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 Canada, the Montréal-based singer/producer SAENS (aka Jeremie Lavigne).
What’s it like where you’re living? How did you spend most of your time? Yeah, Montréal was in full lockdown the first three months of the pandemic, then reopened for a bit when thing calmed down during the summer, and back in fall everything shut down again. I spent most of the time writing music and improving on my craft. COVID has really put everything in perspective for me – for the better, I would say. It’s allowed me to focus on becoming a better artist, and made me feel more confident about my ability to create.
Did you lose important gigs, or income-producing work? Yes and no. I did lose shows, for sure. I was looking forward to going on tour as opening act in Canada and festival season. Production hasn’t changed much. But all in all, I would say it’s been challenging, yet very rewarding, to push through and focus on making music. I find it’s becoming harder and harder for artists to focus on doing great music, having to tour more to earn a living, post on social media, etc. Lots of distraction that can deeply affect creativity.
Are you doing anything now that can or will produce music-related income? Have you learned anything in the downtime? Yes, I started producing and writing for other artists. It’s something that gets me out of my own head, and helps me in my own music. I’ve doubled down on production skills, going down that YouTube rabbit hole, watching any production tutorials I could get my hands on.
What are you doing now that’s ultimately constructive to your music life/career? For example, any releases during this period? My latest release is “Runaways.” And yeah, I have a bunch of music lined up for the next couple months. It’s a scary thing though because everything is so uncertain moving forward with COVID, and we can’t really promote the music through shows. So building a fanbase is even more challenging than ever.
In the studio, what’s your set-up? I work only on Ableton Live. It’s the DAW I find works best for me, because it’s more user-friendly, and you can work faster, especially for sampling. My favorite plug-ins would have to be anything SoundToys, u-he Diva, also UAD plug-ins are amazing for mixing. It’s what, I find, brings you as close as real hardware. For hardware, I’m not the biggest gear-head. I pretty much only use VST’s except for mics. Neumann U87 has got to be the gold standard, and a good pre-amp… anything else, I find not worth it. We work so much in sound design and sonics that the original input barely makes any difference.
What’s your creation process in the studio? I usually try to come in with zero expectations. My co-producer Max-Antoine Gendron – formerly known as Prince Club – and I start by listening to a bunch of music. Get the energy going, then, at some point, we just pick up on something that inspires us and go with it. Trial-by-error is monumental in making great records, and moving forward quickly with ideas. We’ll try an idea, and within two seconds we know if it works or not, and move on to the next one. After a couple hours, usually a song arises.
What’s your typical live set-up? I don’t really do DJ sets with CDJs. When performing live, since I sing on all my records, I usually run Ableton Live with MIDI controllers, a synth and a piano, and will perform the whole thing as a set, playing with automations on the spot while singing. I find it’s best of both worlds.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period of social distancing? How much I spent going out! All jokes aside, it’s made me realize to not take the freedom and liberty I have for granted. We live in such a comfortable and safe society in the Western world that we sometimes forget how privileged we are. It’s made me want to do more for others.
Have you done anything online recently? I haven’t. I decided to really focus on new music, and prepare for the coming months, when things re-open. I don’t really enjoy live performances that aren’t in front of a crowd, except for stripped-back acoustic versions of major pop songs. I find more value in that since it gives a better chance for the audience to still connect to the performer.
Any theme tunes recommended for the moment? Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” It hits every time. That song came from 1981, but I’ve been listening a lot to music from 1984. It’s, in my opinion, the best year in music from the ’80s. It’s the best remedy to make you feel hopeful and good. When I put these on, suddenly I feel like I can take over the world. And that’s the type of music I’m inspired to make right now.
Any advice on staying sane & relatively positive through this situation? Exercise during the week. A little bit of weed once in a while helps to cool down – light strain, though – and really keeping in touch with peers, asking how they are, and using that time to find your passion and roll with it.
To check out more Life in Lockdown interviews, click here.
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