From Tokyo to LA, Parisa Talks Conquering the Nightlife Scene and Quarantine
By Shirley Ju for BPM Supreme
Photos courtesy of King Yazid
At age 16 in high school, Parisa learned how to DJ and hasn’t looked back since. Two years later, the Tokyo native would move to the United States at the age of 18, all by herself. Now based in Los Angeles, Parisa has become a staple in Hollywood nightlife. Whether it’s Tuesday nights at Harriet’s in West Hollywood or private birthday parties, you know it’s a celebration if she is there.
Beyond being a badass female DJ, Parisa is musically-inclined. From competing in the orchestra to dancing for Disney back home in Japan, Parisa has been surrounded by music since a child. She also grew up playing piano and percussion her entire life. Recently, Parisa obtained her college degree studying music theory, completing 3 years of education.
But even during these recent weeks, where many have been forced to navigate the waters of a DJ career without any live gigs, Parisa is working hard and wants to earn her place not only as a great DJ but as an artist and a creative as a whole.
BPM Supreme recently caught up with Parisa to discuss how she got started DJing, being a serious musician, and how she’s been coping with the shutdown and quarantine.
How did you learn to DJ? You are self-taught, right?
This guy from this brand called Magic Stick, he’s a DJ. He was DJing at this little bar/lounge and I pulled up with one of my friends from a Japanese streetwear magazine. I was in high school [laughs]. They pulled me out like “Let’s go!” So I went there and he was playing every single song that I know. He was surprised that I knew everything, and I was surprised he played all my shit.
One of my friends said “Hey, I want to connect you two. You should DJ.” I’m like “ehh alright, I’ll try!” He gave me the equipment, etc. I started DJing, I was just good at it. I never practiced. I practiced at the shows. [laughs] I made a mistake at one of the shows, but just learned from that experience.
What was the mistake?
It was the first time I was using CDJs at Bootsy Bellows, and I didn’t know how to use CDJs. I was f****d. [chuckles] Siobhan Bell from London, she pulled up on me. She had a USB, she’s like “I’ma get on it.” I was so glad there was another DJ in the room. I couldn’t thank her enough.
What did you learn from that?
Now I search a lot of shit. Name of the CDJ, name of the mixer. I started talking to Serato people, so they’re really helping me right now. I learn things by experiencing it, by actually doing it. It’s good and bad.
How long have you been in the US?
Just four years; since 2016.
When you first got here, what was the biggest culture shock?
I would say the people. People were really different. I don’t want to say they don’t have manners, but they don’t have manners. [laughs] Because I’m born and raised in Japan. I have two different cultures already in my body: Japanese and Persian. So I speak Farsi. Farsi’s my first language-ish, also Japanese. At school, I’d speak Japanese. At home, my dad would speak to me in Farsi.
So I already had two different cultures, but they’re similar. When you step outside to America… America is a free country, and I didn’t know that. I’m like “why is everyone like this?” But I also learned by experience. I’m experiencing how they move, how they talk, how they treat me. I’m still learning. It was a culture shock.
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Happy International woman’s day 🌹 Catch me spinning this month: 8th (TODAY) @animeandchill 10th @harrietsrooftop 13th @thereupparty 14th “Please and thank you” @ drip studio 21st spinning in Chicago (more info comin) 27th #WOMRSVP @thepeppermintclub Ladies, let’s keep pushing. We got this ❤️
How did you get your start DJing in LA?
I really got started with the “Word of Mouth” parties. You know VJ right? He’s the CEO of Word of Mouth. I met VJ when I was in high school in Japan. He keeps saying I’m his lifesaver because funny story, he was drunk outside of a club in Japan. I met him earlier that day, and I said, “Hey I met you.” I knew I saw him before, but I didn’t know how to speak English. So I said, “Hi, how are you?” I knew he was drunk. I just know how to handle drunk people I guess.
Long story short, I helped him out. I dropped him off at the crib in Japan. After that, he’s like, “Yo, that night I was so faded. Everyone left me. I was outside by myself.” I didn’t know that, I just said: “Shit, I’ll take care of you.” People in Japan, they take care of people. I care about other people. In America, they eat, eat, take, take, don’t give back. Ugh, so wack dude.
What is Word of Mouth?
It’s a great party we were doing once a month at the Peppermint Club. In my opinion, we want to provide good music. Not just new music, it could be new, it could be old. We do disco parties on the side hustle. We still play Sade. We want to provide good sound, good energy, multiple cultures. We got Asian, we got black, we got white. We don’t want to do anything corny like “oh, post a picture about that on Instagram.” I do still, but we want to do it live. We want the people to come to see us and feel the vibe, keeping the culture alive.
