Because Darrell Pugsley works behind the scenes he is not that well known outside the industry, and from looking at him one would never guess that he is a master at arranging and mixing music and does this for some of the best local artistes.
Darrell has no problem with being a behind-the-scenes guy; in fact, he put himself there, stepping back from being the lead keyboardist for the Brutal Jammers Band to concentrate on arranging music. But even so, he does this “selectively” since he is very careful of what songs he puts his trademark to.
He says now that music “is my life” but surprisingly enough his entry into the music industry was literally by an accident.
At the age of 15 the then St Roses High School fifth former was bent on pursuing a career in medicine. That was his dream and he was studying day and night for his CSEC examination, which would have been his first step towards achieving it. But as fate would have it, a serious road accident cruelly snatched that dream from the young teenager.
Even now, many years after the accident, Darrell does not appear too comfortable speaking about it, though he quickly adds that he is very happy with the work he now does. He recalls that in the accident he suffered a broken nose among other injuries but the most serious was that to his brain. That injury saw a blood clot forming in his brain and as a result he suffered the most violent headaches.
Darrell told The Scene that his physician told him he would have to ease up on his studies and this gutted him as at the time he was exploring the possibility of writing his examination while hospitalised.
“The doctor told me no more studies and it was very difficult because at that time I really wanted to be a doctor,” the young musician said.
He was also told that he could have undergone operation to remove the clot but the chance of him surviving such an operation was slim.
“But he also told me that if I listened to music, eventually it would heal and this led me to listen to hours of music and eventually I spent many hours on the keyboard during my recovery.”
Thus Darrell began his journey into music.
But Darrell’s accidental link to music was not the first time he dabbled with it, because at the age of five he was playing the guitar.
The former Sand Creek, Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) resident said that his father, now a retired headmaster, played the guitar and wrote and recorded songs. And so it was, “like father like son” as the young Darrell gravitated towards the guitar; at age five his little fingers were producing sweet melodious music.
As he progressed he played for school concerts at the local school and was well known for guitar music. But pictures taken of him at that time are slightly embarrassing for him and he does not want to share them as they illustrate how big the guitar was and how little he was by comparison.
“I don’t want anyone to see those pictures… little me with the big guitar and my little fine legs sticking out at the bottom.”
At that time, Darrell said, music was basically a hobby and he continued this for the years he spent at President’s College before being transferred to St Roses.
It was following the many hours he spent listening to music after his accident that Darrell decided to take music seriously and the decision was partly made during the time he spent at Zoe Media Productions and Spot Light Productions.
“I had to listen to music and it was due to music I started to feel better and I was not getting so many headaches; even though I could not play the sports I used to love,” Darrell said adding that his inability of play basketball and other sport was part of the reason he gravitated to music.
At that time the teenager was living at Industry, East Coast Demerara (ECD) and he attended St John the Baptist Church at Plaisance, ECD. He played music for the church and also excelled at some of the music classes the church offered.
His first musical arrangement was done at Zoe Productions and it was for an “oldies love song” sung by a man who was experiencing some personal problems at the time. Darrell also assisted in the writing of the song. While he has never written an entire song, Darrell said he has assisted a number of singers in the writing of their songs.
“I learnt so much in a short period of time it was amazing,” Darrell commented. He said that for four consecutive years the songs he arranged the music for placed first and second in the junior calypso competition.
In the meantime he was also becoming very popular in the Christian community because of the work he did for the churches and he was then introduced to some of the major local gospel singers such as Eddie Neblett, Kester D, Shawn Sobers and Solid Youth.
However, after some years he travelled to Brazil to visit some relatives and he also did some music composing while there and then made a decision to relocate to that country.
So, four years ago, he returned to Guyana to basically clean out his house, sell some of his belongings and move to Brazil but by another accident, not a literal one this time, he became a part of Brutal Jammers Band and Brutal Trax Studio.
“I was taking back a computer not too far from here [the Waterloo Street location of the studio] when the guys saw me and called me over and they told me about their idea of starting the studio and the band and I embraced their ideas and decided to become a part of it.”
He pointed out that what the studio is doing is contributing to the music industry in Guyana by giving those who would never otherwise have the opportunity, a chance to record their music. “Brutal Trax is for everyone,” he said.
After some time of playing the keyboard for the band Darrell decided to step back and just focus on composing and arranging music.
“I prefer to be the man behind the scenes, even though I still play at selected gigs but I select them carefully just as I am selective with the persons I work with, their songs have to be good.
“You see even if the singer has a nice voice and they have a nice song it is still the arranging of the music that makes the song a beautiful song,” Darrell said.
He said his biggest project so far is the work he did on Natural’s Black recently released album, ‘Guardian Angel’, which was launched in Barbados and is being promoted in New York by VP Records.
And even though music is his life, Darrell said he still finds time to do other activities for relaxation such as mountain climbing, fishing and swimming all of which is done at a family ranch in the Rupununi.
“I have accomplished things that I never even dreamed about,” Darrell said, speaking specifically about music while adding that he has done some distance studies on audio making.
While he is enjoying what he does now, Darrell said that a few years down the line he hopes to own a business which basically will involve trading between Guyana and Brazil. (email@example.com)