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 Montreal-based electronic talent CRaymak (aka Christien Raymakers).
What’s it like where you’re living? I’m currently residing in Montreal, Canada. We have been in an 8 p.m. curfew for over two months now, which we were originally only expecting to be in for one month. It’s finally changed to 9:30 p.m., and hoping by May it will be over. Everything else is open though, stores/malls with limited capacity, movie theaters and even some schools, so it’s a little confusing. We’re definitely one of the areas with the most cases in Canada; however, we’re also one of the biggest cities, so it’s to be expected, I would say! I wouldn’t even say we have a horrible amount of cases – I would say we’re in decent control from what I can see. Though, when I walk outside, especially on the main streets, since I live right downtown, it honestly feels like everything is pretty normal besides the masks, unless you’re out near curfew time when the streets get very quiet.
Have you learned anything during the downtime? I think I’ve learned quite a lot throughout this downtime – it’s kind of hard to narrow it down or even pinpoint! However, I do know this has been a huge year of very positive growth for my music. I’ve also taken a lot of time to focus on myself and have worked through a lot of personal stuff, in which I have to say that I’m feeling a little proud of myself for. I feel like I’ve learned more about myself than ever during this downtime. The first half of lockdown I lived with my family in my hometown out in the middle of nowhere in Nova Scotia, Canada. I was expecting to move to Montreal around the time the world was shutting down, but I finally made the move in between COVID “waves.” Moving to Montreal was the first big move I had ever made in my life, and I did it completely alone, so I learned a lot within all of that and also how to live in a French city without speaking any French at all… yet! [laughs]. There’s so much more I could add. I learned so many things about music, gear/equipment, stocks and definitely learned my fair share of Pokémon cards [laughs].
What are you doing now that’s ultimately constructive to your music life/career? For example, any releases during this period? There’s quite a few different projects that I’ve been working on and even just trying to nail down since the start of all of this lockdown stuff. I feel like as soon as lockdown hit last year during March/April, I was very focused on just trying to find my own “sound” within my music, and over the year I really feel like I’ve achieved that. At least, the start of that “sound”… which I’m so excited to explore more and more! I would say that my latest release, my Adomania EP, really showcases what I’m talking about.
On top of that, my good friend, Fransis Derelle and I are always working on new stuff as we’ve put out a ton of new tunes together this past year that include our releases with Subsidia, Monstercat and Proximity. We really spent pretty well every day together on Discord video chats throughout the first few months of lockdown, and wrote a ton of music together. We found out that we work really well together and enjoy it, and both found our “sounds” together, so we’re going to continue writing more and more together, and I’m stoked to see what else we create together.
Aside from the music, I’ve definitely given a lot of thought to my songs’ artwork and concepts, and have been working on thinking up a whole lot more for the future. Again, this is just the start of this new “sound” and “wave.” I’ve also put a lot of time towards creating content even outside of my music by connecting streaming games and music on Twitch with the CRaymak project as well – something I’m really focused on keeping up with and hoping to continue for a very long time.
In the studio, what’s your set-up? I just built myself a brand new PC after using Apple products (MacBook/iMac) for almost 10 years. I’m really loving my new PC, as it’s extremely beefed up and can handle pretty well anything from top graphic video games, streaming anything and running my consistent 200-plus track projects, without any issues. I still have my iMac in the studio, but am sending that off to give to my brother once I’m finally done cleaning up/organizing all of my projects and files. I have an electronic adjustable standing glass desk that I can raise up for when I’m practicing DJ sets. I just got a ton of new gear over the past year as well. I purchased an Audient ID14 audio interface with a RØDE NT1 mic/desk mic stand. I have two monitors and a TV above on a wall mount that I use as a third monitor. As for speakers, I’m still using my Rokit KRK 6s on their speaker stands that I’ve pretty much owned for eight or nine years now, somehow still lasting, but I still love them. Haven’t even considered upgrading them until this moment right now as I’m here writing this [laughs]. Still think I’ve got another year with them at least. Maybe that’s my next purchase!