What advice do you have for DJs about getting their foot in the door at a new venue?
It’s crazy, it’s really word of mouth because people talk. People will come up to me like, “Hey, I have a party next weekend, I want you to DJ.” I’ll say, “Okay, take my number, let me know.” I tell my rate but at the same time, you don’t really know what’s going to happen after that event.
How do you feel when you DJ?
I feel great. I used to be like, “Ugh I have to get ready and put makeup on. I have to get the fit, make the playlist.” But then people started talking about it like, “Hey, you’re doing that thing right? I’m coming.” It became more in the conversation. It’s part of my life. I stopped stressing to get ready. Instead, I’d say “Pregame?” They’re like, “Okay, where?” I send the addy. They come to pregame and we all go to my set. It’s fun. My best set is when I’m super drunk. [laughs] I have to at least take a shot. One or 2 shots and I’m good. But in America, the cup is like 3 shots. I drink tequila, I love tequila.
Did you drink as much in Japan?
People in Japan drink crazy. They drink so much, so I’d say I’m trained. [chuckles]
What’s your favorite song to drop in a set?
Shit, Tame Impala, “Breathe Deeper,” from the new album. Also, I just made a remix of “Come And Talk to Me” by Jodeci. It’s a house remix.
Do you like electronic music more than hip hop?
No, but I like sampling. I like to remix and make it sound new. Even old school R&B. I like a lot of sampling because I know the originals. I used to listen to the originals with my mom. I grew up in a disco house, my mom loved disco. If you want me to talk about disco, it’s pretty long. [chuckles] I could talk for 3 hours.
What makes your DJ sets stand out?
I used to play acapella and a different beat. I produce too so I do it on the laptop. I have a lot of remixes that aren’t out that I’ll play in my set. I have a lot of homies who sing or rap, so I have a lot of unreleased shit. Put it on and try to support, you know. I play a lot of genres as well. Reggaeton, afrobeats, hip hop throwbacks like old school hip hop, new jack, discofunk, a little bit of house.
What advice do you have for aspiring DJs?
Start with turntables because if you know how to use turntables, you’ll know how to use controllers, CDJs, any type of format. Start with turntables, play whatever you want. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
What have you been doing to keep busy over the past few weeks of quarantine? It must be a big change for you.
Yes definitely! I usually wake up around 10:00am and then start working on my laptop by 11. I’ve been working on my music a lot — editing mixes, making playlists, making beats, and searching for samples. I’ve also been working on business stuff, taking a lot of phone meetings, reaching out to my manager and people I work with. Following up on future gigs!
There’s non-music related stuff too like studying and learning more about stocks, working on my design, drawing stuff on clothes and taking naps. [laughs] I also just did a campaign for Converse as a model but I would like to do more modeling gigs, more positioning myself as an artist. I want to use this time to step up and get more gigs like DJing for a corporate company. I want to level up.
What advice would you give to DJs to “conquer” this quarantine?
I would say to start working on your resume, website, EPK, start creating the things that will actually help you get booked. Develop your brand and commit to your growth as a DJ.
What do you think DJs can do to thrive financially during this time?
If you focus on just being a DJ, I think you can use this time to start doing IG live sets or Twitch stream. Maybe even reach out and work with different brands that can offer pay or more exposure to you at this time. You can make money from your YouTube channels or teach people to DJ with paid lessons. Also you can use this time to learn how to produce music, that’s another source of income. Right now is the best time to work on your craft and plan for the future.
Anything else you want people to know?
I want people to know that I play instruments and I sing. I have my own music out too. I sing and I produce. I’m not just a DJ, I’m an artist. I design too. I love to just create.
When it comes to music, I’m really picky. I’m more of a musician. I know what I’m doing. I don’t know everything, I don’t know a lot of things! But I love to learn and I have the whole college experience which is three years of studying music theory.
About Shirley Ju
Shirley Ju is a Los Angeles-based journalist as well as a Digital Content/Artist Relations Manager at LA’s Power 106. She lives and breathes music and if there’s a show in LA, you can find her there. Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, the hyphy movement is in her blood. She also graduated from UCLA and is going on 10 years in Los Angeles. Shirley contributes to several publications including Variety, LA Weekly, REVOLT, and more. Follow her at @shirju on both Instagram & Twitter.