EXCERPTS FROM INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY LAUREN BIRD
02 JULY 2012
Well-known Fredericton artist DJ Nasty Naz has been around the world performing with big names like Justin Beiber, P. Diddy, Sean Kingston and more. He also owns local restaurant Caribbean Flavas with his family. Most recently, he’s been working with Celine Dion’s producers and cooked for Prince Charles. He spoke with The Daily Gleaner this week.
Q: How does someone who has their MBA go on to become P. Diddy’s DJ and own a restaurant?
A: I came here on scholarship from Trinidad. That’s where I was born and raised. I turned down the scholarship because I was living the island life in Trinidad. Every day we would go to the beach and chill out and I said, “Well, let me try it and see what it’s like living in Canada,” because Canada is Toronto right? That’s the only place until I realized, “Oh, it’s New Brunswick.”
I came here and within the first week I fell in love — with the place at least. The place is so gorgeous … From my point of view, the people here were so inviting to me as a Caribbean international student … So when I was going to school at (the University of New Brunswick) I did a course called, New Venture, Creation, Entrepreneurship and one of the projects was to create a productive service for New Brunswick. So I came up with this international, diverse, ethnic restaurant in a predominantly white market. My professor didn’t think it was a good idea and me gave me a C+.
Q: So how did you get the restaurant started?
A: I called up my parents. They were in Trinidad at the time. Both my sisters were here studying, one at St. Thomas University, one at UNB. I said, “Mom and dad I have this brilliant idea of how to start up a restaurant and basically it’s an ethnic restaurant and it will fly.”
So they were kind of hesitant … But I got friends and family to come and paint pictures on the walls and murals and all that stuff and now we’ve won best restaurant in New Brunswick and stuff like that.
Q: How did you get into DJing?
A: I used to DJ back in Trinidad, for a major radio station out there and when I came here, to Fredericton, I wanted to continue my DJing skills so I was doing stuff at clubs and all that stuff. They’ve never really seen my style where I’m hyping on the microphone and I’m getting people to put their hands up and dance and stuff. General DJs, they just get up on stage and just kind of push play right?
With me I have turn tables and I’m mixing and I’m mashing up songs and people, they haven’t seen that before. So continuing here, then I realized they weren’t very receptive as how they should have been with my skills. So other people had been noticing me.
Q: Who noticed you and how?
A: For instance, Alicia Keys, her management team saw me do a show in Toronto. They said, “Hey, you’re really good at what you’re doing. Why don’t you come up to New York, we’ll talk some business.”
All these other artists started calling me and say, “Hey, we notice your doing stuff in Canada. Why not come talk to us so when we’re ready for shows we can just call upon you on a night’s notice.” So that’s what would happen with me and these artists, people like Snoop Dogg, when they would be in town I would be DJing and they would be like, “Hey we’re hungry but the only thing to eat is poutine, where can we get some good soul food?” I’m like, “Hey, I just happen to own a restaurant with my family.”
Q: You mentioned you’ve been working with Celin Dion’s producers; how did that happen?
A: Basically, they looked at my website and said, “Oh you did stuff with Justin Beiber, you did stuff with the Black Eyed Peas, you did stuff with Akon. What have you done with them?” And basically it’s this ongoing resume that they’re looking at. They’re reading my website and everything I’ve done with them, I’m auditioning pretty much. It’s been two months now that I’ve been doing this. I fly back and forth to Quebec, fly back to Montreal every week or so. When I got the call I thought it was a joke.
Q: What do you have coming up?
A: I’m in Toronto for Canada Day, then I fly back to Montreal to go back in the studio again with them and then I go to Vancouver to play with Carly Rae Jepson. So it’s Carly Rae, then Jonas Brothers. I’m on there and then One Republic is after me. Then I fly back to Quebec and then I come back to Fredericton.
Q: You’ve performed in front of thousands of people, what does that feel like?
A: It’s amazing. I was out in Australia or New Zealand. We had 300,000 people, biggest show I’ve ever done in my life. I’m on the big screens and I’m the only one on stage with (Sean) Kingston. I’d say put your hands up hand, everybody would put their hands up and it was literally a sea, just think of the biggest wave you’ve ever seen in your life. I’m like, “I say Nasty, you say Naz” and everybody says your name in unison, you know what I mean … And then you can be humble enough to come back on a plane and rock a show for 60 people at Harvey High.
Q: Do you see yourself staying in Fredericton?
A: Yes, I do see myself staying in Fredericton, because, obviously, my family is here, the business is here. We’re doing well, we’re happy and another major thing for me… it keeps me humble. If you Google Justin Beiber and Ferrari, it was me who gave him the Ferrari to drive … When I’m in Fredericton, I’m serving tables. It keeps you at a grounded level.