What’s your creation process in the studio? I feel like that varies depending on the project at hand. I also feel like I struggle with inconsistency within a lot of things in my life, but specifically music [laughs]. For so long, I would always try to just make any genre depending on what songs I was digging at the time, I just tried to do too many different styles. During the start of lockdown, the thing that helped most was actually when I stopped listening to bass/EDM at all. I completely cut it out for a few months, and was listening to nothing but very chill, ambient and vocal-driven-style music, which you can find all my favs on CRayslist: Chill & Inspiration edition playlist on Spotify.
When I did this, I feel like it stopped me from comparing constantly, which I found was really holding back my creativity. I was comparing styles/genres and even mixdowns. Being an artist, it’s honestly not a good habit to fall into when you’re constantly comparing yourself to other artists and their work. For the creation process, I always start with a blank project in Ableton Live. I’ve always wanted to make templates, but I feel like I’m always learning too much to be starting with a template every time, and I feel like I learn more by starting blank. However, it’s definitely a slow process… which is why I can be very slow at writing music sometimes.
So, pros and cons to every process; however, I will eventually be making more of my own sample packs for my own projects and workflow. The other part that varies with the creation process is the fact that I write my own music, but I also help write and co-produce for a number of other artists, which is a great deal of fun. I find having these side projects where I’m co-producing genres outside of my own also helps me feel more inspired to write and learn more constantly. There’s such a healthy balance bouncing between producing my own style of music and writing pop, EDM, hip hop, and more. Things don’t get stagnant and it makes music production constantly exciting, and totally adding to my creativity and inspiration on all projects.
What’s your typical DJ set-up? I usually try to use at least three Pioneer CDJ-2000s and any 4-channel mixer when I can…. if I can get my hands on that gear, or when a show/live-stream will have the gear available. But for my home use or live-streams I record, I use my Pioneer XDJ-RX controller, which is basically two CDJs and a 2-channel mixer. Honestly, I really love that piece of gear> It’s great for the cost and basically the same effectiveness as two CDJs and a mixer. Totally recommended for a lower budget!
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period of social distancing?
I would probably say it would have to be how important taking time for yourself is and not being “available” 24/7. Sometimes you can get so caught up in working on projects / life / social media / or even just replying to every message that you don’t take that time to breath or really “feel” through things that you need to feel to understand. And most of that can take a lot of time, but really embracing those feelings. Breaks are super important, even if it’s just a short break, somedays we just don’t have the energy to reply to every message, scroll through every post, work on every project, and that’s okay. I’ve been really grateful for all of the time I’ve spent alone and able to take the time to sort through my own thoughts, probably why I’ve learned so much about myself. Now on the other side of that, I’ve also realized how important social interaction is too, and that’s why I’ll be forever grateful for Discord and the communities within it, including our amazing community within my Discord server.
Have you done anything online recently? I’ve played a few live sets online back in 2020. I believe I played two around Christmas, and those would have been the last ones I’ve done. However, online… I actually started streaming video games and music production back in November and have kept a very consistent schedule since. Was kind of a personal goal of mine to have a consistent “work” schedule, and to be more sociable online, so I set up my Twitch and Discord and went from there! It’s been nothing but amazing times and fun especially with the community that comes through to each one. I have my Spooky Sunday Streams, which I always look forward to every week, where I play horror games and get spooked constantly. I’m hoping to do a live-stream very soon again and I have a few music production streams planned to go over projects from my Adomania EP.
Any theme tunes recommended for the moment? I totally had a theme tune for the initial few months of lockdown last year… the song is called “The World Retreats” by David O’Dowda. I was obsessed and definitely heavily inspired by this one and the emotional vibey journey it brings you on.
Any advice on staying sane & relatively positive through this situation? We are social creatures and I think this time has made us realize how important socializing is for many of us. Being stuck in lockdown can stir up many different feelings, and it’s so understandable right now to feel down, drained, uninspired or unmotivated and that’s why it’s so important to take time for yourself. We all have our own ways of dealing with those feelings/emotions, and we all have our own pace to work through them!
One thing I did with a few friends was to tell each other every day five positive things that happened in the day. I looked at it as if it would basically eventually train a habit of always looking for those moments! It really helps us appreciate the little things in life. I hope for anyone who’s reading that some of this may help you through the rest of lockdown, I hope you are all doing well throughout, and if you need a place to socialize please don’t hesitate to find my Discord server.
To check out more Life in Lockdown interviews, click here.
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