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 England’s Midlands, the Birmingham-based multi-talent Itona (aka James Vine).
What’s it like where you’re living? I live in Birmingham, U.K., and things are slowly opening back up and returning to some sort of normality, thankfully. Full lockdown lifted a few months ago, so the madness of holding down our jobs – my wife and I – alongside homeschooling is over, but we are still restricted in many elements of what we can do.
How are you spending most of your time? I spend most of my time producing and composing music, alongside mixing and mastering work – and obviously, in normal times, gigs too. My daily routine is the school run in the morning and then straight into music. I’m fortunate to be able to split time between my own creative projects, including Itona and ENiGMA Dubz, as well as work for other artists – until it’s time for the school run again. Then, on the weekends, we’re getting out and about in the U.K. as much as possible with fun days out with the kids – and may well put some hours in on the music side in the evenings to finish projects off, or come back to a mix or master with fresh ears.
Have you lost important gigs, or income-producing work? Physical gigs have been non-existent for quite a while now. It’s been such a shame, too, as for my ENiGMA Dubz alias, I invested in a U.S. work visa before the pandemic and I’ve only been able to use it once. So I only just broke even on the investment on that tour and would have made the money on my second, third and fourth visits. I’m really hoping I get a chance to use it later this year – fingers crossed! Besides that, some of my producing/sound engineering work has slowed down, as I do a fair bit of work for other performing artists. But, to be honest, I’m very grateful for the work that’s continued to run during this very testing time for our industry. That being said, it’s lockdown that has given me the time to work on and launch the new Itona project, which may not have been possible without the additional time I had.
Are you doing anything now that can or will produce music-related income? I am, indeed. I’ve actually been working full-time in the music industry for around six years and I’ve been busy behind the scenes working as a sound engineer/producer for various artists for over 10 years. This year, I also secured a deal with Black Rock Publishing and I’ve been very busy over the last two months working on music projects with a really talented group of vocalists and other artists.
What are you doing now that’s ultimately constructive to your music life/career? The deal with Black Rock has been so good for me, and is something I’ve wanted to secure for some time. I’m now working with so many talented artists under my own aliases and also as a producer, in general. I’ve been composing and producing music in such a diverse mix of genres for a long time now, so having the network that Black Rock provides has given me unlimited opportunities for creative and commercial endeavors.
What are your recent releases? We released “Hold Me,” an Itona deep-house track, in April – and that’s been packaged into the “You” EP, which includes a PALLADIAN remix, plus two ENiGMA Dubz cuts.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period of social distancing? It’s a strange one for me and also not entirely surprising, as I’ve worked from home for a good seven years already. My working environment hasn’t changed much during the pandemic and, although I haven’t had anyone in for sessions etc., utilizing the internet has kept things moving and I’ve no doubt it’s changed many industries moving forwards in some positive ways. Outside of work, though, the main thing I realized is how much my wife and I enjoyed homeschooling our daughter. This year, we had the second U.K. lockdown and it meant schools were closed for around seven weeks. Initially, this felt extremely stressful, as my wife is a secondary-school teacher and her workload was pretty tough to deal with from home, alongside my own workload with music production and my daughter’s five-lessons-a-day homeschooling – not to mention our active and curious one-year-old son stomping around the house, too. However, over the weeks, we soon adapted and, by the end of lockdown, we both had a feeling of accomplishment and gratitude for the time together, seeing how well our daughter did with it all and seeing her improvements. We genuinely missed it.
Have you done any streaming online? Over the last year, I’ve done a handful of virtual gigs and live-streams – including for Deep, Dark & Dangerous, Electric Hawk, Subsonic and even for a newly launched crypto currency – a few of them being virtual festivals, too, which was dope. It’s been really cool to see how much effort has been put into some streams and DJ sets too. Some of the camera work and editing skills have opened my mind and given me lots of ideas for more in the future, too.
Any theme tunes recommended for the moment? The Streets’ “Turn The Page” – absolute classic tune. Original Pirate Material remains one of the best albums of all time, in my opinion, and lyrically pretty relevant to everything that’s going on at the moment.
Any advice on staying sane & relatively positive through this situation? Creativity and being open through my music has been and always will be my therapy. I often let my emotions and mood influence my music, and it always helps me get connected with my inner feelings. I think it’s really important to have an outlet for all the energy that builds up in life, both positive and negative. I think I’d recommend having a hobby or activity that allows you to do the same, whether it’s creatively or through exercise maybe. Don’t bottle things up and allow them to become too heavy. In time, things have a weird way of working out, if you stay focused and be there for both yourself and others.
To check out more Life in Lockdown interviews, click here.
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