Success has fallen into the lap of three buddies and they’re hoping to make the best of it — as long as it doesn’t change them.
Tommy “Barndawg” Paul, Brian “YellowWolf” Sampson and Serj “DJ Goadman” Dirassoyan make up the Tsartlip First Nation-based band Paint The Town Red. Paul and Sampson originated the group when it was just themselves — two friends from the same community, growing up together and sharing similar life’s experiences.
These days, they’re getting ready to open for Tech N9ne when the rapper comes to Victoria’s Sugar Nightclub on Sept. 12.
“Music has been a big part of my life since I was a teenager,” says Sampson. “I grew up on hip hop. It was just something we could relate to when we were younger.”
Sampson said he started rapping young and early on, it was just a lot of fun.
“We just did it for fun … at the start. I kind of started off by being funny,” he explained. “When we kept getting invited back to perform at parties and clubs, I began to take it more seriously.”
Paul approached rap and music in a different, more serious way. He said he started writing poetry in high school after the death of a close friend.
“It was a lot of built up sorrow and anger,” he said. “I was encouraged to stick with it and start writing it down. I started with poetry.”
He transformed that writing into hip hop music and when he teamed up with Sampson, the pair found what they had really worked. Sampson said together, they balance the fun and the serious subjects to make good music on a variety of topics.
“We were really doing it,” said Paul, laughing “but when we first started, we were pretty bad at it.”
This began their transformation from two friends having a good time with music, to taking it more seriously and with a strong goal in mind — to take the music as far as they can take it.
The ride has been a bit of a roller coaster since around 2007 when many of their ideas started to gel.
“A friend back then bought me studio time as a Christmas present,” said Sampson.
He and Paul were writing songs and planning an album but life would get in the way. They kept at it, making small steps and performing as a duo at parties and hip hop competitions at area clubs.
For Sampson, the big change came when he was asked to help a class at the local tribal school write a song for a project. It was so rewarding that it forced him to make more serious moves into the business of hip hop.
So, he and Paul began pounding the pavement and reaching out to studio owners and promoters. Last December, while the pair were opening for another act at a downtown club, they met Dirassoyan, who was also on the playbill.
Sampson said a pair of local promoters encouraged them to get together.
“We needed a DJ,” Sampson said.
“They really killed that night,” added Dirassoyan, who is originally from Lebanon. “They had good chemistry.”
The three of them decided to collaborate and found they fit together almost like family.
“He keeps the fire lit under our asses,” Sampson said of Dirassoyan.
Dirassoyan, who has been a DJ since 2005, said it takes a lot of hard work to find success in hip hop. He said they all have talent — but it’ll take more to get to the next level.
Sampson added they had little response early on, but after adding Dirassoyan and getting serious, there have been more opportunities.