at us and go that got a lot of love. So yeah, play the hits, but put something else in there and do something different. I think that's what our show is all about. Our delivery is unique, our music is unique, and our fans are unique people.
Major Lazer has a new album, Free the Universe, coming out in a few weeks. Were you a part of it?
The album was kind of done before I joined. It definitely got my input in picking the songs, putting them in order. This album isn't what people would expect from us. We want this album to be the best thing we've collectively ever done. For sure I'm working on all the projects happening since I started in Major Lazer.
Ultra will be your first couple of shows in Miami since officially joining Major Lazer.
This is the one I'm gonna go all out on. I gotta represent the 305. Born and raised in the County of Dade, grew up in Carol City, went to North Miami Beach High School. It's everything I am. That's why I support everything that comes from my city. When I come back home, it's not a question that I will walk away from it and say this is the greatest moment of my life.
I understand that Diplo has said that Black Chiney mixtapes were one of his inspirations for forming Major Lazer.
Diplo has that Florida tattoo on his arm for a reason. He's from Plantation. He went to South Plantation High School. If you're from Florida or have any knowledge of any dancehall from the last ten years, you naturally know Black Chiney. Anything to do with remixing dancehall and hip-hop, people definitely would give the nod to Black Chiney as the inspiration. For this to all come full circle to where now I'm a part of helping Major Lazer get the message out, it's almost like the stars and the sun and the Earth and the moon have all aligned to make what should be happening happen.
Dancehall is not as big as it used to be. What are some of the things you do to open up this EDM crowd that's not used to dancehall tempos or patois to get them interested in it? Major Lazer is succeeding with that, in a way no one else really is.
I think it's just our overall delivery. We explain what's happening and make it fun so that people will walk away going, "I wanna go do some research. Let me see who Johnny Osbourne is, let me see who Busy Signal is, and begin to understand what this dancehall is." Because you're absolutely right. It's not what it used to be. My sole purpose with this Major Lazer thing is to bring back some glory and international exposure [for] reggae and dancehall.
Ultra Music Festival 2013. With Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia, Tiesto, Avicii, and others. Friday, March 22, to Sunday, March 24. Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Visit ultramusicfestival.com.