// Written by Lucius L Riley | Photos by eyeLucius –
Louisiana born and raised DJ BOUFFANT BOUFFANT has gone global, but the road always leads him home to NOLA. With gigs from New York to California to Berlin to even exotic Pittsburg, the modestly coiffed Brett LaBauve takes some time to sit down with FLAME in Armstrong Park before he jets off to his next adventure.
You’re from Louisiana originally as opposed to being someone who migrated here?
I’m from right outside of Lake Charles, a town called Hackberry, LA (population: 1,500). I grew up there until I was about 18 and then I went to school in Lake Charles and then transferred to University of New Orleans in 2009. So I’m almost at my 10-year reunion.
What’s an exciting Friday Night in Hackberry like?
Probably getting your friend’s older brother to buy you beer and your friend’s older friend with a driver’s license to drive you around while you drink that beer. We were drinking Taaka Vodka and Powerade a lot. There’s no Wal-Mart parking lot, there are no stoplights in town – it’s THAT small.
What kind of music did you listen to while you were riding around those nights?
I was into Rock music a lot. I think I liked Punk, Emo, hardcore stuff, as well as Boogie Funk Disco music. From growing up in South Louisiana, you go to wedding receptions and hear funky zydeco music but I kind of rebelled against that and went for the Rock music.
Was there anything contemporary that you listened to at the time or did you find yourself always looking back to older sounds?
I played guitar in bands, but we were always into the more classic and punk rock music. So I think I was usually looking back.
When you got to UNO, what did you do there?
I studied Art at UNO. Once I got here I found myself going out a lot more here. My first apartment was outside The Saint Bar in the Lower Garden District. All my friends lived Downtown so I’d stop in to visit everyone on my way home.
My friend Joey Buttons would be DJing at The Saint and I would spend time by myself blissed out in the corner dancing. I think that’s how I fell in love with dance music.
Your first DJ gig was at The Saint as well. Legend has it that it was a bit of an ambush?
That was my friend Ruth! After graduating, I had a graphic t-shirt line that was getting popular in the City using the name “Bouffant Bouffant” (based on a piece of artwork featuring a big haired bearded woman from the UNO days) and he was always saying I should DJ using the same moniker. He liked my musical tastes and talked me into “trying it out” one night at The Saint. So I got on and he just went to the bathroom and never came back.
Thrown to the wolves.
He would come back to check on me and laugh at me. I had music but none of it was cohesive at the time. It was a bad DJ gig for sure!
But you were invited back!
I was invited back! But it also made me fall in love with the energy of the crowd. I’ve always been a participator on the dance floor, so I was kind of cool to be on the other side of it. I bought some DJ equipment and bedroom DJ’d for a while.
Do you remember what you played that night? Are there any tracks that are still in your sets now?
I was all over the place. I definitely had Destiny’s Child remixes, shitty deep house, which I thought was cool at the time, and maybe a lot of old disco songs – Sylvester and 70’s disco.
I have some of my staples from then that I still play today. My taste was there but when you’re pulling music as a DJ, you get pulled into rabbit holes where if you were looking for music to listen to in your car, you might have downloaded differently. So my music library now, I listen to a lot of non-dance music, but at the same time, when I’m hunting for music, I’m always thinking of how it would fit onto a dance floor.
You came to New Orleans for school. Do you think this is home or just a stopover for you?
I think I’m staying put. I’m really into this city – it lends itself to having free time for creativity because it’s not the most expensive city in the world. The culture is so rich and I’m from the South so this feels like home and I feel comfortable here. And I can still travel like out to Pittsburgh tomorrow morning.
NOLA is a super charming city, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in your day-to-day grind and stop looking at what’s beautiful about it. I’ve been learning to stop it – I’ll be sweating my ass off on my way to work like, “but wow isn’t it beautiful out?” It’s good to have tourist friends visit so I can see the city through their eyes.
What are you listening to now?
My friend Johnny and I are all about diva vocals, but have been intertwining that with a bongo-y centered sound. So I feel like that’s going to be a sound for summer: tropical, bongo-y, kind of more Afrobeat – the old Afro-boogie disco music.
New Orleans: A lot to eat and a lot to drink – what are your favorite places?
I do a lot of my parties at Poor Boys on St Bernard Street. It’s a super charming old bar. If I want a fancy cocktail, I go to Bar Tonique on Rampart St.
Food: Any kind of friend chicken from a gas station. My out of town friends DO NOT believe that is a THING. But, it’s the best fried chicken! When my friends visit: “You’re hung-over? We’re getting you a yellow Gatorade and a two-piece chicken and you’re going to be totally fine.”
Where did you learn to DJ?
I learned to DJ at the Phoenix (on Elysian Fields). It was a great incubator as a young DJ to have the opportunity to play long six-hour sets with no intervention about what to play. It made me confident to play long sets.
So The Phoenix taught you stamina?
The Phoenix taught me stamina, maybe in more than one way.
Off to Pittsburg tomorrow, you play New York, LA, and Europe cities. How are the crowds different? How does that affect how you play to them?
A Manhattan basement is different from a Disco Bar in New Orleans, so I play differently but always within my taste levels. In other cities, the crowd has come out to hear a particular sound of music. Whereas here you can take the crowd someplace, but you have to thrown them hooks to keep them with you.
I’ve been fighting an uphill battle to get people back into house music in New Orleans. We had a healthy rave scene here in the 90s, but like everything else, it got shut down.
My little crew called TRAX ONLY and I started throwing Warehouse parties and people realize that house music is the right sound for that location and they’re not going to ask for Beyoncé….
No one? No Beyoncé?
Maybe not anyone, and maybe I’d play some to surprise them. I’m not above it.
When you get back to NOLA, where can we find you?
I’ll be doing some gigs for Pride. May will be pretty quiet, but in June I will be playing One-Eyed Jacks for the Pride kickoff party and then with TRAX ONLY (trio with Mark Louque and Kathi Kniess) will be throwing a party at OK Bar before flying out that Sunday to play Pride in LA