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 Charm City, the Baltimore-based house talent MicFreak (aka Michael Cobaria).
What’s it like where you’re living? How did you spend most of your time? I live in Baltimore, in Maryland, where the Johns Hopkins Hospital is based and one of the research hubs for COVID. So the state did a good job containing the COVID. We, as a family, decided to just stay at home most of the time. So it’s my wife, daughter and two dogs here at home… and just going out to do groceries and outdoor socially distanced trips at the park or beach on off days. And the rest of the time was spent on producing and streaming.
Did you lose important gigs, or income-producing work? Yes. I was very busy in the D.C. house scene with our Decibel Collective crew and have been throwing events in different spots there. On my own, I had several events booked for 2020 and I kinda knew that those were gonna get cancelled once lockdown started, so I did some pivoting there and learned all about streaming.
Are you doing anything now that can or will produce music-related income? Have you learned anything in the downtime? There are other ways to make some income other than live gigs and events. I teach music during the day, so I get some steady income from that. As an artist, though, you really have to stay busy and create for your own mental health, I think. If I stop, it becomes hard for me to get going creatively again, so I just went on and worked like there’s no tomorrow.
What are you doing now that’s ultimately constructive to your music life/career? For example, any releases during this period? I never stopped releasing music and never stopped creating. There’s always an EP or a single almost every month for me. To culminate that work, I released my album called Everything on Quantize Recordings. It’s the work I’ve done during the time I was sick with cancer and during the lockdown whilst quarantined. It features my productions and collaborations with Crystal Waters, Roland Clark, DJ Spen, Karizma, Eddie Amador, Abco, Lee Buxton, DJ Strobe, Masmin, Sheila Ford, Thommy Davis, Barbara Tucker, Cornell CC Carter, Shaun Escoffrey, and Kid Enigma. Lots of feel-good house music there, for sure!
In the studio, what’s your set-up? I use Ableton Live for creating and arranging. I sometimes use Logic Pro for mastering and mixing. For plug-ins, I love the Korg M1 and TRITON VST, the KICK 2 and ANA synth plug-in from Sonic Academy, and I always use Nicky Romero sidechain plug-in, Kickstart. For hardware, I have a few drum machines like the Roland TR8, Pioneer TORAIZ SP-16 and the AS-1 synth, which is a beast! Nothing vintage there – I wish I could afford that vintage gear to be honest.
What’s your creation process in the studio? There really is no structured process for me in the studio. Inspiration has to come to get me started and it can sometimes be with a chord progression, a drum idea, a bassline or just me beatboxing and recording it on my phone.
What’s your typical DJ set-up? Pretty simple. Give me an Allen & Heath Xone: 96 mixer and a pair of Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS2 players, and I’m good to go. I love blending and looping, and tend to sometimes run them a bit longer. So having that Allen & Heath mixer really helps sculpt those sounds together and seamlessly.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period of social distancing? You can still work and be resilient with the circumstances you are given. This time is a tragic time for a lot of people, so it’s understandable for some to feel negative and be down on themselves. Prior to COVID, I was sick and spent several days straight in the hospital just by myself. My wife brought my studio – laptop and controller – there to keep me busy and wrote several tracks in the hospital. That kinda made me socially distant for almost a year. One year into my recovery, the lockdown happened….
Have you done anything online recently? Have you seen any DJ video streams that impressed you? Yes, I’ve been very active on Twitch and stream every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I love streaming and it has actually helped me network with several DJs and producers. The streaming community on Twitch is amazing; it’s a great way to build a community, interact with followers in real time and it gives everyone sort of an equal playing field in this game, which would’ve been very rough during those times before COVID. A lot of my heroes are there too now like DJ Spen, Louie Vega, David Morales, The Shapeshifters, Sam Divine, Michael Gray and more! You get to interact with them, and for them to acknowledge you while they are doing their thing is priceless as a fan. Also you discover new DJs from other parts of the world that you wouldn’t have a chance to listen to if you weren’t stuck at home – so I think it’s great.
Any theme tunes recommended for the moment? My lockdown themes are right here: Crystal Waters’ “Party People” (DJ Spen & MicFreak’s Original Vocal Mix); Jasper St. Co.’s “Paradise” (Danny Krivit Edit); and Brian Power feat. Lucita Jules’ “Optimistic” (Michael Gray Remix).
Any advice on staying sane & relatively positive through this situation? Pray!
To check out more Life in Lockdown interviews, click here.
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