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 Germany, the Berlin-based electronic talent Simina Grigoriu.
What was it like where you’re living? I live in Berlin. We were on lockdown most of 2020 and a good part of 2021 with tiny bursts of change, only to be locked down shortly thereafter. Now, with vaccines and numbers going down, restaurants and events are opening again. It’s wonderful to see this happening, as it’s been a real downer on humanity to have had some of our most basic freedoms taken away.
How did you spend most of your time? I spent my time with my family, and I fell pregnant in May 2020 – so I was quite happy staying put. Having said that, I missed my job like I’d miss my arms if they weren’t attached to me. The great part is that I was here and present to do so many wonderful things with our daughter, Isabella, and we filled our days with painting, crafting, walks and movies. I missed my gigs, but I didn’t feel I had to be anywhere but here – with my family and another person on the way.
Did you lose important gigs, or income-producing work? Yes and no. Of course, all the summer gigs never got planned as COVID hit us. I would have loved to tour a little bit during the summer, but again, because I was pregnant, I would have likely had to cancel a few gigs as my pregnancy progressed. I did produce some music, but I can’t live off royalties… so, yes, my income was absolutely compromised. My label, Kuukou Records, kept going like nothing happened and that kept me quite busy, as well. The label is slowly growing and we’re seeing increasing results with each release. All in all, I was busier than ever and didn’t play one damn show since February 2020.
Are you doing anything now that can or will produce music-related income? Have you learned anything in the downtime? Also, yes and no. Since I have a five-month-old at home, my days are pretty slammed with taking care of the baby. But in the little downtime I have, I try to catch up on A&R and anything Kuukou-related. I get into studio once in a while, but times are spontaneous and sometimes I go weeks without opening Ableton. I guess that’s the nature of the juggler’s job—try to do it all and not let anything slip through the cracks.
What are you doing now that’s ultimately constructive to your music life/career? For example, any releases during this period? Yes, lots coming down the pipeline! I just did a remix for Aitor Ronda’s “Geodux” for Kuukou, as well as one for his “Tweezer” track on ELEVATE. There are the “Techno Monkey” remixed EPs, which start coming out this month. I have EPs coming out on OFF Recordings, Complexed Records and Kuukou, and I’ve got remixes coming out Set About for Juheun and on Kuukou for Drumcomplex. There’s an extra special project that is close to my heart called “Techno Monkey Remixed.” We will bring out nine remixes across three EPs of my original “Techno Monkey” track from 2016. It’s not exactly traditional to have nine remixes of a track, but I wanted to do something special and see how some of my favorite artists would approach it. Vol. 1 features remixes from Paul Kalkbrenner, Hito and Camea. Vol. 2 features Filterheadz, Lilly Palmer and [ Wex 10 ], and the third and final volume will feature Hollen, Skober and DESNA. That pretty much wraps up the year.
In the studio, what’s your set-up? I only know Ableton and I’ve been using it for 13 years. With every upgrade comes new features, so there’s always something new to learn. When it comes to production, I don’t like to waste a lot of time digging through synth presets or auditioning sounds – that’s a creativity killer! Over the years, I’ve bought and forgotten about tons of synth plug-ins, but the day I grabbed the Arturia V Collection, things changed. All the plug-ins are rather well-modelled on sought-after analog classics. If we’re looking for an authentic Moog sound, we’ll drop the Mini V into a session and we’re good to go. CS-80? No problem. My favorites are the Jupiter-8V, the SEM V – modelled on the legendary Oberheim – and the Buchla Easel V. My productions involve a lot of audio-recorded sources that I bash and mold into something unrecognizable. That’s where Sugar Bytes Effectrix comes into play. It’s a simple plug-in that offers all sorts of audio-bending capabilities, from simple delays and reverbs to bit-crushing, stuttering and stretching. The cool part is that it all happens on a sequencer grid. You sequence the effects over the audio and that is quite unique. It surprises us by delivering results we never expected, and in a wonderful way.
What’s your creation process in the studio? I always start with a hook/melodic idea and plug that in. I then perfect the kick – dark rumble kick and sub bass for feeling – and then get to work on the melodies. Because techno is drums-driven, it’s important to get a solid punchy kick, but equally important for the track to have some feeling, as well. You could have a great melodic techno production, but if they kick is weak, the track will not deliver on the dancefloor. For this reason, because I am not an engineer, I always outsource my mix/master to a professional. Creativity is one thing; but engineering a track properly will determine if it works in the club. I was adamant about doing everything on my own before, but now I like to work with engineers to create the best possible outcome for my music.
What’s your typical DJ set-up & why do you choose that route? I started out learning on vinyl. Then, when I moved to Berlin in 2008, I implemented Traktor Scratch into my set-up. I played on timecode and regular vinyls, but then decided to ditch the Traktor/laptop setup and use players after an upgrade went awry and messed up my entire situation. I was tired of Traktor glitches onstage and quietly wondering to myself: “Will it work this time”? In 2015, after I had my first baby and when I went back to work, I started to play exclusively on digital, but I missed the vinyl, so now I have both onstage. I like this set-up and I always carry a bit of vinyl for those special moments.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period of social distancing? How dependent we are on technology. How sheepish the masses can me and how easy the whole world is to fool. I’m flabbergasted at how easily so many humans in this world have given up their most basic rights just because of government mandates with no explanation. I can’t get into this here – this is a whole other conversation and a political one at that.
Have you done anything online recently? Yes, I did quite a few streams last year and then I stopped in my second trimester. I’m ready to go again and have streams and gigs lined up for this summer. I worked with Whalebone last year and I really love the interactive features. Being able to receive feedback on a digitally broadcasted live stream is great, but holds no candle to playing for you live in the club.
Any advice on staying sane & relatively positive through this situation? Compassion. Kindness. Meditation. I am the biggest hypocrite and I hardly ever meditate; but on the days I do, I notice a difference to the way the day unfolds. I need to do this more often, as it puts me on a higher operating frequency and, in general, improves the mood of the day.
To check out more Life in Lockdown interviews, click here.