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 the America’s East Coast, the NYC-based Proper Villains (aka Jonathan Shulman).
What was it like where you’re living? How did you spend most of your time? New York City locked down early and aggressively. I spent my time writing music, listening to music, reading, cooking, gardening and watching way too much television. My girlfriend and I got a cat. The cat destroyed the apartment. We re-modelled the apartment. My studio is in my apartment, so the majority of the pandemic was a weird Groundhog-Day version of my normal work schedule.
Any memorable occurrences? Did you learn anything in the downtime? Things got scary last summer during BLM protests. The city imposed a curfew – there were helicopters circling my apartment for two days. But I look at it as a positive experience because it got me engaged in politics for the first time. You turn on the TV… people are breaking windows in Midtown/TriBeCa… and they’re right. They have a completely valid reason to do that. No storefront is worth more than a human life. I made a cardboard sign and marched a few times. I registered to vote. I’m looking into city-council candidates to support. Vote local – it matters.
Did you lose important gigs, or income-producing work? I lost a whole California tour just as the lockdown was beginning. I also work as a freelance music producer for film/TV/video games. My business shrunk by 90-percent when filming stopped.
Are you doing anything now that can or will produce music-related income? New York has opened back up and the studios have resumed production, so I’m back to DJing/producing full-time. Things are actually better than they were before the pandemic.
What are you doing now that’s ultimately constructive to your music life/career? For example, any releases during this period? I released the “Muvaland” EP with Cakes Da Killa in November of 2020 on Classic Music Company. Considering that the clubs were closed, I was elated by the amazing response to a very club-oriented, underground, hip-house EP. We wrote a follow up EP, “Muvaland 2,” which just came out on He.She.They.
In the studio, what’s your set-up? I run Ableton Live 10 on a custom-built PC. The majority of my production is in the box with the usual plug-ins you would expect – Serum, Omnisphere, Kontakt, Trash, Neutron, FabFilter, Soundtoys, etc. In the hardware department, my main synths are a semi-modular Moog DFAM/Mother-32 rig with some additional Eurorack modules and a Roland JP-8000. I bought some cheap synths over the pandemic – a Behringer TD-3 and a Korg Volca Sample 2. I also have a collection of random instruments: guitar, bass, kalimba, balafon, glockenspiel, melodica. I don’t use them as often as I should.
What’s your creation process in the studio? I just make things… too many things! I try to sketch out at least two minutes of a song in the initial sitting, then I bounce it out and let it sit for a while. I’ll listen back later and decide if it’s an idea worth pursuing. Now that things are opening up, I’ve been focusing more on collaborating IRL with vocalists and other producers.
What’s your typical DJ set-up & why do you choose that route? Pioneer Nexus CDJs and a DJM-900 mixer. I like the convenience of thumb drives and I’ve had many near-disasters bringing a computer into a club. If the club has turntables, I’ll bring a bit of vinyl just to make things interesting; but my days of lugging crates of vinyl are over. My back can’t take it!
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period of social distancing? Just how much I love making music and playing it for people. How lucky I am to do it as a career. When you’re in the thick of things, it’s very easy to focus on the negative stuff.
Have you done anything online recently? I’ve done a couple of live-streams on Twitch. The most notable were for Sofi Tukker and itsGOODTV’s Pretty Good Fest. I’ve archived some of them on my YouTube – you can check them out here.
Any advice on staying sane & relatively positive through this situation? Focus on creating a positive environment for yourself. Listen to good music, eat good food, exercise, and put some art on your walls!
To check out more Life in Lockdown interviews, click here.