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His musical touch transcends various genres, and while his music production skills have ignited the local music scene for over two decades, producer Darrel Pugsley has managed to stick to a humble deed: to push the artistes to the forefront, while he works his magic behind the scenes. Music producer Darrel Pugsley
Pugsley’s latest production, the hit single ‘Since 1995’ by upbeat chutney star RICHARD, is making waves on social media. The hit has grabbed thousands of views since its release on June 5, 2022, and a simple perusal of the producer’s YouTube channel would provide the curious fan with all the details of why he is one of Guyana’s most-sought-after musicians.
During an interview with Guyana Times recently, Pugsley gave an insight into his rise behind the scenes of the local music industry, from the days of playing in the band at the St John’s Roman Catholic Church at Plaisance to sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in West Indian music history. As he spoke about his illustrious career, Pugsley reiterated several times that the music is there for the artiste to showcase to the world, while he creates the sounds in the background.
“It’s not about me, but rather it is about the artiste,” he said repeatedly.
While opening up about his career publicly for the first time, Pugsley said he first received a glimpse of music back in his school days at President’s College. He said music theory was a part of the curriculum, and while the content was not in-depth, he received more exposure while playing in the band at the church at Plaisance.
In fact, he explored the theoretical aspect of music some more while at the church, and he wrote and passed the music exams being offered at the time. Soon after, his parents transferred him to the St Rose’s High School in the city, and Pugsley continued to follow the music. He then explored the instruments, and those included the guitar and the keyboard, and this led him down the road of becoming a producer, building tracks in the process.
He said his very first exposure to producing music began with the Junior Calypso Competitions around 1997/98, when he would create tracks for school children. His creation would always see the children winning the competition, and that ignited his hunger to further explore the music.
<<Dominion Studios and Brutal Tracks>>
Pugsley then started creating more tracks by using newer forms of technology at Dominion Studios, the gospel musical studio on North Road in the city. While there, he honed his career as a producer using the technology at the studio. He then took things further by playing live music. This time, through networking within the local music industry, he became associated with the Brutal Tracks Recording Studio on Waterloo Street.
Pugsley described his time during those days as being a freelance producer while playing in the band. He said he did multiple projects mainly because of his love for music, adding that he worked pro bono while being paid for some projects. His Midas touch created music which remains household sounds today, as artistes such as reggae star Natural Black, Timeka Marshall, Jory, Celeste David and Jomo, among others, sang to music he created.
Pugsley also worked with Guyanese international singer and songwriter Juke Ross, and he spoke admirably of the teamwork the two undertook. In addition, the producer said, singer Poonam Singh, who has belted out a number of popular hits during the course of her career, including the ‘Touch Me’ collaboration with Natural Black, is one of his “biggest success stories”, since he worked extensively on the tracks with the female singer. Her single ‘G.U.Y.A.N.A’ was produced by Pugsley.
The producer also worked extensively with reggae artiste Mystic while at Brutal Tracks Studios, and the two have created hits that are today played at venues across the country.
Music production is an expensive venture, but Pugsley noted that, like Brutal Tracks, his humility lies in helping the music industry to evolve. “Because I embraced the vision of Brutal Tracks to help Guyanese music, and they were doing a great job, so I wanted to be a part of it,” the humble producer noted.
He said he chose to produce the music, and while he was being paid by the band, he preferred to “push” the artistes and their music, while the money was always secondary.
Creating a hit
The musician said he creates his music by first listening to the artiste, in order to get a feel of what they may require for the tracks. He said he would ask what genre of music the sound should be, and he would then draw for his reference beats to give the artiste the style of music which they may wish to pursue.
He said once he gets the tempo, he would let them sing, and then he would graduate the sound in the direction of what the end product should be.
He would then build the track from scratch, and he would “vibe” on the keyboard while he may request live strums of the guitar to complement the track, depending on the type of song. He said some songs can take a day to create, while others may be complex, depending on the back-and-forth he and the artiste would have regarding the final sound.
Pugsley’s talent has developed to the stage where he can create a song in any genre. He creates gospel tracks, chutney music, reggae hits, and even rock music.
In 2011, as the local music scene continued to evolve, Pugsley decided to invest in his own equipment, and that year he decided to go independent, while honing the careers of local artistes. He said that at the time he decided to work more with the artistes, since, many times, people would not always be in a financial position to work in the studios.
