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 Switzerland, the Zurich-based electronic talent DJ Cruz (aka Vincent Dubinsky).
What’s it like where you’re living? How did you spend most of your time? Here in Zurich, we’ve had two rather strict lockdowns and I spent both of them mostly in my studio. Pre-Corona, I was travelling every week for my DJ bookings, so quality studio time was very limited. If you’re really busy, there’s somehow more pressure for studio time, as you try to achieve efficient and successful results for releases. But if you have a lot of time, you can really dig deep into new production skills, learning synths, looking for sounds, watching tutorials and enjoying the process even more. Recently, they loosened up some rules, so outside areas of restaurants are open again, for example – that feels great.
Did you lose important gigs, or income-producing work? With losing all my bookings, I simultaneously lost, like, 95-percent of my income. Back in March 2020, I just came home from DJing at Armani Club in Milan during the Fashion Week where the news started to spread about the virus. I didn’t take it that seriously, but the moment the first club called me to cancel, I knew this was real!
Are you doing anything now that can or will produce music-related income? I’ve given DJ and music-production lessons to some students in my studio. That’s a new income stream for me, which I actually really enjoy doing. I also had some other income by producing jingles for brands or curating playlists for venues. And, of course, I get some royalties from Spotify and Apple Music. But DJing really was my main income stream and that’s still down.
What are you doing now that’s ultimately constructive to your music life/career? For example, any releases during this period? I’ve put in a lot of studio time, working on my craft, which I believe will definitely benefit my career. I’ve released my new single, “Chaos,” and I’m very excited about that. I didn’t release for a year, as it just didn’t feel right with the world more or less being locked down. But now, I just need to regularly drop a new song, even if promoting it without traveling for gigs will make it a lot harder.
In the studio, what’s your set-up? I started producing years ago with Logic, but then switched to Ableton Live, and have been loving it ever since. It’s so easy and I’m really fast with it. My set-up was always in the box, as previously I would spend as much time producing while traveling as in the studio. Now that I have more time in the studio, I use more of the UAD plug-ins, which are powered from my Apollo Quad. A lot of Ableton’s stock plug-ins are great, to be honest. Let’s say for Distortion, I love the Decapitator, but I get great results with the Overdrive or Saturation plug-in from Ableton, too. For EQing, I use Alloy2. Not sure if that’s the greatest tool, but back when I was at Dubspot, a School for Music Production in New York City, that’s what we learned – and I really like it.
Little AlterBoy is great for pitching and SPL Transient Designer ends up on most my drums. For sounds, my go-to is Serum, but I also love Arcade. That really triggers my inspiration, and then I re-sample the sounds from there and get to work. I don’t mix/master my main releases, but edits and DJ tools I do, and there I use Ozone 9 up until the Limiter. For that last step, I either use UAD Maximizer or the well-known FabFilter L-2, as you can push it a lot, and it still sounds good.
What’s your creation process in the studio? Usually, I have some sort of mood/vibe I want to go for, and then start finding sounds for the lead sound. Finding a great melody is always the biggest personal challenge for me. Once I’m happy with it, I start adding drums – that gives the bounce. I start arranging early on in the process, just to know what fits well for which section of the track. I also try to mix while producing, or at least cut out unwanted frequencies and compressing a little. And once a rough idea is sketched out, it’s time to reduce because adding more sounds is always easy; however, making a reduced selection of sounds interesting is the tricky part. And as we all know, most great songs are simple!
What’s your typical DJ set-up? That’s extremely straight-forward – two CDJs and one DJM-900NXS2, playing Serato off my computer. That’s it. I started DJing with classic Technics 1200s and vinyl records, but then switched to CDJs as many clubs had malfunctioning turntables, as less and less DJs were using them. Every club worldwide has that simple set-up and I can do everything I need to smash the dancefloor.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period of social distancing? I think we all were taking way too many things for granted, and I quickly realized how very privileged we are. The most surprising of all, though, I always try to live as conscious and present as I can, was to realize how quickly anything can be over… a career, our rights, income streams, traveling and a human’s life.
Have you done anything online recently? Have you seen any DJ video streams that impressed you? I never really enjoyed watching DJs online, as it just doesn’t speak to me. Every now and then I watch a Boiler Room set, but not because of the visual aspect, just the sound selection of certain artists. What was truly amazing for me was DJ D-Nice’s Instagram Live sessions. That was early on first lockdown and that inspired me a lot. He surely killed that!
Any theme tunes recommended for the moment? Jackson Sisters’ “I Believe in Miracles.” I believe in miracles, baby… I believe in youuuuuu!” Even though times are crazy right now, I believe in better times ahead for all of us.
Any advice on staying sane & relatively positive through this situation? I’m just grateful for being healthy and appreciating the small and simple things life has to offer. My dad and I started “Monday Movie Nights.” Previously, I never had or took the time to watch them. I hadn’t even seen “Pulp Fiction,” so my dad had the idea we watch a classic movie together every Monday – and I’ve been loving it! It often is the small things in life that can make a difference!
To check out more Life in Lockdown interviews, click here.
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