The deejay, they call him an icon and a legend
In a city where entertainment stars surface and disappear with frightening regularity, Mike “Tuff” Williams has maintained a solid presence for more than two decades on the urban music circuit as one of Montreal’s leading disc jockeys.
Widely regarded for his contributions in promoting soul, funk, R&B, reggae and other genres, Tuff has “niced” up more nightclubs and parties with his unique abilities in mixin’, his style and selections.
Today, he stands as an inspiration and role model to generations of deejays. Mike Tuff Williams talks to Montreal Community CONTACT about his years on the scene.
MCC: What got you interested in becoming a DJ?
A combination of things; the love for music mainly. I was always surrounded by all genres of music growing up, whether it was my sisters, brother-in-law or babysitter, going to school and seeing my sister and all the crews just dancing around “as some people would call ghetto blaster/Boom Box” at the time. Once I realized music could be put together seamlessly it was a ‘no-brainer’ from there. I just had to figure out how to do it.
MCC: What was the first set of equipment you got?
A Technics belt drive turntable with a little pitch, which I had to sell my comics to buy, and a DJ Mixer from Radio Shack
MCC: First record you remember buying?
Honestly. It had to be an Elvis Presley album or an Ozzy Osborne album, don’t judge me.
MCC: Who were the hottest DJs at the time?
American-wise it was Kool DJ Red Alert and Marley Marl, Chuck Chill Out.
Montreal Urban-wise it was Spec II, Outlaw, Butcher T.
Commercial-wise Robert Ouimet.
MCC: Who was your fave DJ and why?
My favorite DJ/DJs were the Latin Rascals, reason being they took the craft to another level doing insane remixes, which at that point in time equipment-wise would take months to do.
MCC: How was Tuff E Nuff Productions Created?
The production crew was created in the mid-80s after gaining a small recognition in the city doing parties with a few childhood friends who are no longer with us – Sanjay M and Courtney N, and a few others. We were then picked up by Garry T and created a new name, which at the time was TUFF E NUFF Productions.
MCC: Most memorable events?
Way too many to mention, but off-hand the first battle against “L.D.G SUPER SOUNDS” which caused such an uproar at the time it pretty much separated Montreal party-goers into 2 groups like boxing fans; each one had its own followers with very strong opinions.
MCC: Your relationship with former rival L.D.G?
We still do not speak to this day (pause…kidding), L.D.G is like a brother to me, not the love-hate kind of brother relationship. It’s all-good and all love and we remain tight ‘till this very day.
MCC: How many records you estimate are in your collection?
Great question. I never counted, but easily over 10,000.
MCC: Name five surefire albums that will rock in any party?
I refuse to answer that question because it is like an ancient Chinese secret, but I will say all of them are of African-American origin. Hope that helps.
MCC: How would you describe the transition from analog to digital DJing?
Quite evolutionary! In a sense that it was a gradual process into a complex form, a little heartbreaking. It may or may not be for the better, but I can say my body is very thankful for it.
MCC: Has the art form lost or gained as a result?
In my opinion it has put everyone on an equal platter, and the art can now be expressed in such a broader way due to technology and fewer limitations – from iPhone creations to expensive production gear… The only thing I see being lost in the art form is that it is now easier to make a mockery of the art and take away from the craft that so many have worked so hard to create.
MCC: What does your set-up consist of now?
2 Technics 1200 Turntables (Of course), A Rane 62 MIXER, PIONEER DDJ-SX, MAC BOOK PRO and many other useful gadgets…
MCC: Fave current DJs and why?
I honestly do not have any, but I still admire Jazzy Jeff for keeping the fundamentals alive when he plays. I do respect very many for what they are bringing to the industry and making it the “in” thing, with or without talent. It’s a whole new game, so instead of judging and complaining I respect the technics used. Stay current, and as the saying goes, “you can learn a lot from a dummy.” Works well for me.
MCC: What’s the next big thing technological-wise for DJing?
I am a tech freak and I really have no clue, we are living in the future and our present seems to be the past, so maybe it will come down to just touch screens or virtual players. I’m not too eager to find out, as soon as you catch up. It’s considered old.
MCC: How does it feel knowing you’ve inspired over 2 decades of DJs?
I only recently started realizing I inspired many DJs since social media became a big thing. People send me messages or greet me in public and express their gratitude to me, and I must say it’s quite touching and a little overwhelming. I never looked at it like that.
MCC: What do you attribute to your longevity and high level of respect among peers?
That’s a “TUFF” Question. I guess non-arrogance, very humble, always willing to help someone learn what I had to teach myself. I see myself at the same level as everyone else; I will play early in the night like I do not exist and not claim the spotlight like the modern DJs. I have always valued my talent and never reduced myself to accepting insulting wages, and working with people in the industry who respect me personally and financially.
MCC: Do you see yourself ever stopping?
Stopping professionally yes. Although my love for music is grand, this stopped being a hobby many years ago; to me this is work. A job that I adore and get paid to do; but unfortunately the way the modern-day DJs sees the industry as just a “cool” thing. It has pretty much destroyed the working salaries for DJs. unless you’re one of the big cross- over E.D.M, etc. DJs.
MCC: What would be your next endeavor?
Most likely Software creation. I’m always finding a void in that industry.
MCC: What’s your definition of icon?
First thing that comes to my mind is a symbol. When you are on your phone, computer or tablet at any age, you immediately look for the icon to get started. In the DJ game people refer to me as an iconic person, a legend. It was not a self-made title.
Self–made title or not, Mike “Tuff” Williams’s work ethic and consistency have paved the way for your favorite DJs. Join and honor him as he celebrates with the city on Boxing Day inside the Roxbury.
Tuff: Special mention to mom and all supportive family members;
Original Tuff E Nuff Crew, Garry T, Rickey D, Keith And Karyn, L.D.G…Outlaw, Spec 11, W.D, Butcher T, MIME, Don Smooth, Rawls, All Radio personality ,Brooklyn Bob. Also all promoters and venue owners who never thought twice, and my most supportive friends Nat B , C. Ash and Sunny D…the list goes on.