“I did that so that I can help and invest in artistes,” he said.
During that time, local music was evolving, and a number of local artistes were bursting onto the scene. Pugsley recalled that one of the first artistes he worked with at the time was Lisa Punch, and he noted that the singer was taking her career to the next level. As such, he decided to utilise his time to work with her, and during that time, he was working in his own studio at his home.
He recalled, too, that he was working with Dj Magnum and dancehall artiste Jory, whom he noted had a musical battle ongoing publicly at the time.
While the two men were ‘dissing’ each other publicly, Pugsley noted, it is all part of the business, since it helps in promoting the music and getting the attention of the public.
“Some people may get carried away with the wrong idea, but it is really a marketing tactic to sell the music and to hype the crowd,” he explained.
Pugsley’s career was evolving at the time, and he noted that he started to create advertisements for a number of local companies. He said he continued to remain behind the scenes even as clients would hire him to produce voice-over for ads. At the time, he continued to work with local artistes, and singer Jackie Jaxx caught his attention. He said he worked with the female singer on some of her famous tracks, and at one point he was her de facto manager.
Taking a break and back at it, Pugsley said that in recent years he started focusing more on his personal upliftment, while he still managed to work on a few projects with artistes. He said he is always working on other ventures, which he noted are in tandem with his ‘behind the scenes’ goals. He said post-COVID-19 has seen the music industry exploding, whereby a number of local artistes are bursting onto the scene, a trend Pugsley said is good for the industry.
More recently, Pugsley mixed and produced RICHARD’s hit single ‘Since 1995’, and according to him, the song is attracting a lot of publicity mainly on Tik Tok and Youtube, where it has generated thousands of views.
RICHARD, the singer behind the hit song, was once a rock singer with whom Pugsley shared a working relationship, when the former sang rock music while the producer created the sounds back at Brutal Tracks Studios. The singer has since crossed over to the chutney genre, and is enjoying tremendous popularity as his upbeat songs are heating up the airwaves.
Indigenous roots and a memorable moment
Music production may have made life busy for the former Sand Creek, Central Rupununi resident, but the man behind the music noted that he has always kept his roots close to his heart.
He left Sand Creek in 1994 to further his academic abilities on the Coastland, and he noted that his father and mother are both descendants of the Wapishana tribe, and his father, being a retired headmaster, has always ensured that education was a key part of his upbringing.
Pugsley utilises social media to showcase the culture of the Indigenous people, with his numerous Facebook postings depicting food and other aspects of his culture.
“I may be one of a few who started pushing the Amerindian cuisine in photos on social media in the years gone by,” he said with a smile.
He said that he started travelling a lot locally in recent years, since he has become comfortable being his own boss, and this has allowed him to get closer to the traditions of his Indigenous roots.
Questioned on his memorable moments, Pugsley recalled that during the days of the GT&T Jingle and Song Competition, he and other members of the Brutal Tracks band had rehearsed for the big event, and hours before its start at the National Park, another keyboard player, who played the lead keyboard, was unable to make it to the venue, following an unforeseen issue. As stunning and last-minute as it was, Pugsley said, he had to find a way to adjust, since he was the second keyboard player.
“I had that ‘Common Entrance’ nervous feeling because I had to now think and try and remember everything the lead keyboard player was doing while in practice. I said to myself that I cannot afford to do nonsense, because it was in front of hundreds of people that night,” he recalled as if it were yesterday.
Pugsley said he took to the stage and “literally faced the music”, adding that he managed to pull off playing for the event. He said the performance positively impacted his confidence to such a state that he utilised it over the years, even as he shared stage with superstars in the industry, such as Akon, Buju Banton, Collie Budz, Cecille, and Beres Hammond, to name a few.
As regards his future, Pugsley said he would continue to focus on business ventures, while keeping a keen eye on the music. “Music is evolving, the sound is evolving, the technology and the software are evolving, but you have to keep upgrading,” he said. He also plans to nurture a protégé, someone whom he noted is dedicated to music, and who can adapt to the music environment while holding a musical character similar to his.
At the same time, Pugsley said, he would remain behind the scenes and let the artistes advance to the forefront. “My focus will always be to produce for the artiste, to get them from Point A to Point B, and that is why I prefer to stay behind the scenes,” he disclosed.