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When the Coronavirus shut us down, clubs and festivals ceased, and everyone was essentially forced inside with no definitive end in sight, DJ Times wondered: How is our tribe coping? How are DJs getting by?

So, we sent out our “Coronavirus Questionnaire” to DJ/producers from all musical genres to find out. During this period, DJ Times will continue presenting the questionnaire responses from talented music-makers from all over the world. Here’s our latest entry, this time from the West Coast, the L.A.-based pop-dance talent Surf Mesa (aka Powell Aguirre).

Surf Mesa, Los Angeles, Calif., Astralwerks

What’s it like where you’re living? L.A. is the epicenter of the COVID pandemic right now, so I’m right in the middle of it. Hearing about how overrun the hospitals is scary, but it gives me so much respect for the heroes on the front lines – the doctors, nurses, EMTs. I’ve tried to take care of myself and use the time to remain as creative as possible. 

What important gigs did you lose? If not for COVID, we’d be touring “ily (I Love You, Baby)” around the world right now. Having a “moment” during the pandemic is both a blessing and a curse. Blessing in that it’s allowed me to grow and find so many amazing new fans, but curse in that we haven’t been able to showcase what a Surf Mesa set looks like live – something I can’t wait to do. 

Are you doing anything now that can or will produce music-related income? Have you learned anything in the downtime? I’m trying to take steps each and every day, no matter how small. It’s important to keep forward momentum in difficult times, even if it’s not as much momentum that we’d have normally. It’s the progress and the learning that matters most to me – two things I’ve focused on for the past year. My production skills are always getting better, and there’s always room to grow. 

What are you doing now that’s ultimately constructive to your music life/career? For example, any releases during this period? We’re putting out a new single with Madison Beer called “Carried Away.” When I initially started working with Madison, I wanted to produce something vibey, with lyrics that also captured the feeling of being in love for the first time. Obviously, we’re in such a dark time right now that it’s important to remind ourselves of and celebrate the core values that make life worth living – and I hope we were able to invoke that through this record. “Carried Away” follows my most recent collab with the amazing Gus Dapperton, “Somewhere.” The amount of music I’ve been able to record this past year would not have been possible had I been on the road this whole time. I’ve also been blessed to remix a couple huge songs by Marshmello and Halsey [“Be Kind”] and Shawn Mendes [“Wonder”]. 

In the studio, what’s your set-up? I’m one of the few dance/pop producers who uses FL Studios. I’ve been on it since the third grade. I also record live instruments in my tracks and remixes – mainly guitar and piano. 

What’s your creation process in the studio? For me, it always starts with the chords. I first try and set up the chord progression I like on the piano and then begin adding elements. 

What’s your typical DJ set-up? I’m on Pioneer CDJs – they’re standard across the board and allow me to be flexible in what and where I play. Eventually, I’d like to add in live elements to the show, but for now I’m focused on the energy I can bring a crowd DJing. 

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period of social distancing? I’ve learned a lot about myself, as I think many have. Tough times can bring out a lot of different emotions in people, so I’ve been focused on letting people experience those waves and appreciating friends and family more than ever. 

Have you done any live-streaming? I have trouble with the online streams. I think it’s so hard to re-create the magic of a live event, being together. I think being together and sharing energy with a crowd is what creates the magic, so I’ve been hesitant to participate in a lot of the streams going on. I’ve seen some cool ones in cool locations, but I’m looking forward to being able to get out in front of a real crowd. 

Any theme tunes recommended for the moment? I’ve been all over the place in terms of music – everything from swing jazz from Bobby Darin to, of course, the amazing “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo. 

Any advice on staying sane & relatively positive through this situation? Every morning when you wake up, write down three things you’re grateful for and three wins from the day before. That practice has definitely helped me keep my days as bright as possible.

To check out more Life in Lockdown interviews, click here.

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